by Jayden Leggett, Editor
Following in my new found tradition of reviewing things that I have no previous experience or skill with (check out my review of Manga Studio Debut 4 to see what I mean), may I now proudly present my noob’s review of Anime Studio Debut 9 by Smith Micro. Please hold all applause until the end of the review.
Upon first opening this program, a popup menu appears that presents you with various options such as viewing an introductory tutorial and downloading free bonus content and so on. This is a great way to begin a program such as this, for too many times in the past have I installed a new program only to be bombarded with an interface and tools that are foreign and scary to me, resulting in me being overwhelmed and rage quitting because I did not know where to begin. Thankfully, this is not the case with Anime Studio Debut 9.
My very first hands-on test whilst being instructed by the included beginner’s tutorial was as simple and successful as could have been hoped for, as I was guided through various drawing tools, introduced to keyframes, shown how to manipulate the shapes for motion and so on. So far, so good! Next up I was introduced to “bones”, which basically act as an anchor from which motion and movement takes place. In a nutshell, the most basic way of creating an animation in Anime Studio Debut 9 is to draw out your character, place bones into each of its limbs, and then move the various bones at different points in your timeline to create movement. The overall concept is very straightforward and easy to grasp, but is an incredibly powerful device for making some sweet animations (have a look at these examples here).
After an hour or so of following the instructions step by step, I decided to go exploring for myself (which may not have been the wisest idea, as if I had have followed the tutorial all the way to the end I would undoubtedly be a pro at animations by now instead of being the mildly enthusiastic amateur that I currently am). During my spelunking session I stumbled across certain cool features such as a character wizard that allows you to easily tweak a pre-existing character template by changing height, colours and so on, which was cool because this also featured being able to see the character from different angles (in front, behind, from the side etc) while also including a looped walking animation.
Other sweet features that exist are the ability to copy and paste keyframes to quickly create animation loops, quickly inserting or copying across various mouth positions for fast and simple lip synching, as well as the fantastic ability to import your pre-existing Photoshop masterpieces as layers into the program to be animated however you please.
The thing about this program is that any time something isn’t working properly or a command isn’t responding the way you expected it to, it is almost always going to be your fault for failing to correctly follow the instructions. I experienced several issues during my tutorial where I stuffed up a step, thought I was doing it properly, and then automatically assumed the program or the tutorial instructions were flawed, all because of my own foolish mistakes. “Why can’t I change the drawing now when before I could? Oh, I’m in the wrong frame. Where the hell are my bone tools, they should be here? Whoops, my bad, I’m working from the wrong layer”.
One time where I swear I didn’t have any blame was when I was unknowingly operating in the “Beginner” interface while the instructions were for the “Advanced” interface but did not state this anywhere. After an hour or so of frustration with not being able to find the correct tools that I require, I eventually figured out this minor annoyance and then was on the right path towards animation heaven.
Talented artists have the potential to use their drawing skills to create some really badass looking comic style characters and create some really amazing looking animations by individually creating the various limbs, body parts, facial features and so on within their own unique layers so that they can be animated without warping or affecting the other body parts. Lazier folk (such as yours truly) may instead simply prefer to doodle out one large drawing and just add bones to each different body part, which still allows you to animate different limbs as you see fit but results in the adjoining body parts being slightly manipulated or distorted in the process.
All in all, Anime Studio Debut 9 is a powerful animation tool with a huge amount of capabilities and functions. Those wishing to fully invest their time in to this program will get a hell of a lot out of it, and be able to create some truly stunning animations. However noobs like me can also get in on the fun and create some quirky little animated dudes with very little time and effort. As such, Anime Studio Debut 9 caters to the whole spectrum of animation enthusiasts, and is a program that I wholeheartedly recommend, despite only spending a relatively brief time with it overall.
ComicsOnline gives Anime Studio Debut 9 4 out of 5 keyframe motion points.