Smith Micro is launching a series of weekly Featured Artists to promote skilled digital artists who use our software; Anime Studio, Poser, and Manga Studio aka Clip Studio Paint. These featured artists are also promoted on our Twitter page and a piece of their work will be shared on Twitter every day of their featured week. Thanks for reading. Enjoy!
Mike Scott is an independent animator from South Africa, living in a sleepy coastal town called Plettenberg Bay where the beaches are awesome and the surfing's great. Scott has a vast range of impressive animations in his portfolio, which includes animating the Goldfish music videos and creating a pilot for a show for Nickelodeon. He is also a part-time music noodler and drummer. He started using Anime Studio aka. Moho back in 2006 and has been enjoying and using it in his workflow for many projects since.
Useful tips for using Anime Studio Pro
I made a lot of my Goldfish music videos using a combination of Photoshop and Anime Studio. I create the images in Photoshop and then animate them in Anime Studio. Anyway, here is a list of some tips for using Anime Studio.
*Sometimes* it helps to have a game-plan when animating. Sure, it’s fun to go straight in and tinker without a road map because the end result is going to be a surprise to you. However, sometimes it helps to have a storyboarded scene to help you focus on what is vital to the scene, like what size the character should be, where the characters should be positioned, and making sure this scene links up logically with the previous and next scenes for continuity. This strategy helps create a fairly stress-free animation process.
Prep in Photoshop for Anime Studio
I use Photoshop and Anime Studio together quite a bit. I create the assets in Photoshop by drawing them with a Wacom tablet and then animate the assets in Anime Studio. I don’t really use Anime Studio’s native drawing tools - they’re vector based and they’re *pretty* good for creating certain looks, but I’m a lot faster with Photoshop’s raster drawing tools and a Wacom tablet. I generally find that the clean vector look loses a lot of charm which an imperfect raster drawing retains.
In Photoshop, before I run a script to export all the layers to PNG files to be imported into Anime Studio, I rename them all (eg, LEG_L, LEG_R, BODY etc…). Next, I make sure that layers that should be merged are merged, clean up the organization if there are groups involved. I also do “housekeeping” in Photoshop because it avoids hassles down the line in Anime Studio.
Groups (Probably the most important tip).
This is quite an important tip. Anime Studio doesn’t have independent controls for Horizontal and Vertical timelines, so I put my characters into a couple groups. A main group, for example, ‘MAN’ that’ll hold everything, then a parent group of that called ‘Rotate’, Next I put the character into a parent group called ‘V’ for vertical and also in a parent group called ‘H’ for Horizontal. That way, I get a lot more control when I animate a character walking: I do the up-and-down looping action first on the V-group and then add two linear key frames on the H-group for the horizontal movement to get him to walk across the screen. Try it - you may find it a lot less headache-y than dozens of key frames cluttering a single timeline.
If you can, read the full manual and watch the included tutorials.
Alright, reading manuals can be a little painful. When Anime Studio was still called Moho I read the whole manual from start to finish making sure I understood everything. Now, the updated manual covers a lot more so I’m not sure how practical it is to read the whole thing. It is important to get acquainted with the program. You may be surprised at the numerous ways of approaching an animation. There’s also a great forum called ‘The LostMarble forum' comprised of (mostly) helpful and encouraging people. Don’t be afraid to ask a question or share your work.
Don’t bone everything - not everything needs to move.
One of the first temptations when finding out about bones is trying to move everything, but in reality this is not necessary. If anything it can be distracting. Boning *everything* from a character’s toes to ear-wiggles will result in a very versatile, but overly-complicated rig. Most of the time ‘more is less’. A well-designed character with less bones may be better than a character with 1000 bones. You want to direct the viewer’s eye to whatever’s important in the scene.
3D stuff is cool, but can be an unnecessary time-sink.
Anime Studio allows for some cool faux-3D effects like fancy face rigs with 360 degrees of rotation, but that is not necessary. Sometimes it looks better to have a limited number of head poses and make sure they work as individual poses. When things get TOO smooth like a pupil moving from one side of an eye to the other with too many in-between frames it can look floaty. It’s a neat technical feat, but in practical use a frame-to-frame swap works just as well (if not better).
Don’t worry about bone constraints and bone physics.
Bone constraints and bone physics - they’re fun to play around with, but in operation can be more meddlesome than helpful. When you’re animating a scene you’re likely to be placing bone positions manually and want to have control of each bone, which tends to throw constraints and physics out the window. There are *some* instances where constraints are helpful, like when there’s a long daisy-chain of bones (like a rope) and tweaking the bone on the end results in the first bone turning too much. The physics of a bone wiggling around can be distracting and looks floaty anyway.
The Floaty Look.
There’s a particular Anime Studio ‘floaty’ look, which is caused by the default ‘smooth’ interpolation between key frames. Beginners get this look and wonder how to counter it. This is where a good understanding of animation principles is in order, which leads me on to my next point:
Read ‘The Animator’s Survival Kit’ by Richard Williams.
It’s a great book and presents a lot of the basic concepts of animation in an understandable way. Reading through it will not only allow you to get much more out of Anime Studio, but you’ll also be able to apply the knowledge to other animation software. No matter how far software automation progresses, there’s still no replacement for a solid understanding of manual animation.
I hope this has been useful.
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Interesting note - I was reading an article about Tom Moore, the director of the Oscar-nominated ‘Song of the Sea’ animated film. It turns out he used Anime Studio for vehicles and effects. Not bad for a little piece of software. I’ve been using Anime Studio since 2006, when it was a 10MB piece of software called ‘Moho’.