By Michael Burns | on January 19, 2009
Price: 672 . 336
Company: Toon Boom Animation
Pros: Inverse Kinematics; Symbols library and animation; cut-out tools and animation; selection of digital and traditional animation methods; post-production special effects.
Cons: No TWAIN support; no mouse-zoom; expensive for students and non-professionals; activation required, but no way to deactivate at present.
In terms of both features and price, Animate sits between Toon Boom Studio and the more expensive Toon Boom Digital Pro. There are some anomalies, however. For example, you can’t directly scan in bitmaps and convert them to vectors as you can with the other applications, but of all three Toon Boom offerings, only Animate allows you to export directly to Flash Video (.FLV) format (and to .MOV).
There are tools for freehand drawing and tracing, comprising brush and pencil tools with a number of size and contour settings. A Draw Behind mode can be used, as the name suggests, to paint behind art that already exists, and you can select the Flatten option to merge drawing objects and brush strokes into a single layer. This is useful when you’re fixing a drawing or using lots of brush strokes to build up a shape.
There’s also a Shape tool, to draw with circles, lines and squares. Basic transformations such as repositioning, rotating, scaling or perspective skewing can be carried out using the different handles of the bounding box. The Contour Editor tool can add, remove or modify points on a vector line and control them with Bézier handles – which, while useful, was occasionally awkward to use. There’s a multifunctional zoom, hand and rotate tool for scene movement, but a simple mousewheel control for the zoom would be welcome.
Animate offers a library for storing drawings and animation as templates for reuse in scenes or sharing in their projects. You can also reuse separate elements of your drawing multiple times in one scene, by saving them
as Symbols in the library.
Animate allows you to import graphics, but this is where the lack of a TWAIN scanner import option becomes apparent, especially for the traditional animation path of scanning peg-based key drawings. It’s an odd omission, when this built-in facility is offered not only by Toon Boom Studio, but also by cheaper rivals like DigiCel FlipBook. You can, of course, scan images using other applications first.
In addition to common image formats, you can bring in .PSD files with layers intact, as well as QuickTime movies and Flash files in .SWF format.
There’s an extensive standard colour palette, as well as settings for gradients and transparency. It’s also possible to create high-quality scenes by importing textures in .TGA or .PSD format, or add effects such as blurs and glows during post-production.
Animation takes place on a layer-based timeline: you can use the Flash-style Motion method, with Animate interpolating the movement between keyframes, or you can follow a Stop-Motion route, with no digital interpolation. The camera position is also animated, so when creating a scene you can make use of multiplane camera moves. As in Toon Boom Studio, this is a depth-enhancing feature, where the action moves through stacked layers in the Z-axis.
The simplest animation is layer-based, with objects following a motion path. You can add a trajectory layer called a Peg, to which you can attach drawings and other layers, then move, rotate, scale and skew them through three dimensions according to a path you specify.