Ok I’ll admit it. Animating is like waaaay easier than it was even 15 years ago. Computers are good, not hand-painting/drawing everything speeds things up like crazy, tracking your shots, frames and backgrounds is much simpler in the digital realm and BLAH BLAH BLAH.
Animation software freakin SUCKS.
Every animator I talk to uses a nutty hodge-podge of software solutions to get their animating done. I will acknowledge that you probably need to paint backgrounds in Photoshop (or the like), and do complex compositing in After Effects (or the like)… but everything else? Sketching, drawing, and coloring characters, and then animating them either frame by frame or with tweening, is just a mess.
Dark Matter Video has thoroughly gone through three major animation programs (Toon Boom, Anime Studio Pro, and Flash) and there have been moments where we found a feature in a program that made us joyful as Stimpy. But for the most part the three just fail to create an intuitive, gap-free animating experience. This is coming from someone who uses lots of software (mainly Adobe, I’ll own) and is used to just finding a feature there when I need it… not searching in vain for a workaround to an idiotic interface bug.
Can I be more specific? Yes. But first, the good:
Toon Boom and Anime Studio Pro’s phoneme mouth-syncing features are just cool, cuz lip-syncing is a bitch. There are the beginnings of nice color palette-management setups in both. TB has X-sheets built in. It has some (theoretically) nice faux-3D compositing features. ASP has particle generators and IK bones; so does Flash, now, apparently. Flash has always had decent vector drawing tools. Etc.
And here’s why they suck:
Toon Boom’s interface is an ugly mess. They are still using bloopy round buttons fer Chrissakes. Trying to work with the timeline consists mainly of blind clicks and muttered oaths as one tries to figure out what frame and what object is selected, and how the timeline and actual object animations relate. The drawing/symbol nesting is somewhat logical in principal, but we stumbled badly on the shifting view/window configurations. And don’t even get me started on vector drawing and coloring.
Anime Studio Pro seemed to be our answer. Till we tried coloring. What the f–k? We found an amazing paint fill bug. It’s hard to describe, but it more or less will leave any area of an object unfilled with color if it’s outside the view area (i.e. when you are zoomed into an object and part of it is cropped by the window you’re working in). Instant dealbreaker. LAAAME!
So we are going the way all animators go. The mishmash.
To draw our frames we will be using Flash. Despite it’s horrendous color management, confusing symbol-nesting setup (which, by the way can make exporting image sequences and videos a FAIL), and enormous array of tools that are just clutter to a cartoon animator, the drawing tools are just better. The keyframing, once you get the hang of it and commit yourself to working primarily on the main timeline, is simple enough. And since we’re forced to use an array of other Adobe solutions for the rest of workflow… Flash is where it’s at. For now.
Animation software developers! Animators! Let us exodus from this Bog of Eternal Stench. It can happen! Rise up and collectively HATE!