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Anime Studio Pro 8

Platform : Windows Vista, Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, Windows 7, Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, Windows XP

List Price: CDN$ 199.99
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  • Automatic Image Tracing - Speed up production by automatically converting existing artwork and sketches to fully editable vector drawings.
  • Character Wizard - Design fully rigged characters with multiple - views, walk cycles, expressions and more. Access dozens of predesigned components or add your own creations and reusable actions
  • Real Time Media Connection - Imported media files edited in their native applications are automatically recognizedand updated within Anime Studio.
  • Global Rendering Styles - Quickly change the overall design of your animations by choosing from various fill, stroke and layer presets.
  • Powerful Production Tools - Robust bone-rigging tools make character creation and animation easier than ever. Save time with Curve Profile, Follow Path and Stroke Exposure tools, along with automatic line-smoothing features.
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System Requirements

  • Platform:   Windows Vista / 7 / XP, Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, Mac OS X 10.7 Lion
  • Media: Software
  • Item Quantity: 1

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Product Details

  • Item Weight: 118 g
  • ASIN: B0052VKP0W
  • Release Date: June 14 2011
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #243 in Software (See Top 100 in Software)

Product Description

Amazon.ca Product Description

Create High-Quality Animations - Make characters, objects and scenes using powerful vector-based drawing tools. Import your scanned drawings and images, including layered Photoshop files.

From Amazon.ca

Anime Studio Pro 8

Complete Animation for Professionals and Digital Artists
Screenshot
Powerful bone based animation speeds up your workflow. View larger.

Anime Studio Pro is the efficient alternative to time-consuming, frame-by-frame animation. Ideal for professional animators, digital artists and content creators, Anime Studio is equipped with the powerful features you need to produce film, video and online media. Complete your creative arsenal today with this essential application.

Screenshot
The Character Wizard lets you quickly design fully rigged characters with multiple views, walk cycles, expressions and more. View larger.

Anime Studio Improves Workflow with New, Comprehensive Tools

Create High-Quality Animations

Make characters, objects and scenes using powerful vector-based drawing tools. Import your scanned drawings and images, including layered Photoshop files.

Automatic Image Tracing

Speed up production by automatically converting existing artwork and sketches to fully editable vector drawings.

Character Wizard

Design fully rigged characters with multiple views, walk cycles, expressions and more. Access dozens of predesigned components or add your own creations and reusable actions.

Screenshot
The Global Rendering Styles in Anime Studio Pro 8 allow you to easily change the entire look of your animation. View larger.
Real Time Media Connection

Imported media files edited in their native applications are automatically recognized and updated within Anime Studio.

Global Rendering Styles

Quickly change the overall design of your animations by choosing from various fill, stroke and layer presets.

Powerful Production Tools

Robust bone-rigging tools make character creation and animation easier than ever. Save time with Curve Profile, Follow Path and Stroke Exposure tools, along with automatic line-smoothing features.

Screenshot
Browse through existing content or organize your own content using the Library. View larger.

Utilize an Array of Powerful and Versatile Features

Content Library: Organize your files and quickly preview and access ready-to-use bundled content, both locally and on Content Paradise.

3D Integration: Orient and animate OBJ files from your favorite 3D apps. Poser users can add scenes and characters to combine 2D/3D elements.

Integrated Audio Recording: Record sound clips and adjust pitch to fit your characters; automatic lip-syncing is powered by the AST ProductionSync library.

Video Motion Tracking: Attach animated objects to multiple target points in your video and watch them track accordingly throughout the clip.

Screenshot
Automatic Lip-Syncing powered by the AST ProductionSync library. View larger.

Features

New! Automatic Image Tracing

Import your scanned drawings or existing images and photos then convert them to vector drawings with the click of a button. Trace as black and white, color, or edges only and adjust a number of settings to style your vector image. Anime Studio Pro 8 increases production and allows artists to work much faster by automatically converting existing artwork to fully editable vector drawings.

