Learning Anime Studio

4.7 (3 reviews total)
By Chad Troftgruben
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  1. Stepping into the World of Animation

About this book

Anime Studio is your complete animation program to help you create cut-out, anime and other types of cartoons. You can create your own animated shorts and use Anime Studio to produce cartoon animations for film, TV, or streaming over the Web. Anime Studio is great for hobbyists and professionals alike, combining tools for both illustration and animation. With Anime Studio’s easy-to-use interface, you will be creating an animated masterpiece in no time.

This practical, step-by-step guide will provide you with a structured path for designing an animated cartoon and gives you a strong foundation to create your future projects. This book also serves as a great reference guide for Anime Studio Pro 10’s new features.

This book starts by getting you acquainted with the tools and features of Anime Studio Pro 10. You will then learn how to utilize them to create a cohesive and polished package. You will dive into the Anime Studio drawing tools, layer types, and various panels to create and rig a cartoon character as well as design background scenes and props. Everything is then combined, animated and polished. Finally, you will take everything you have created and edit it together so that it can be distributed online through websites such as YouTube and Vimeo.

Publication date:
May 2014
Publisher
Packt
Pages
354
ISBN
9781849699570

 

Chapter 1. Stepping into the World of Animation

While I'm sure you are excited to jump in and start animating a cartoon using Anime Studio, there are a few steps we need to take beforehand. Cartoon production, no matter how you approach it, is a very involved process and animating is but one piece of the puzzle.

In this first chapter, we will cover the following topics:

  • Constructing your animation blueprint

  • Installing Anime Studio

  • Opening Anime Studio for the first time

  • Editing preferences

  • Setting up your first document

 

Constructing your animation blueprint


In this book, we will be creating a very simple animation that won't be using a script. However, once you have finished learning the basics of Anime Studio and it's time to move on to your own works, you will need to know the proper procedures in constructing a blueprint for your productions, especially when it comes to more complicated animations.

You may have an idea of what you want to do, and that's great. But it's important to form a more structured plan before getting started with production. This can be overwhelming, especially if you're not used to writing or expressing ideas on paper.

This chapter will help get you started and become comfortable with this process. You wouldn't build a house without a blueprint and the same applies to animation and film. Jotting down notes, mapping an outline, drafting a screenplay, and finally sketching a storyboard is the key to a well-planned and successful animation.

Coming up with ideas

When starting out, most animators usually have a basic idea of how they want to tackle their cartoon. This idea or premise is what drives the urge to animate in the first place. But what happens if you have no ideas? Maybe you have one idea but not enough content to base a substantial story off of it. Or maybe you want to create a series of episodes and you can't think of worthwhile concepts after a certain episode or point. This can be a real struggle for people starting off with animation.

Writing what you know is a good way to approach a story as it will allow you to create a rich environment for your cartoon to thrive. It will make your cartoon believable, allowing viewers to invest themselves into your narrative.

The following is a figure of Mr. Binek's Class, a cartoon that takes place in a school and is loosely based on real events and characters:

Let's face it; write what you know can be misleading. As an example, let's say you want to create a cartoon about a solider during World War II. Maybe you want this animation to take place from a certain perspective, or in a different country that you've never visited. It's safe to assume that most people reading this were not involved in World War II, which can make writing difficult. So how do you write what you know in this case? Simple; you make it your point to know! Research is the key. Learning as much as you can about a time, event, location, and so on will help build credibility towards the universe you want to conceptualize and mold. Even better, if possible, interview people who lived to experience these incidents. The same goes for traveling to the places you want to include in your story. Any information you gather will help shape the credibility and believability of your animated universe.

Identifying what is funny

Not all cartoons have to contain humor. However, most modern animations, especially on the Internet, are meant to invoke a laugh or two from their audiences. I'm sure you've stumbled across many cartoons you've found to be funny. There may also be videos that others love that you can't understand the humor behind. So, the big question is, what is funny? How can you be sure what you're writing is funny, and more importantly, it is going to stir up laughs from other individuals and gather positive feedback? The best advice I found on this subject comes from an older, but valued source, Mark Clarkson's Flash 5 Cartooning. If you think it's funny, it's funny. You cannot please everyone, but there's a good chance others will find humor in your creation. So stick with what makes you laugh and believe in your animation. If you do that, you'll at least make one person laugh.

