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.
Another string to Animate’s bow is the ability to morph similar shapes (but not colours) over time. It’s a timesaving technique that’s more useful for effects animation, such as water or smoke, than character animation. You can also make use of cut-out animation techniques, either for South Park-style cartoons, or more complex puppet control. A Cutter tool is provided for this, to chop a character model into discrete pieces ready for independent movement. Special functions place the selections in layers to be animated individually.
To fix gaps between limbs you can use classical articulation, where one limb overlays the other, or Patch articulation, where a colour-fill patch is drawn onto a third layer to cover the joint lines. To animate limbs, you set pivot points and then rotate, scale, skew, move and select with the Transform tool (Forward Kinematics). A selection of limb movements can be stored inside symbols, thereafter to be selected using the Library’s Drawing Substitution window and swapped in and out during animation. Lip syncing is also possible.
You can also create a hierarchy of body parts in a simple drag-and-drop process, then control animation through Inverse Kinematics (IK). IK constraints, known as Nails, can be added to pin feet to the floor, or rigidly control movement. You can also set an easing preset so that the motion isn’t so mechanical.
Like other high-end 2D software, Animate additionally offers a traditional hand-drawn route, with a frame-based Xsheet (or dope-sheet) to track the drawing workflow and establish timings. You sketch a series of rough keyposes in the Drawing View for the main action, using the Onion Skin tool to create ghost views of the previous and subsequent movements, followed by a series of intermediate (breakdown, in-between and clean-up) stages creating and tracing all the rough drawings before painting.
When using the Drawing View, a Light Table feature can be enabled to see the other layers. The Advanced Art Mode is another useful option, as it allows you to edit the lines and subsequent colour fills independently in the Drawing and Camera views, yet only displays a composition of the lines and colours in the final drawing.
Though it’s more than twice the price of Toon Boom Studio, Animate manages to feel more accessible to newcomers and professionals alike. Video training is included and the PDF user guide is very comprehensive, but might be better supplied as a printed workbook. Animate requires that you activate the product before using it. It’s a simple process, but a way to deactivate the product hasn’t been implemented at time of writing.
Mac users should also be aware that Animate doesn’t install on anything below an Intel Mac running Mac OS X 10.5, whereas most competitors support at least a G4 Mac. We used it on a MacBook Pro and apart from requiring some keyboard workarounds it worked OK, though a Wacom tablet is fairly essential for drawing with this setup.
While not in the price range of Toonz or Animo, Animate is still an expensive option for a new animator. If they don’t need tools like IK or integrated FLV export, there’s no urgent need for TBS users to upgrade.
However, if you’re a traditional animator who still hasn’t gone digital, or you simply want to take 2D animation further, Animate is definitely worth a serious look.