Screenshot
Simulated Physics lets you set the density, gravity, springiness and friction of colliding objects. View larger.
Screenshot
A variety of customizable brush styles make creating original artwork a snap. View larger.
New! Import Photoshop Files

Import your existing Photoshop files complete with layers. Changes made in Photoshop instantly appear in the imported file in Anime Studio, allowing you to continually refine your Photoshop document. Many Photoshop features are supported in the imported PSD files, including blending modes, layer opacity, smart objects and smart filters. Groups are also supported and can be setup in Photoshop to automatically get imported into Anime Studio as switch layers for quick animating.

New! Real Time Media Connection

The new Real Time Media Connection in Anime Studio Pro 8 automatically updates image, movie and audio files in your imported Anime Studio files when edited in an external program. This is a great workflow enhancement for individuals and production studios alike.

New! Global Rendering Styles

Global Rendering Styles allow you to quickly change the overall design of your animations. Choose from various presets such as sketchy, cutout, crayon and more to easily transform the look and feel of your entire animation. Create your own custom combinations by mixing and matching different styles for fills and outlines.

New! Character Wizard

The Character Wizard is the ideal tool for anyone working on concepts or looking for a fast alternative to drawing and rigging each character from scratch. Quickly design your own fully-rigged characters complete with multiple views, walk cycles and more. Select a preset, dial in the body proportions and choose from dozens of predesigned 2D components such as hands, feet, mouths, eyes, noses and heads or load in your own creations to design custom characters. Choose from various clothing choices and custom color combinations, or create a virtually endless amount of unique characters using the Randomize feature. Complete with pre-animated walk, jump, kick and wave cycles. You can also easily create your own animated actions that can be applied to any character created with the Character Wizard.

Screenshot
Automatic Image Tracing instantly converts existing drawings to fully editable vector drawings. Trace as black and white, color or edges only. View larger.
New! Vector Shape Selector

Quickly find and edit vector layers using the Vector Shape Selector. You no longer have to worry about naming each layer to easily find the one you're looking for. Just click on a shape in your project, and the corresponding layer automatically gets selected for editing. This eliminates tedious searching for the layer you want to edit.

New! Enhanced User Interface

Anime Studio 8 introduces new User Interface colors, allowing you to choose from various preset color schemes or create your own. The new Smart Tool Palette provides a less cluttered interface and a better user experience by hiding irrelevant tools, creating a smoother workflow.

Screenshot
Anime Studio Pro 8 offers an intuitive interface packed with powerful features for professional animators and digital artists. View larger.
Screenshot
Import and animate your own video and artwork. View larger.
New! Enhanced Drawing Tools

Combine the freehand tool's smart welding feature with the Delete Edge tool to create complex shapes quickly. This eliminates the need for precise drawing, giving you the freedom to sketch as you desire. Additional brush styles have been included and optional rounded end caps have been added to the drawing tools.

New! Patch Layers

Patch Layers were designed for constructing characters and are similar to masks by allowing you to hide certain parts of a layer. Create each body part separately and then hide the overlapping lines. Adjust the size of the patch to perfectly blend the layers to get the desired style.

New! More 3D Video Rendering Options

Output your rendered 3D movies in various 3D formats for Web and TV. Share your 3d rendered movies on Youtube with full support for Youtube's 3D formats.

New! Scripting Enhancements

Anime Studio 8 offers advanced scripting support and includes several new scripts. More functions and data structures of the program have been exposed through the scripting api, allowing advanced technical users to create tools and add-ons for the program.