Writing down your ideas

It's safe to assume that you have some ideas for your own works even before you picked up this book. Maybe you have a handful of ideas that you would love to see be applied to your future cartoon. This is great; the problem sometimes is that ideas can come so fast that we lose track of them; or maybe the idea had occurred to you months before, and you're having a hard time remembering the finer details. This can happen a lot and keeping track of great ideas is something that must be practiced. The advice you will hear a lot is to carry a notebook with you at all times. Understandably, this can be a bit of a pain, even with ample pocket room. However, we live in an age where cell phones and tablets can be used for note keeping. This may be more convenient, depending on your preferences and hardware.

One recommendation is a piece of software called Evernote, as it allows you to sync notes from your phone, tablet, and PC with ease. It will install on almost any OS, including iOS, Windows, Mac OS, Windows Phone, and Android. You can download the desktop version at www.evernote.com. You will find the mobile versions on whichever app delivery service your device uses. The following are a few tips to keep in mind if you decide to try out Evernote:

  • Be sure to make an account (which is free) so that you can access your notes on multiple devices.

  • Notebooks act like folders. If you find you are accumulating a lot of notes, be sure to create notebooks for organization.

  • If you wish to share your notes between devices, all you have to do is hit the Sync button at the top to put your notes in the cloud, as shown in the following screenshot:

If Evernote doesn't do it for you, there are similar tools or services such as Google Docs or SkyDrive. However, if you prefer, go retro and wield the instruments our ancestors used: a piece of paper and pencil. Some people just prefer the traditional method of note taking. The bottom line is that even if an idea seems pointless or out of place, find a way to write it down. It may surprise you how relevant that seemingly insignificant idea can become as concepts evolve.

Piecing together the storm

The notes from your brainstorm sessions will more than likely end up as a pile of ideas without much cohesion or flow. This is normal because the note taking phase is meant to get standalone ideas formulated and written. You will want to organize these notes into an outline once your brain has spat the ideas out. How you outline will depend on your own comprehension skills. For instance, some people prefer bullet lists; others may want to get a mind-mapping software and organize everything that way. A software such as Scrivener allows you to create sections that can be easily rearranged, making it a prime choice for screenwriters and novelists. However, if you decide to do it, an outline is an important step in creating an animated cartoon.

The goal of the outline is to take your notes and organize them into a roughly structured narrative. Making the pieces fit is the key. Sticking to the main ideas is usually suggested when writing an outline, as other details such as character actions and dialog come later on during screenwriting. If a piece of a dialog that you must include comes to mind, include it. While your narrative flow may change over the course of the creative process, the outline will set up the building blocks to creating a cohesive blueprint for you to follow, as shown in the following screenshot:

Writing your story

Screenwriting is where you'll want to write the story in full detail. This includes scene details, character actions, dialog, and so forth. Think of the process as if you watched your unfinished movie and are repeating every detail verbatim to a friend.

Screenwriting is special because of the following format that it uses:

  • Your scene headings, in caps, describe the scene setting

  • Characters are also capitalized

  • Dialog is written underneath the characters in an almost center-justified format

The following is an example of a page from a screenplay; note how things are formatted:

When it's time to write your screenplay, you will want to download a piece of software that can put your words into the proper format. This not only makes the document more readable, but puts a professional spin on your creation, especially if you want to sell the draft to a production company.

My first recommendation would be Celtx (http://www.celtx.com). This free piece of software (with an optional premium version to access cloud-based and collaborative features) is streamlined, yet powerful enough, to draft up even your most ambitious screenplays. The software comes with a storyboarding template which allows you to order images, apply scene descriptions, text, and more.

You can download it for Windows, Mac OS, and Linux. On top of that, as of this writing, you can purchase a Celtx app for any of your iOS mobile devices, which allows you to write screenplays on the go.

If you want to use the same software that many of the professionals do, investing in Final Draft (http://www.finaldraft.com) may be up for consideration. The software contains many advanced features that may help with the creative process. Plus, as I said, it's widely regarded as a pro's choice type of software. Just be prepared to pay upwards of $200 for the fully-featured standard edition.

Whatever software you decide to use, the following are some basic rules to follow as you begin writing your first screenplay:

  • A scene heading comes first. As previously stated, this is displayed in capital letters. Int. stands for an interior shot, while Ext. stands for exterior.

  • Writing actions or descriptions is really no different from that of a novel. You want to be as descriptive as you can to paint a picture in the mind of the reader. Unless you are writing the script for yourself, you will want to avoid descriptions that would fall under the category of direction (camera movements, transitions, and so on). Also, it's proper to always write in the present tense.

