Company: Toon Boom Animation
Pros: Rich feature set; perfect companion or replacement for Flash; relatively easy to use.
Toon Boom’s business is in creating animation software aimed at both the home and professional markets, targeting schools and design studios specifically. The main benefit of Animate 2, when compared to the likes of Adobe Flash, is that as a dedicated animation suite, a typical user can pick up the software more quickly, without having to decipher myriad irrelevant tools. In addition, Toon Boom has added tools that make an animator’s job easier; skeletal rigs and inverse kinematics for example, simplify and speed-up the animation process while fully supporting Flash-compatible symbols.
Beyond the usual performance enhancements and bug fixes, the primary new features of version 2 include the smart puppet feature which supports forward and inverse kinematics, making it easier to animate a complete character than before. Lip syncing is also available, with an automatic phoneme recognition tool – useful for quick animations, but not 100 per cent reliable by any stretch.
Additional effects and blending modes have been added, allowing output that would have previously required exporting to the likes of After Effects. The obligatory 3D support is here and cameras can also now be attached to objects in the 3D world, allowing interesting new perspectives.
Animate 2 is very much a product aimed at the professional animator who will love the specialised features on offer – and the price reflects this.