Dropping Flash to Animate with the Right Tool

"Everything I wished for in Flash was laid out
in Toon Boom Animate." — George Samuels, Freelance Web Designer and Animator

Dropping Flash to Animate with the Right Tool

How long have you been in this profession?

2-3 years

What are your most important accomplishments?

At this point in time, it would have to be my ‘Tales from Nanumea’ series. Nanumea is one of eight islets that make up the Polynesian nation of Tuvalu; my maternal homeland. Due to Global Warming, Tuvalu is on the brink of extinction and, if ocean levels continue to rise, has little time left.

Since many of our people’s stories have been passed down verbally, they have remained silent- until now. It is my goal to get these stories out before our culture and lands are lost. Animation has allowed me to “digitally record” these stories onto a modern medium.

Please describe how you were introduced to animation.

In the late 80s, Gumby was my first real taste of animation, followed by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series. Both these forms of animation tickled my fancy but, as I grew older, computer technology became my passion. So throughout high school, I spent a lot of time programming and learning about computers in general.

However, by the time I graduated, I knew I wanted to combine my technical skills with my artistic abilities (since I had always been known to doodle in my spare time). This led me into the world of web-design. I enjoyed the design processes of static HTML pages but, when Macromedia Flash was introduced, I couldn’t get over the ability to start moving things around more dynamically. This “dabbling” then led me to an interest in character animation.

How is Animate covered in your classroom?

Not at all. Our class’ tool of choice is Adobe Flash CS4 but I felt it was limited in many areas. I learned Toon Boom Animate because I was fed up with Flash, and I wanted a challenge. I heard many people express an interest in Toon Boom Animate but never followed through because of either time or money. I had the time.

How big is your class? How old are your students?

We have a total of 24 students. The ages range between 21 and early 30s.

Do you create animation using Animate only?

For my latest project; yes, but I would love to get my hands on a copy of Animate Pro. Perhaps one day?

If not, what other applications are you using?

My other tool of choice is Adobe Flash CS3/CS4.

Why did you choose to combine these products?

I didn’t

What kind of animation projects do you create?

In terms of content, I always try to create something of value. My main aim is to preserve the culture of threatened nations through modern mediums. With my ‘Tales from Nanumea’ series, it is a way of educating others on the smaller nations that exist in our world. Although we are all aware of stories from larger cultures and civilizations, smaller ones have equally as much to share with us.

What are your top five favorite features in Animate?

Wow, there are many, but if I had to choose five, they would be:

  1. Ability to draw and paint behind strokes
  2. Color management and the ability to change a color/texture, which has been applied to more than one symbol/element
  3. Seamless integration of traditional animation tools (i.e. backlight, annotations, canvas rotation, animation markers, Xsheet, etc.) with digital
  4. 3D space for layering elements (this has really helped put things into “perspective” and, not to mention, keep things in perspective)
  5. Little to no export problems. This was a big plus after working with Flash CS4. It saved me lots of time troubleshooting.

What Animate’s features allow you to distinguish your animation?

Most distinguishably, the snazzy highlights paint tool and the intuitive multi-plane camera.

How fast was the learning curve for you and for you?

Very. I believe that if you are an ex-Flash animator, you will not have too much trouble making the switch. However, I did have to ditch some bad habits, which I picked up while using Flash, and switch my perception on various things. Keeping an open mind is very important. You can’t fill a cup that is already full.

How do you/they feel about the Toon Boom Animate?

God-sent. Everything I wished for in Flash was laid out in Toon Boom Animate. I was a bit nervous about learning the program from the ground up, especially since we were on a tight schedule, and I didn’t have to learn it, but I wanted to kill two birds with one stone: learn a new program and create something of “professional quality” (in terms of look). I believe Toon Boom Animate has helped me to achieve that.

In what type of animation studios are you looking for work?

It would be surreal if I ever got to work with Pixar, Dreamworks, Disney, ILM, LucasArts and/or Naughty Dog but, for now, I would take up anything in 2D or 3D animation. I pick up things relatively fast, so learning new programs is not much of a hurdle for me.

Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time reading through forums and such, just to get a feel as to what people wished they had done, or acknowledged as deeply beneficial, to find that learning traditional animation was one of those things. Therefore, although most of my recent works have been in 2D, I wish to learn as much as I can about animation on a “traditional” level, before moving onto the more advanced 3D.

The skills you pickup while learning animation are priceless. Things like careful observation, which not only improves your ability to portray emotion on screen, also forces you to pay more attention to minute details in your personal life. This connection between my ‘work’ and ‘life’ is what keeps me motivated.

Equipment used

Wacom Intuos 4 (A4), Mac Pro (pre-2008)

About George Samuels

George Samuels is a “third-cultured,” freelance web-designer and animator based in Melbourne, Australia. When not working, he likes to write on his blog, play sports to keep active, read books to stay motivated, meditate to balance emotions, and socialize to prevent being hermitic.