People often ask me what apps I use to animate. I end up explaining what I use and how I use them. Then I started thinking, man, I’ve spent quite a bit of time finding all these other great apps and once I learn to use them for what they’ve been designed for, it makes my life a lot easier. I thought ‘I should do a post about them’. So, here it is.
(I use Mac, so some of these may only be available for Mac. Nobody paid me to mention their app.)
I dig this app for making invoices. It has other tools that I don’t use, but I dig how it makes invoices look kiff, it auto-numbers them, saves them out as a PDF, easy to make quotes, and I just dig it lank. Cost me about R300 or so. One of the best finds I’ve had.
Rad little app. Also, paid. But for making quick notes on projects, saving PDFs for quick access, quick doodles, shopping lists, sudden inspirational ideas while you’re waiting in the line at the shops, this app is great. Available for Mac, iPad and iPhone and syncs across devices which is KIFF. When I go on a trip I save my plane flights, itinerary, any supporting docs etc… to it so I have quick access to those things.
I use dis a lot with a Wacom Cintiq 12″ for a lot of things. It’s probably the program I spend the most time in for drawing.
Premiere Pro CS6
Great editing app. I got the CS6 master suite collection at a good price. I actually got the educational discount while I was signed up for a photography course online and checked on the Adobe forums if I quit the course whether I’d still be able to use the educational discount for commercial work, and it all checked out. So, all above board. I don’t think you can do that now with CC all being online, but – maybe? Anyways, Premiere Pro has a quick engine, I only recently learned what a lot of the tools do which save me so much time, ya. I dig it. I edit animatics with Premiere Pro, I combine rendered out scenes into one final animation timeline, I add final audio to animation before I export the final file, I do colour-correction with RGB curves on rendered-out-scenes from other apps, and generally it’s the last program I use in the chain before a final render of a project.
Anime Studio Pro
I use for cut-out animation. Frame by frame not so great, but it has a really snappy engine and great keyframe animation tools and a friendly GUI. I used this for nearly all my animated Goldfish music videos, but I’ve moved onto Toon Boom now as I’m doing more hand-drawn frame-by-frame stuff.
Toon Boom Animate 2
I bought this a while ago and it used to frustrate the HECK out of me with it’s seemingly backward sensibilities. Now I’ve figured out Toon Boom’s idiosyncrasies better and I’m using it more like ‘how they’d like me to use it’ instead of how I’m sued to working with Photoshop and Anime Studio Pro, and it works pretty well. I believe the later versions of Toon Boom have ironed out some of the bugs, but, I’m ok using this version for now. Some of the tools are super, like ‘lightbox’ and ‘drawing view’ for actual animation and onion-skinning, and ‘black light’ (or whatever it’s called) for finding missed gaps when adding colour to frames. I still think the GUI is a little Windows 3.1-like.
Toon Boom Storyboard Pro 1.5
It’s an old version of the software, and it has a ton of weird bugs, but for quickly getting a storyboard / animatic up and running I use this to kick things off. Afterwards I bring things into Adobe Premiere when I start adding audio (I don’t dig how Storyboard Pro deals with audio, later versions may be better) but I find this great to get a rough idea of how things are shaping up.
Ableton Live 9.0
I use Ableton for audio production. I’ve learned how to make songs in it, and I finally bit the bullet and bought the Suite version. As such use it for editing audio when I need to – chopping things up to make new streams of audio for Premiere, I record voice into it and add compression and can EQ and other stuff in Ableton – works well for me. Feels like a very competent engine, has taken me a while to warm up to it and get the hang of it.
MPEG Streamclip 1.9.3b
What a great free piece of software. This app basically takes in video in almost any format, and spits it out in other formats. I use it mostly for taking big video files too large to email, and I have a preset that I use to make small H.264 web preview videos. Is fast and simple, even though I own Adobe Encoder I still prefer the barebones approach of Mpeg Streamclip. Really – it’s awesome, you can set the bitrate of the compression for video, and the audio, encode to a number of file formats, it’s quick and light. (Tip – make sure you check ‘better downscaling’ otherwise videos look whack. Dunno why this isn’t always on by default.)