  • Character headings are always capitalized, just like scene headings.

  • Dialog is always placed below character headings.

  • When in doubt, use the special commands that your software provides. You shouldn't have to think much about the formatting with the aid of the software.

Constructing terrible first drafts

As you are discovering over the course of this chapter, your concepts, ideas, outline, and screenplay will continually be evolving up until you begin production. This can even continue after you start animating. Don't worry, this is normal. It may seem like most popular writers, whether they are novelists or screenwriters, are gifted with the hand of God. They can sit down and whip up several pages of a novel or screenplay in no time. The truth of the matter is, more often than not, a successful writer can sometimes draft a piece of literature up to three or more times. Your first draft is rarely your last.

When you first draft your screenplay, you shouldn't be concerned about more than just getting your ideas down as they come to you. Once this process is complete, you may want to step away from the script for a few days. If you have a friend or colleague who does similar work, such as writing, filmmaking, or cartooning, let them see the script. I can't tell you how many times I've struggled with a screenplay and a second pair of eyes discovers elements I had not considered. When becoming occupied in an activity or piece of work, especially a screenplay, it's almost as if you develop a tunnel vision. Flaws in character actions, dialog, and the narrative flow can go unnoticed.

The next figure shows an example of what a first draft may look like after notes have been implemented:

When it's time to do your second draft, the goal should be to critically analyze the flow of events and strengthen them if possible. Other elements you may want to consider are tightening your writing structure and correcting any grammar or spelling mistakes.

The second draft may be similar to or may completely contradict the first draft. Once you are finished, remember that a second pair of eyes doesn't hurt. By the time you take a swing at a third draft, things should be easier. It's possible you could have a total upheaval, and revamp the entire script once again.

If the concept was strong to begin with, a third draft usually requires small tweaks here or there. Comparing the first draft to the third usually resembles significant changes, most of which involve a tightening of narrative structure and character development. More tweaks may be required, but just keep this in mind that terrible first drafts tend to lead to terrific third drafts. Of course, not everyone's path will be the same. You could find yourself with more than three drafts by the time the process is done.

Illustrating a storyboard

After your screenplay is finalized, you may want to create a storyboard which will visually outline the scenes you will animate in your cartoon. Think of it as a comic book with multiple slides and written directions for the camera and character actions. This is helpful for when it's time to set up shots in your animation. It can be a visual guide as you or others dissect the written script. Storyboards don't have to be incredibly well designed. You will find artists who simply use stick figures to get a visual representation while others create more details for their drawings. South Park's storyboards sometimes look more detailed than the actual cartoon itself.

Storyboards can be sketched on paper or mapped in a computer software. In the end, it depends on how you intake information and approach material. Artists have been known to outline all of their scenes or slides on separate notecards and stick them on a wall. This allows them to view the entire sequence at once. Other people prefer the controlled structure a piece of software provides.

If you prefer using software to map out your storyboard, there are several options out there. Celtx, the same software that I recommended for screenwriting, has a storyboard template that allows for basic organization. You can dictate shot types and add descriptions, images, and sketches to create your storyboards in Celtx, as shown in the following screenshot:

Recording dialog

If you've written a script that contains words spoken by characters, your next step will be to record the dialog. It's best to record these lines early on, once you are satisfied with the script. While animating, you will find that it can be difficult to match mouth or body movements to the dialog without actually having any audio present.

First, you will need a microphone. There are several to choose from. Obviously, a $10 mic will be inferior to a $200 one. Shop around, check out reviews on Amazon, and see what you can find within your budget. If possible, avoid using headsets as some seem to leave a clicking sound whenever there is a slight movement with the head or jaw.

Some suggestions for microphones are: Blue Microphones Snowball USB Microphone, Blue Microphones Yeti USB Microphone, and MXL USB 009 24 BIT/96 KHZ USB Condenser Mic. These range from around $60 to $200 and are all great choices. If your budget doesn't allow for expensive equipment, a pop filter is a great, fairly inexpensive buy to get the most out of your audio quality, even with a consumer-based microphone.

Next, you will need to download an audio recorder. Anime Studio has a built-in recorder, but it's not very user-friendly as you can't trim or edit the clips to any real extent. You may find basic audio recording software on your computer. Again, this can be a pain to use, given the limited tools involved. If you're looking for a solid, free audio recorder, check out Audacity (http://audacity.sourceforge.net/), shown in the following screenshot. It's available for both Windows and Mac and has a robust set of tools to utilize. Best of all, it's easy to move or trim segments of a clip, if you need to fine-tune a line.

