Creating Cartoons 

Queen Victoria is said not to have been amused but you could put your sense of humour to work with a product available from Smith Micro.

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No matter how old you are, you would be hard pressed to deny that you are not amused by cartoons, especially the animated kind that appeal to all and sundry.  Now, rather than wait for others to produce cartoons for your amusement, you can create animated cartoons with a product from Smith Micro.  This product is entitled Anime Studio™ Debut 6.

As this product is considered suitable for first time animators, hobbyists and digital enthusiasts (most of us are in there somewhere), it comes with a series of tutorials that lead you through the various aspects of the program as you create scenes and animate objects.  The tutorial is in the form of a PDF document that you need to refer to as you carry out the necessary actions by constantly skipping between two screen views.

You get plenty of explanations regarding the various steps and are given precise instructions plus an occasional video showing how to perform certain tasks.  Perhaps if I listed some of the available tutorials you might have a better understanding of the range of features offered by this title.  There are tutorials about welding, creating shapes with holes, hidden edges, layer masking, and working with bones (actually the elements making up objects).

According to the accompanying press release, the Anime Studio interface has been enhanced with this latest version of the software.  However as this is my first encounter with this software, I have no real idea what actual changes have been made and how they affect the performance of the software.  Lets just say that I still required a period of adjustment to get my head around the basic concept and mode of working with this title.  The tutorials certain helped get me up to speed as I created scenes with animation and audio.

The program’s interface is based around a central work area used to build up and create your scenes and animation.  Running across the top of the screen is the usual collection of bars dealing with menus, tools and current status.  The left side of the screen is home to the various tools that are available.  These tools have been categorised as Draw, Fill, Bone, Layer, Camera and Workspace.  Positioned on the right side of the screen are sections dealing with style including colour selection and layers.

Scenes are best created using the software’s layer feature.  Each object can be positioned on a different layer which can be given its own distinct name.  Each layer will be displayed in the Layer panel on the right.  You can then easily select the appropriate layer for any editing work.  

Located just beneath the work area are VCR-type controls for playing the current animation.  Buttons are available to move between key-frames, skip backwards and forwards plus go to the start and end of the animation.  Key-frames do play an important part with the creation of animations.  You need to position these frames in the TimeLine pane that takes over the bottom section of the screen.  The Inverse Kinematic technology built into Anime Studio takes care of the transition between key-frames to help produce smooth animation. 

The TimeLine feature has a couple of tabs that allow you to switch between Channels and the new Sequencer view.  When working with the Sequencer you have the ability to mix together two audio channels and a video channel to create your amusing masterpiece.  When making use of audio in your animation, there is a LipSync feature available to you.  This feature can be used to make it appear as if your characters were actually talking.

As well as building up your own creations from scratch using the various tools, including the new Scatter brush, you can make use of the content that is supplied with Anime Studio.  This content, which is made available through the Library option, has been grouped into various categories.  While not a comprehensive listing, these categories include Characters, DK Toons, Images, Mouth, Movies, Props and Sound Effects.  You can also bring in other items such as QuickTime and AVI videos plus layered Photoshop documents.  You can upload your creations to YouTube and export clips in SWF, AVI or MOV formats. 

Anime Studio Debut 6 does require that you put a certain amount of time in learning the software’s style of working but generally the effort is worth the results that are achievable.  Requiring a 500MHz processor running Windows XP and later, this software is priced at £29.95.

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