Various Suggested Improvements

Here’s some suggestions for ToonBoom Studio improvements:

(1) Add Autosave

(2) Copy peg-keyframes
Don’t seem to be able to do this…would be useful: peg-keyframe copied from one frame but pasted to another frame for the SAME element.

(3) Copy and move animation sequences
Loop and Cycle kind of work. Why not let users select set of elements nested within one parent peg and then paste to a start keyframe that you select.

(4) Import and vectorize ALL layers in Photoshop PSD file
Put each Photoshop Layer into a separate ToonBoom element and give the element the same names as the Layer.

(5) Nest audio inside parent peg
Just neatens up complex animations with multiple audio. If you copy and move (or loop) animation sequence then audio is copied and coved as well. For instance, if you have a character walking and he makes a squeaking noise as his legs move, then that should be bound to that character peg and repeated in any Loops.

(6) Add flash animation to ToonBoom that shows ALL the features that ToonBoom Studio supports. This will make it MUCH easier for potential buyers to fully appreciate what the product can do.
Include background scene; nightime pallete; rising sun; foreground characters (jumping rabbit?); daytime pallette change; drop-shadows; darkened shading on character outlines; traditonal animated character moving right to left BEHIND rabbit; cut-out animation; camera zoom and pan; audio.
A 1,000 times clearer than all the text. The image could then be used for all related tutorials for consistency.

(7) Option for high-level “video-editing” timeline view
This would help first-timers and also final stage editing of animations.

It would give a very clean high-level view (what first timers need) but would allow a user to delve into the low level detail when they feel comfortable. This si the opposite whay that ToonBoom tutorials work - start in the weeds and then work up.

For first-timers, have above “promo” animation load in ToonBoom, but shown on a very simple timeline, similar to a basic video editor. The normal cell-based timeline is hidden. The frame numbers are marked at the top of the timeline. At the top right corner is a frame counter. Below it are the animation properties (camera size and No. of frames per second).
Include a very basic “video player” style set of controls (play, rewind etc.).

Each animated character (rabbit, kid etc.) is shown as a “blob” (ok it’s a template but they don’t need to know for now) on different tracks of the timeline. Pass the mouse over the “blob” and the name of the animation element/character appears. Select the “blob” and a highlight color (say red) appears around the “blob”. At ther same time the camera side/top-view show the element as a line with the matching colour (rather than green on green). This would make it clear the relationship between the various views.

Just changing the frame rate or moving the “blobs” around on the timeline will be easy and intuitive. Moving elements on the camera side/top view will also be clear.

Right-mouse-click the animation “blob” and there are various options, such as:
Repeat animation (with option for starting position of each loop)
Copy/Cut/Delete etc.
Flip drawing
Flip animation path

At this stage it will be very easy to move animation sequences around on the timeline or simpy repeat them, or copy them to another “track” on the timeline. First-timers would be able to create multiple rabbits or kids appearing at different locations (front, back right, left) of scene, and at different times. All this without reading a single tutorial.

It would also be easier for 3rd-party companies (or ToonBoom) to sell pre-made “blobs” of animations - not just cut out templates (without anchor points or animation). You could just drag and drop “blobs” from the library on to the ‘video editor’. Even if you can’t draw, animate, or, are completely brain dead, you’d still be able to put together a neat animation very, very quickly.

ToonBoom could also host a site that allows ToonBoom users to sell or trade animation “blobs”. In fact, if there were enough third-party “blobs” you’d never have to even draw or set anchor points. The market for animation just got a whole lot bigger $$$$

You could also sell these basic animation features in a stripped down version of ToonBoom studio (without option to edit underlying animation blobs). You’d then have the same code base (lower maintenance costs) for both products $$$$ Great for kids.

Ok, let’s say that you select a “blob” in the timeline and select “Edit”. This might result in the traditional (cell centric) timeline to appear below, just as it does when editing a template from the library.

The user is now being slowly introduced into the low level details. Rather than the rather cryptic method of saving a template (top-level menu, Global Template Save [what the heck does that mean]) just put a Save and a Save As button on the lower right corner of the timeline.

The user can now play around with the elements within a “blob” and see the results. Doesn’t look good? Simple, press the reset button. An associated tutorial would be available if you need more help on each of the “blobs”.

If a user gets more experienced he/she may choose not to use the high-level video editing view. but I still think it has value, making it much clearer, in a complex animations, what is happening when.

