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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.