Archive for March, 2012

[wplapdance name=”flipboomcartoon-sale”]
flip boom cartoon reviewThe Toon Boom company is synonymous with animation software, with their flagship Harmony and Animate products being used by the big Hollywood studios and freelancers worldwide.

Trouble is, these softwares can be a challenge to learn for even the most accomplished animator…which meant that for a while there was a large gap in the market for easy to use animation software for young children.

Enter Flip Boom Cartoon…

This is designed specifically for young children of a few years of age and upwards to help them learn the basics of animation in a fun environment that is not going to bore the pants off them.

But is it any good? Read our review below to find out more…

What Age Group Is It For?

The Flip Boom Cartoon software is aimed particularly at children between 6 and 12 years of age, most of whom will be complete beginners to the craft of animation. It’s goal is to provide the easiest way to introduce children to animation in a way that they can build on later with more advanced techniques and softwares.

Interface

Flip Boom Cartoon has a clearly laid out and easy to navigate interface which makes it easy for your child to get started with their animation.

It makes full use of the screen size which helps focus and concentration.

On the whole the interface follows the same design pattern of almost all of the more advanced professional animation softwares…so it gives your child a good introduction without the clutter.

Is It Easy To Use?

Flip Boom Cartoon is very easy to use, and you can get started with your first drawing straightaway.

By using the “onion skin” feature, your child can trace their previous drawings and make small changes with each one to create movement…press Play and they have their first animation.

The software also comes with a library of clip art and templates to give your child ideas for their cartoons along with some sounds that can be added to the animations directly inside the program…no need to export a movie and add it on in a 3rd party program like you have to do in Animation-ish.

You can also record sound directly into the software as a voice-over or dialogue for your characters which is really handy and saves the need of using another program. You can’t unfortunately import other mp3 sounds though…you need to record everything within the program itself. Toon Boom’s Flip Boom All-Star program allows this function.

There are also a variety of export options so your child can share their first cartoons with friends and family. This is made very easy by the “upload to FaceBook and YouTube” options within the software itself.

Drawbacks

Probably the biggest drawback with the Flip Boom Cartoon software is that you can’t import other images to use in the program. The only way to have backgrounds is to create them directly in the program itself or use some of the templates provided. The same goes for sounds as mentioned above.

Older or more experienced children may want to use more advanced features that can be found in the Flip Boom All Star package.

Verdict

Flip Boom Cartoon is a great little animation software for kids that will have them up and making their first cartoons in no time.

The learning curve is very easy and since it is pretty much a scaled-down version of Toon Boom’s other high-end software it is a great introduction for your child that they can easily build on in future if they want to pursue animation further and upgrade to more advanced software.

At $39 it is a reasonably priced software, especially since most video games these days cost a lot more than that and provide a lot less educational value.

 

Designed to be the best and most affordable 2d animation software for hobbyists and professionals alike, Toon Boom Studio has a lot of expectations to live up to. In this review we’ll take a look and see if it lives up to its grand reputation or whether it falls short.

Features

The first thing you’ll notice when you open up Toon Boom Studio is that it’s absolutely jam-packed with features. For me, one of the biggest attractions is that you can do 5 different styles of animation…these are:

1./ Traditional paper animation (you can scan your drawings in and colour them in Toon Boom Studio)
2./ Traditional digital animation (draw directly into the program)
3./ Flash style cut out animation (although missing the interactivity and scripting abilities of Flash)
4./ Rotoscoping (tracing over live action video footage)
5./ Stop motion animation (just link up a camera and use the software to capture each frame)

Watch the video below which shows you the 5 techniques in detail. (Note: this video refers to version 5 of the software, whereas the current version is 6 and now includes “Bones” which I discuss below).

It is as the name suggests, an animation studio all in one package. This is great since it effectively saves you having to spend money on separate programs to do the same job.

Thankfully they have maintained a clean interface which is fully customizable. If this is your first foray into animation then you may find it a bit difficult at first to find your way around, but a few quick tutorials will show you what you need to know and get you up to speed quickly.

A great bonus for teens and youngsters is that since Toon Boom Studio is used by professional studios and freelancers it’s a great software to get to grips with as it can really boost their future career prospects and give them a head start. It also makes it easy to upgrade to their high-end Animate program if they wish later on, since it relies on the same basic structure but with more advanced tools.

You can import and export all the main formats including HD, which makes it ideal for everything from production level quality to small web videos. Uploading directly to YouTube and Facebook is also a breeze which means sharing your work has never been easier.

If you want to go the traditional paper animation route you can do your drawings on paper first and then scan them in to coloured and composited. The Peg Bar Recognition tool is extremely useful for keeping your drawings in the same place to avoid jittering around the screen.

