Anime Studio: Helping Kids Make Their Own Shows

As I mentioned when reviewing their new software, Motion Artist, SmithMicro’s Anime Studio program was recommended by several comics professionals when my youngest son asked about how to animate his own original characters.

My son, 13, has been using a review copy of Anime Studio Pro 8 over the last month. But before I get into specifics of why I think it’s a great program for creative young minds, I’ll let his review speak for itself:

Anime Studio Pro 8 is a program published by Smith Micro. Basically, it quickly and easily allows you to create animation without tediously going through drawing everything frame by frame.

There are a lot of reviews out there focusing on what it can do. Most people shrug it off as underpowered, but for the aspiring young animator, this is pure gold. You see, there are some built in models and tools that can make easy animations in under an hour (in program, minus research), but this will come out too limited in most cases. If your child has endless patience, they can make amazing movies…if you can pay the $200 USD for it.

With Anime Studio Pro 9 on the horizon as well, you might want to wait a bit to get some more features when it comes out. Of course, there wasn’t enough time for ME to get through making an amazing masterpiece, so I’ll just leave you with this example.

Happy Animation Making,
Corrina Lawson’s ‘Tech Genius Minion’
P.S. There is also a stripped-down $50 version, Anime Studio Debut 8, but it appears to have a lot of important features missing, so I’d still wait on Pro 9.

To elaborate upon my son’s review, there are several levels to using the program, from beginner to advanced.

There’s the completely manual way.

Draw a character design on paper, scan it in, and use the program’s custom tools to trace over and animate it. Those tools include pencil and paintbrush in an image editor; bone-rigging, which allows you to move the bones of the skeleton from frame to frame easily; and layers, which is similar to what’s used in Photoshop and allows items of the image to be moved independently.

The image can also be auto-traced. This gives you set points which guide you in moving the image. My son felt this was too restrictive for him and hampered what he wanted to do, so he says this is more difficult. He likes having total control, so this may be easier for most children, especially for beginners.

If a user doesn’t have their own image or character to upload, Anime Studio comes loaded with pre-set characters and other images. The pre-set characters are already rigged to animate instantly, which means this is the quickest way for beginners to get started.

As an example, my son made the short animation clip above using a preset character and a built-in audio clip. The pre-set characters also come with an auto lip-synching function and since this character clip is so short and the character doesn’t move, this was done all automatically in under 20 minutes.

“Easy,” my son called this but, obviously, sometimes 20 minutes can be too long, especially for younger children. I would recommend this program for ages eight and up, depending on their skill level and how much patience they possess. This program occupies my son for hours at a time, a godsend on rainy days or the cold winter in New England. And, when he’s finished, there’s also the satisfaction of having created something completely unique.

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