  • Audio recording and automatic lip-syncing
  • Simulated Physics gets you animating quickly
  • Create 3D objects from 2D vector layers
  • Content Library features hundreds of ready-to-use characters, props and more
  • Track, zoom, roll, pan and tilt the camera
  • Import Poser Scenes into Anime Studio
  • Pen tablet support simulates drawing on paper
  • Special effects such as motion blur and shadows
  • Import Quicktime, AVI or MPEG-4 video and WAV, AIFF and MP3 audio files
  • Output to formats including NTSC/PAL D1/DV standard and widescreen; HDV and HDTV 720p and 1080p; AVI, MOV, Flash, Stereoscopic 3D and more
  • Upload directly to Facebook and YouTube

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kyoskei on April 28 2013
Format: Software Verified Purchase
Haven't got too into it yet but from what I have gone through it has great instructions on how to perform different functions on the program! Thank you I am satisfied with my selection.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By PATTI on July 15 2014
Format: Software Verified Purchase
I bought this for my grandson,, he doesn't like it ,,said he wanted a drawing one
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 60 reviews
36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
Astonishing quality for the price vs. ToonBoom Feb. 12 2012
By Let's Compare Options Preptorial - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Software Verified Purchase
This is the new, professional version of Anime for animating cartoon characters and other sequences. Comparable products for professionals cost from $600 to over $1,000!

Pros: This new version has many features seasoned animators will like and new students will love. If you have any experience with lower versions or photoshop/ adobe illustrator you'll immediately love the handling of seamless layers. These are a lot like drawing "pieces" of your character, then combining them without worrying about the lines or intersections between the layers.

The export utilities are also amazing, in keeping with previous versions, but with advanced "save as" options for stills, clips, youtube, facebook, etc. If you're an educator or business presenter, pieces can be pulled to supercharge your powerpoint presentations, much like buying templates, but way cheaper! The skeleton and vector features are not as difficult as many professional programs, but they are not easy either.

I'll upload an animated review of this later to illustrate some of the features. To get the most of the program, you'll probably have to invest in a drawing tablet such as 10X6.25 Inches Graphic Drawing TABLET or more professionally Wacom Bamboo Create Pen Tablet (CTH670). The pen tablets come with their own software in some cases, or you can add your favorite tablet software, or interface with Corel Draw or Photoshop Essentials. If you've ever visited KahnAcademy online, you'll see that many of their educational videos were created by animating pen drawings like those you will create on the Bamboo.

You can also draw charts, graphs, curves, etc. and then "give them life" by uploading them to your animation software, in addition to creating stickpeople or skeletons for your character animations. These range from $40 to $150 or more, depending on pixel sensitivity, but for most pros, 1,000 is fine, and the difference in going up to 2,000 or more is negligible even for artists. By outlining (drawing basic forms) your content and then uploading and filling it in, you get a personal touch, and there is no question about intellectual property in your finished product!

Cons: I expect a lot of 1 star reviews from folks who buy this thinking vectors are simple! If you've never animated a single sequence, it will take about 3 months of solid hard work and practice to get the gist of this program, but that is true of any other program using this level of math. In general, Pro 8 fits between 6 and 7 on a difficulty scale of 10 if you intend to use all the features. For simple projects, it is at 3 to 5. NO program that I've tried is below 3!

I have years of experience in A/V and animation, and I'd highly recommend this product for medium to advanced illustrators, and generally recommend it for beginners with a lot of drive and intelligence. To be candid, the price means less risk if you do decide it's too much work! In other words, you could buy a program like toonboom and also give up on it, but be out an extra $500!

How you use this will depend on your objectives, because the software will support so many applications. For example, it will handle both NTSC and Flash, so you can produce both for web and TV applications. If you are a photographer and buy stock images on shutterstock, but have to get additional vector art to customize an image, you'll enjoy the conversion features here, which can take an image, convert it to a vector, customize, then re-save as a jpeg or even put into motion as a flash.

The "dumbed down" version of this software is Anime Studio Debut 8, which is good practice software, also not easy to use, but supposedly for beginners. If you're going to invest that much time, I'd go with this one instead!

A note on 3D: Very few programs, including this one, handle 3D as a native feature. If you're really interested in getting into 3D, consider Blender, the free open source software program, along with a few GREAT new books on the 2.5 and 2.6 releases, including Blender For Dummies, Blender Foundations: The Essential Guide to Learning Blender 2.6 and Introducing Character Animation with Blender

If you're in High School and plan to become a game programmer, this would be a great starting point, with help from an experienced tutor or teacher, to see if you really have the attention to detail and patience to do that kind of work! Don't forget to enhance your animations with your GarageBand compositions, and you're on your way to becoming the next Pixar!