The colouring tools are effective and allow you to do anything from simple fill colouring, up to gradient fills and even shadows. There is an automatic line detection feature which automatically closes the lines for you if you’ve left any gaps in your drawings (anyone who’s used other 2d animation software programs that don’t have this feature know just how frustrating and time consuming it can be).

You also have the ability to convert raster images to vector images for lossless zooming and better line manipulation. You can scan in your images as raster to preserve line quality and then convert to vector if you wish, depending on what you’re going to do and the look you’re going for in your animation.

The Virtual Camera is one of Toon Boom Studio’s biggest strengths as it gives you an effective 3d camera in a 2d environment, allowing you to do Multiplane camera effects and far more creativity than a standard pan and zoom that you find in most other programs.

Bone tools are a great addition to Version 6 of the Toon Boom Studio, and address a major problem that many Flash users expressed with older versions of the software. Basically, prior to version 5 it was a little awkward to do good quality Flash-style cut out animation since each body part needed to be on a separate layer and then animated accordingly…as you can imagine, if you have even an average character, it can get very complex and a big headache very quickly.

Thankfully, the bone tools in version 6 have addressed this and now allow a great amount of flexibility in both character design and how it is animated.

Click here
to watch a video that explains the bone system and how to use it.

Drawbacks

Although the marketing behind Toon Boom Studio tends to give the impression that it is extremely to use, I would contend that is does have a fairly steep learning curve particularly if this is your first foray into any kind of animation software or just animation in general.

Thankfully there are some good resources, learning materials and a helpful forum which will get you up to speed pretty quickly. For youngsters, I recommend they start by using one of the easier 2d animation programs, and then move up to Toon Boom Studio when they have a basic foundation and want to test themselves further.

It’s also a bit pricey if you’re a complete beginner and are unsure about how much you’ll use it. However, when you consider that you can do any of the 5 major animation techniques (as mentioned above) then it is pretty cheap, especially when compared to how much it used to cost to do any one of those techniques 5 to 10 years ago.

Plus, there is a free 30-day trial version which lets you use all the features of the software and make an informed decision about whether it is the right 2d software for you. There are also the occasional discount promos, but you have to keep your eyes peeled for them.

Another drawback is the lack of an integrated storyboard in the software. This can be a bit frustrating if you’re looking to do your own projects and have limited space or budget, since you’ll need to either do it on paper or in another program Toon Boom’s Storyboard program is one such program).

Verdict

All in all Toon Boom Studio is a great piece of 2d animation software that has enough tools and options to satisfy most animators, and can produce professional level quality animation. The variety of import and export formats mean that you will have no problem in creating content for the web to DVD to film standard.

While there is a bit of a learning curve Toon Boom Studio is a great bridge between the low-end simple softwares and high-end level software used by major studios. The help videos and tutorials will get you going pretty quickly, and once you know your way around then you know that there really isn’t much difference between this software and the ones the real big boys use…it’s just a few extra tools and bells and whistles.

For me the biggest attraction is the versatility of the software. Being able to do any of the 5 major animation techniques all in one package that can run on your average laptop is pretty special, and when looked at from this perspective the price is pretty cheap.

Click here to try this software free for 30 days

 

The professional version of Anime Studio is well known to professional and hobby animators for its high end state-of-the-art tools and production level quality.

However, the Debut version is a little less well-known but marketed as a suitable animation software for hobbyists and youngsters and those looking to learn the basics.

But is this true? Is it really any good for teens or just too complicated to get their teeth into? Let’s find out in this review…

Visual Interface

The visual interface (GUI) is very well laid out with all the main tools in clear sight. No need to trawl through lengthy menus to find what you’re looking for.

In many ways it is a simplified version of their Pro interface, but still close enough to make the transition fairly smooth should you choose to upgrade later.

However, if this is the first time you open any kind of animation software, it could still seem daunting at first, especially when compared to kids software like Flip Boom All Star and Animation-ish. Thankfully, the software comes with a plethora of tutorials and how-to videos which take you through each of the main tools and functions, and it doesn’t take long to get the hang of it.

Features

Since it is significantly cheaper than the Pro version, I was under the impression that Anime Studio Debut would be pretty limited in its tools and features…but I was surprisingly mistaken.

Character Wizard

The Character Wizard has to be one of the best tools in the program in that it makes it SO easy and quick to generate and change your characters by using a series of sliders instead of having to painstakingly change everything by hand

As in the Pro version, the bone tools are really excellent and so simple to set up. If you are new to the concept of “bones” they are basically a way to create a kind of armature in your drawing and then move around the various body parts as if it were a physical stop-motion model.

Anime Studio Debut has some great vectorizing tools which give a really clean looking line quality to your work. You can import your own drawings or any image and then vectorize it for animating. The Trace tool is especially effective and allows you to cartoon-ify any image you like…very cool.

