4 Popular Animation Software Tools

flash-logo-largeDoes the thought of creating an animation from scratch sound intimidating?

Making your own animation doesn’t have to be painful. These days, powerful software makes it relatively quick and easy to create awesome animations using a variety of drawing and importing tools.

Fundamentally, all share most of the same basic features – the difference is in the detail, ease of use, and personal preference.

Here are a few of the most popular animation software tools currently on the market. With the exception of GoAnimate, all cater to people with great drawing skills.  Whichever tool you decide to use, you should be prepared to invest time in learning the ropes and building your animation.

 

1. Flash

Adobe Flash (the latest version is CS6) is a comprehensive design package for all kinds of web design, hence the high price tag for Flash Professional. The fact that Flash is not simply limited to animation has opened the door for the development of other specific animation tools (see below).

Not surprisingly, it ties in closely with other Adobe programs. You can import content from Photoshop or Illustrator and animate it within Flash. Or, if you’d prefer to draw your own content from scratch (some users find certain drawing functions clunky) Flash offers both frame-by-frame animation or object-based animation. With object-based animation, you have a lot of control over individual attributes and can apply tweens directly to objects. Frame-by-frame animation lets you assign your content a more expressive, lifelike appearance. The relatively new bone animation tool enables highly individual and smooth animation styles, allowing you to control individual limbs, while the ‘kinematics’ engine provides realistic physics movements.

Flash animations can be exported for desktop, phone, tablet, or TV. A separate extension enables you to create interactive HTML5 content as well, building on from the core animation and drawing capabilities.

2. GoAnimate

GoAnimate is a web app that hugely simplifies the process of creating an animated video. Getting started costs nothing: basic accounts are free and there are plans for schools and businesses. There is nothing to download or install; and you don’t need to draw anything as they provide you with a huge content library.

It couldn’t be faster than to use the Quick Video Maker to create an animation. Beginners can get started right away with templates from their vast content library. You can literally create a nice looking animation in less than 10 minutes.

There’s also the Full Video Maker, which is essentially a mini movie studio with a drag and drop interface. Here, you get to direct your own sets, camera angles, actors, sound effects, and everything you need to put together an awesome animation.

Thousands of characters in a variety of styles are available, pre-animated with actions and expressions. They’re just like real actors (better, even – they’ll obey your performing directions and never get tired, hungry or moody). Alternatively, create your own characters from scratch and control every aspect, from facial features to clothing and accessory, using simple point and click menus. With a little practice, you’ll be able to create anyone from the President of the United States to the president of your organization.

As well as the typical audio importing and recording capabilities, one useful alternative in Go Animate is the text-to-speech engine. Simply enter in your dialogue text and your characters will speak out what you typed (lip syncing is automatic), or you might prefer to display the dialogue within comic book-style speech bubbles.

The final animations may be shared to YouTube and Facebook, and full HD download is available for business accounts.

 

3. Toon Boom Studio

Toon Boom Studio is much more affordable than Flash. Toon Boom’s higher end animation software has also been used by Disney, Warner Bros., Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, Fox and more.

With Toon Boom Studio you can create either frame-by-frame or bone animations using a variety of input tools. (Some users report that it can take a little while to get used to the interface.) Whether you choose to draw from scratch, scan in images (blending traditional animation with digital) or import existing digital artwork and video, there are several options. Note that you can trace and copy characters directly from imported videos, saving time! Also, another nifty way to build objects is using the ‘clipping’ effect. This enables you to mask, cut and shave things out, then put the elements together to create ‘puppet’ characters. Rather than redrawing frames, you move around the pieces onscreen, known as cut-out animation.

Other features to take note of are the rich color palettes and comprehensive shading options, as well as extra effects including shadows, rain, cloud, hail, snow, ground shaking and more. On the sound front, Toon Boom can synchronize dialogue with its lip-sync engine, and visually, multiplane camera movements are supported. Toon Boom also says the software is ideal for teaching – there’s an option to annotate layers with text notes, which can be visible or turned off as needed

Toon Boom can publish animations for TV and HDTV, the web, Facebook, YouTube and iPod/iPod touch/iPhone/iPad.

Video embedded at http://beta.toonboom.com/home-users/toon-boom-studio/take-a-tour

 

4. Anime Studio

Anime Studio is an even cheaper option. Despite that, it’s packed with features, plus it’s said to be fairly user-friendly for beginners.

While both Flash and Toon Boom have recently added bone animation tools to their packages, Anime Studio has been a bone drawing-based suite from the start. As the website puts it, bone rigging lets you “add a skeleton to any image by pointing and clicking to create bones that overlay the parts of your image, to control arms or legs for example. Then bring your image to life by moving any individual bone point to create the pose or motion you want”. The in-built ‘physics engine’ also assists in creating realistic movements.

Anime Studio features layers of different types for easy management of content , and supports the import of Photoshop files with all layers intact. If you prefer to trace in your own artwork and then animate it, rather than creating a digital drawing, then the software converts sketches to fully editable vector images. As with Toon Boom, it’s possible to lip sync sound after recording or importing audio, but also to adjust the pitch afterwards.

Anime Studio not only comes with an extensive content library users can draw on when making their own animations , but the character wizard helps streamline the process by using a slider-based interface to customize character features. Another handy feature: the Real Time Media Connection automatically updates image, movie and audio files in your imported Anime Studio content when those files are edited in an external program. If you’re tech-savvy, there’s also the option to use scripting to modify Anime Studio tools or create your own effects, using the Lua programming language.

Your final animation output can be HD and mobile optimized. Anime Studio also gives you the option to render your output in 3D with full support for YouTube 3D formats.

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