Flash Cartoon Animation Software - Toon Boom Studio
November 18, 2004
In our last article we looked at some alternatives available to create Flash cartoon animation on the Web. In this article, we will look at Toon Boom Studio, one of the best known and tenured contender to the title of Flash Killer.
Toon Boom Studio is probably as old, if not older than Macromedia Flash. Created by a small Montreal start up in the early 1990s, Toon Boom Studio's makers were mostly known for their cartoon animation software designed to produce animated television series and film. Toon Boom's particularity was that all its contents were in vectors, not bitmaps.
In the mid 1990s, Toon Boom added USAnimation to its product portfolio. USAnimation was an American based high end cartoon animation software that was developed by a studio for internal use. With products serving the needs of the TV, video, feature and web industry.
What is it?
Toon Boom Studio is a program using the methodology and techniques available for traditional cartoon animation. Because the program vectorizes every drawing incorporated within Toon Boom, it's easy for the program to release the output into Flash movies.
To maximize one's use of Toon Boom Studio, one must be knowledgeable about traditional cartoon animation production techniques first. Without this knowledge, you will find Toon Boom's interface and concepts to be very different from Macromedia Flash. Understanding traditional cartoon animation production techniques is possible, fortunately.
Toon Boom follows the traditional production pipeline that other cartoon animation programs have developed in the past, except that each functions and production steps are incorporated within one interface. Toon Boom Studio has a drawing module where you import or create illustrations. Next is a paint and ink module where you can build colour models and paint animations.
Toon Boom features an automatic lip sync module that breaks imported speeches into a chart. Provided you have matching mouth shapes for a shot, they will match the imported sounds. Another module deals with the soundtrack and sound effects and offers some editing capabilities. Finally you assemble shots in a layout and camera module with 3D multiplane features.
Using Toon Boom's paint and ink system is probably faster and more effective than using Macromedia Flash's. Beginning animators may enjoy using automatic lip sync although experienced ones will prefer to trust their judgement. Doing it yourself always makes a project look less mechanical. The layout and camera module are very effective to plan complex shots.
As Toon Boom can import several image formats and output to even more, it is a very useful program. Just like Flash, one can do just about everything with Toon Boom Studio related to cartoon animation. Since the project worked for cartoon animation originally, you will benefit from expanded features that are difficult to reproduce without experience with Flash.
If you want to output a project with Flash, you will find that Toon Boom Studio for non animators requires a steep learning curve. The interface and work methodology is different than Macromedia and Adobe products because it was designed for cartoon animation. Although Toon Boom offers tutorials, you will still need familiarize yourself with cartoon animation production techniques.
Another problem is that Toon Boom completely lacks support for ActionScripts. If you are planning an interactive game, this will require the use of Flash MX. Toon Boom Studio provides an importer that enables you to import your Toon Boom Studio project directly into Flash.
In the end, the time used to learn the Toon Boom Studio and then readjust elements with Macromedia Flash will depend on the level of commitment to Flash animation of each animator and designer. At the very least, Toon Boom Studio is a serious contender for Flash cartoon animation works.
Next we'll look at the merged 3D/Flash solution offered by Electric Rain's Swift 3D.
Coolstreak Cartoons Inc.