I was looking for some screenwriting software and I came across Movie Draft. I DIG IT. I believe Final Draft Pro is the gold standard, but it’s pricey. For someone who’s not using screenwriting software everyday I find Movie Draft to be more than adequate. Friendly GUI, I think one guy made it and he writes about his depression in the app’s news section which I find somehow makes the software more personal. Movie Draft can read and export to Final Draft, it’s uncluttered, I’ve learned the keyboard shortcuts for switching between the different modes of writing (dialogue, action, slug lines etc…) Cost me about R400.
Snapz Pro X
Another invaluable piece of software for taking screengrabs and recording on-screen video. I take a lot of screengrabs for giving notes (to animators recently) by email, and I find Snapz Pro X works super well. Runs in the background so a keyboard shortcut brings it up anytime, you can click-and-drag over an area to take a screen snap of something, or snap a window, or snap the whole screen. It can also save to the clipboard so I can just open Photoshop, create a new doc and ‘paste’ and the pic is there ready for me to draw over. Someone I did a job for bought it for me, was $60 I think. A bit pricey now by South African standards.
I have a Pro account, it’s like, 1TB space or something. I’m nowhere near using all of that space, but it *is* a safe place (I hope) for all my finished work. It’s $10 / month – bit pricey, and I don’t use its syncing function because that chows my data, I have an iMac and Macbook Pro and I’m trying to figure out a better file system to make sure not everything syncs between them. But, I use the web browser uploaded to stick up finished work for safe-keeping. Hard drives fail, and I recently had one swiped from me. So, in the cloud I place my trust.
Also for audio work, when it’s something really quick and simple I need to do and don’t want to load up Ableton Live, Audacity does the trick. It’s free too.
Another free program, when I have WAV files (normally from Ableton Live) I want to export as MP3’s for sending my email, I use MAX. Just drag-and-drop the files into the browser window, click ‘export’ and boom – whatever preset was set up gets to work. Not only for WAV to MP3 but will convert a whole host of audio files to a number of formats. Sometimes I don’t necessarily want to open the files in Audacity, so this is a good converter.
Adobe Acrobat Pro
For making PDFs, digitally signing PDF’s (seriously, I don’t like printing out a PDF just to be able to sign it, scan it and send it back. I rather open it in Adobe Acrobat Pro, sign the PDF with a Wacom tablet and re-save the file and email back – no mess, no fuss, no wasted printer ink or paper). I also use it for reducing the size of PDFs for emailing, and collecting multiple files into a PDF – it’s great.
I never thought I’d use this but I dig it lank. I designed my bro’s THE KIFFNESS album on this, the Moosebox bible, and a couple other things that require pretty precise vector printing. Great with a lot of type and laying out multiple pages for a book – it’s a goodie. So less frustrating than trying to do a hack job in Photoshop.
I don’t use this too much, but for logo work and some other finicky stuff for when vectors are required, it’s great. Some people mostly work in Illustrator, I’ve learned to work in Photoshop and quite like the graininess of working in raster, but then I miss out on the benefits of being able to print nice and razor sharp with vectors and upscale without pixellation.
Hey guys. So much stuff to say, so instead of putting it all into one daunting post I’m gonna do piece by piece. Bit by bit we make it? Isn’t it? Bite-size chunks? Step by step we get there? Isn’t it? OH LISTEN HERE SAILOR, *IT IS*.
So, I recently went to the YOO ESS AYY ha! Nice! Why? Because why, I was one of the people lucky enough to get into the Triggerfish and Disney Storylab. What does this mean? Is it? It means that I got a trip to the USA, and we spent some rad time at Disney Studios. And it was amazing. So, what can I tell you about it? LET ME TELL YOU SOME THINGS HA HA. WOW. OK.
So, first things first – KIDSCREEN in Miami. What is that? Oh, it is an animation conference held in Miami, Florida. I’ve never been to Miami properly before, so, that was cool. Nice spot. Palm trees – I have a thing for palm trees, and there are lots of them there. Went running every morning, until I got pretty sick on the last day or two there and almost died on the plane to LA. Thank you Ant for giving me flu drugs on your birthday.
But – the conference was pretty cool. It’s actually probably not really meant for a person such as me – more of a creative than a producer or executive, like Annecy is the spot if you wanna see cool animation. Anyways, glad to have gone. I did have fever nightmares of trying to herd execs in suits out a building whilst at the conference though. Some of the talks on the first and second day were great. I wrote down some take-aways:
There was a conference called ‘How To Control Your Creative’. The MC dude got up and said ‘Ok, firstly, this title is wrong. The job of a producer is to help a creative person interface with a creative business, and then get out of the way’. So, that guy was immediately my hero.
