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Teaching Yourself Animation - The Tools Part 2

Learning the basics of animation on your own is very doable. This second of a four part series on the tools of the trade looks at inexpensive, small, and fast storyboarding softwares used for animation.

In Part 1 of this series on the software for creating 2D frame-by-frame animation, we looked at the basics of mark making in a digital world. In this, the tools part of the series, we look at a couple of inexpensive, small, fast applications with limited graphics ability but great motion making capability. These softwares run the gamut from very simple to quite sophisticated. 

We’ll start with a top of the line app that many animators keep in their tool box, regardless of the technique they will finally use to paint the finished frames. DigiCels’ FlipBook can be used to learn the basic principles of animation, animate a full cartoon, or storyboard a feature length film.

It’s not a simple learning curve though, so invest the time to run through tutorial (it’s in the help file included with the software.) But once you know what’s where and how to use it, you can fly through your frames.

FlipBook Lite has two levels, a background and a foreground. FlipBook Studio can have up to two levels including the background. FlipBook Pro can have up to 100 levels.

If you’re just starting out, two levels will be just fine. Once you know if animation is for you, you can always upgrade your software as needed.

If you’re test driving it, keep in mind that clicking on a frame number allows you to preview the frame, double-clicking on any square opens it for editing.

Comparison of the DigiCels versions 

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Combing both vector and bitmap, Pencil, on the other hand, is totally free and might be a great way to try out animation. Open source and available for all platforms, on first look it seems a basic but functional program with great potential. 

For those of you who do Anime, there's SmithMicro's Anime Studio. I have little experience in anime style animation so I welcome comments from those who know it and want to share their experience with would-be animators. From the specs I see that this software is both Mac and PC compatible, and there are two versions, a debut and a pro set of tools - see the version comparison chart. From the list of tools available it's clear that one can use the software for drawing from scratch in a vector style line. Both the debut and pro versions support an audio track so you can draw in sync, and the output formats cover web and TV viewing. The price seems very reasonable for what you're getting and the pro version has a lot of features that would take a would-be animator a long way toward completing a short film. 

SmithMicro offers a free trial version which is great way to check out software before buying.

In the third part of this four part series, we examine a couple more vector based animation softwares including Flash and the new release of Toon Boom Studio.

Series index

Teach Yourself Animation - The Art of Timing 

Teaching Yourself Animation - The Tools Part 1

Teaching Yourself Animation - The Tools Part 2

Teaching Yourself Animation - The Tools Part 3

Teaching Yourself Animation - The Tools Part 4