Digital animation has taken over the world of advertising, TV, and movies. It is often referred to as “Flash animation”. While Flash is capable program, it had seemed impossible to me that it was the industry standard software for digital animation. There had to be something more suited for the job. A Google search came up with a name I’d never heard before: Toon Boom.
Toon Boom is vector-based animation software built similar to Flash, but with the sole purpose of creating animation. It was designed with the techniques and workflow of professional animators in mind.
Who’s using Toon Boom?
You don’t have to look far for examples. Toon Boom’s filmography includes an impressive list works by Disney, Nickelodeon, Fox, DreamWorks, Warner Bros., and Universal Studios, from 1994 until present. A few shows you may be familiar with: Phineas & Ferb, Kick Buttowski, King of the Hill, Family Guy, SpongeBob, and The Simpsons. John Kricfalusi, creator of Ren and Stimpy (and often credited with creating the first web-based Flash cartoon series) has decided to drop Flash for Toon Boom. According to John, “Flash always seemed to me to be a program that was not designed for animation but was the only one that you could bend to do it. When I use Flash I am forcing it to do things that it’s not really capable of. I have to trick it into faking what I want.”
Rigging and Hierarchy -
Layers on the timeline can be nested inside other layers to create a hierarchy for character rigging. No need to nest movieclips inside of movieclips to create hierarchy.
Forward/inverse kinematics -
Once rigged, any character model can be pinned and positioned like a puppet.
Color Palettes -
Custom palettes can be created for every character. Any time a color is updated in the palette, every drawing containing that color will update automatically. Create multiple palettes for the same character in different lighting conditions and apply them to the model in seconds.
3D Camera -
Unlike Flash, Toon Boom has the ability to animate the camera itself in 3D space, with perspective and depth of field. Set up your scene with layers at varying depths in z space and move the camera, the characters, or both, with true parallax effects.
Lip Sync -
Automatic pitch detection will analyze your sound file and attempt to assign all the correct mouth positions at the correct times. It’s not a perfect and will require tweaking a few of the mouth positions here and there, but it sure is a massive time saver.
Drawing Tools -
Toon Boom’s brush tool with a pressure sensitive tablet is superb. Flash’s brush tool just doesn’t even come close. Toon Boom eliminates the need to illustrate in Illustrator, then animate in Flash.
Rotating Canvas -
An absolute must for tablet drawing. Rotating the canvas to perfectly position your drawing allows your arm to always follow it’s natural arc.
Tween Properties -
Objects on the timeline can have multiple properties tweened all at the same time with varying start and stop times, and easing.
Flash Integration -
Toon Boom can export animations to .swf and .flv files for use with Flash.