Speaking of becoming the next Pixar, you actually CAN buy the software used in real animated movies here on Amazon if you're willing to spend between $800 and $4,000! Those packages include Lightwave 3D (not true NURBS), Softimage (limited NURBS), Houdini and the King of the Hill, Maya (true polygonal AND NURBS (Maya has credit for Gollum, Davy Jones and Navi in Avatar). If you're that serious, here are a couple links: NewTek LightWave 3D 10 Educational Software with Electronic Manual, Autodesk Maya 2012 -- Includes 1 year Autodesk Subscription-- go for it!

Answer to email question: "Why didn't you compare to Adobe?" I think the writer is talking about Adobe After Effects, available on Amazon here: Adobe After Effects CS5.5. This software is primarily for sweetening videos you take yourself. If you mean combine it with Illustrator, Photo Shop images, etc. yes, that can be a powerful package as long as you're willing to spend over a grand on the CS5.5 entire suite. Otherwise, the programs DO NOT handshake! BEWARE of ever buying ANY Adobe product one at a time, the individual keys keep the programs from handshaking. So the short answer is, these are apples and oranges, but any illustrator, renderer or artist certainly should be aware of After Effects, and I thank you for the head's up! Keep the questions coming, they help folks with some very expensive and important decisions.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Not for beginners April 26 2012
By CGScammell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Software Vine Customer Review of Free Product
My first caveat: this product was way above my understanding of animation. High school students I had spoken to recommended this product. I didn't realize that this required so much additional learning, a good tutor, hours of watching Youtube videos on technique, and watching others work on graphics. Digital graphic artists with a solid foundation would have less trouble than I did.

Downloading this product was easy and I had no issues with the software hindering my other many programs on the computer. What was frustrating is how much I did not know about graphic design, as this product is clearly for more advanced users. More detailed descriptions are required for anyone as new to this as I was.

I will continue to use this product to practice what I have learned. My college kid uses this product with little difficulty. The price is right for home use. For students interested in graphic design/animation, this is a great product.
32 of 40 people found the following review helpful
Over promises, under delivers. March 19 2012
By C. L. Messina - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Software
Good animation is a complex beast and you probably intend to make good animation. There are several ways to animate and there are obviously many different levels of animation skill. I say this because beginning animators may walk around with the assumption that all animation is really the same thing. They may not be aware of Stop Motion, 3D, tweening methods, or even the original labor intensive manual method of simply drawing your idea, frame by frame until you have a finished outcome. The point of this is some animation background is going to go a very long way in making a finished outcome that looks the way you imagined it regardless of the software packages claims. If you've never been shown things like the Muybridge photo studies you may not understand frames and keyframes, and most animation software on the market isn't going to hold your hand through an animation course. I say this to absolute beginners in order to save them a lot of headaches they might have in buying something like this and finding out the hard way that the program isn't going to make cartoons on it's own for them.

So what will the program do?

Anime Studio will import scenery, will allow you to draw vector images, and will import vector images. Just in case you don't know, a vector image is one which can be enlarged or shrunken and still look the same, unlike those pesky JPG photos that get blurry the larger you make them. Vector based tools are an animators friend, especially when you don't know whether your work will be on a pocket sized screen or someone's ginormous palatial-sized HD Flat Screen. In addition to visual support, Anime Studio will compile these images and allow you to add sound to them. Sound comes in handy when a character wants to talk. It will also synch talking sounds with the character's mouth. I know the Japanese didn't really care for this much in the 70's but seems everyone likes it when the words match the shape of the mouth these days.

There are other features (character wizards) that I'll cover as well.

So that's what Anime Studio does. It can't be said otherwise. These are the facts.

