Anime Studio Debut from Smith Micro is the trimmed down “beginner’s version” of their ever popular Anime Studio Pro animation software.
At a significantly reduced price, is it lacking in features or just great value for money? Let’s find out in this review.
Installation and Interface
Coming as a hard disc or digital download the installation is super simple as with most software these days, and the first impression of the interface is it is clean, tidy and with a large clear workspace. While not as “easy” as some of other beginners’ software out there like Flip Boom All Star and Animation-ish, it is still fairly easy to find your way around.
Most of the tools and buttons are visible which means there’s no need to go searching through various cluttered menus to find what you’re looking for.
It is definitely a trimmed down version of their Pro interface, but based on the same layout and design, making the transition easy should you choose to upgrade to the Pro version later on.
I was actually quite surprised at the number of features that come with the Debut version of the software, as it seems they’ve tried to preserve a lot of the tools from the Pro version but with some obvious limits. For a complete comparison chart between the Debut and Pro versions check out the handy chart on the Smith Micro site.
The Character Wizard is an excellent feature and really helps to get results quickly as you can manipulate a series of sliders and options in order to change the shape, size and form of your characters instead of having to redraw and redesign everything from scratch. This is great for kids and beginners as they can get started with their animation right away.
In addition to the Character Wizard the Trace Tool is a cool feature which allows you to turn any imported image into a “cartoon”. Take a photograph or download an image from the net and turn it into a character in a matter of seconds…sounds like fun to me! Combine it with the Motion Tracking tool where you can track the position of objects in any video footage and your imagination will be ready to explode with the number of ideas playing in your head.
There is also a library of pre-designed characters that comes with the software which can be used as they are or thrown into the Character Wizard and played with in there.
As a Flash-style animation program, Anime Studio Debut has some really solid bone tools to rig up your characters (don’t know what bone tools are? Check out the glossary here). This really is Anime Studio’s bread and butter and it shows as the bone tools are some of the best out there and are super quick and easy to use.
As a vector-based animation program the line quality is always super sharp and crisp, allowing scaling and shrinking without any loss in quality.
If you’re looking to animate to some dialogue or a voice track and don’t want to spend a long time animating the mouth of your character, you can use the Automatic Lip-Sync Tool which does it for you. I must say though that it does produce mixed results, so is fine for a very simple piece of animation but if you want more accuracy you’ll need to animate it yourself I’m afraid.
As with most animation programs these days, Anime Studio Debut comes with HD import and export as standard, and caters to all the standard file formats these days.
As with anything in life it’s not all sunshine and roses, and unfortunately Anime Studio Debut has some negatives which, incidentally, turn out to be quite large in my opinion.
To me the biggest issue bar none is the lack of any onion skinning feature. This really seems inconceivable. How can you have a 2d animation program without an onion skinning tool or any way to see your previous frames?
There is also no sound effects library which makes the audio capabilities somewhat limited. You can import audio files into the software for dialogue etc, but you’d probably be best adding the sound effects and final audio in a third-party editing software.
Now, some folk may chide me for using this as a negative, but I have to say that you can’t really do frame-by-frame traditional drawn animation, as Anime Studio Debut is designed purely for cut-out Flash style animation. I like the freedom of being able to do different styles, but of course that is down to the individual and many folk are not bothered by this.
So in summary I think that Anime Studio Debut is a nice little piece of software at a very reasonable price which is comparable to other animation programs on the market at this level.
It has a very solid toolset which is close enough to the Pro version to make upgrading later on a natural transition.
I must say that although designed for beginners it’s not as easy as some other comparable software out there like Toon Boom. However it does come with some good help files and tutorials, and the user base is quite large so there are a lot of online forums and videos where you can get your questions answered.
Looking to use the professional version and animate like the pros? Check out our Anime Studio Pro review here