Moho Pro 12 is a great, inexpensive alternative to other available animation software. The Moho series allows casual animation enthusiasts and professional animators to produce high-quality animation. It has been used as part of productions such as RWBY and Song of the Sea. New features include Smart Warp, Realistic Motion Blur and and Pin Bones.
When it comes to animation programs, there’s a lot you can choose from, but there are key factors in deciding what to get. One is finding a program that can do exactly what you’re looking for, while you may also want one that is capable of much more. The other main factor is finding something you can afford. For me, I desire a program that can handle frame by frame animation and digital puppet animation, colloquially dubbed “tweened animation”. The most notable of programs that can do both are Adobe Flash (now known as Adobe Animate), Toon Boom Harmony, and Smith Micro’s Anime Studio, now known as Moho. I always felt it was best to use the animation software that’s used most often in the industry. For years I animated with Adobe Flash CS3, and although I can still make cartoons with it, later versions have many improved features. What has kept me from upgrading was Adobe’s switch to a subscription model for their software where you’ll pay $20 for one program a month or $50 for the entire Creative Cloud, which I would need since I also use Adobe After Effects and Photoshop. Toon Boom’s Harmony program is another industry standard, being specifically designed for animation production. Harmony Advanced and Premium has all the features I could possibly need (except not being able to export animation to .avi), but sadly those are pricey too, but at least they give the option of buying the software’s full license upfront. With money being tight, it seemed the chance to move on to better improved software was out my reach.
Now Anime Studio was a program I tried around ten years ago, and it never really wowed me. The character’s movements came off way too automated and lifeless, which can occur with tween animation if you’re not careful. The fact that it’s rarely used in the television animation industry didn’t entice me to purchase the software either. When I was asked to review the latest version of the software, Moho Pro 12, I was hesitant at first, but after watching a webinar, I became highly impressed. It was capable of more than what Adobe Animate can do, and had a few more features than Harmony Advanced. Best of all, it cost less than Harmony Advanced with the perpetual license of that being $975, while Moho Pro 12 is $399.99. I was sold on its affordability but also on a lot of its features, some of which is brand new to this version.
The many new features that Moho Pro 12 offer are bezier handles that are fully animatable, the ability to edit multiple layers at once and turn off layers to make the timeline less cluttered, smart warps so you can add and animate meshes to both vector and raster images, pin bones in addition to their bone tools, bone constraints to have more control on how a character can move its limbs, and even a Scene Switcher (think Keyframe Caddy, which Adobe Animate now has a version of in its latest update). Other features include an animatable 3D camera, importing CG elements, a crowd simulator, physics simulation, automatic lip syncing, change the order of layers throughout the animation, and a Character Wizard that will give you quick options to design a character and make them move, if you choose not to make one yourself. Needless to say, it is much easier to make animations and has better options to do so compared to Flash. However, if you’ve used Flash your whole life, there is quite a learning curve when it comes to the software.
For this review, I animated a character in the program, which I named The Host, in an effort to learn the software. After a week of frustration, and skimming through the Help Manual, the Tutorial Manual, and watching more tutorials on Youtube, I came out with a better appreciation for the software and high temptation to use this in future animation productions. From my experience animating The Host, it took much less time to animate the character than it would have if I done it in Flash.
The interface is quite different from Flash, however. At first I found myself confused on where the tools are, but they become visible depending on the type of layer you’re working on, making the workplace less cluttered. One of the biggest differences for me was how the timeline and the layers are sort of separate from each other. You need to select a layer to see what its timeline looks like, and a layer’s timeline has multiple lines based on what you manipulate like the layer’s position or size, its bones, and any other changes. I can see why they only had one layer’s timeline visible at any given time in past versions, but as mentioned before you can have multiple layer’s timelines appear if you’d like. A new keyframe is made automatically whenever you make changes to the layer, and there are many different types of keyframes you can add, like ease ins and outs, a lot of which can be altered in the Motion Graph tab. One of the nicer features is one of the keyframes can easily allow animators to create an animation loop. Although the timeline is different, it’s definitely worth taking the time to understand.
As far as drawing is concerned, though they say the Freehand tool have improved, I feel drawing in the programming is not as comfortable as drawing in Flash or Toon Boom. I realize the best way for me to get the desired lines is to get a thicker stroke line, turn off the line tapering and width variation, and have smoothing and point reduction on its lowest setting. The eraser tool is a little complicated, as it’s used to create holes and alter shapes, not erase lines. Using a drawing tablet pen’s eraser results in causing the line between vector points to disappear. I also don’t like how the color fills sometimes adds more vectors to the drawing. If there’s one thing I do like, it’s the Line Width tool that allows you to create line variation to your character’s design. Overall, I feel that Moho’s drawing tools are best used for creating cleaner art, and it’s best that you do your sketches in another art program.
I think my favorite feature that really makes me want to use Moho Pro 12 more are the Bone, Smart Bones and Actions tools. These tools allow for a much easier tweened animation process and blows Flash CS3 out of the water (I heard the Bone tool is in later versions of Flash, but is not quite as good). Placing a bone tool allows you to set up a character to be animated like a paper cut-out puppet, which makes arm movement and animating legs much simpler. The best part is that you don’t even need to have the character’s individual body parts broken into multiple layers (although that is highly recommended). Actions can be used to improve the bone tool by preventing it from warping the character’s figure too much, or to add specific alterations depending on what the bone is controlling. Smart Bones combined with Actions, allows animators to create dials that can be used for multiple purposes. When changing the angle of the dial, you can easily have a character do a head turn and alter its facial expressions without having to manually re-position them for each pose. The only downside for this is that I wish each bone and Smart Bone would have its own timeline layer so I can do better, subtler movements. Perhaps that can be done, but would require further research and practice. Still, it beats having to sort through multiple layers and nested symbols to make a character walk like you would in Flash. I can’t believe how easy it was to make The Host, jump, walk, and talk!
Smart Warp is another new feature available in Moho Pro 12. It allows you to create custom meshes that can bend, shape, twist and animate raster and vector images. This would allow you to bring scanned drawings and photos into the program and add eye movements and talking mouths. Static background elements like cloth or water can also be animated for additional atmosphere.
Realistic Motion Blur allows for more convincing motion blur. You’ll be able to control the amount of frames and adjust how blended the effect appears.
Pin Bones allows you to add one point bones to alter, move and reshape vector and raster artwork on-screen. They work like push pins. Pin Bones can be linked, moved, rotated and resized just like regular bones to create the desired effect. Combined with traditional bones, they allow for more complex animations.
Now the question is, should you get this program? All in all, I feel that Moho is a great blend of combining what I use Flash and After Effects for in one program, and while it may not yet have the prestige that Toon Boom has, I feel that it is a great, inexpensive, alternative. That alone should allow numerous people who’ve shown interest in animation but are not willing to pay monthly license fees a chance to create their own animated cartoons. Perhaps this will be used more by professionals in the industry? Only time will tell. I do desire to implement the program into my workflow as soon as I find time to get more accustomed to it.
If you use Toon Boom and are already proficient with the software, then you might just want to stick to whatever version you have. If you use both Adobe Flash/Animate and Adobe After Effects and are very comfortable with that software, you might not need to try Moho Pro 12, even though I feel you’d be missing out on the Smart Bones and Actions features. However, if you’ve never used Flash, Toon Boom, or can’t afford either, then I highly recommend getting Moho Pro 12 and learning how to use it.
Moho Pro 12 is available for $399.99. Upgrade options are available for owners of previous versions of the software. More detailed product, pricing and upgrade information is available on the Moho Pro 12 Website.
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