(6) Add flash animation to ToonBoom that shows

Should read

(6) Add flash animation to ToonBoom WEBSITE that shows

(8) Provide a greater level of synchronization between the Timeline and the “Side and Top View” windows.

(a) When you select a drawing element in the Timeline, there should be an option to get the Top/Side View window to center (zoom or move) to show the green line representing that object. If the drawing is positioned a large distance behind the other elements, you end up trying to scroll around the Top/Side View windows, desperately looking for the one green line that’s slightly darker than all the other green lines.

(b) When you hide a drawing element on the timeline (remove tick in box) you should also have the option to have it removed from view on the Top/Side View. Why? Because when you have a large number of elements in the same location, it’s difficult to select and move that one element out of all the other elements.

(9) Enable the keyboard arrow keys for navigation on the Timeline.
If you want to scroll from one frame to another within one element. why not be able to use the right or left arrow keys? Same with scrolling from one element to another…

Alteration to point (2) above.

The real issue is that the Peg Cells don’t have a Context Menu that’s consistant with the other cells on the timeline. On a Drawing Cell the context menu lists “copy” and “paste” as an option. The Peg Cell context menu does not.

Also, if you select multiple cells over multiple elements, the default context menu is for a Peg. In other words no copy and paste options.

However, you can copy a peg keyframe and groups of cells using the Main Meu:Edit:Copy, or keyboard shortcut Ctrl-C. Pasting is more complicated and the keyboard shorcut Ctrl-V only works on a single Peg Cell (e.g. with keyframe). Anything else and you need to use the main menu paste option(s).

It would be good to have the context menus consitent between peg and Drawing cells.

(10) Reducing project size: List file size on the “Import and Vectorize” window AFTER vectorization. OR at least give some idea how big it is.
That would provide a warning to users about importing an overly large bitmap. You can obviously select the properties of the bitmap file during the import process but is easy to forget. It also doesn’t take into account how the vectorization import affects file sizes. A simple test of importing a PNG file resulted in a vectorized image about 6-8xs as big. Import of a jpeg resulted in a vectorized image of about 46xs as big.

(11) Reducing project size: Have a option/tool to help user reduce size of project
Just highlighting (as an option) the drawing elements that are above a certain size threshold would be helpful to focus your efforts. (The only other option seems to be to look inside the project/Drawing directory.

(12) Reducing project size: Have option to show template size in the library
Doesn’t need to be highly accurate - just a general indication would help

A number of the above seem to have been addressed in v4.5 - which is encouraging.

(13) Clarify Tools and their purpose
Make it more clear which tools should be used for what and when.

If you select the Scene Planning Tool, ALL of the tools are available n the left hand side (including drawing tools). Switch to the Drawing workspace and the Rotation, Transform, Motion tool buttons are not greyed-out to show they are not used in that view. (Obviously, if you click on them, they do nothing but it would be clearer if they were greayed out).

What would help many people is if the tools on the left hand side of the workspace were grouped and labelled, something along the lines of:
- Drawing/Design
- Character Rigging/Positioning
- Animation

(14) Simplify/clarify the workspace concept
Since you can do almost everything in the Scene Planning workspace, all other pre-defined workspaces are kind of redundant. Additional workspaces also makes it confusing for first time users (It’s not clear, for instance, how you progress through various stages of development in order to create an animation. In fact the stages are different in traditional and cut-out animation, adding to the confusion).

It is useful to be able to create customized workspaces, with a given set of tools and layout, but it makes less sense to have predefined workspaces like Drawing and Default. In the case of the Drawing workspace you really only want to ‘remove all the elements apart from the one I’ve selected’, and that could be achieved with a simple button.

If you intend on continuing to use Pre-defined Workspaces then you might want to add one specifically for “Rigging/Staging” a Cut-out character. In this case, the Motion/Skew/Transform tools will be greyed out. The main tools left will be the “Select” and “Rotation” tools. In the background will be an outline of a box or the “Staging” area (see below). Rather than try to work out whether a cut-out character’s initial position is relative to the drawing grid, one of the camera views, or something else, you’d have everything relative to the staging area.

You could clarify the workflow further, by using a principle used in many video editing products: a series of work-flow buttons at the top of the GUI: Such as, Creating, Cut-out Rigging, Filming, Output. A customized workspace would then be relative to a stage of production. This might be an option for first time users, but removable by more experienced people.

(15) Consistency on Timeline
Drop shadow, Color Transform, Peg, Sound elements should all have similar editing properties.