Unfortunately, Anime Studio does none of them well. Not a single one. Sorry. I can't say I hate the program but it's like a neighbor who loves to play loud music at 3AM every Wednesday. It's an annoyance you manage to live with if you have to. But rather than complain without explanation I'll tell you my experience with the program.

The interface is boldly ugly. It's a bad hair day in the mid-90's. THANKFULLY Smith Micro (the makers of the program) realized this and gave you the option to change the color of everything. That is definitely a plus, though kind of funny. It's as if they say, 'Here's a very ugly looking program. Feel free to change it anyway you like. We don't know where to start so maybe you can come up with something."

The drawing tools are a bad hack of Adobe products. If you use Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop you'll feel like you just reverted back fifteen years. The tools scream 'We didn't put a lot of thought into this.' Complete amateur hour. The funny thing is that these guys really believe Adobe tools are really what people want. Have they ever opened Autodesk's 'Sketchbook Pro'? THAT'S what drawing tools should look like. Even Corel has a better tool interface.

The drawing tools are inefficient. Yes, you can draw vector shapes but you really have to want it to make anything complicated. It would pain you to compare a real drawing program like Adobe Illustrator to this because you'd see guidelines and perspective grids that actually help you work. You'd see shape tools that allow you to put together complex shapes in seconds. The sad thing is Smith Micro (makers of Anime Studio) knows this. That's why they allow you to import work FROM Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.

But, just to make you laugh for want of crying they don't even do THAT well. Anime Studio will only import Illustrator files (.AI) from AI 8 and older. Adobe illustrator went past 10 versions and doesn't even use two digit numbering. It's currently AI CS 5.5. What that means is when you draw something in Illustrator CS 5.5 that you can't draw in Anime Studio you have to revert back to the old version of Illustrator and will likely loose a lot of things you added because you have the newer version of Illustrator. For example, say you covered your picture with textures (like you wanted a 'steel' looking guy, took a picture of steel, 'painted' his body using this pic) and imported the pic into Anime. Well, guess what? Your man of steel is now a man of nothing because the steel texture is gone. Anime Studio can't handle it. You're going to have to repaint that in Anime studio and it's simply not going to look as good. The same goes for importing Adobe Photoshop work. You're going to loose some features in the transition. And then you ask yourself, 'what all exactly am I going to loose?' But we'll get to that. First let's cover the Photoshop import.

Say you want to import a Photoshop picture. It's not going to happen... UNLESS you are aware that they made a plug in that you have to download and place in your Photoshop script files. Did they tell you this when you bought the software? But wait, we'll get to that too.

So the drawing ability sucks and the program hassles you when you import files. "But what about the 'vectorization' (tracing) option? Isn't that a great feature?" You say. Don't tell anyone at Smith Micro that Adobe Illustrator already has that same function and it does it much better. There are tons of free programs out there that will turn a picture of any sort into a vector file. Some do it better than others and Illustrator kicks Anime Studio around on that number. Don't even try to compare Anime Studio with a real vector transformation program like Vector Magic because Anime Studio will look like a toy.

And here's one of my biggest issues with the program. Let's say you have something more than a simple ball you want to import. Let's even say the picture/object is from a photo. When you vectorize it you will have an option of how many colors you want to use. That is, vectorizing ANY photo with ANY vectorization program will loose some detail- some more than others. You loose lines and color. And then you ask yourself, how much am I willing to loose to keep it looking the way I like? Well, when you import into Anime Studio 8 you're going to loose a lot. It doesn't want to allow you more than 7 colors. So if you have your nifty image that still looks a little 'cartoony' using 256 colors, by the time it gets into Anime Studio it will look like your 3 year old drew it, and that's IF you can even get it into Anime Studio. The more colors/lines you use the quicker Anime Studio is to completely reject the object, throw up it's hands and say, 'Uncle!' It simply won't import much complex vector artwork. It doesn't want to. It wants you to draw inside it's little sandbox and vectorize in it's own little sandbox. It doesn't play well with others.

