I've been given a copy of Anime Studio Pro 7 to try out and review, courtesy of the developers at Smith Micro (and thanks to the recommendation of Okse). In our email exchange their Marketing Rep Rebecca said this: "If you don’t like it, you don’t have any obligation to say you do. Just be honest. The idea is real artists using the program with real opinions, you know?"
So over a series of blog posts I'll be giving my real opinions, probably in way too much depth to be of interest to anyone but other animators. Any non-animators reading, you have been warned.
Watching a few videos that have been animated using the software gets me nerdily excited about its potential, and the product website mentions all kinds of features like physics simulation and 3D and motion tracking and automated lip sync. Mostly, though, I'm interested in how useful it is for producing traditional-ish 2D animation.
At this point I should say that I've been getting to grips with Adobe Flash for the last four or five years, and while I can now get it to do basically what I want I still consider myself a novice. I'll likely be making a lot of comparisons between it and Anime Studio, because once the language of one program is installed in your head it inevitably interferes with your attempt to learn a new one; but if you haven't confused yourself with Flash your experience of Anime Studio will be very different to mine, so bear that in mind. That said, this review assumes that you're familiar with the principles of animation and the basic layout of graphicy type media programs.
This is what you see when you open the Anime Studio for the first time:
Everything you'd expect (tools, a timeline, a layers panel) and the unexpected bonus of a fully rigged animatible character standing in the workspace.
I want to zoom in on the character using the mouse wheel, so I roll it upwards. The picture zooms out. Okay, so the mouse wheel is set up to work the opposite way from how it does in most other applications. Presumably I'll be able to change it to make it compatible with how my brain thinks it should work -- but the Preferences and Settings windows turn out to be much sparser than one would expect.
The Help section contains nothing on how to customise controls. A search of the Anime Pro community forums reveals that there is some way to change keyboard shortcuts but itsounds like it involves downloading and editing obscure files somewhere and you know what? I really can't be bothered with that.
(Developers or experienced users: If I've missed something, and if there is an easy way to customise the keyboard and mouse set up, please let me know in the comments.)
Anyway, this is something that is only a problem because I have the language of lots of different bits of software rattling around in my ageing brain. For many people it probably won't be an issue (though I can't help thinking that customisable controls should be standard in any piece of software these days).
Moving on; having figured out how to zoom and move around the workspace, I click on one of the bone things on the drawing of the girl (I know they're bones because they look like the bones in Maya, another piece of software whose rules will interfere in the learning process) and in just a few clicks I've moved her into a new position. It's almost like moving a stop-motion puppet - you grab the wrist and lift and the elbow bends and everything just moves the way it should. Neat.
And what's even neater: As she moves, the shadows change position, almost as though they're being cast by a light source. I have no idea how that works but it thrills me.
Did I mention that I'm a nerd?