Review: CrazyTalk Animator 2 by Reallusion

 

 

“CrazyTalk Animator 2 brings a whole new 3D experience to 2D animation! In this new version, we have taken a huge leap forward by eliminating planar, 2D restrictions and allowing designers to now use popular 3D motions on 2D characters.”
-Reallusion.com, Press Release

I’ve been reviewing Reallusion software for almost a decade now and if there is one consistent theme in all of their products it’s one of making it easier and more fun for consumers to create their own media. And what’s particularly impressive is that Reallusion manages to find the balance between appealing to the hobbyist and the professional by making sure their software advanced and deep enough for users to grow into. Many software companies aspire to appeal to both user groups, but few have done it as well as Reallusion has.

Case in point: Reallusion’s new CrazyTalk Animator 2 (CTA2). This recently released animation software takes 2D animation and reimagines it by adding the ability to animate your characters in 3D. Yes, there are other companies who take this approach, but not one of them integrates the two technologies as well as Reallusion does.

CrazyTalk Animator 2 is poised to become a very popular program and I’m excited to review it here for Renderosity. The application comes in several versions: Standard ($49.95, for total beginners), Pro ($179.95, for prosumer) and Pipeline (for professionals who need custom content). I’ll be reviewing CrazyTalk Animator 2 (Pipeline) which is priced at $299.95.

 


The 3D animation interface for CTA2

 

What’s New in CrazyTalk Animator 2 (Pipeline)

CrazyTalk Animator 2 is a major update to an already fun and powerful 2D animation application. While there are many excellent improvements, by far the most important one is the addition of 3D in animating characters. I’ll go into this in more detail later in this review, but for now this single update is worth the price of the software alone.

Some other important additions to CTA2 are:

  • Mix and Match system of character creation which allows the user to create unique characters for their projects.
  • New Dockable User Interface makes it much easier to arrange the workspace the way you want to.
  • Enhanced Depth Look gives the user the ability to adjust size of character body parts using “free form deformation” to enhance perspective.
  • Import Unlimited Animations from 3D sources (Pipeline version only).
  • 3D Motion Editing for 2D characters using human IK system
  • Render Styles allows the user to render their scenes in a variety of unique looks like “line art” and “noir blanc,” along with many more.

This short list only touches on the main updates. For a full list be sure to check out the “What’s New in CrazyTalk Animator 2” here. You can also view a comparison of the 3 versions of Crazy Talk Animator 2 here.

 

 

Using CrazyTalk Animator 2 (Pipeline)

CTA2 has a very simple layout with the stage at center (where you create your scenes and animation), toolbar/controls to the left with the content window (included assets and any custom assets) on the right. The content window is tabbed so that you have quick access to your project, actor, animation, scene and sfx (special effects) simply by clicking on the tab.

The animation creation workflow depends on how you’d like to start your project. And that’s one of the really nice aspects of CTA2: you can begin your project in a variety of ways. Perhaps you’d like to start creating a character first and see where it leads you. CTA2 provides a lot of character assets to work with so it’s easy to create the character you want. You could also start out by importing a character you created in another program, like Adobe Illustrator or DrawPlus from Serif (recommended by Reallusion), then add a simple bone template and you are ready to animate.

The addition of 3D to CrazyTalk Animator 2 is so much fun to work with. The new G2 characters that come with the program have 10 different viewing angles and include human IK, so it’s now possible to animate in 3D inside of a 2D program. The 3D motion key editor lets you change the characters' angle and adjust character motion right inside of the project stage.

Adding voice recordings is also well done in CTA2. You can record your own voice, use text to speech or import a recording. The program automatically adjusts mouth shapes to fit your character. Of course, you can fine tune this as much as you like on the timeline. My favorite part of the animation process in CTA2 is the facial puppeteering. You can actually make small adjustments on any part of the face or use a precreated facial mood and animate in real time on successive recordings to get your facial animation just right.

The new render styles in CTA2 can really add a lot of style to your production. I’m particularly fond of the line art and noir blanc styles, but there are many more to choose from.

I’ve only just touched the surface of what you can do with CrazyTalk Animator 2. For a full rundown, try Reallusion’s YouTube channel, which features some really good tutorials.

 


View of the new dockable interface of CTA2

 

Final Thoughts

CrazyTalk Animator 2 is a spectacular update. The addition of 3D completely transforms the program from a good application to a great one. The new G2 characters can be animated in 3D with relative ease. Add to that a simplified user interface and very clear workflow possibilities and you have a terrific animation program. Professionals will enjoy animating their own unique characters in 3D and hobbyists will really enjoy the simplicity and variety of things you can do with this outstanding application.

There are some niggling issues with CrazyTalk Animator 2, however. While I don’t see it as a real problem, other reviewers have noted that Crazy Talk Animator 2 lacks traditional drawing tools, so you’ll end up using an outside program for this aspect of content creation. And the timeline still needs a little bit of decluttering, especially if you have a complex project with many levels of content. Still these are issues that I’m sure the Reallusion development team are aware of and will most likely be addressed in a future update.

CrazyTalk Animator 2 has my highest recommendation. If you want to get started in 2D animation, this is the program for you. And if you are a professional animator, I urge you to download a demo of the Pipeline version of CrazyTalk Animator 2 and try out some of the program’s remarkable new 3D animation tools.

Notes

CrazyTalk Animator 2 comes in 3 different flavors: Standard ($49.95), Pro ($179.95) and Pipeline ($299.95). I’ve reviewed the Pipeline version here, which has practically everything the professional animator needs to create high-end content for TV or the web. For a full feature comparison of the 3 versions follow this link.

CrazyTalk Animator 2 is available for the PC or Mac operating systems. I reviewed the program on a mid-level self-built PC and had zero crashes or problems with the application. Full system requirements are available here.

Reallusion has an extensive content library for CrazyTalk Animator 2 which is available for purchase at reasonable prices. Support for CrazyTalk Animator 2 is excellent with active forums, a full and complete manual and up-to-date tutorials with project guides. Not every software company is as active in customer support as Reallusion.

My thanks to Bill Lessard @PR With Brains for setting this review up. Particular thanks to Reallusion (John Martin) for providing a review copy of Crazy Talk Animator 2 Pipeline.


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 28, 2014

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