Anime Studio Pro 10 in Review

 

 

"Anime Studio 10 is among the best animation products on the market as it is both powerful and easy to use with tools that users of all skill levels can harness," said Victor Paredes, renowned award-winning Anime Studio artist of Fluor Films. "Software features such as the Bone Constraints and Smart Bone Dials allow animators to quickly, efficiently and cost effectively bring their imaginations to life with the utmost control.

Anime Studio is a 2D vector based animation program that was originally called “Moho.” It was released in 1999 and developed by Mike Clifton of LostMarble. The program was quite popular because of its speed, ease of use, layer-based compositing system and its innovative bone system for animating 2D characters. Acquired by Smith-Micro in 2006, the program was renamed “Anime Studio” in order to “relate the product to the Japanese style of animation and to market the product to burgeoning anime fans who needed a creative outlet,” according to Fahim Niaz, Anime Studio Product Manager.

Over the years, Smith Micro has added a lot of innovative tools and functionality to Anime Studio in order to make it much more than a simple tool for creating Anime. They’ve added physics, 3D creation, a Character Wizard, layered Photoshop import, a complete Smart Bone system which shortens the animation creation process, Editable Motion Graphs and support for Poser and Wacom tablets (one of the first programs to do this). You can read more about the history of Anime Studio here.

In March of 2014, Smith Micro released version 10 of both Anime Studio Pro and Anime Studio Debut. We’ll be focusing on the Pro version in this review, although the Debut version (designed primarily for hobbyists and beginners) has been upgraded as well. You can see a comparison chart for both applications here

Smith Micro has produced an interesting video that covers all of the new additions to Anime Studio Pro 10. Check it out below.

 

 

Anime Studio Pro 10

With Anime Studio Pro 10, Smith Micro has created the most effective and powerful version of the application to date. Bone enhancements, preview rendering, drawing tools, multiple layer editing and a complete overhaul of the content library are just a few of the updates. You can view the embedded video above and/or check a complete list of additions to Anime Studio Pro 10 here. Here are some of the “What’s New” highlights:

  1. Bone Tool Enhancements - New bone constraints, enhanced Smart Bone setup and more control over Bones and Points.
  2. Separate Preview of Animation Before Render - You can now preview your work before you commit to rendering.
  3. Complete Overhaul of  Content Library - There are many new assets including new characters, objects, scenes and more. Incredibly useful for the pro and the hobbyist in creating content and to store/retrieve content you create yourself.
  4. Enhanced Freehand Drawing - Now you are able to use freehand drawing more effectively with Live Freehand Previews, New Brushes and Tapering Effect.
  5. More Effective Tool Selection - Many tools have been simplified (Bone selection, Point selection) to make the workflow in Anime Studio Pro 10 simpler.
  6. Rendering as a Separate Process - The Batch Exporter and Renderer are now separate processes, so you can continue to work while you render. (PRO ONLY)

The list is long on what’s new in Anime Studio Pro 10. Major enhancements to how you interact with the program have improved workflow significantly. Again, be sure to check the full breakdown of what’s new in Anime Studio Pro 10 here.

 

 

Working with Anime Studio Pro 10

Although I have friends who use Anime Studio Pro, I’ve never used the program myself. After several weeks, I can tell you that not only is this program very friendly to new users, it’s also an awful lot of fun. And the program grows with you. Once you find that you want to do more with your animations, Anime Studio Pro 10 has the functionality you need to go deeper into the process. Plus, the support Smith Micro offers both on their website and on their YouTube channel is excellent. Other than Poser (another Smith Micro application), I don’t know of too many other companies who provide as much support for such a wide range of users as Anime Studio Pro 10.

Installation of Anime Studio Pro 10 (I used a digital download) was simple and fast. Once installed, the program has several ways to get you started on a project. You can use the included content to create a character, add a set and start animating within minutes. Another possible workflow is to create all of your content inside of Anime Studio Pro 10, store it in the content library and create your animation from scratch. With the improved drawing features, it’s much easier to create characters or props, but you really need a drawing tablet (primarily Wacom tablet) to do this as using your mouse just doesn’t work.