If you're ambitious, you can record yourself and star in your very own production. However, if you have a lot of characters, it may be difficult to create different voices for each one. There are effects you can apply through Audacity to change the pitch of your voice, but it may not be enough, especially if you're a male trying to imitate a female, or vice versa. For a large cast of characters, you may want to consider bringing in some friends or family to fill in the gaps. Additionally, you can always hire actors to do the lines for you. One idea is to network with others on places such as YouTube. Not only will you gain voice actors, but you will also make connections with other people who can later help promote your work. You may have luck finding people through a service such as Elance (http://elance.com/). Just note that it's probably in your best interest to know the individual personally, especially if you plan to give them direction or re-use them later for another cartoon.

The best way to approach this is to record one line at a time. Trim any dead space and use the noise removal effect in Audacity if you have a lot of static in the background. Save the line as a .wav or .aiff file. MP3s, while popular, tend to greatly compress the quality of the audio. If your voice actors are not in the same room as you, be sure to advise them of your guidelines so the lines you receive are as consistent as possible. This goes for microphone volume levels too. You don't want their voices to be quieter than yours or vice versa. While you can do some editing on your end to correct these issues, it's best to nail it right at the source.

Note

For the cartoon in this book, the audio will be supplied for you in the project files that accompany this book. However, it's never too early to start thinking about what your characters will sound like for your own works.

 

Differing techniques offer various experiences


Looking at two-dimensional, non-Internet based cartoons, there is a world of difference that separates the big film spectacle of a Disney-created cartoon and a made-for-television Hanna-Barbera production episode.

When watching Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs or The Lion King, every scene, frame, and moment is vibrant and full of life. The characters are fluid, actions are varied, and backdrops are colorful and distinct. Companies such as Disney have artists that draw out every single frame, or cell, for these cartoons. To put this into perspective, the average film runs at 24 frames per second. That means for every second of footage you see on screen, 24 individual frames, or pictures, create that second.

In most traditional animation settings (and this number does vary), most animation sequences are shot in 2s, or in other words, one drawing is shown for every two frames. Take an average film that runs for two hours, convert that, and you end up with 7,200 seconds. Now take the seconds and multiply it by 12, the number of drawn images per second, and you get 86,400 drawings. This is again a rough example and doesn't take into account the different layers and composition of these frames. This should give you an idea of how involved frame-by-frame animation on a large scale can be. The luxury here is that large animation studios are well equipped, comprised of huge teams, and have millions of dollars at their disposal to meet tight timetables.

Now, looking at our other example, because television cartoon studios such as Hanna-Barbera were given little to work with financially (and had to adhere to tight schedules), new time and resource savings techniques were formed to offset production costs. The next time you stumble across an old Hanna-Barbera cartoon on television, stop and examine the animation on screen and compare it to one of your favorite Disney films. A majority of animation on screen, such as walking or running, is recycled. Background pieces will often repeat themselves when the camera follows a character. Watching The Flintstones, one has to wonder just how big Fred's house is as the scrolling background usually consists of 15 repeated windows and chairs.

Look at Fred Flintstone in the following screenshot when he speaks; typically, his mouth is the only movement taking place (and even those assets are recycled). This form of limited animation (or cut-out animation) is a method that has been adopted and used often through the decades as television animation has evolved. Compared to Disney cartoons, even conversations were full of life, with detailed and colorful movements in every shot.

Analyzing animation on the Internet

Given the history of how cartoon animation has evolved, it should come as no surprise that cartoonists on the Internet fall into two camps: frame-by-frame and cut-out. There is usually some debate as to which technique is superior, but like the example in the previous section, drawing comparisons is silly as they both have their merits. Additionally, many artists use both methods, blurring the line between the two extremes.

Breaking down frame-by-frame animation

There are many frame-by-frame animators making a name for themselves on the Internet. Artists such as YouTube user Harry Partridge have gained incredible popularity through animated works. You can tell that a lot of time went into crafting each frame to create a fluid and appealing sequence. Adobe Flash is a popular piece of software for its ability to create frame-by-frame motion. Toon Boom is another software that has gained popularity in recent years. Both programs use onion skins, or reference images, to allow artists to create their frame-by-frame animations with accuracy, as shown in the following screenshot. If done right, the results are pleasing. But, as we discussed in this chapter, frame-by-frame comes at the cost of time and resources.