Fred Siebert from Frederator Studios (who greenlit the original ‘Adventure Time’ pilot) was like ‘wardup’. He was all about finding talent and letting that talent go where they want. His philosophy is ‘make what YOU want to make’. He reckons keeping your VOICE is so important, don’t lose that voice! Man. Whaddaguy. That’s the kind of funding I’d like. Instead I’m finding that my hands get tied, and that sometimes isn’t beneficial for the funder and I both. Anyways. I can always do my own stuff on my own budgets, so, that’s a thing.
Like the old Motown recording studios, he finds people that don’t quite fit in and creates the circumstances for them to succeed.
Fred found that people who wanted to succeed always do, and though he knows lots of talented people in the animation world, they may not have that drive.
In terms of driving a channel, he focuses on loyalty rather than numbers. He reckons the audience is ALL-important. And MOST importantly, get the audience involved. Have a conversation with the audience. He really pressed that this is so important. Huh. I may try do that.
Them this other talk had some amazing advice. If someone likes your show pitch, ask that person ‘what do you like about my show?’ If they say ‘I like the way you bound your presentation, it’s pretty’ then you can be like ‘GEDDOUDDAAHYEAH!’ and bounce. But, if what they like is what’s core to your concept, ie. if a funder said to me ‘I like that Bru & Boegie only wear underpants’ then I’d have some indication that we’re onto the same kind of thing here. That’s really important – firstly, to find what’s core about your show that you won’t change, and then really stick to your guns about that. It takes an exec 2 minutes to give you a note, and you have to live with your show. So, best be clear on what you’re not willing to change, and that makes it a lot easier to figure out what you are willing to move on. Take exec’s notes with a pinch of salt, and don’t be flexible about the core of your show. Everyone will be the better for it. ALIGNMENT, people.
Then we flew to LA and stayed in a rad motel, and we spent some quality time with Disney, talking with execs, meeting creatives, getting some 1-on-1 time with our projects and getting great feedback. I think we all got the impression that it was a place of growth – if you were kicking around ideas with these ninja-minds, you’d also sharpen your mind-blades. We spoke with the director and writer of Big Hero 6 and he was really frank with us on stuff, we spoke with people involved with Frozen and other stuff, and it was pretty rad that Disney opened their doors to us as much as they did. We signed many NDA’s. We also got to spend a day at Disneyland which was a lot of fun. And Jole Poleshek really laid it on for us – we got swag bags, VIP this and that, and she even arranged a trip for 3 of us to Pixar (because we were gonna be in San Fran).
OK ok ok. One of the coolest things I did whilst I was there was go say hi to my buddy Phil Rynda from Nickelodeon. He’s an all-round-nice-guy and lead character designer for Adventure Time S1-3 amongst other cool things. Anyways. He showed Ant and I around the studios which were GREAT. We met a bunch of peeps, saw the various segmented workspaces that do Spongebob, the new Pinky Malinky show, Breadwinners, kiff cubicles, ya. Nice. Anyways, Phil organized himself and I to spend the afternoon with PEN WARD, the cool dude who created Adventure Time. I know. I am a lucky dood.
Pen picked us up in his car outside Nick studios, and we went to lunch. The place we were gonna go for lunch was being used as a filming location, so we went to this amazing other place that was high up on a hill somewhere, overlooking a golf course. It was quiet, probably because it was so awesome.
So, in the car I was telling Pen about how I met him once at ComiCon in San Diego in 2006 or something, when he first showed his Adventure Time pilot. I was blown away and I met him afterwards and gave him a Bru & Boegie comic book. After that I emailed him saying how much I dug his show and showed him my HappyLand stuff that he gave me a lot of notes for. Anyways, Adventure Time has become a MASSIVE success on Cartoon Network and 10 years later Pen is still super cool. ALSO he remembered me – even cooler. SO, we went for lunch, I asked if we could do a comic jam and Phil and Pen were like ‘ya’ so I did a panel and passed my sketchbook around, and we came up with this:
Pretty rad I know. Then without me asking, Pen drew this picture for me. ‘The Kiffness’ is my brother’s band. I mean – is this guy just the coolest flippen’ dude? Dayeem. Then Phil accidentally paid with his own credit card instead of the company’s, and that was a surprise. Sorry Phil, but also thank you. Phil’s also doing some rad experiments with VR. It’s an exciting space to be in.
