Animate 2 review
Toon Boom’s business is in creating animation software aimed at both the home and professional markets, targeting schools and design studios specifically.
The main benefit of an application such as Animate 2, when compared to the likes of Adobe Flash, is that as a dedicated animation suite a typical user can pick up the software more quickly, without having to decipher the many irrelevant tools in Adobe’s offering. This focus enables Toon Boom to add tools that make an animator’s job easier – skeletal rigs and inverse kinematics, for example – and speed up the animation process while supporting Flash-compatible symbols (objects).
Beyond the usual bug fixes and performance enhancements, the main new feature of version 2 is the smart puppet feature, which supports forward and inverse kinematics, making it easier to animate a complete character than previously possible. Lip synching is also available, with an automatic phoneme recognition tool. This is useful for quick and dirty animations, but not 100 per cent reliable by any stretch.
Additional effects and blending modes have been added, allowing output that would have previously required export to the likes of After Effects. Tweening and effects support a motion graph to control easing, and the obligatory 3D support is here, allowing simple three-dimensional worlds to be created around your characters. Cameras can also now be attached to objects inside the 3D world, allowing for interesting new perspectives.
Getting your animation out there is pretty straightforward: export is supported in a variety of formats including SWF, Quicktime and FLV (the Flash video container). Effects are rendered natively in each format, ensuring best performance.
Animate 2 is very much a product aimed at the professional animator, and the price reflects this. Amateur users interested in starting out animating would be better suited to Toon Boom’s Studio product which, at about £200 represents a much smaller investment for many of the features offered by Animate 2. Professionals will love the specialised features on offer here however, and should seriously consider Animate 2 in their shortlist.