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    Animation software advice for an absolute beginner.

    Hey everyone,

    I'm a fairly competent Photoshopper, and have been creating images for a lot of my life. I've recently gained a lot of interest in animation, and would like to do a short animation as a personal project. I have all the time in the world, and would like some advice on what software to learn for this particular project.

    The end product in mind would be a short film with the same detail as these stills:

    http://aldousmassie.com/39019/358138...s/illustration

    Reading around these forums, I've got a feeling a lot of people will say Flash. I was under the impression that Flash was vector-based - how would I go about adding textures? Would these images have to be redrawn in Flash? Are there any examples of work similar to this that anyone knows of?

    The storyboards, characters, setting, etc. are all ready to go - I just need a hand as to where to go next.

    I appreciate any responses.

    Thanks,
    Aldous

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    hi Aldous!

    Nice illos. Depending on the style of animation you want (puppet animation - like South Park or Archer or Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends; or traditional - like anime, simpsons, disney, etc), you have several tools at your disposal.

    If puppet animation, you can do it in Flash or Anime Studio, Toon Boom, etc. But you can also do it directly inside After Effects and save yourself a lot of headaches. You can also animate inside Photoshop using layers as new frames.

    For traditional, a lot of people will say Flash because even though it's vector and totally crap and glitchy, it's layout is wonderful and extremely intuitive. Even more simple than Toon Boom, in my opinion. But then I learned to animate in Flash and have only recently gotten into animating with paper (a million years better than any digital tool I've come across). I still use flash professionally because despite all its problems, it's so easy for me to use, it gets the job done. I'm also not attempting to create uber clean drawings with it, so the roughness of the finish works for me.

    There's also pencil animation pro (free) - that's pretty good, but not for compositing, just creating the art. The beauty of that is that it's raster, so the drawing process feels more natural and organic as opposed to drawing in vector. There's a "bite" to it. But this is for traditional animation where you draw every frame, and you'll need a new file for every shot. Flash works as an editing program of sorts too, so you could layout your entire short in a single file.

    Another program, on the higher end, the "Photoshop of Animation", but I've had no luck figuring out the layout or shortcut keys - TVPaint. The drawing tools are great, but for me, not very intuitive. If you do figure it out though, you can do some amazing things with it. Check out any recent short from Les Gobelins on youtube.

    In my opinion, if going for a fully animated or limited animated traditional style, you can animate in either Flash or Photoshop. But you'll have to figure out how to use actions to make things simpler. Here's a video showing what actions help, but I have had no luck figuring out how to set it up so that I could do it too.



    If animating in Flash, you can set up masks to allow for textures after you animate everything. You'll have to use layers and smart compositing with those textures in mind. But all animation is planning anyway, you just have another thing to plan for now.

    One tip if you're gonna animate traditionally - turn the onion skinning and lightbox off. That's tracing. Instead, rely on your persistence of vision. Learn how to flip between multiple drawings and your animation will have consistent volume and fluid motion.

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    Thank you so much for taking the time to create that response!

    A few questions;
    a) When you animate in Photoshop, is gif the only output? (I've had experience creating animated gifs in PS)
    b) Is the idea of creating 'traditional' animation in After Effects feasible? (I've been wanting to learn how to use AE for some time, and now might be the time to start!)
    c) Does Flash have layer blending options similar to PS? Is there any reason to use Flash over After Effects if everything has been drawn into PS?

    Like I mentioned earlier, I'm an absolute beginner, but what I would like is to have a big, flat, painted background that I can pan around in while animations take place on top of it. I'm leaning towards After Effects..

    Thanks again.

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    a) When you animate in Photoshop, is gif the only output?

    nope, I think you can create most any format, but I recomment png sequence - which will export a bunch of stills you can than import into any compositing or editing software

    b) Is the idea of creating 'traditional' animation in After Effects feasible?

    I don't think you can draw in After Effects, if that's what you mean. Someone please correct me if I'm wrong because if it's true, I'd love to do this too. But you can manipulate each and every single frame inside After Effects, which is especially useful for stop motion and the like.

    c1) Does Flash have layer blending options similar to PS?

    No, but After Effects does. Sadly, the levels feature in AE is not laid out like PS's.

    c2)Is there any reason to use Flash over After Effects if everything has been drawn into PS?

    It depends on what you're used to. I used Flash for building animated gifs for a redraw I did elsewhere on the board. I could have done it in After Effects, but there's something to be said for the simplicity of Flash. I was able to decide how many frames each existing drawing used in a much more tactile way - and with fewer mouse clicks than I could in After Effects.

    After Effects also doesn't let you listen to audio (again, correct me if I'm wrong), Flash does. So if lip sync is important, Flash is the way to go.

    Flash is my choice when it comes to timing. It also lets me decide how big or small I want the exported images to be with less hassle. With After Effects and Photoshop, I think it's more cumbersome to change export resolutions. Flash also renders faster, useful if you want a quick and dirty test file.

    You'll find your own reasons to love or hate something. Just dive right in and stick with the one that feels most natural to you. Software shouldn't be complicated to use, and if it is, it's probably not the right one for you.


    EDIT: I love your sketchbook thread, especially the first two portraits.

    Last edited by rajeshB; June 13th, 2012 at 09:16 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by aldous View Post
    Thank you so much for taking the time to create that response!

    A few questions;
    a) When you animate in Photoshop, is gif the only output? (I've had experience creating animated gifs in PS)
    b) Is the idea of creating 'traditional' animation in After Effects feasible? (I've been wanting to learn how to use AE for some time, and now might be the time to start!)
    c) Does Flash have layer blending options similar to PS? Is there any reason to use Flash over After Effects if everything has been drawn into PS?

