Smith Micro released a new version of its premiere animation software, Anime Studio Pro 11, on May 27, 2015. A robust yet easy-to-use program, Anime Studio has long been a favorite of both professional and amateur animators. With Anime Studio Pro 11 the software package has also become an even more powerful game creation tool.
Those looking to sample what Anime Studio has to offer, before making the financial plunge, also have the option of purchasing the very affordable Anime Studio 11 Debut. This option too is easy to use, and the level of support and number of tutorial videos that Smith Micro offers are impressive.
My first experience with Smith Micro’s animation solution was with the 2012 version, Anime Studio Pro 9. After spending a good amount of time with Anime Studio Pro 11, I’m genuinely impressed with how far the program has come. Since Version 8, the software has supported the WACOM multi-touch API, but until now, it’s been an unwieldy tool for drawing and creating art. Of course this is primarily due to the differences between vector and raster art, where creating the latter digitally is more similar to its non-digital counterpart. Thankfully, the freehand tool along with brushes have been greatly improved.
Despite the improvements to the drawing tools, most users will likely import at least a few files from other art programs. Support for Adobe Photoshop files is also now more robust. In the switch to a 64-bit architecture, Anime Studio’s handling of layered Photoshop files is significantly more stable, and now facilitates file updates. This means that animation work can be started with unfinished art assets. As those assets are improved and finalized, Anime Studio will notify you that the current import is out of date, and will allow you to update the file as needed.
Anime Studio has long been a bone-based animation system, but with Version 11 the program finally supports frame-by-frame animation. The more traditional frame-by-frame method of animating is far more art intensive, but the process is made easier with Anime Studio’s existing layer referencing and onion skin tools.
The bone-based animating has also been improved. Bones can now be retargeted, re-parented, and flipped mid-animation. This allows for significantly more complex animation sequences and even matching reflections. Working with smart bones, which creates a more 3D-styled animation, has also been made easier.
Speaking of 3D, for a while now Anime Studio has been able to import universal OBJ, 3D model files. The program has also been integrated with Smith Micro’s 3D modeling suite, Poser. Though I was unable to try out this feature, Anime Studio can import scenes from Poser. With robust camera controls, along with its 3D capabilities, Anime Studio Pro 11 is capable of producing impressive-looking 2.5D videos.
The included content library is impressive, and contains hundreds of ready-to-use characters, props, special effects and more. More functions and data structures have also been exposed, allowing advanced users to create more personalized tools and add-ons through LUA scripting.
With the rise of mobile, and retro-styled indie games, in addition to other components of 3D games, 2D is an important aspect of game creation. For a while now, video game artists have used Anime Studio as a shortcut to create individual sprites for the Unity game engine to assemble into animations for 2D games. That process has become easier with Anime Studio Pro. Now, rigged and animated characters can be imported into Unity as FBX files, where the animations can be trimmed in the import settings, and scripts can be added to the animation timelines to control events and sounds.
Anime Studio Pro 11 is a robust suite of animation tools that is surprisingly easy to use, and the level of support is impressive. There are certainly other tools that can be used for creating animation, but you’d be hard-pressed to find anything nearly as complete, for anywhere close to its price. While the Debut edition limits animations to two minutes, and installs a handful of other limitations, including 3D object importing, Anime Studio Pro 11 is now nearly a standalone solution for animation projects. Previous users can upgrade for Windows PC or 64-bit Mac through the Smith Micro website for a significant discount.
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