There is almost no easy animation software when you are serious about it. Animation is an extremely complex area with an often mind-boggling variety of terminology and any animation package worth its salt is bound to require a steep learning curve. Whichever package you choose, be it 2D or 3D, make sure it comes with plenty of tutorials, hints, and tips.
This brief lineup, in no particular order of preference, is aimed at hobbyists, enthusiasts, and new to the field. Hopefully there is something for all tastes and pockets. The build is not exhaustive, excluding some of the more expensive heavyweights like Maya, Lightwave, and 3D Studio Max; but many of the products listed are free or moderately priced, have good reputations, and are designed to inspire creativity.
- ANMIE STUDIO PRO (2D) Create cartoon, anmie and cutout animations with ease. Add skeletons with the click of a mouse. Import Photoshop files with layers intact and create characters from scratch with the Character Wizard. Anmie Studio has excellent lip-sync capabilities, generous multi-sound formats along with full YouTube support.
- Other popular animation programs with strong YouTube support include, GO ANIMATE (2D), XTRA-NORMAL (3D), and MUVIZU (3D). All three programs let you create animations without the need for expensive equipment or specialized training, and Muvizu, which is free, provides high-quality sets complete with complex character animation and the ease of collaborating on productions.
- MOVIESTORM, an innovative 3D software program, is aimed at amateur filmmakers who want to make high-quality animated movies and provides the perfect tool for learning about film and television production. Other 3D software packages also popular with artists and filmmakers are DAZ STUDIO (3D) and ICLONE 5 (3D). Iclone 5 is a real-time 3D animation tool with digital actors, visual effects, and motion capture compatible with Microsoft Kinect, while Daz Studio lets you create stunning digital artwork and animations and is currently free.
- For good lighting and camera effects, try SYNFIG (2D). The ambition of the Synfig developers was to create animation software capable of producing cinematic-quality results. Synfig is an open source vector based animation program and it is free.
- Now, if you can, watch the “Big Buck Bunny” cartoon strip and the “Elephants Dream” short film to see why BLENDER (3D) is a legend in the world of 3D animation software. Software to compete with the big boys, freely available with a huge fan base and lots of tutorials and support.
- For the more adventurous, CRAZYTALK (2D/3D) is a photo to animation engine where you can turn photos, sketches, statues, anything into animatable characters. Media can be inserted directly into the scene, and the program supports a variety of formats. Similarly, Morpheus animation software (2D/3D) will transform your photos into other things, like cartoons or animals. Mix, blend and exaggerate the body parts. Watch a person become someone, or something else.
- Do you remember King Kong and the Empire State Building? Well, if you like STOP-MOTION photography, then IstopMotion (3D) for Macintosh is worth considering. With IstopMotion you can work with your Mac’s built-in camera or import photos to create your animations. You can even turn your iPad, iPhone or iPod touch into a High Definition camera…
- A free 2D animation package with drawing tools similar to Photoshop is PENCIL. Pencil supports vector and bitmap graphics and has proven to be an excellent introductory animation tool. With pencil, you can create traditional hand-drawn animations on most computing platforms, including Mac OS.
- Another 2D replacement for traditional light table and paper animation is PLASTIC ANIMATION PAPER (PAP) 4, which is currently free to download. Currently, CREATOON 3 (2D), which uses the cut-out animation process, is also free to download (but without technical support).
- Finally, a good example of a solid 2D animation program that is known for its depth and quality of technical support is TOON BOOM STUDIO. An excellent app made for animators, by animators.