View Full Version : Computer-assisted 2D animation

04 April 2005, 03:37 AM
This has been a curiousity for me, lately. I've known about "paperless" animation for a while now, but as much as some of the programs I've seen may save time, they don't seem to make things any easier.

Basically I haven't seen any 2D package that would try to automatically generate inbetweens for "full" animation. Plus I'm sure any program that does would be super exprensive. (I'm not expecting the computer to do all the work, just lighten the load in some cases. :p)

Right now I'm testing out one method (in Maya, of all things), but I'm also curious how anyone else would tackle this. How do you make your life easier, if you're doing traditional animation?

04 April 2005, 03:59 AM
If I understand what you mean, then the answer will be Macromedia Flash or Director. You need vector data to generate the in-betweens.

04 April 2005, 04:22 AM
Tried that :)

From what I've seen, Flash is better suited to shape-based animation. Unless you're drawing every frame, it can get some unpredictable results...

04 April 2005, 11:47 PM
One of the problems I had with flash, was that the lines don't seem to have a point order, like in most 3D apps. I did a quick, one-line test, and the line flipped its ends between some of the keys.

Having a brush stroke with varied thickness can get even worse results, since it could have at least twice as many points to manipulate.

I figured there had to be a program that used ordered-point curves, and could control the line's thickness seperate from its direction. I realized Maya could do these things, so I decided to do a little test, using some scans from "the Illusion of Life" -

Maya 2D test (

This test done with 6 key images. Only a couple areas, apart from the hands, needed manual corrections. But, having to manually inbetween the hands could still be better than having to do the whole body.

The spline thickness is just a tube extruded along each curve. Changing the thickness would just be a matter of scaling rows of CVs.

All this could then be rendered with Maya's Vector renderer, then imported into Flash for cleanup (as long as the lines have different colors, to keep them seperate), and painting.

The results so far are good enough for me, but I still have to think there's a better way... :shrug:

04 April 2005, 07:14 PM
I've been on this quest for some time, and I've come to the conclusion that paperless 2D animation of supreme high quality is definitely possible but we're pushing the boat out a bit too far asking a computer to be intelligent enough to add emotion or sensibly use the principle's of animations in inbetweening, hence the unpredictable nature of flash. in the future? who knows? but I reckon you should try out pap plastic animation paper as a digital solution to 2D and hopefully there'll be a few more developments around the corner.

04 April 2005, 08:07 PM
mojo works with bones but is 2d. I myself wouldn't want to do it like that though. I'd go with 3d software and vector render.

04 April 2005, 08:37 PM
I'm still figuring out an exact method, but I think I'm getting close...
In the test I posted earlier, one of the problems I ran into was that by just animating the verts, they would try to move in a straight line to their new position.
I'm working one another scene now, this time moving and rotating the lines into place, before reshaping them. So far this seems to get more natural-looking inbetweens, with everything moving on an arc.

Of course, the best results will come from having clealry defined and timed drawings to start with (ie, you can see how everything moves just in the pencil test). Using 3D curves would just be a way of speeding up (but not eliminating) the inbetween process, and cleanup. :)

04 April 2005, 05:13 PM
Hey there Lomax!

There's a new(er?) piece of software from the Toon Boom family by USAnimation called Symphony which is supposed to help a lot with this.

Animo used to do vector in-betweening in early versions. I don't know if it is implemented again in the last version. Illustrator CS2 has a new plugin that's supposed to put out decent vectors... I haven't had a chance to check it out yet.

My work place has been looking into this for a long while, because our final output is often vector based. There are a lot of advantages for this across the board, and since Flash work has become so prominent, it's really getting a lot of attention.

Your test was really nice, and you managed to keep the dimension in her face in the digital in-betweens which really surprised me.

The balance of how much has to be inputed by hand vs. an animator in front of a computer moving vectors around to work out inbetweens is an interesting one. It definitely blurs the line of traditional animation and CG even further.

04 April 2005, 10:27 PM
Toon Boom was the first thing that came to mind.
You can check it out here ( and download a demo.

Oh, and maybe check out Bauhaus Mirage (

I don't have experience with these, but planning to check them out soon.

04 April 2005, 03:12 AM
wow that animation really impressed me. im jealous now.

04 April 2005, 12:44 PM
It's amazing how expensive some of the 2D packages can get. I remember Animo used to cost over $10k, I heard it is now closer to $5k, but that's still more than the top 3D apps.

Looking into Symphony, it looks like USAnimation split it into 3 programs, but they don't list any prices on their site, other than ToonBoom (usually not a good sign).
For it's price, ToonBoom may be an ideal program for do the rough animation, final cleanup, and color, but I think it still lacks vector morphing, and easily adjustable line thickness (these are probably in the higher priced packages).

Granted, the more popular 3D packages don't come cheap either, but it the do seem to be more versatile and feature-packed :D

04 April 2005, 04:35 PM
ToonBoom Studio
The Tab (I know for sure that it generates inbetweens, I think there is demo on their site)
Plastic Animation Paper (this one is raster, but worth checking)

04 April 2005, 04:56 PM
Here's another, for the Linux folk -

KToon ToolKit (

04 April 2005, 05:08 PM
Have any of you guys heard of Bauhaus Mirage? Its supposedly a quite good 2D animation program but as I cant draw I dont use it.

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