So you try to come to terms with it, right? That's rational. You say, 'OK, I'll do things your way. I'll use your jackhammer to do my dental surgery.' So you ask it, 'how can I work with you?' And guess what? It tells you to 'F Off!' because there's no instruction manual that's going to tell you jack squat about anything in the program.

Do you remember that neat sales video that told you all you can do in Anime Studio? Remember how it kind of went through everything at a million miles an hour to tell you all the features? That's the way all their tutorials are. And they don't explain anything. They tell you about a feature but not how to actually use it and apply it to anything and they race by at a lightening pace. You could always buy the manual they sell separately for around $50, but is that the level Western civilization has come to? And after you've seen any of their tutorial videos would you really expect to get your money's worth? How much can you risk?

So there is a 'character wizard' feature but they really don't tell you how to use it and from what I've read there's not much you can do with it in terms of personalizing a character anyway. Those pathetic characters you see in the pic next to the description are pretty much all you're getting out of it- not that I want the program to make my characters for me.

Anime studio also offers lip-syching support with a plugin (Papagayo) that's actually a freeware program you can use with any animation software. The results are so-so and of course the Debut users are lucky to get even the so-so results.

And keep in mind, this program ISN'T going to get you all the way to home base with your animation anyway. It will have trouble putting together the massive file you will need in anything greater than 3 minutes unless you're doing VERY basic work. You will likely need some kind of post-production movie editing software (e.g. Sony Vegas, Adobe Premier, Corel Video Studio, Final Cut, etc.) to splice it all together. And, if you are crazy enough to want music or voice overs that don't sound amateurish you'll likely need some kind of audio editing software (I'm a big fan of Accoustica Mixcraft).

What I find most fascinating is how Anime Studio Debut (the less expensive 'beginner' version) is pretty much the same complex, user-unfriendly, inefficient, ugly, confusing software with a handful of features disabled. Anything that Studio pro should make easier is missing in the Debut which would rationally make the Debut software harder to use. Good way to bring in new budding animators.

So after my scathing review what positive can be said? I think it's better to say Anime doesn't deliver half of what it promises and it could do well to not promise so much. Unless you confuse South Park type animation with a Vermeer painting then you would do well to find something more powerful for more money. Mind you, some people WANT to do very simple animation, with simple colors, simple music and simple sound. And that's great. This program CAN do that for you. You're going to have to put in a lot of work to get there using Anime Studio, perhaps more than necessary with this program, yet it can be done. But let's not kid ourselves. If you're really a professional animator and want to make a serious project you're going to be buying manuals and using a big host of other software to try to squeeze a quality finished project out of AS Pro 8, and you're going to have to fuss quite a bit with the program to do it. Do you really want to create 100 vector art samples, import them applying various file types with different color settings to see what the maximum color limit AS Pro 8 can safely handle/import? How big do you want your project to grow before you see it teetering and nearly crashing destroying all your work?

Some compare this with toe-to-toe against Flash and Toon Boom. To be fair I haven't tried either but am in the process of trying both. They ARE more expensive but if the features actually do what they say they will or even 'handshake' with other programs better than AS Pro 8 then they're worth it. And as I said, most stand alone animation programs aren't the end of the software dollars you're going to put into the project. At least I can say Toon Boom and Adobe Flash tutorials can actually make you proficient in their software rather than leave you guessing. There is some value in that and yes, you should expect to pay for value, even in these days of torrent searches, key generators and pirated copies.

So my final synopsis (sorry it took so long), do yourself a favor and TRY at least 5 different animation software applications before putting a single cent into ANY animation software. There are even several FREE animation software packages out there. I know it's a pain and you want your animation made 'NOW NOW NOW', but your animation likely isn't going to be made just 'NOW NOW NOW' anyway. If you're a newb you'll quickly and painfully find that out soon enough. Only after trying different software will you know what your animation project needs.

