MacDirectory Magazine

Winter-Spring 2010 (#44)

MacDirectory magazine is the premiere creative lifestyle magazine for Apple enthusiasts featuring interviews, in-depth tech reviews, Apple news, insights, latest Apple patents, apps, market analysis, entertainment and more.

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114 MacDirectory REVIEW TOON BOOM STUDIO 5 > DRAWING ON TRADITION When we think of "animation," what we think of is probably skewed by a high-tech bias. The word now brings up images of Pixar and ILM, of Flash, Motion, Maya and After Effects. It becomes all too easy to forget about the kind most of us grew up with (and probably still watch): cartoons. However, the ream of acetate, paint, brushes and patience has not been bypassed by technology and has migrated quite successfully to the computer desktop. One program in particular has been leading the pack and is being used to help produce many popular cartoons from The Simpsons to Sponge Bob. Toon Boom Studio 5 , the latest release of the venerable 2D animation toolbox, recently made its debut on the Mac, adding Snow Leopard compatibility. At its roots, it maintains a profound respect for the animator's art. In fact, in many senses, it is easier to approach the program from the perspective of acetate and ink in than it is from After Effects and Flash. It is truly an artist's tool, true to the workflow of traditional animation. As you would expect, Toon Boom possesses some very powerful drawing tools. They do take a bit of a mind-shift if you're used to software that was originally designed to create still graphics and were later adapted to motion. For example, the brush tools create closed, Bezier shapes. This gives you the flexibility to transform a sketch into a piece of finished artwork, yet each stroke can remain an independent object that can be moved and reshaped for naturally fluid motion. Toon Boom Studio allows you to scan in artwork, instantly transforming it into a vector graphic. And for those of us who are better mechanics than artists, you can import any sort of image and cut it up into chunks that can be animated (it's hard not to think back to Terry Gilliam's animated clips from Monty Python's Flying Circus when pondering the possibilities). You can also take advantage of the virtual rotoscoping tool that lets you trace movement in an underlying movie clip to get more realistic motion. Toon Boom will also let you perform stop-motion animation and use green-screen keying to combine and layer real objects with hand- drawn and imported graphics. Name That Color In a cartoon animation project, color continuity becomes singularly important. For this reason, Toon Boom has an unusually powerful palletizing system. A project can have multiple pallets within which are a variety of sub-palettes ("styles") and swatches, all of which can be appropriately named. In this way, the color of a character's feature along with all the shading variations can be shared easily among all of a project's personnel. Again taking its cue from traditional animation processes, each animated element is created as a group of cells as an Exposure Sheet, with the requisite onion-skinning capabilities to offer the smoothest possible motion. These elements are then combined on a timeline, a familiar setup for the After Effects generation. But even here, things are a bit different. Movement is based on a point of reference that act like the physical pegs in a drawing board used in conventional animation. These pegs act as pivot or alignment point for single or groups of elements. Even though it's a very different environment from other computer animation programs, it plays very nicely with them. You can export your animations in a variety of video formats and there's even a free Flash plug-in to directly import Toon Boom projects. Smoothing the Learning Curve Learning how to use Too Boom Studio is not a trivial undertaking. It is, indeed, a professional tool. However, the program is graced with a beautifully written user guide and a downloadable tutorial that walks through the basics using a sample project. The Toon Boom site also offers a variety of instructional videos for sale if you need something more than the tutorial and manual provide. Animation, by its nature, is not nor it will ever be an easy undertaking. It requires equal measures patience and skill. Toon Boom Studio 5's will empower those with the talent and dedication to perform their craft extremely well. WORDS BY RIC GETTER Product Toon Boom Studio 5 Made by Toon Boom Animation Inc. Price $399.99 Suggested Retail (upgrade and academic pricing available) Pros A mature, professional- quality tool for 2D animation, well-designed and documented Cons A considerable learning curve to master its features and workflows Rating ★★★★★

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