In the Cartoon Creation class, we’re using Toon Boom Studio to teach animation techniques, this software is very flexible and fun to use.
At the core of all animation are “keyframes”. We find them in other animation applications, video apps, compositing apps, and even audio editing applications. Keyframes are what allow us to move our characters, animate them, change the lighting, move the camera, and make their lips move. Without keyframes, there would be no movement or change. In other words, we’d just be working with still images without keyframes, and that’s not nearly as much fun!
Keyframes simplify animation by allowing us to modify our drawing over time, instead of manually drawing every single frame individually. Animating with keyframes is kind of like cutting out your character from paper and pushing him around the table. He moves smoothly, and you can reuse objects you have already drawn. The alternative is frame-by-frame animation; this is like making a flip-book, and redrawing the character on every page.
We also cover frame-by-frame animation. This is how they made the classic Disney cartoons. Toon Boom Studio has an onion-skinning feature built in to help with this kind of animation. It outlines the drawing from the previous frame, which gives you a good reference for the position of the next frame’s drawing. Unfortunately, animators didn’t have it this easy back in the ’70s!
Toon Boom Studio has many powerful drawing tools built in. Even things like shading are easy to manage. In the picture below, the darker shading on the left side of her face was created with the shading tool. Adding shadows for characters is as easy as dragging and dropping a shadow in. The shadows even automatically update. Once we put the shadows in, we don’t have to worry about them anymore. We can even draw with gradients, instead of plain colors. Check out the star in her hair. It’s a smooth ramp from orange to yellow, and gives the character a subtle touch of realism.
Toon Boom Studio has a lip-syncing engine built in. This lets us record an audio track and sync the lips of our characters to fit our recorded dialog. Toon Boom Studio takes the monotony out of lip-syncing. We get to make the character speak with our voice, and the software does the tedious part of the process for us! That’s pretty exciting!
One of the most exciting things about Toon Boom Studio is its compatibility with file formats that animators already use. We can import Adobe Illustrator vector files, Flash .swf’s, all kinds of raster image formats, video formats, and sound formats. This means that we can use almost any source material that we can find to animate. Do you know any artists who use Adobe Illustrator? You can bring their work right into Toon Boom Studio, with no loss in quality, and no conversions!
And even more exciting is the export formats. Believe it or not, the projects you create in our course can be exported to Adobe Flash files! Flash is the industry standard for animations on the internet, so this is extremely exciting. This means that everyone with the Flash player installed can view your animation. (98% of computers with internet have Flash installed, so that’s a big deal!) You can put your animations online for the world to see, or to share with friends and family! You can also export your animations to video, for use in a DVD, or a video project.
I’m very excited to see this Cartoon Creation class offered this summer. We get to create dynamic and rich animations that we can share with anyone and everyone, and our animations will play on almost any computer. It’s a blast!