Exploring cut-out, tweening, and bone animation

Many animators carry on the tradition of Hanna-Barbera by using cut-out, tweening, and bone techniques to create their animations. Examples of this type of animation can be seen everywhere on the Internet. The benefit is that it saves time. Artists usually create a library of reusable assets and allow their animation programs to do the heavy lifting when it comes to calculating animated sequences. The term tweening comes from the two words in between and allows for the automatic animation between two points. Interpolation is another term that is used for this type of animation. Bone animation builds on this by allowing an artist to create a bone structure and letting the piece of software calculate movement by using keyframes.

In an interesting repeat of historical events, cut-out animation on the Internet was popularized due to a lack of resources. At the turn of the century, Internet cartoons were more simplistic in style due to the limitations of bandwidth and a computer's processing power. Cartoons were embedded onto web pages using the Flash .swf format and were streamed from there. If a cartoon contained immense detail, anybody with a slow connection or weak processor experienced lag, or worse, faced sound syncing issues. To help alleviate this, artists would make their web cartoons more simplistic to up the chances of viewership. This involved cut-out techniques, using limited reusable assets, and simplistic tweened animations. This has since changed with the invention of YouTube and better Internet connections. There are more opportunities to distribute work anywhere in the world without fear of bandwidth and processing limitations. Cut-out animation is now used more for workflow purposes rather than to avoid technical issues.

 

Introducing Anime Studio


Anime Studio was originally developed under the name of Moho in 1999 by Mike Clifton at LostMarble. In 2007, Smith Micro bought the rights and began marketing Moho as Anime Studio, and it has since then seen seven versions released under the new name. Anime Studio's claim to fame is it's easy-to-use bone system. The software makes cut-out animation easy to achieve and has other features from competing software, such as the ability to tween (or interpolate) between two points on the timeline. In other words, the software does most of the heavy lifting for the cartoonist. There are two versions the consumer has to choose from: Debut, that is designed keeping beginners and hobbyists in mind, and Pro, that is designed for professionals and serious animators. This book will be using the Pro version of the software, as shown in the following screenshot:

Because Anime Studio's focus is on cut-out animation, frame-by-frame isn't a primary focus. With a little tweaking (and a lot of patience), this animation type can be achieved. However, for this book we will be focusing primarily on the use of Anime Studio's bone system. It should also be pointed out that Anime Studio is not used just for the creation of anime-type cartoons. In fact, the majority of cartoons created with the software are similar to what you'd see on most American television channels. The software allows you to create any type of animation. There's nothing limiting you but your imagination.

Anime Studio Debut and Pro can be purchased from almost any software store and online at www.getanimestudio.incredibletutorials.com. A 30-day trial offer is also available for both versions.

Choosing between Anime Studio Debut and Pro

While Pro is the version we will be using to create our animation for this book, it's a good idea to go over the differences between the two versions that Smith Micro offers for its animation software. If you decide to go with Debut, just note that several of the lessons we will be going over in this book will not be able to be replicated on your end due to a lack of features. Both versions are shown in the following screenshot:

Debut, which is priced competitively at $49.99, contains most of the major animation features that the Pro version offers. The differences mostly lie in frame limits, the inability to export HD files, and limited layer types. The Pro version, which is priced at $299, gives you unlimited control over your animations. While the price is over double that of Debut, I believe the benefits you get outweigh that burden, allowing you to tap into the full potential of Anime Studio's architecture. The following is a more detailed breakdown of the major differences:

  • Debut limits project files to 3000 frames; Pro gives you unlimited durations.

  • Debut limits the resolution of your files to a maximum of 720 x 480; Pro can freely do HD resolutions.

  • Debut lacks many of Pro's layer types, such as Switch, Patch, and Note.

  • Pro gives you the ability to render out 3D objects.

  • You cannot use the physics system in Debut.

  • You cannot create particles with Debut.

  • Onion skins are disabled in the Debut version.

  • Camera controls are limited in Debut.

  • Pro has introduced many useful features that cannot be found in Debut. These include Smart Bones, Patch Layers, GPU Acceleration, and Blend Morphs.

For a more comprehensive list on the differences between the two versions of Anime Studio, check out this handy chart provided by Smith Micro at http://anime.smithmicro.com/comparison.html.

