Product Review: Page (1) of 2 - 03/05/02 Email this story to a friend. email article Print this page (Article printing at page facebook

ToonBoom Studio

Creating explosive animations with inexpensive software By Stephen Schleicher
ToonBoom Studio Box ShotThe lone figure stands silently on the precipice of the building ledge surveying the city below. Off in the distance an explosion! The superhero springs into action to foil another dastardly deed. Could this be the opening to the next Batman installment? Typical Saturday morning fare? No, its Flash animation created with ToonBoom Studio.

Unlike other Flash creation programs, which want users to use basic shapes or clumsy tools to create animations, ToonBoom Studio treats Flash animation creation very much like traditional animation. In fact, those familiar with ToonBoom Technologys other offering USAnimation, might see this program as a "lite" version or a stepping-stone to the more advanced features found in the higher end application.

In traditional animation, frames seldom start as perfect line drawings for every character, background, and special effect. Instead the animator will create rough drawings that give the general shape and motion of the subject. These keyframes or key poses are then handed off to the in-betweeners and clean up artists to finish the work. ToonBoom Studio lets you do the same thing. Instead of trying to draw, erase, and correct mistakes in side the application, ToonBoom Studio allows you to import files from other sources. These could be drawings that you sketched out on paper; scanned, and then imported as bitmap files, or they could be drawings or shapes you created in Adobe Illustrator. There are some advantages and disadvantages of these two methods. The obvious advantage is it allows those content creators without access to a graphic tablet, like the Wacom Cintiq, or Intuos2 to create their drawings and scan them into a program like Adobe Photoshop. If you have an auto feed scanner, scanning many pages are a snap. If you have created logos or characters, or have had a client provide you with the proper artwork in Adobe Illustrator, then you are set because ToonBoom Studio uses vector files for animation. Vector based files are an advantage in ToonBoom Studio because you dont have to draw your subject to scale; you can increase or decrease size without affecting resolution.

As a rule of thumb, when importing scanned art, you dont want to draw or scan in every single frame, instead you want to only scan in rough keyframes.

To help manage all of the various files you may be using; line art, scanned and converted vector images, flash movies, sound files, etc. ToonBoom Studio uses an Exposure Sheet to help you easily track where you are at various stages of design.

ToonBoom Studio Exposure Sheet
ToonBoom Studio's Exposure Sheet helps the animator keep track of all the elements used during the production process, whether for a TV show or website animation.

Obviously if you dont have a scanner or graphics tablet, you are at a bit of a disadvantage, but again borrowing from traditional animation, ToonBoom Studio has incorporated a lightboard into the animation creation process. This drawing area allows you to rotate the canvas to accommodate your own drawing style. The vector-based drawings that you end up with have their own handles that can be manipulated and tweaked (size, stretch, rotate) to create an animation.

Drawing interface

In order to see previous frames, onion skinning has also been included to allow create precise drawings of the subject in action and to do the necessary in-between frames to create smooth motion.


A big plus for ToonBoom Studio is it allows the user to copy portions or all of the subject in one layer and paste them into another page/layer. Then by using the handles of the vector art, the animator only has to change a certain area or section of the subject to quickly create new poses or complete in-betweens. This idea is very similar to the style that Hanna/Barbera used when creating such classics as The Flintstones. The upper portion of a characters body might be static while the legs were animated on another layer. It not only saved time in those days, but also a tremendous amount of ink and paint.

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Related Keywords:ToonBoom Studio, Toon Boom, ToonBoom Technologies, animation, flash, vector graphics, USAnimation, cartoon, 2D, webcast, animation, stephen schleicher, digital animators, animation artist


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