Thursday, November 20, 2008

Animation Software

I frequently get this question: “How did you create those animations and how can I make them, too?”

In the old days of animated movies, drawings were transferred to clear sheets of acetate and each individual picture was painted. It was tedious and labor intensive. Movie film can be very unforgiving. Once you start clicking the movie camera, there is little room for error. When I first became serious about making animated movies in the 1970s and 1980s, this was the only option.

Now, thanks to the miracle of digital motion pictures, anyone on a budget can create big screen quality 2D animation movies. 2D animation refers to the type seen in such movies as “Snow White” or “The Simpsons,” rather than the 3D style of “Toy Story.”
Many companies have software for creating 2D animation and the price varies considerably. After trying many packages, I came to love the Toon Boom product line of animation software ( for both the Mac and PC. They have a variety of animation software to fit all levels of animation expertise.

For those easily intimidated and new to the craft, “Flip Boom” is very affordable and enjoyable for both children and adults. Even a five year old can master the “Flip Boom” interface. Yet, its kid-friendly interface disguises a program of remarkable power. The program costs about $40 and can be a Holiday gift for the aspiring artist in the family. You may find the program to be more addictive than any video game.

For teens and above who decide to get more serious, the sophisticated program: “Toon Boom Studio” is the software I recommend. A very capable entry level version is available for about $100. If you want to press further, you can upgrade to the full version, allowing more features and complexity, for another $250. Both versions are remarkably full featured and are literally the only software you need to create a complete animated cartoon with sound.

“Toon Boom Studio” is the product I used for the majority of my animated 30-second safe driving spots. All components of the creation, including sound and lip-synch, are covered. For serious animators, “Studio” is the product of choice. Almost all of the original programming on television’s Cartoon stations could be easily created in “Studio.”
Toon Boom also makes a high level professional product at a much higher price tag called “Digital Pro.” “Digital Pro” allows those extra touches that tend to differentiate a big budget motion picture from a “made for television” animation. “Digital Pro” is designed for the serious animator who is already very comfortable with “Studio.” “Digital Pro” allows the creation of subtle character shading, shadowing, and blur effects as well as complex character design for use in big projects. Most of my current work is now done in “Digital Pro.”
There are many other companies selling animation software, but these are the programs which seem to be the most usable.
Don’t forget to get a drawing tablet. Wacom is the industry standard and the only one I recommend. The smaller versions can be found for less than $100.
Tablet PC's are also a wonderful option for drawing. HP now has an excellent model that can be found at most of the big chain electronic and office supply stores. Many colleges are now encouraging their students to get tablet PC’s for taking notes.
The gift of animation is a unique and relatively affordable holiday idea. When you have finished your creation, be sure to share it on You Tube. My own current animations can be freely viewed at

Thursday, November 13, 2008

More of my newspaper cartoons

Newspaper cartoons


Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Here's the latest animation. Today's topic:
The Financial Crisis
  • Click on the above link to view the animation. Requires Flash.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Toon Boom Studio 4.5 Arrives

The latest version of Toon Boom Studio has been released (version 4.5). It is a hundred dollar upgrade from previous versions and I have to admit I was a bit skeptical before plunking down my money. Previous updates have given some performance enhancements, but have also been a bit more challenging to older hardware. Frankly, I thought version 3.0 represented an amazingly mature product and it still ran very well on less than stellar hardware. Version 4.0 has also been excellent. What more could I possibly need? Well, I took the plunge this week.

After several days with 4.5, here are some initial conclusions:

1. This upgrade does not make your older tablet pc unusable. There are a number of adjustments available which make this upgrade faster on older tablets. That’s a big deal, because tablet pc’s are still not cheap.

2. This upgrade is the most “tablet pc compatible” version encountered. Best of all, it works very well in portrait mode on a tablet, which was previously a terrible weakness in prior versions.

3. The ability to import video files is an incredible improvement and adds an animation tool that may not be apparent in the Toon Boom description: It allows rotoscoping, meaning you can trace video motion to create a more realistic animation or at least learn more about the motion of different people and items. One of my frustrations has been to animate a person walking towards the camera. I’ve been playing with rotoscoping to create crude rough drafts that can be redone with my characters. I like this feature a lot. This represents a serious update and makes the upgrade price well worthwhile.

4. I find the Toon Boom line of software a bit interesting. I am also an enthusiastic user of Digital Pro and use this high end product from Toon Boom for most of my animations. Yet, Studio, at a tiny fraction of the price, offers features that are not available in the high end product. Specifically, the ability to do titles and import video are now serious advantages. Actually, importing video into Digital Pro is possible, but Studio’s interface for this is much more user friendly.

5. There are a lot of enhancements that I have not yet tried. The software is full featured and very nicely priced for new users. The many features are placed in such a way as to keep the product usable. At no time do I ever feel overwhelmed by “feature overload,” which can be a big problem in many art programs.

6. You will never find a better bargain for such a full featured animation product.

The software is Toon Boom Studio 4.5. If you want to animate, start at

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Don't forget to check out

I hear this often...

Another day in the office....

Medicare patients cannot find doctors....

Diabetes patients needed?

Saving money in the practice....

I thought about trying this....

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Vytorin and Zetia are in "Damage Control Mode"

The makers of Zetia and Vytorin are showering medical offices with overnight mailings, rep visits, company supervisor visits, free lunches, and whatever else they can do to try and keep doctors prescribing these drugs as much as possible. Patients, meanwhile, are very concerned and they have a point: Shouldn’t the medical community prove a drug actually helps real live humans before giving it to massive numbers of patients? Zetia has been out for almost six years now! Where is the outcomes data?

Monday, January 7, 2008

The coming crisis

This video gives a fabulous explanation behind the catastrophe that will soon hit the economy in 2008