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MotionArtist: Interactive Animation Software Review

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Smith Micro’s recently launched software, MotionArtist, is a multi-purpose interactive animation tool. Its main focus is providing users with the tools to animate their digital comics, as well as to add interactivity to them. It can also be used for banners, slideshows and presentations.

The appeal of MotionArtist is its ease of use and the short window of time necessary to become familiar with the tools available to you. The manual and available video tutorials explain the available features clearly.  I was able to have a simple project created from pre-existing materials in less than an hour.

MotionArtist Overview Video:

MotionArtist isn’t intended to replace content creation tools such as Anime Studio, Manga Studio, Photoshop or Illustrator. Largely, you’ll be importing all the objects you’ve created elsewhere into MotionArtist in order to finesse the presentation, animate the objects and add interactivity.  In addition to static objects, you can also import video.

The three areas of the screen you’ll be focusing on are your workspace, the toolbar and the timeline. You’re provided with three views that allow you control over your workspace. Director’s View gives you a view of the entire workspace. The Camera View allows you to pan, zoom and rotate your camera. In Panel View you’ll be able to control each element in each of your panels.

Through the timeline, MotionArtist uses stop points to help you control the movement and animation of your camera, each panel and each element within each of your panels. Your final animation is capable of supporting the simultaneous animation of camera movements, movement of the panels and then, the movements of the objects within each panel.

As you move your camera, panels and individual objects across the art board, a stop point will be added to your timeline and a motion path will become visible on your workspace. The motion path is a visual representation of the entire animation path of the camera, panel or object. Stop points can be moved to other frames, which will allow you to tweak your animation.

Using the panel creation tool, you’ll be able to create panels of various shapes. You’re not locked into a square or rectangular shape. You can also use the Split Panel tool to split panels into smaller parts. This will allow you to do things like create an animation where a panel flies apart all while the objects within the panel are still animating. Brushes may be used to make your panel borders more unique, or you may turn off panel borders entirely.

Word balloons and text may be added as well as sound. Any object on screen may be turned into button, should you want to integrate user interactivity into your project.  Compositing effects are available, allowing you to adjust the opacity, blur radius and blend mode for all of your project’s objects.  Additionally, there are some automated tools that will allow you to create slideshows or presentations with smooth camera movements very quickly.

MotionArtist also allows you to work with your project using scenes.  The scenes function as you’d expect. You are able to reorder and duplicate scenes, as well as add transition effects.

When you’re done with your project and ready to output final files, MotionArtist allows you to export in various formats. The most popular formats will likely be HTML5 and Quicktime, or you may choose to share directly to your Youtube or Facebook account. After outputting in HTML5, you can edit and customize the CSS to suit your needs. In my test files below, I output to HTML 5, edited the CSS file, uploaded to the server and then embedded in this article using an iframe. With a tiny bit of HTML know how, I had it running fine in this article in five minutes. The final files worked fine in Chrome on Windows 7. I also tested playback on an iPhone and iPad and ran into no issues.

I did make the mistake of briefly diving head first into the software. There are a couple of small difference from other common software interfaces that made finding tools a little difficult. However, you shouldn’t have much trouble using it if you take the time to read through the manual and/or watch the video overviews. Once I did, I had no problem jumping around.

While testing the ability to output files, there were differences in what video and HTML5 output were capable of capturing. That’s to be expected since they’re different formats, with different purposes. There are gives and takes with each one. HTML5 output wasn’t capable of capturing some camera moves, nor was it able to include video I had dropped in. The video output was able to render both the camera moves and the video I dropped in. However, video output is not capable of incorporating user interactivity through buttons.

If you do have a comic that you’ve been thinking about converting to a motion comic, this would be a good software to go with. It’s a way to maintain control over your comic’s distribution and you’ll be able to, outside of the software, monetize it as you see fit. At $49.99, MotionArtist is fairly priced. It’s a solid concept and it has uses beyond animating web comics. MotionArtist is available for both the Windows and OS X. For more information, visit the video overviews.

Thanks for reading. Be sure to leave feedback and let us know about your experiences with MotionArtist.  Below you’ll find the files I created while testing features of the program. You’ll find more examples on the Smith Micro Smith Micro website.

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