By Sam Hampton-Smith | on July 20, 2009
Price When Reviewed: 125 . 80
Pros: Powerful; affordable; supports 3D elements; bundled library of assets; lip-synching.
Cons: Studio 6 Debut edition ($49.99/about £31) offers many of the same features for a fraction of the price.
Anime Studio Pro 6 is a professional animation tool that can create broadcast-quality animations complete with visual effects. Available in two versions, Debut and Pro, it offers a low-cost entry to the world of animation and a useful alternative to Flash for creating animation.
Smith Micro touts its software as being ideal for designers and artists who’ve never dipped their toes into animation. This is underpinned by Anime Studio’s support for importing both Photoshop and Illustrator native files. The software has a full suite of vector-based drawing tools, too, so you can do a lot of work without leaving Anime Studio.
These tools work a lot like those found in Flash but behave sufficiently differently to Photoshop and Illustrator to have you scratching your head at first; after a short learning curve you’ll be drawing simple characters and props with ease, though.
The basic tools include a Freehand Pencil tool, an Auto-Curve Bezier Point tool and a Primitive Shapes tool. There’s also a series of tools to quickly and intuitively bend and twist your artwork. Adding perspective is simple: choose the Perspective Points tool, click, and drag.
Similarly, Anime Studio offers a range of options for shearing, bending, and adding random displacement into your artwork. Although the tools may initially appear simplistic (and you won’t have the same degree of control you find in Illustrator or Photoshop), once you’ve mastered the toolset it’s possible to create sophisticated art quickly.
You don’t need to master the drawing tools straightaway, however, as Smith Micro has thoughtfully included a range of pre-built assets including its characters Jace, Thorn, and Thunder (a horse). These are useful for seeing how the bone system works – more on that later.
As well as the characters, the new library allows for easy browsing and insertion of a wide selection of assets. Some assets are pre-animated, allowing you to see in action how the software hangs together. While you might not want to use any of this supplied art long-term, it does enable you to quickly create your first animation without worrying about creating the cast.
Including these pre-animated elements was a good decision on the part of Smith Micro, particularly as it hopes to persuade you to use its online marketplace for assets, where you can pick up free content as well as paid-for elements.
Anime Studio Pro offers a simple-to-use bone system to help control how different parts of your character can move. If you’re familiar with the Puppet tool in After Effects, you’ll instantly feel at home with this concept create a skeleton by drawing bones onto your character and manipulate the position of the bones to animate.
The software does a good job of working out how the regions where bones meet should bend to allow movement, making character animation a breeze, even for inexperienced users.
This is the mainstay of Anime Studio Pro and makes it effortlessly usable.