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Animating in Synthetik StudioArtist

A detailed description of my 2D hand drawn animation process.

Trained as a visual artist, I taught myself how to animate using digital tools. My tools and setup for raw animation include:

i) an iMac computer with a 27 inch screen;

ii) a 6 X 8” Wacom tablet;

iii) a Contour Shuttle Pro which has programmable buttons for my most common keyboard shortcuts; and 

iv) the software Synthetik StudioArtist

In addition, I use the following for clean-up, timing and pacing, detailed animation and special effects, and video editing:

v) the software TVPaint;

vi) Adobe Photoshop; and

vii) Final Cut Studio.

Synthtik StudioArtist is my go-to tool when I start a new animation.

A) The first thing I do is establish a ground:

i) I choose the size of my canvas under Canvas > Resize Canvas and go with either the resolution of the final film, or a size that’s based on the aspect ratio of the final film.

The most common resolutions are 640 X 480 (standard 4:3 television), 720 X 480 (16:9 television), 1280 X 720 (720p HDTV and Blu-ray), etc.

ii) The next thing I do is choose a colour for the ground or canvas. I usually do this in Photoshop by creating a new file that is the dimensions of the canvas I want to work in and filling it with a colour that I like. I then save that file as, for example, BG (background).

Or I use the default white or black. StudioArtist allows for erasing the canvas to several defaults including white, black, source image, source colour, etc. (Click on the Erase button in the bar above the canvas, or go to Canvas > Erase to... and choose your default.

If I’m using the default white, black or source colour, then I just erase the canvas and presto it’s the default colour I want it to be.

At this point you'll also want to open a source file if you haven't already done so. I usually go with a file that's the same dimension as my canvas, and the same colour as my ground, especially if it's not white or black, so I can simply erase the canvas when I want to get to the default ground again.

B) Next I make the default Layer a MovieLayer by going to Canvas > MovieLayer > Convert to MovieLayer. And I make sure my Preferences > Onion are set as below:

Canvas movie preferences in Synthetik StudioArtist.

C) Now I start to draw. One can choose a brush from among the defaults that come with StudioArtist by going to Operation > Paint Synthesizer Classic and picking a brush from among the many presets there. I always create my own set of brushes for each film though.

Then, in the Source Area, I set the default position to Color, (or if I've previously created a palette to Palette and import my palette.)

Then I choose a color and begin to draw out the first set of lines or shape that will be on frame 1.

After I've completed the drawing, I save this canvas image as a frame: Canvas > MovieLayer > Record to Existing Frame.

D) Then I insert a new frame: Canvas > MovieLayer > Insert As New Frame. Since this command is accessed with a simple keystroke, I have it programmed on my Contour Shuttle as a button.

E) Then I turn on onionskin by ensuring that the OnionSkin preference is set to Canvas > OnionSkin > CanvasMovie and then toggling OnionSkin with OnionSkin > Toggle OnionSkin or by using the keystroke which is also programmed onto my Contour Shuttle.

F) Then I draw the second frame, and proceed as above to the end of the segment, scene, clip or what-have-you.

When I’ve drawn out all the frames, I export the film out of StudioArtist by going to Canvas > MovieLayer > Save Flattened Canvas Movie as... (also a programmed button on the Contour Shuttle.)

After this I edit the clips together in Final Cut Studio and create the soundtrack in SoundTrack Pro.