Note

If you decide to go with the Debut version, you can always upgrade to Pro at a special price through the official Anime Studio website. To do this easily, simply go to Help | Upgrade to Professional Version. Additionally, you can get great discounts through the official Anime Studio website if you are using an older version of the software and want to upgrade.

 

Installing Anime Studio


After making your purchase, you will need to install Anime Studio onto your computer, especially if you plan to follow the lessons in this book. Installation should be similar for both Windows and Mac versions. The following are the steps you will need to take:

  1. If you purchased a boxed version of Anime Studio, insert the disk into your DVD drive. If you purchased the digital version online, locate the folder on your computer where you placed the download.

  2. Double-click on the executable file to start the installation process (if you downloaded the file off the Internet, you may need to unzip it first).

  3. If you get a security warning about running the executable, allow the process to continue.

  4. You will have to click on Next once and accept the terms and conditions of the Anime Studio software. After you do that, click on Next again.

  5. You will be asked to indicate which folder you want to put Anime Studio into. Usually, most people leave this as is. The next couple of screens will ask about the Start Menu (if on Windows) and desktop shortcuts. Once you've decided, click on Next.

  6. The last screen will have you verify your selections. Once you're ready, click on Install. This may take a minute or two depending on the speed of your computer.

  7. Once the installation is complete, you will be notified with a dialog box. Simply click on the Close or Finish button to end the installation process. The following screenshot is what you will see if the installation is successful:

Working with the 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows

If you're running a 64-bit version of Windows, Anime Studio will automatically install two separate versions of the software for you to use (64 and 32 bit). Mac users will only have one version of the software. If you can only install the 32-bit version, don't worry; you can still follow along and use this book.

The reason for this is because the Windows version of Anime Studio cannot import or export certain Apple-associated files (that is, QuickTime) when working in the 64-bit mode. This means that if you want to take advantage of the increased speed of the 64-bit version, you will need to switch over to the 32-bit version if you ever need to import or export any kind of Apple file (labeled as Anime Studio Pro 10 x86). This can be confusing at first, and some people prefer to stay with the 32-bit version just for ease of use. However, you will probably find the 64-bit version's speed enhancements to be well worth this minor inconvenience.

 

Opening Anime Studio for the first time


When you open Anime Studio for the first time, you will be greeted by a splash screen designed to help you get started with the software. Feel free to register your product if you wish to receive updates. You can download the bonus content package if you wish, and Content Paradise can be accessed at any time through the Help menu if you want to browse their items at some point.

However, we really have no use for the splash screen beyond this. This splash screen will launch each time you open the software, unless you click on the Don't show this again button on the bottom, as shown in the following screenshot:

Creating your content folder

The next prompt you will have to deal with involves setting up a folder for your library. The library allows us to house reusable assets along with brushes, audio files, and so on. The library will be discussed more in a later chapter, but it may be best to set the folder up now so you don't have to deal with this message, as shown in the following screenshot, each time Anime Studio is launched:

The following are the steps required to set up your content folder:

  1. Select Choose from the prompt window.

  2. Your file browser will appear. Locate a folder where you would like to store these assets. This is usually a folder that is easy to access and is in a safe spot so it doesn't accidently get deleted.

  3. A progress bar will appear indicating the folder is being created.

  4. If you go to your file browser and look at the folder you just selected, you will find subfolders indicating different library items, as shown in the following screenshot:

Playing with the startup file

When you launch Anime Studio, a startup file that features a cartoon character, will be the first thing you see by default. This quirky character is Anime Studio Pro 10's mascot and it gives you an opportunity to play with the tools or even use him in one of your own projects.

Let's create some movement for this character. If you page forward through the dots or keyframes on the timeline, you will see that some movement has already been placed. You can study this if you like or alter it in any way. The good thing about this is he's already rigged up and good to go. All we have to do is use the Manipulate Bones tool and the timeline, as shown in the following screenshot:

Perform the following steps to create movement:

  1. Make sure you are on frame 0 on your timeline. That's the area on the bottom of your application with all the numbers and dots.

  2. Select the Manipulate Bones tool from the left-hand side tool bar. It's the last one on the top row of the list in the Bone section and looks like a horizontal bone with two black arrows on the bottom and top.

  3. Click and hold down on the character's front hand.

  4. Move your cursor and notice how the character's hand follows. Also, note how the arm pieces bend and move in conjunction to the hand. This is the magic of bones at work.