If I had the option of buying this knowing what I know there's no way I'd make the purchase. Oh yeah, and the upgrade costs nearly as much as buying it new. Between that, the lack of a user manual and the useless tutorials this company has a joke of a business model. Surely this must be their redheaded stepdog software project and the money comes from somewhere else.

--
Update 19March12:
A common theme I hear is "Man, this software is a STEAL compared to Toon Boom and Flash Pro!" I didn't even question that mantra because the fact is Toon Boom is running at $1200 and Flash at $700. Seems like a slam dunk decision to go with AS Pro 8 right? Start with something cheap and work toward something more ambitious as your skills grow, right?

The whole picture is actually a little different in regards to Toon Boom. Toon Boom comes in three flavors: beginner, medium and Pro. The Pro version is expensive ($1200 at present), but the medium version is only $700 (comparable in price to Flash) and the beginner (Toon Boom Studio 6) is only $200. So the question is what are you getting for $200? I'll tell you, I wished I'd have spent my AS Pro 8 money there. Same features as AS Pro, WAYYYYYYY better interface, PROFESSIONAL tutorials by people who actually work to make sure you learn something from them and a great company who make a living by focusing on Animators first. NIGHT and DAY compared with Smith Micro. But see, I fell for the 'Toon Boom is the industry standard but is Way more expensive' hook. BALONEY!!!!! Yeah, the pro version is more expensive but AS Pro 8 is actually more comparable to Toon Boom Studio whose support alone blows AS Pro 8 out of the water.

I reiterate, try at least 5 programs (even crazy talk, if you really want easy stuff). Any reputable company lets you try before you buy, but I have to say I'm of the ilk who finds intuitive software valuable. I'm really leaning toward Toon Boom.
--

Update 21 March 2012:
Toon Boom and Adobe Flash have great trial periods. Toon Boom allows you to try all versions of the software and gives you extra time to 'learn' the medium and pro versions via placing a watermark on your work. Wait? A fair method of allowing you to get familiar with software? With tutorials that actually walk you through real projects at no extra cost? And extra tutorial training available should you need it? How can this be? How can their business model survive? Oh, and wait, not to mention same day (actually same 10 minute) live help desk support?

I took the plunge and bought Toon Boom Pro. And guess what? They had it on sale: 25% off. After only a couple of days I fell in love with the program. I planned to buy it for full cost, it went on sale and I jumped. It's worth everything they say it is. Now if I can only get a refund for AS 'Pro' 8.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
A powerful alternative to Flash that costs a lot less. Feb. 22 2012
By BBP - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Software Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Anime Studio Pro 8 is an amazing piece of animation software and more so because it is so affordable. I haven't been this excited about an artist tool in a long time. Along with a tablet like the Wacom Intuos4 Small Pen Tablet and some artistic ability, this is all you need to start making great-looking animations. At $100, it's a viable alternative to much more expensive tools like Adobe Flash Pro CS5.5 which costs well over $500. Now you don't have to break the bank to learn animation or benefit from the power of industrial-strength animation package. Many of the features in here are found only in high-end professional graphics programs (like image trace, found in Adobe Illustrator). For one price, you get 2 CDs: both the Windows and the Mac version. This is great for people with multiple workstations. I don't have to choose which version to buy (like I do with Adobe's Creative Suite) and can work however I want and on whichever platform I want. There's also no annoying server activation. Just enter the serial number at start up and you're good to go. You don't have to transfer activations or worry about reformatting your drive and losing your install rights.

Current Flash users should not have much of a learning curve, but if you're new to animation software, you're going to have to play with the software for several months to really master it. The included printed documentation is just a 10-page booklet that goes over installation and tool icons, commands and shortcuts. The actual PDF you get once you install the software is a 500 page monster!

