Best Animation Software for Beginners and Professionals in 2020
Animation can be brutal as it can take extended hours of firm focus and if you don’t concentrate then it can lead you to boredom. The happiest moment for an animator is when the sequence of frames brings the character to life. It does not matter whether you are managing tedium or celebrating victories but selecting the correct animation software can be a huge difference-maker. Well, the market is flooded with top quality animation software all you need to do is to select the best-suited software for yourself.
Depending on your price range and medium—3D, or stop-motion, or 2D (hand-drawn)-there are plenty of options to get started. Here’s a rundown of some of the best software options for animation:
Best 3D Animation Software
There are multiple options to choose from while selecting the best 3D animation software and each of them has its speciality. In any of them, you’ll be using the stage to model and animate your 3D figures. If time and money are disposable, a good animator can pull off quality work in any of them. Following are some obvious choice of top animators:
When it comes to animation, Maya is one of the smoothest software. It provides you with various job opportunities and also allows you to converse with top professionals without any restraint. Maya will help you to model, animate and render in the same interface as it has almost every possible tool that an animator needs.
Access can be a barrier as the full version of Maya is nearly 1,500 USD per year. They offer their LT version (without the complete set of tools that “fits an indie game maker’s budget”) but that still puts out 240 USD annually. Good news for students, however, because a three-year free “trial” is available, which means you don’t need to burn through a ton of money just to learn the software.
- Maxon’s Cinema 4D
Maxon’s Cinema 4D, another popular choice, comes with a gentler learning curve. It works almost the same as the After Effects and just like Maya it supports quickly renders. Well, if you are looking to make a game then using Maya will be a better option. Cinema 4D, however, still has some use in advertisements, television, and other motion graphics because of its speed.
Yet Cinema 4D is also massively expensive but without the free trial options. A full package can run as much as 3,700 USD. Plus, because it is not as widely used, there are fewer quality tutorials to learn the program.
Blender forgoes all monetary access barriers: it’s open-source, free to download and use. You can model and animate in Blender as well. Because it’s free, you can trawl tutorials at your own pace without worrying about your trial ending like other software. Well, there can be some inconvenience that can get in the way while animating as the timeline in blender is inferior to other software. But its interface and shortcuts make all the difference.
Best out of the lot
Looking to do character animation for a major film or gaming company? Maya’s your best as it translates more easily to the professional world. Well, if you want to make professional 3D animation quickly the Cinema 4D is for you. If you have no money or you want to learn without a huge investment then go for Blender.
Best Stop-Motion Animation Software
While you may think all you need is a camera and some time, you’d be missing out on all of the amazing features modern stop-motion animation software and frame-grabbers provide. For this medium, we’ll look at three programs that will help you capture the best images and streamline them into animation as easily as possible.
Dragon frame is one of the best stop-motion animation software not because it is used by top studios but because it is an amazing choice for small or solo production houses. It comes with a shortcut control which allows you to get everything at a single interface instead of going back and forth to your desktop.
What makes Dragonframe so great? Well, it does everything it promises. It takes over your camera so you can make adjustments in the application without touching your camera and ruining your shot. Dragonframe helps you see how much your current shot has moved, where it was previously, and makes it easy to walk through your images and then organizes your digital frames by the shot you asked for.
This software is capable of delivering unmatched results. Whether you want to draw something in advance or you want to plot the mouth movement in advance and ensure that it is just right. Or maybe you’re just interested in excellent time-lapse software. Dragonframe can do all of this and a whole lot more. With regular, useful updates, there are few reasons to go with anything else unless it doesn’t support your super old digital camera.
- Boinx’s iStopmotion
Another option to go for is Boinx’s iStopmotion. While significantly cheaper, it also does a lot less. The biggest drawback here is that it captures frames through a video feed instead of taking frames through your digital camera. So while you may be able to grab decent frames but it will have no depth like your DSLR can take directly. No amount of onion skinning and chroma keying can make up for this deficit.
What to Buy
Unless you’re unsure about stop-motion, the ease of operation and the depth of possibilities in Dragonframe are unrivalled. If you absolutely must go free, give FrameByFrame a try and then jump to Dragonframe when you’re hooked.
Best 2D Animation Software
Don’t let anyone tell you hand-drawn animation is dead. While big studios shy away from it, the medium still thrives. And while it may seem fun to paint on cells and capture them on film, the practicality of this method falls way short of the software aids that are out there. We’ll look at two leaders—Toon Boom’s Harmony and Anime Studio Pro.
- Toon Harmony
This tool allows you to use vector and bit mapping to apply your drawing skills to any digital platform. Squashing and stretching is completely boring when done in photoshop but toon harmony makes it easy to handle. Its new features also allow you to auto shade for lighting and export to Unity for 2D game designers. Harmony handles the whole animating process, so you can draw, see how you’re animating while it happens with onion-skinning, and adjust the colour and light in the same program. Not unlike Flash, Toon Boom will also handle the in-betweens, saving time. There is a variety of buying options for Harmony, but assuming you aim for the middle, the full program will run about 456USD annually.
- Anime Studio Pro 11
Until recently Anime Studio Pro was incomparable to Toon Boom’s Harmony, but updates in the past few years make it a strong competitor. Anime Studio Pro’s biggest asset has always been its “bone” animation tools, allowing you to create what amounts to a puppet and move it through your scene in a rather intuitive way, including rotation of the head. But now it also lets you draw frame by frame, much in the way that Harmony does. It is significantly cheaper than Harmony.
- Animation Paper
There are also some free tools for drawing software that allows you to put together images to form an animation. Animation Paper is an excellent choice to test the waters and get started bringing your drawings to life. On their site, they are admittedly out of date, “It’s old. But the main thing is that it’s free, they say is without any shame and it only works in windows and its onion-skins helps you see what you’re doing.
For the serious pros, this time it’s a tossup. Perhaps the price of Harmony scares you away and you like the idea of the bone tools, then go with Anime Pro. Or maybe you prefer more frame-by-frame style, and then Harmony is for you. If you want to dip your toes without the expense, Animation Paper is a fine choice.
Wrapping it up
Once you’ve found the right tool for your medium in the right price range, now it’s time to make that animation come to life. Remember that animation principles are independent of the medium. It is important to understand the concept like ease-in and out, expectation, secondary action and more than that creating lively motions only then your animation will be beautiful. Software is an important part of creating beautiful animation. Give it a thought that how easier and time saving it will be for you to animate with the correct software.