    Like I mentioned earlier, I'm an absolute beginner, but what I would like is to have a big, flat, painted background that I can pan around in while animations take place on top of it. I'm leaning towards After Effects..

    Thanks again.
    Ugh. I wouldn't recommend animating in photoshop; it's much more difficult to control the exposure of the frames. (i.e., it's difficult to animate on two's, which is standard for 2d animation) However, photoshop will export to most major video codecs.

    I don't know anything about flash, but both AE and Premiere have layer blending so it shouldn't be a problem to set a top layer to 'multiply' over a bg.

    I would recommend compiling your animation in a program like Premiere or a free program like MonkeyJam (I personally have flipbook, which is pretty simple to use but not free) Once you have the video exported you can then drop it into AE.

    If you try and compile the drawings in AE for animation, you'll end up with a layer for each image - which can make it difficult to navigate/edit when you're dealing with more than a few seconds; vs. Premiere where everything is on one layer (as it's a non-linear editing program) or monkeyjam/flipbook which are designed specifically for animation so they mimic the classic animation exposure sheet.

    I can't comment on Flash, since I don't use it. I'm not a fan of the drawing tools personally, but studios like Titmouse have used it for frame by frame animation. Obviously if you're animating in flash, there's no reason to use a program like monkeyjam or flipbook, though.

    Good luck!

    Oh. by the way. If you are animating traditionally, camera moves need to be animated on one's - otherwise they can appear jerky.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rajeshB View Post

    After Effects also doesn't let you listen to audio (again, correct me if I'm wrong), Flash does. So if lip sync is important, Flash is the way to go.
    Actually, After Effects does let you listen to audio - but you have to hold down an additional key while you scrub. (shift, I think? I don't remember exactly.) But really if you're doing sound editing a program like premiere or final cut would be better. (for the reasons I stated above regarding animation, I wouldn't use AE for lip synching either.)

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    Hey Alice, thanks for the reply. That's gonna make my life so much easier

    And if you import as an image sequence in After Effects, it keeps it all images in that sequence in one layer

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alice Herring View Post
    Ugh. I wouldn't recommend animating in photoshop; it's much more difficult to control the exposure of the frames. (i.e., it's difficult to animate on two's, which is standard for 2d animation) However, photoshop will export to most major video codecs.

    I don't know anything about flash, but both AE and Premiere have layer blending so it shouldn't be a problem to set a top layer to 'multiply' over a bg.

    I would recommend compiling your animation in a program like Premiere or a free program like MonkeyJam (I personally have flipbook, which is pretty simple to use but not free) Once you have the video exported you can then drop it into AE.

    If you try and compile the drawings in AE for animation, you'll end up with a layer for each image - which can make it difficult to navigate/edit when you're dealing with more than a few seconds; vs. Premiere where everything is on one layer (as it's a non-linear editing program) or monkeyjam/flipbook which are designed specifically for animation so they mimic the classic animation exposure sheet.

    I can't comment on Flash, since I don't use it. I'm not a fan of the drawing tools personally, but studios like Titmouse have used it for frame by frame animation. Obviously if you're animating in flash, there's no reason to use a program like monkeyjam or flipbook, though.

    Good luck!

    Oh. by the way. If you are animating traditionally, camera moves need to be animated on one's - otherwise they can appear jerky.
    Thank you!

    I'll look into using Premiere in conjunction with After Effects.

    Just a quick question; what do you mean when you refer to "one's" and "two's"?

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    Quote Originally Posted by aldous View Post
    Thank you!

    I'll look into using Premiere in conjunction with After Effects.

    Just a quick question; what do you mean when you refer to "one's" and "two's"?
    In classic film, there are 24 individual frames per second. However, in most traditional animation there aren't drawings for each one of those frames. As it turns out somewhere along the way someone realized that each drawing could be held for two frames at a time. (there are certain places it's better not to hold a drawing more than a frame, such as camera moves, and fast actions.)

    hence "ones" are drawings that are only exposed for a single frame, and "twos" are drawings that are exposed for two frames.

    Why not just animate cartoons at 12FPS? That's getting into the technical aspect of film itself; while it's fairly simple now to do that with digital media, it was an entirely different story when dealing with actual film. Besides, that way you can still animate on 'ones' when needed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alice Herring View Post
    In classic film, there are 24 individual frames per second. However, in most traditional animation there aren't drawings for each one of those frames. As it turns out somewhere along the way someone realized that each drawing could be held for two frames at a time. (there are certain places it's better not to hold a drawing more than a frame, such as camera moves, and fast actions.)

    hence "ones" are drawings that are only exposed for a single frame, and "twos" are drawings that are exposed for two frames.

    Why not just animate cartoons at 12FPS? That's getting into the technical aspect of film itself; while it's fairly simple now to do that with digital media, it was an entirely different story when dealing with actual film. Besides, that way you can still animate on 'ones' when needed.
    That's really interesting. Thanks for taking the time to explain.

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    If you do decide to animate with Flash, I suggest that you track down the older versions (5-8) considering that they're much more stable than Adobe's CS versions. I, along with at least several other people, still use the older versions to this day. (Don't know if they work with Windows 7.) After Effects has its uses, but I find it redundant in 2D animation considering what actionscript and tweening are capable of at the hands of someone who's very clever. Animating directly in Photoshop is out of my skillset. Haven't tried ToonBoom though, so I can't comment on that.

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