  5. Try moving another limb, such as a leg, to see how other parts of the character's body react.

This gives you an idea of how you can move the bones of a character. But what if you want to do some animation with these bones? Well, that's easy! If you look at the bottom of the program, you will notice a long area with numbers. This is referred to as the timeline, as shown in the following screenshot:

Let's have some fun and try to animate this character we have on screen by performing the following steps:

  1. Hold down your mouse button and highlight all the keyframes on the timeline. You can also do this by holding Ctrl (command if you're on a Mac) and hitting the A key on your keyboard.

  2. Hit the Delete key on your keyboard. This will ensure you have a clean slate when creating this test animation.

  3. Try clicking on the number 24 and then moving the limbs of the character.

  4. Click on frame 1 and then hit the play button located above the timeline. You should see these limbs now animate between frames 1 and 24. Congratulations! You just created your first animation!

 

Editing Anime Studio preferences


Before diving into creating our first document in Anime Studio, let's take a look at the program's preferences. This will allow us to adjust the colors of the user interface as well as set some of the more advanced options. Most options here will more than likely remain untouched. However, it's good to know what you can adjust should you decide to modify some preferences down the road.

Exploring the Options tab

In order to access the programs preferences, go to Edit at the top of the window and choose Preferences. A new window will appear, as shown in the following screenshot:

The following are some of the major preferences in the Options tab:

  • Consolidate timeline channels: This is present by default in the Pro version of Anime Studio. This option, when checked, creates a less complicated timeline at the expense of flexibility. For this book, we will not be checking this option.

  • Enable drawing tools only on frame 0: This disallows the user to use drawing tools past frame 0. When this is disabled, it can be useful for frame-by-frame animation. Since Anime Studio was not designed to work this way, it can cause conflicts and confusion in more complicated projects. For this book, the option will be left enabled (in other words, we will only be drawing on frame 0).

  • Startup file: This drop-down menu allows you to select what file you'd like to see whenever you boot Anime Studio. By default, as we know by now, we get an anime style character rigged with bones as our current startup file. With this menu, you can choose a new file or opt out of having any file launch with the software.

Note

What about the other options? Don't worry; it's usually best to leave these set to their defaults when first starting out. Later on, if you decide you need to tweak some of these settings, you can always go back to this window through the Edit menu.

Using the Web Uploads tab

With the Web Uploads tab, you can export your videos straight to YouTube, without having to go through your web browser. This can be convenient if you want to upload your animations quickly and easily. For this book, we will be creating pieces of work that will need to be put through a video editor before being uploaded, so we will not be using this option. But you may find it to be of use should you decide to create simpler animations down the road. The Web Uploads tab is shown in the following screenshot:

Modifying properties with the Editor Colors and GUI Colors tabs

The last two tabs in the Preferences window allow you to change the colors in the Anime Studio interface. The Editor Colors tab deals more with the tools of Anime Studio. Here you can change the way the background color looks in your workspace as well as adjust the default line thickness when creating strokes with your objects, as shown in the following screenshot:

The GUI Colors tab allows you to adjust the color theme for the entire Anime Studio interface. There are built-in themes you can access from the Color Theme drop-down menu. Plus, you can adjust all of the colors individually to create your own look. This book will be taking screen caps using the default color scheme.

 

Setting up your first document


Now that you have configured your software settings, it's time to set up our first document that we will be working on in Anime Studio. Setting up your document parameters early on is important, especially when you consider how the frame rate and resolution can greatly alter the final outcome. Changing either of these settings when you have animation and assets on screen can greatly alter the performance of your animation. So be sure to set your parameters first!

Creating a document

You can create a document at any time by going to the File menu and choosing New. If you have a project file currently open, a tab will be created for the new document. The same applies if you are opening existing project files. You can jump back and forth between these documents by simply clicking on the corresponding tabs.

You can close a project file at anytime by clicking on X next to the document's tab. When closing a tab, you may be asked to save any changes before exiting. As a general rule, it's important to save often! Create a new document now so that we can adjust the settings.

Tip

Downloading the example code

You can download the example code files for all Packt books you have purchased from your account at http://www.packtpub.com. If you purchased this book elsewhere, you can visit http://www.packtpub.com/support and register to have the files e-mailed directly to you.

