Toon Boom Studio 5 full review

Toon Boom Studio 5 is an intuitive animation tool that offers a range of approaches. Aimed at the education market, it offers professional-level output with the ease of consumer software.

As well as the traditional paper cel-based approach, and a digital equivalent, Studio 5 offers cut-out – a puppet pin-based approach to animation – rotoscoping, and stop-motion capture. The interface, which has been slightly refined in version 5, will feel familiar to anyone used to Adobe’s applications. Tools and panels appear exactly where you expect to find them. Interactions with tools, props, cast members and the stage are all intuitive. The built-in drawing tools are similar to those found in Flash. Although vector-based, they have the feel of bitmap tools, responding in the way you would expect.

The rotary drawing table, which allows you to turn the canvas or cel as you draw, is a great addition that aids the illustration process. The drawing toolset is small, but Studio 5 plays nicely with imported content from Illustrator (as a PDF), Flash, Photoshop, and bitmap formats. You can also import video in a variety of formats to use within your animation, or as the basis for rotoscoping.

While this is very much a 2D animation tool, Studio 5 does allow different 2D assets to be offset in 3D space, creating a parallax effect known as 2.5D. The built-in camera can then be tracked and panned through the layers, creating sophisticated animations that would be hard to create manually.

The included lip-synching tool matches audio waveforms to one of eight phonemes (speech sounds), and pulls the relevant frame from your character to animate the mouth. In practice this works pretty well, although it’s worth following up with some manual tweaking. Once you’ve created an animation you can export in mobile and web video formats (including YouTube), Image Sequence, QuickTime and SWF.

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