The automatic lip-synching feature is clever and produces quick results, but fairly limited as it tends to produce the same kind of animation every time. If you want really accurate lip-synching the only way is to do it yourself I’m afraid.

Motion tracking is also a cool feature and lets you be more creative in that you can import video clips and track the motions of various objects or characters and then use them as the basis for your own animations. This makes it very easy to integrate your animation with a live action clip that you have filmed.

In addition the ability to import and export in HD format is very surprising in a program that is so inexpensive. Uploading direct to YouTube and FaceBook is also a breeze.

Templates?

Anime Studio Debut comes with a number of templates and pre-prepared characters which definitely saves a lot of time if you want to practice how to get the most out of the software. However, they do tend to be quite generic so are maybe not the kind of stuff you’ll want to use in your own work.

As mentioned above, the Character Wizard makes it very easy to change the appearance and form of your characters which you can also do to the templates.

Negatives

On the whole the biggest negative for me is I found there are quite limited tools when it comes to traditional frame-by-frame drawn animation. Some folks would criticise me for saying this and claim that it is not really designed for this, but rather for more cut-out Flash-style animation (think South Park). Which is kind of true, however the purist in me would sometimes like to do some more freehand sketchy style animation like I can do in Animation-ish and Flip Boom All Star, but found it a little bit more awkward in Anime Studio Debut.

This is brought to bear if you try to look for an onion skinning feature in the software (seeing your previous frames to help you work out your inbetweens)…basically it doesn’t exist! It does exist in the Pro version, but to me, a 2D animation software that doesn’t have an onion skin feature is very strange indeed. I would gladly trade some of the other whizz bang features for a simple onion skin tool.

I would also contend that there is a steeper learning curve than advertised, particularly for complete beginners. If this is your first foray into 2d animation software then it might take a little longer than you think to get up to speed. Thankfully there are plenty of help files, tutorials and videos with the software, plus very helpful online forums to help you learn faster.

Overall Verdict

For the price Anime Studio Debut is a very good piece of animation software which is well within the reach of youngsters, hobbyists and beginners of all shades. With plenty of tools there are lots of ways to express your creativity and then export it easily in all the major formats.

However, if you want to do something other than cut-out style animation you will find it a bit limiting, and frankly a 2d animation software that doesn’t have an onion skin feature is inexcusable. I hope they add it in to a future release.

 

Pencil Animation SoftwarePencil is an open source animation program meaning it is completely free to use in any way you want with no license restrictions (you can make a donation to the developers if you so wish).

Just go to the site and download the latest version for Windows, Mac or Linux (no registration required either).

Now since i’m an old-fashioned sort of a gent and believe there’s no such thing as a free lunch, I was a tad skeptical at first and wondered if it would be any good, but upon opening the software was pleasantly surprised to see that in fact it is actually very good.

Features

The interface is pretty standard for animation software and clearly laid out with most things fairly self-explanatory.

The standard drawing tools are all there and obvious to any one who’s used a paint program before.

The drawing tool gives a nice sketchy line quality particularly if you’re using a Wacom tablet, and you can work in either Bitmap or Vector mode (vectors give you a cleaner line and good if zooming in since they don’t lose quality or go “pixelated”).

The Onion Skin feature is clearly visible with an on / off button, so no need to waste time going through menus to find it. However, it only shows the frame before and after the current one…it would be nice to have an option that allows you to show more, but unfortunately there isn’t.

You can also export your work in a variety of formats like jpeg and png sequences and Flash movies. The QuickTime .mov export is only available in the Mac version though which is pretty annoying since you’ll have to then compress your images in a 3rd party program to make a movie which can be uploaded to YouTube etc.

The real strength of Pencil is that it has been designed primarily for traditional 2d drawn animation, which I really like. So don’t expect to be able to do Flash-style cut out animation like you can do in Anime Studio Debut because you’ll be disappointed.

Drawbacks

If this is your first foray into animation then you may find a bit of a learning curve since it does require at least a rudimentary knowledge of how it all works.

There’s also no shortcuts. Traditional 2d drawn animation is VERY labour intensive and there is no getting around the fact that it requires lots of drawing to get something moving (you can’t do computer-aided “tweening” in Pencil like you can in other programs such as Flip Boom All Star and Anime Studio Debut).

Of course, a purist like myself finds this aspect the big attraction to this style of animation, but I would readily agree that for many youngsters it’s a hard way to learn.

Also, the fact that Pencil is free cuts both ways. It’s great because you can just download and get started, but on the other hand there isn’t a lot of support or updates. You kind of have to go it alone, albeit there is a user forum and community who can help out.

Verdict

All in all I would say that Pencil is a wonderful little program for practicing traditional drawn animation without the need for expensive lighttables, cameras and lots of pencils.

However, it is limited to one style of animation, and young beginners may find it frustrating if it takes them a long time to see results.

Download a free version here

For other top animation programs, see our reviews here