Adjusting Project Settings

With your new document now open, go to File and choose Project Settings. This will open up the settings panel for your current document, as shown in the following screenshot:

There are a few considerations to make when looking at this panel. These settings will change depending on your project's needs. In the case of this book, the following is what we will be doing:

  • The Dimensions section dictates the size of our document or what we anticipate the resolution of the video to be at export. You can adjust the dimensions manually if you wish (by inputting numbers in the Width and Height fields). However, Anime Studio has some built-in presets that are useful when wanting to conform a project to an industry standard resolution. For the case of the cartoon we will be making, let's choose YouTube HD from the drop-down menu. This will give us a resolution of 1280 x 720. This is a good resolution for Internet distribution. You can go higher with this resolution if you wish, but this size should keep things manageable for most computers running Anime Studio.

  • The Frame rate option, which is also adjusted when choosing a resolution template, dictates how many frames per second our animation will contain. It's very important to decide on your frame rate early because if you change it when animation is in place on your timeline, it can disrupt the flow, audio syncing, and more. The higher the frame rate, the smoother your cartoon is going to look. Of course, this also means you will need to animate more frames per second to compensate. A good rule of thumb is animations made for cinema run at 24 frames per second. Animations made for television run at 30 frames per second (usually converted from 24 or 12 frames per second). Nowadays, you may even find videos that push 60 frames per second. While in the end this will come down to personal preference, we will be using 24 frames per second for our project. This should already be set if you chose the YouTube HD preset from the drop-down menu.

  • The Start frame and End frame fields allow you to control what part of your animation will be included when it's time to export. It's usually hard to determine this in the beginning as animated scenes can vary in length. These numbers can also be adjusted before you decide to export out a scene. For right now, leave the numbers as they are. These options are shown in the following screenshot:

  • The Background Color section adjusts the color of your background when you export out an animation. This will not adjust the color in the editor, so the changes are not apparent until you render out a frame or sequence. The background color can also be useful if you plan to export out separate elements of your animation and compile them in another program. This is referred to as keying or matting. We will be leaving the background color to the default setting for this book.

  • The Depth of Field section allows us to simulate a camera lens and blur out certain objects, depending on their distance from our Anime Studio virtual camera. Sometimes, it's easier to create the depth of field effect manually, either through blurring layers in Anime Studio or through a video editor. For this book, we will be leaving this option off.

  • Choosing options in the Render Style section can adjust the way your cartoon looks through various style filters. This can generate some interesting results if you're trying to spice up the look of your cartoon. Choosing a type of Fill style will alter all the fills of your objects while Stroke style will change the look of the lines. Layer style will apply the chosen effects to all your layers. We won't be using any of these styles for the cartoon in this book, but they may be useful for you in future projects.

  • The Save as Defaults button, which is located at the bottom of the Project Settings panel will allow you to save the settings you just changed, so that for future documents you don't have to worry about adjusting the resolution and frame rate. Click on this button; that way you won't have to worry about adjusting these settings again as you move through this book. If you ever decide you want to have the default settings back, simply click on the Restore Defaults button, as shown in the following screenshot:

 

Summary


It may not seem like it now, but planning, outlining, and writing is incredibly important when creating a successful cartoon. This book will give you the tools you need to get going on your animation adventure with the creation of a simple animated scene. However, when it's time for you to start working on your own projects, you will want to take all of the suggestions for planning and writing in this chapter to heart. Finally, preparing your document and settings in advance will help with your workflow later on (and prevent some potential headaches).

In the next chapter, we will be going more hands-on with the software by working with all the draw and fill tools. We will also briefly discuss the differences between tablet and mouse drawing and the advantages vector drawings have over bitmap graphics.

About the Author

  • Chad Troftgruben

    Chad Troftgruben is a freelance media designer who has been working with Flash, Anime Studio, and other various software for a number of years. By applying methods from his cartoon animation and filmmaking background, Chad provides a simplistic yet creative approach to each lesson he teaches.

    Beginning in 1996 with a program called Microsoft's 3D Movie Maker, Chad cut his teeth on the basics of animation, eventually graduating to Flash in 2002 and then Anime Studio in 2010. Live-action filmmaking was also a big part of Chad's life as he made short films with his friends throughout high school and college.

    In 2007, Chad started providing free online video tutorials on Flash and other software. Since then, his tutorials have been viewed by millions of people, including entrepreneurs, teachers, students, and many others. In 2010, Chad was hired by LearnKey to present their Flash CS5 learning series, which was a six-hour course detailing the entire feature set of the software. Since then, he has been keeping busy with various animation and tutorial projects, such as creating Smith Micro's official Anime Studio 10 tutorial series and authoring for Virtual Training Company.

    Browse publications by this author

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