Adobe Animate vs Alternatives
Adobe Flash, recently re branded into Adobe Animate, was first created by the Future Wave Company in 1996. Since then, digital animation has become a multi-billion dollar industry, with entire schools centered on learning to animate and perfecting the art of using a computer to make moving and interactive images. As time has gone on, however, more and more animation platforms have arisen, and while most animators have a preference on which studio they use, a lot of new animators or those looking to make a switch have no idea which program will be right for them.
A fairly well recommended program is Digicel’s FlipBook. Endorsed and used by animation greats like Don Bluth, it has focused on perfecting two-dimensional animation for almost twenty years. FlipBook is first and foremost designed for producing traditional frame by frame animations, by either scanning in your paper drawings to be colored, or drawing straight into the software itself. It is a step away from flash-style animation, as it is based almost entirely on working with frame by frame sketch animations and without any form of programming or motion tweening. FlipBook also has built-in features that make coloring and special effects easy, such as automatic color changing palettes and drag fills, and special effects layers with built in rim lighting and shading tools. Many artists suggest this program as a first animation program if you are more interested in traditional frame-by-frame style animations. It has multiple versions, ranging from a free trial version to a three hundred dollar professional version, used at many animation studios including Disney.
Another basic two-dimensional animation studio is Synfig, a free open-sourced studio with basic features shared with almost every other animation program. While it may be very plain, it is easy to use, and claims to be the best artist-oriented motion tween studio for a beginning animator. With little to no recommendation from anyone else, this program seems like a free program to try a few times and then move on to a slightly better studio.
Adobe stopped development on another animation studio called Edge Animate in November 2015, but many animators still use it because of its expansive HTML animation tools. According to the Adobe Edge forums, “The edge product focuses exclusively on HTML5 whereas Flash Pro is a mixture of both. If you only need HTML5 animation, then you can simply use Edge products. If you ever need to create Flash SWF content, it’s nice to have both packed into the larger Flash Pro product.” The forum also states that the old Flash program had trouble exporting responsive HTML files, whereas Edge was built to create and export HTML files. On top of that, they state that Flash did not accept SVG (scalable vector graphics), while Edge did. Those three factors point to Edge being the better tool for designing HTML animations. Flash did, however, have better drawing and design tools in addition to animation tools, and had a better, more intuitive interface for the user. Edge also lacked a few of the most basic Adobe tools, such as a zoom tool and a hand tool. Edge also could not preview actions, such as loops and clicks, without exporting your file. Though both of these programs are outdated now, at the time the animation community was split when it came to which program to use for HTML animations.
After Effects, another Adobe animation platform, is also used as an Animate alternative. However, Animate is mainly an interactive and programming animation system now, whereas After Effects is an animation program that uses keyframes on a linear timeline, meaning the produced animation is not interactive and simply plays to completion and stops. “Animate’s output is a file that can be manipulated, often desired or necessary for web interfaces. You can program a button in Flash that will run a movie that was created in AE,” according to the After Effects forum on the Adobe website. It also states that Animate creates primarily vector animations and is more suited for interactive material, like animated webpages or so-called “flash games”. After Effects creates primarily raster-based pixel animations, and so it is highly suited to film editing and visual effects. One writer on the forum states that both AE and Animate can be used together in tandem. “You can program a button in Flash that will run a movie that was created in AE. You can program a button in Flash that sits on top of a movie that was created in AE.” The user stated that when they animate they tend to create a character or a scene in Animate, and then transport it into AE to create a more feasible, rich, three-dimensional stage around it. After Effects sells for a monthly plan of nineteen dollars, or a prepaid year for two hundred and forty dollars.
Another rapidly growing animation studio is an independent program called Toon Boom. While the program itself has mixed reviews from animators, many users greatly enjoy its updated features, such as three-dimensional camera angles and automatic synch with audio. Others criticize it for having minimal frame-by-frame animations support, and a particularly difficult user interface to navigate. Many users who use tablets to draw their animations prefer Toon Boom because it has more natural drawing tools, but the difficult interface seems to really keep prospective users at bay. A user from Animation World Network says, “I really hate the interface compared to Animate. It seems overly convoluted to me, especially when I was trying to do symbol-type animation. I’m just at a point where I know Animate like the back of my hand, and I’d rather just keep using it as opposed to learning an all new interface and keyboard shortcuts for the same result.” Other users, however, praise Toon Boom for its intelligent features, such as a tool for detecting line weight in scanned art. Toon Boom seems to be built specifically for two-dimensional character animation, which makes it great for that purpose, but lacking in many other forms of animation. Another user on AWN states that the preference of Toon Boom to Animate is “down to style – if you want the clean lines and solid color of vector art, I’ve yet to see a vector drawing program that is better and more efficient than Animate. If, however, you’d like to preserve the variation in line-weight and color grading of hand-drawn art, use Toon Boom. Flash is a strange hybrid, used for web ads and website UI’s as much as character animation. I use it now, but I’ve tried ToonBoom, and it acts like a high level paint program.” Toon Boom has many different versions, from their lite version to their professional version. It ranges in price from fifteen dollars a month to seventy three dollars a month for a premium membership.
Adobe does, however, offer some very helpful other incentives to use their products. It has its very own library and swatch tabs, and allows you to use their stock images in any animations without paying any extra royalties. These, among other things, are newer additions to Animate after it was rebranded from the old Adobe Flash. While not always necessary, they are very helpful to have when designing and creating an important animation project, and can be extremely useful when trying to save money and not accidentally use an image that you have to pay for.
While the programs named were just a few of the possible interfaces up for use in the animation field, they all tend to have a singular focus. Adobe Animate is one of the only programs that offers not only HTML design but also tweening, programming, frame-by-frame, and more. The biggest determining factor in finding the best program for you is what exactly you want to do. If you lean more towards frame by frame animations, FlipBook might be a good starting place for you. If you have more experience and want to try something with more features, Toon Boom might be best. If you prefer tweening animations, starting with a free trial of Adobe Animate is probably the best place for you. The most important thing is experimenting and trying things out so you can get a feel for what you want to try doing before you jump right in and purchase an animation platform. There are hundreds of free drawing studios that you should try first before jumping into animation. Getting a feel for digital art before you start is very important, but the most important thing is knowing what kind of animation you want to focus on before you begin. After you decide on a program, take a look at all of the different versions. Not everyone needs the three hundred dollar professional animation studio when they are just beginning. Start out with the lowest grade version, and if it isn’t enough for you, work your way up until you find the version that is perfect for your aspirations.
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