We dropped Phil off, Pen gave me a copy of an Adventure Time game on PS3 that was in his car. And these guys were talking a lot about VR stuff. They really are amped about it and I think it’s the way of the future. Well, it is. Anyways, then I was like ‘Hey Pen, howzit, is it ok if I hang around a bit?’ and he was like ‘ya cool, come check out my house and all this neat VR stuff I have. Do you want to invite the rest of the SA guys?’ and then I was pumped going ‘Yoh okes gonna DIG this’ and he asked me how many SA peeps there are and I was like ’16’ and he said ‘BUT – THEY CAN’T ALL FIT INSIDE MY HOUSE’ and so I just went by myself. HA!
So, then Pen showed me the HTC VR stuff and these rad games on Steam. He moved his furniture out the way so I could amble about a bit with the headset on and hopefully not knock over a lamp with my hand controllers. You really gotta try this thing to get a proper experience. It’s better than you imagine it.
Anyways, so I’m opening a drawer in this one game and taking a tool to fix a robot, and then drawing in 3D space in this other app, and I’m also chilling with Pen. That was probably one of the best days ever. I mean. So much kiff stuff in one thing. Pen also has 2 pet turtles, they’re pretty schweet. Aaand, ya. We spoke about Adventure Time, about some of the stuff about running a show, he showed me this cool program where it turns your voice into MIDI notes and you can play a piano / guitar / synth like that. Man. What a rad dude. What. A. Rad. Dude.
I also went to Dreamworks on my last day to meet the nice peeps from AwesomenessTV. Shoh. That place looks like a set from a Shrek Fairytale castle with a big fountain in the middle, ivy on brickwork etc… that was quite nice.
Anyways, then Nas and Marc and I were off on our ROAD TRIP! We rented a car and had to figure out very quickly how to drive on the wrong side of the road. We did fine. We drove up from LA and stopped in at Santa Barbara, Pismo Beach, Big Sur, Los Lobos, Carmel, Monterey, and finally arrived in San Francisco. We did it over like 5 days or something and slept in pretty good motels. That was super cool. We got our party in the first night in Santa Barbara, sung karaoke at a bar and got a few dops in us. And man, Highway 1 is amazing. Coastal stuff is kiff.
THEN, we visited Pixar and had lunch with Mary Coleman, Emily Mollenkopf and Erika Schmidt. Mary was the main speaker at Kidscreen – she kind of heads up the story department at Pixar. She knows her stuff. ‘Senior Development Executive’. YOH YOH YOH what a nice person. She’s so calm and easy to talk to, and you can stare at her right in the eyeball and she won’t even skip a beat. So, she asked quite a bit about us and I had a moment when Nas was talking about his story about a post-apocalyptic city, where a young girl who has been raised by a robot maid, wants to find her real mother. The question is – is the robot her real mother because she really raised the child, or does her human mother deserve to be her ‘real’ mother if she hasn’t been around? Anyways, Mary was into that for various reasons, and I just sat back and thought ‘Woah. We are here at Pixar talking about our stories with these impressive people – how on Earth did we get here?!?’ I’m still not quite sure. And THEN, Cara, the lady who was showing us around, is secretary to one of MY hero’s, Steve Purcell who created Sam & Max. I’m a huge fan of the 1993 Lucasarts videogame ‘Sam & Max: Hit the Road’. Steve now works at Pixar. So, he came down and I had a good rap with him. Also, the lunch was *amazing*.
So, then we hung around San Fran for a while, really enjoyed that place. If I had to live in the USA, I may *try* LA for a bit to experience the hustle and bustle, but Pismo Beach is great – reminds me of Plett, and San Fran is great – kind of also reminds me of Cape Town a bit. Pretty city. I also managed to get some Enchroma glasses – the glasses that are made in SF that help red/green colourblind people like myself see colours better. They do work in good sunlight and it’s been cool seeing clours in trees and nature that I don’t normally pick up. Niiice.
MAN – what a cool trip. Triggerfish did an amazing thing, and Disney did an amazing thing, and the DTI did an amazing thing. I am so lucky to have been a part of that, and I know all of us who were there really did feel very lucky. Whaddata.