Now, those of you who know my thoughts on the program know how much I love Flash MX—the version released in 2002. I still believe it to be the best version of the app, as it has everything you need to animate without feature bloat—and the brush tool draws like butter. Flash CS3 is a close second, and in some ways I'm growing to prefer how the brush works in that version as I've been trying to ween myself off of MX (for fear that it will no longer be supported by modern operating systems).
Anyway, I ramble. Adobe has completely gummed up what was once great about Flash. CS4 was an absolutely abhorrent release (quite possibly the worst, with all of it's bugs and failures), and I curse CS5 like the plague. The interface alone drives me bonkers. So, as you might expect, I have low expectations for CS6. As I find myself at a decade mark, I've been increasingly curious to try something new.
Enter: Toon Boom Animate. People have had great things to say about this animation tool for at least a year or two (most notably, John K). I'm sort of surprised I've ignored it for so long; Toon Boom has a vast industry record in animation. Their tools have always been unique in that they truly aim to serve the needs and frameworks familiar to the animator. When I've tried to dig in to their apps in the past, I've always been put off by their clunky interfaces. Things have changed with Animate—or, maybe it's just familiar because it strives to be a bit of a Flash clone.
Below is my first attempt at animating with it—a test flight.
There are a few things I really like about Animate. I like that you can customize your brush (size, taper), and I like that it draws in a way where I don't feel the need to fuss over it. Unlike Flash, the brush maintains it's size in proportion to your zoom scale. This is something which never made sense about Flash that we all simply got used to. I like that it stores and remembers individual brush strokes—making them easier to select and manipulate if need be. I really haven't made an attempt at precision level inking, but so far, the brush tool shows a lot of promise.
Onion-skinning is pretty groovy—red behind, green ahead. I found it distracting at first, but it became more useful as I animated.
I'm really not digging into the bells and whistles of it yet, but it's fun to do straight-ahead animation. I suspect the true muscle of the program is in the realm of motion tweens, morphs, IK, and other computer animation tools. There are certainly layers of complexity in the app that has Flash never offered (like a stage camera). In terms of hand drawn animation, it's a pleasure to use.
At the risk of this post getting too long—consider me impressed and intrigued with lots more to explore. I'm writing in case others have been using Toon Boom Animate. If you have tips or advice (pros and cons), feel free to drop me a comment.