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Toonzone’s Holiday Gift Guide 2012 - Anime Studio Pro 9

The festive season is upon us and we’re back with a solid recommendation for any animator’s or animation enthusiast’s holiday wish list: Anime Studio Pro 9. The Anime Studio series, if you’re unfamiliar with it, is an affordably priced software package that serves the needs of the animation enthusiast, through Anime Studio Debut 9, and the hardcore animator, through Anime Studio Pro 9. A comparison chart is available here and will help you decide which software is right for you or whomever you might be gifting the software to.

Back in September, we spent time giving Anime Studio Pro 9 a thorough work out to assess the learning curve and available features. (If you’d like to read the initial review, you may do so here.) We’ve had a chance to dive back into the software, armed with a little more experience and a shiny Wacom Intuos Touch 5 tablet.

Smith Micro has done a good job of ensuring new users will have the resources they need to get up and running as quickly as possible in Anime Studio Pro 9. The included PDF manual thoroughly documents all of the features necessary to get started. They also have 40+ video tutorials and 10+ documents discussing technique available on their website. If you’re a new user, you’ll find that there’s a learning curve, but it’s not a high learning curve.

The major draw of the Anime Studio Pro 9 is that it is built with the intent of allowing you to do the same level of work  you would do in other software (or better depending on how well you utilize AS Pro 9) and to save you time in accomplishing those same tasks. It does this through its rigging system, called “Smart Bones”, the Editable Motion Graph, physics tools and the integration of multi-touch tablet capabilities, which we tested using the Wacom Intuos Touch 5 tablet. A multi-touch tablet is not necessary to use the software, but can definitely help you bump up the quality of your work  by allowing you to create more organic looking art. Users can also save time by using it to control the camera and manipulate the workspace and objects within that workspace. I found the multi-touch tablet integration to be a fairly intuitive experience.

During this second test, I built another model in a fair amount of time using basic shapes and the Smart Bones system. Smart Bones allowed me to quickly give the character a skeletal structure, adjust how much control each bone has over other bones and the character as a whole, and manipulate that character as I needed. After building and rigging the character, I established the basic movement paths of the characters. The software automatically set keyframes and managed the basic tweening. I then adjusted the character rigs as necessary and tweaked the motion of the objects using the Editable Motion Graph. Once content with everything, I played around with tracking, panning and zooming with the camera using the Intuos Touch 5.

I didn’t play around with adding voice this time around. Instead, I worked with a couple of other smaller features, including fading objects in and out, adjusting layer blending mode settings to affect the saturation of colors in the overall movie, and the Rescaling Frames feature. The Rescaling Frames feature allowed me to cut frames that were causing the animation to run too long and add frames to parts that needed more time to be established. Here’s the end result:

The animation test I did for this revisit of Anime Studio Pro 9 was an idea I had started on awhile ago in another software and never got around to finishing. So, I came into this with the unique perspective of actually having animated most of this test previously in Flash and was able compare the two experiences. I consider Anime Studio Pro 9 the superior experience as it provides you with tools that will legitimately allow you to better manage your time animating. Additionally, I came away from this second test just as pleased as I did from the first, if not a little more so because I saw tangible improvement in my ability to utilize the software. I can definitely see those who have a much more natural knack for animating being able to do some impressive animation with this.

Anime Studio Pro 9 is available now for $199.99 on the Smith Micro purchase page and be sure to check out the Intuos 5 line of tablets on the Wacom website.

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