I'll talk mostly about how this product compares to Flash because it's the animation program I have the most experience with (using CS5 at the office, CS3 at home, learned on Macromedia Flash 5 10+ years ago!). First and foremost is that Anime Studio Pro is mostly a vector-based drawing program. You can work with bitmaps and raster artwork of course, but the real power is working with vector shapes. All the tools are very nicely laid-out and should be familiar to anyone who's used an art program. Adobe users should feel right at home with the tools palettes and timeline. Drawing in vector is a very different process from bitmap drawing, which has no Bezier curves and grab handles for editing shapes. What's really interesting is that you can modify and animate strokes (the outline) separately from the fill! You can't do that in Flash. Another great feature is the ability to change camera angles and perspectives and do pans, zooms, etc. all in the timeline. Flash can't do this either.

Animation is by nature a very time-consuming, pain-staking endeavor and you can spend hours just to produce a few seconds of finished animation, but Anime Studio Pro has many tools that make the job easier and more fun. Both software make use of bones and inverse kinematics (Flash since CS4), which are a great aid in animating body parts and deforming/bending objects. I have CS3 at home, which does not have the bones rigging feature and I can tell you, it's very labor-intensive to animate certain things like arms/knees bending. Anime Studio Pro also has physics modeling which is a very powerful animation tool that Flash lacks (unless you write some ActionScript). It takes all the tediousness out of animating natural movements like objects falling, collisioning and bouncing down stairs because you can set all these in dialog boxes. Using one of the pre-rigged characters, you can see him tumbling down the stairs like a ragdoll. It integrates with Photoshop and Poser, which I haven't had the chance to try out yet.

On the CD are 5 tutorial videos, each about 4-5 minutes (also on their website). The bones rigging tutorial is very useful and gives you a hint of just how powerful this animation technique is. Another tool that you can have great fun with is the character wizard which lets you create characters very quickly without drawing your own artwork. Just drag some sliders around to customize the face, clothing, eyes, hair, etc. Studio Pro exports as Flash and Quicktime movies so you're all set for getting your animations onto the web and YouTube. With this software, South Park-styled animation is very feasible (though the actual show is produced with Autodesk Maya).

As an advanced user, I wanted more information on scripting (based on Lua), but it looks like it's restricted to making tools and plugins and not at all like Flash's very powerful scripting language ActionScript 3.0. Other than that, highly highly recommended for students as well as professionals. If you are a parent considering this for your child, do not hesitate to buy this and a Wacom tablet. It is a great learning tool and animation skills are very useful in the job market. It's a very small investment to make in his/her future, or your own, if you are evaluating this product for yourself.

UPDATE: Importing from Illustrator or EPS is terrible. I tried to import a simple flat-color illustration (of a bird) and a corporate logo, saved as legacy EPS and Illustrator formats. Both ended up being mangled (upside down elements, curves turned into straight lines, colors wrong. Ugh. They have to work on compatibility.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
People Don't Get It June 15 2012
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Software
I thought I'd take a minute to write a quick review, solely because I just read all of the negative ones here and wanted to add my two cents. I bought the older version (7) because it was dirt cheap and would at least let me make some animations. I received it three days ago, and I've already animated two brief scenes. I have NO prior animation experience, except for the frame-by-frame "fun" animator that comes free with Bamboo tablets. I do have a lot of art experience, and experience with music software/production. To me, this software is pretty simple. Like any artistic software, it requires you to think creatively... solve problems. Is it frustrating at first? Sure... a little bit. What isn't?

But these reviewers who act like the program won't perform, or will limit your animations, are just fooling themselves. They are probably pretty bad when it comes to art in general.

Are you a good artist? Then I bet you will love Anime Studio Pro. Some of the examples of animations (on Youtube, etc.) made with this program look pretty horrible... but that's because they were made by a person with limited artistic abilities. This program, like anything else in the software world, is subject to the same law: Garbage In, Garbage Out.

You can't shovel garbage into this program and then be surprised when it doesn't spit out an episode of "King of the Hill"

This program requires artistic ability and an understanding of linear editing/timelines, etc. That's about it.

So... I'm loving it. For under 30 bucks, I can now make cartoons.

I highly recommend Anime Studio Pro (version 8 might be better, but version 7 is a steal)