Friday, January 7, 2011

My workflow for making the comics

Here's how I make a comic with anime studio:

  • First write down the text in a notepad file.
  • Next determine the ideal number of panels and distribute the notepad file accordingly with new lines
  • I determine whether it will be a vertical or horizontal comic and open the panels file accordingly.
    • If the panels are more or different than the default I create a new panels layer in the file
    • I move the panel file to a folder for the comic name
    • Remove all excess panels from the file
  • Add a callouts group and add a new vector layer for the callout of each panel
  • Next I import the characters and an anime studio object. 
    • Position them in a single panel group layer
    • Goto frame 1 and setup their posture
    • Goto frame 0 and copy paste the panel as many times as required
      • Rescale these copy pastes in frame 0
      • Change the posture in frame 1 for these panels

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A PNG to GIF converter for Anime Studio

Anime Studio 7 does not have a GIF export option. However it does have a PNG export option that exports a sequence of PNG images in a single folder.
So a simple GIF to PNG encoder is required. Fortunately there is an opensource project NGif which does just that : http://www.codeproject.com/KB/GDI-plus/NGif.aspx

I modified their example application to create png2gif application that you can download here :
http://cid-b1318f9920bb8f82.office.live.com/browse.aspx/BooleanArt/PNGTOGIFCONVERTER?sa=625933514

Usage is dead simple. Here is a sample script:



"../../PNGTOGIFCONVERTER/BUILD/png2gif.exe" "D:\RENDER"
pause

This will create a file Render.gif in the "D:\RENDER" folder combining all the png files found in the folder.

Note that the software will render at 10 FPS so be sure that your anime studio project aligns the same way.
The reason for this was that animations beyond 10FPS were not rendered by my browser properly.

A sample project is available here : http://cid-b1318f9920bb8f82.office.live.com/browse.aspx/BooleanArt/Comics/0006%20Orwell

You can view the result here : http://www.booleanart.com/2011/01/0006-or-well.html

Monday, December 27, 2010

Anime Studio 7 short review and love

The last version of Anime Studio I had was version 5. Now my brother got me anime studio 7 and its AWESOME. I remember being excited about layer reordering animation in version 5. In version 6 / 7 a ton of new features were added and I love them!

First. The the documentation is MUCH better. The quick start was familiar (same as v5 but in pdf and possible slight changes that I missed). Now they have additionally a complete series of tutorials in a pdf file titled "Anime Studio Pro 7 Users Manual". I am going through this with great joy!

So many things I did not know about, locking bones (will make walk cycles so much easier ... ) , Region Binding, Moving shapes in a same vector layer, Angle control bones in Bone Constraints and so many other little things.

I feel in love with anime studio the first time I tried it back in university. And three years later I have fallen in love with it all over again. Great job smith micro.

The couple of features I am sure are new and really cool are that they only show timelines of keyframes for properties you animate and multiple sound files.

PS : A really cool youtube channel for anime studio fans. Animation fun 101

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A matter of style and taste, XKCD

So, I have been looking at all the minimalist ways of drawing cartoon characters. Why? because I'm lazy and what matters to me is content quality more than character quality. Also, I am a fan of south park, xkcd, cyanide and happiness and the like. All great in content but minimalist in art.

I still haven't decided on which style I will go with (or maybe make my own style). I thought I will make a character in each of various styles just for the heck of it. First up xkcd:

XKCD:
A simple (as simple as it gets). Check out the comic here : http://xkcd.com/
Here is a sample character rigged out:


Observations:

  • Notice that one side  (right side) of the head is flat and the other (left side) is round. This gives the illusion that the character is looking at the right side. 
  • There is a point at each intersection of a bones. 
  • The smaller the neck ... the more professional the look :) 
Now for some poses : 
Thinking

Rig:

Rendered:


No you didn't
Rig:
Rendered: 

Download
You will always be able to get the latest version of this character from here : 
Name: stickfigure

Time to make initial character : 10 minutes! rig and all. Just after finishing the quickstart tutorial on anime studio 7. 

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Anime Studio Shortcuts that are not found on mouse overs or menu

There are some user interactions in every software (e.g. the space bar to pan in expression blend) that cannot be found without actually using the software or going through the documentation. Needless to say Anime Studio is no different. This is just a sampling of shortcuts that you might not know and unique to anime studio pro.

I will be updating this as I progress with my journey through anime studio.

Panning the main view
use mouse right click and drag

Making one layer visible and hiding all others
Hold the "alt" key and left click on the eyes in the layers window for the layer you want visible. This will hide all other layers.

Bring into focus the active content
If you press the escape key the main view zooms and centers into the last selected shape.

Bring complete scene into view
Press the Home key. This is called Reset View.

Reordering shapes around in a single vector layer
Select a shape using the select shape tool. Use the up and down arrow keys to move the shape up and down. Use Shift+Up/Down to move to top and move to bottom. Use Ctrl + Up/Down to cycle between all the shapes at the point you clicked using the Select shape tool

Create Shape
With the create shape (U) selected press the space bar to avoid clicking at the "create shape" button in the top toolbar.

Some Anime Studio Shortcut Awesomeness
  • I really really like that when I select a bone layer the shortcut A changes to "Add Bone" and when I select a vector layer it means "Add Point". A is add ... depends on layer ... cool
  • I have yet to find a shortcut that requires me to use my right hand (other than the intuitive delete key and backspace key). AWGB ... all left hand ... and right hand on mouse. Respect. 
  • I just found this : Many more present in an appendix in the book "Anime Studio 6: The Official Guide" You can get this appendix for FREE from here : http://www.delmarlearning.com/companions/content/1435455614/bonus/

It all begins with buying stuff

A long long time ago on planet earth .... I used to draw on paper. That just doesn't cut it anymore. Being a developer passionate about user experience it is only natural to try out computer design.

A number of softwares came to mind ... and two big vendors : Microsoft and Adobe. As I do software ... I do vector (although my mom does painting in oils). That meant expression design (not blend because there is no easy way to export images from xaml), adobe illustrator and flash. All great ... but not really for character design. So I looked around and came up with two very popular choices : toon boom and anime studio. Finally decided on anime studio because the bone animation just looks awesome! (it also cost less ... but that was not the deciding factor).

Although animestudio is primarily for character animation it works great for comics as well.

So:
This blog is primarily to share my experiences with animestudio (or my changing to another ... or adding other design softwares as well) and sharing content that I create for the comic (for free! ... I always like to back whatever software I use).

So here goes nothing.