Flash sucks, but are there better alternatives?

Right now I’m working in my spare time on what’s supposed to be Potterthon4. But I’m in a standstill. Why? Because I’m at a point where I have written in a sequence that needs simple 2D-animation and I am ready to throw my wacom-tablet out my window…

Of course I wouldn’t go for that kind of drastic measures because it’s not the tablet that’s the problem. It’s instead every program I have tried to use it with. At least the ones that say that they are meant for 2D-animation. They just don’t work.

Flash

At first I of course went for the granddaddy of 2D animation for computers since the first heyday of Newgrounds. But I wonder a little if Adobe has simply lost touch with it’s users here.

For while it works the best of all the programs I have tried today, I still feel like I constantly are kindof tricking it into behaving as an animation software. And flailingly failing badly in the process. Here I’ll be drawing away, adding empty keyframes, drawing lines, filling with color and BOOM! Suddenly… It doesn’t work. Desperately I look around the settings. I see no difference from before. I look down at the timeline, yes it’s at the right place, right layer and all that. But suddenly, instead of selecting the outline it selects the whole object. And I cannot see why.

And constantly there’s annoyances like that that totally kills any kind of productivity. Needless to say, after spending 5 hours working and only having 5 frames of rough animation to show for it I said WOOSAAAAH! and simply walked away. And started searching for alternatives.

Pencil

Now, while I am fed up with the annoyances of flash I still want it’s advantages. So I try to find something that simply a simpler version of flash. Something that’s not evolved into the beast of application-production that flash has become. And being on a tight budget at the moment I included the word “free” in the google search-terms.

What I got was three alternatives, first being Pencil. And while at first it seems like the perfect selection of simple features I soon did a facepalm. There are no way to set up the canvas for a custom aspect ratio to see it while animating. And that’s kindof a big thing! I want to know where my boundaries are damnit!

SynFig

Then, I went on to the next one, and this was even more bewildering… Not only doesn’t the name relate to anything animation-related I have heard of but I couldn’t get anything out of it. When I click the canvas the layers-tablet disappears underneath the window. There seems to be no way to add frames. I quite frankly went lost and had no idea what to do to get anything whatsoever! Can I add layers? No. Can I choose the current frame? No. Or can I? again. I have no Idea. And I hope that some kind of improvement here is in the works soon. As they want people to do features with it

Plastic Animation Paper (PAP4.0)

Of the three alternatives I prefer this one the most by far. It’s designed to do frame by frame animation PERIOD. This means that anything other than drawing frames needs to be done in some other program. And you know what? I can live with that. But here comes the kicker… no coloring, only pixels.

What does this mean? Well, coloring in photoshop becomes a slow and tedious process. Lines often need to be anti-aliased to not appear jagged on screen so there are no clear lines for the paint bucket to stick use as boundaries.This results in weird haloes around lines that need to get filled in by hand and what in flash would be a one-click-process (when it works) becomes a 30 second tracing tedium for each and every area of color. And as I said, I do this on my spare time, and that spare time is finite.

The team behind PAP4.0 boasts the action-thriller Princess as a credit and I hope that they are motivated to bring their product to the next logical level, without falling for the lure to add distracting features. My advice: add vector-drawing and coloring. Leave the compositing and editing to dedicated programs (or “apps” as they call them today). Doitalls seldom masters anything. And I would like this one to really master frame-by-frame 2d animation.

So where do I go from here?

Well, for a few minutes I thought I would go for the route of animating using Photoshops animation-frame-interface. But Then I remembered the tediousness of that process. Setting up folders of layers for each and every frame and no real way to let portions of a frame spill over to the next frame in an easy manner.

So instead I’m back at square one. Trying to coax Flash into letting me animate. Jumping through the illogical series of hoops that it sets up at random intervals. And on my list of software-priorities to buy are added at the top: Toonboom Animate. It seems to have what I want, but just too big an investment right now.

If anyone actually read through these ramblings of a frustrated mind, I want to ask you this: Can you recommend anything that will do the bare essentials of animation? I want to have frame by frame, import guide-pictures as backgrounds, onion-skinning, vector-based drawing, coloring and full HD renders with alpha channels. I don’t care for editing, audio or multiplanes at this point… I do that in dedicated programs anyway. But my main concern is that it should have a intuitive working interface.

Woosaah

Seeyah!

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