I got started with the program by importing high-quality scanned public domain character images (I had edited and layered the images in Photoshop beforehand). I then proceeded to create a system of bones for those new characters after I vectorized them using the “trace image” function. The bone system in Anime Studio Pro 10 is the real core of the application. Once you understand how bones work, there’s literally nothing you can’t animate and shape.

The trace image function is good, but not quite as good as what you can do in illustrator. So, in order to get more detail, I decided to re-do my character images and import them into Anime Studio Pro 10 as Illustrator files. All of this took about an hour of work and about 20 minutes of research and study at the Smith Micro Anime Studio Pro 10 website.

Although I didn’t have the time to complete my animation test, I did manage to use the female mouth shapes that come with Anime Studio Pro 10 content. The overall mouth shape was easy to adjust and it fit perfectly with my female character. Auto lip-sync is very good, although you do have to make some adjustments with the sound file to get it right. But that’s the case with just about any lip-sync program.

The new animation preview function in Anime Studio Pro 10 saves a lot of time. Exporting to a wider variety of formats is new to this version of the software as well. And, there’s no question that having a separate render application within Anime Studio Pro 10 will save a huge amount of time.

 


My imported character image with ASP 10 mouth shape

 

Final Thoughts on Anime Studio Pro 10

Smith Micro has a well-deserved reputation for creating graphical applications that are easy to use for beginners, but also provide more advanced features for the professional. Nowhere is this more evident than with Anime Studio Pro 10. With another week of using this fun and exciting program, I could see myself creating short “cut-out” animations or using the very well done pre-made characters to create my own short films. I really liked the “Character Wizard” in Anime Studio Pro 10 as a way to refine and reshape existing characters to fit whatever project I might imagine. 

Anime Studio Pro is the kind of program that pays for itself in a few months. It grows with you and allows you to create as your imagination takes off.

Alas, no program is perfect. Fun factor aside, Anime Studio Pro 10 does have a few small bugs and a few head-scratching issues. The program crashed about 50% of the time upon import of a .tiff image into “trace image.” This is on an up-to-date Windows 7 machine. Strangely, there was no problem with .png or .jpg files. And while you can import Adobe Illustrator files, you are limited to Illustrator 8 and not the current Adobe Illustrator CC. With the huge impact Adobe’s Cloud Applications are having, it’s really a shame Smith Micro hasn’t updated this function to include Adobe’s latest. However, these are small problems that most likely will be addressed in a future update.

I’m very impressed with Anime Studio Pro 10 and recommend it highly, especially at the very reasonable price of $299 ($99 upgrade). If you want to create your own 2D animations from scratch or buy utilizing the large library of included content, I can think of no better program.

No question this is a professional level application, but it also is a lot of fun for the beginner as well. You can download a Mac or PC demo here and a complete Feature List is available at Smith Micro’s very nice Anime Studio website

 


Beautiful background from ASP 10 Content Library

 

Notes:

Both Anime Studio Debut and Pro 10 are available for the Mac and PC platforms. I reviewed Anime Studio Pro 10 on a self-built medium-level PC with a high end NVIDIA graphics card and 12 Gbs of Ram. Full hardware requirements are available here.

I got insights on Anime Studio by watching Mark Bremmer’s (a Renderosity fellow) excellent Infinite Skills Anime Studio tutorials.

My thanks to Smith Micro for providing a copy of Anime Studio Pro 10 for review. Special thanks to Ciera Jammal for her help as well. I really like working with Smith Micro.


Ricky Grove [gToon], Staff Columnist with the Renderosity Front Page News. Ricky Grove is a bookstore clerk at the best bookstore in Los Angeles, the Iliad Bookshop. He's also an actor and machinima filmmaker. He lives with author, Lisa Morton, and three very individual cats. Ricky is into Hong Kong films, FPS shooters, experimental anything and reading, reading, reading. You can catch his blog here.

 

 

 


April 7, 2014

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