For instance, you can select a frame within a peg element and use the context menu to add a keyframe. You cannot presently select a Color Transform frame in order to place a keyframe. You have the select the frame of the child drawing element, select the context menu “add keyframe”. The keyframe then appears in the Color Transform element above the child element. This makes no sense. The Color Transform should behave the same as the peg element. Select a frame within the element and create a keyframe (color transform). It should also be able to delete Color Transform frames where it is not needed in a timeline, rather than having to place a keyframe and reset the color transform parameters.

The Drop Shadow should also be editable like the peg elements. It should be possible to create a keyframe and even delete the shadow for specific frames (sometimes you only want the shadow to appear at given times).

Audio Element: You can select a frame in the audio track. However, it would be useful to be able to set a “keyframe”. The associated properties window would then give options for things like volume and fade-in/out (rather than use separate Sound Editing tool).

For ALL these elements, standardize on the naming of the elements. There is NO reason to prefix the text “Drop Shadow” or “Color Transform” to the associated elements - they already have a unique symbol and the frames on the timeline are a different color. It’s pretty obvious that they are different to all the other elements. What’s more important is for a user to see the name they gave to the element.

(16) More Information in Property Window
It would make things a great deal easier for people using cut-out animation to be able to see ALL the property information in one place. If you select a Peg keyframe, why not display the information relating to Rotation, Motion, Skew. The only alternative is to keep switching to the Function Editor. Even there, you need to change the drop-down option (Rotation, Motion etc.) and then readjust the window to zoom in or see the keyframes of interest. With 100s of keyframes, that’s a real pain. What’s worse is that, in order to see the properties of the Motion keyframe, you don’t just select the Motion Tool and then the keyframe…you have to actually select the camera (red circle) in one of the camera views (that’s just odd).

In the Properties window there should be different (collapsible) sections with information such as:
Static properties relating to drawing element: Size, location, location of pivot point etc. Provide these in relation to a Static “Rigging/Staging Area” (see recommendation below). All elements will have their positions marked in relation to this ‘stage’, rather than based on their underlying drawing grid. This should allow a user to locate an element within a specific area of the “stage” by changing the values in the properties window.

Keyframe related properties: Rotation, Skew, Motion, Size, Offset etc. Show if pivot points have changed relative to the associated Drawing Element.

It would also be useful to open multiple Property windows so that you can compare the keyframe information between frames.

(17) Create a rigging/staging workspace or view
ToonBoom’s handling of cut-out animation has a lot of room for improvement. One of the things that causes a great deal of confusion is the process of “rigging” a character. When position drawing elements in the Scene Planning workspace, most of the positioning is done relative to the dark-red rectangle marked by the camera view. However, the camera can be changed, and/or, selected so that it does not show on the screen. That can make it difficult for a first time user to work out where to place characters. It also makes it difficult to work out where the drawing element and pivot points are in absolute terms.

One particularly annoying thing is how ToonBoom implements the fake 3D view using offsets. Running through the Der-Der example it very briefly mentions the idea of changing the Z-offset for a child element )like the lower arm) in order to bring it in-front of the attached (parent) body.

However, when you introduce the offset, ToonBoom ‘stretches’ the drawing element in the X-Y direction to make it look closer to the camera, In doing so, the pivot point, which you’ve painstakingly set-up, ends up being moved also. This often causes the child element to appear detached from the parent element. If you have already set up keyframes before changing the offset, you end up with drawing elements that appear to detach and migrate away from their parent elements. This means you have to re-do ALL the keyframes again.

If you “rig” a cut-out element and define a point where a parent and child element are “hinged” together, then that hinge point should remain fixed regardless of the Z offset.

(18) Elastic hinged joints for cut-out animation
Anime Studio costs $50 and you can create elastic (spring like) hinged joints. Why not in ToonBoom Studio.

(19) Clone and mirror
If you create a cut-out character, it is often easier to create a leg and arm, set keyframes, and, then clone them. This also copies the keyframes. For an insect with multiple legs, this can save a lot of time. The problem occurs when you want to create the ‘mirror’ image view of something like a leg or arm. Of course, when cloning you can set the horizontal scale to “-1” in the Properties window. This will flip the drawing object. However, this does not change the Rotation or other factors so that the arm/leg follows a mirror image of movements. You can use the Function Editor and select each frame in turn…but this is laborious.

Provide an option to “Clone & Mirror” a drawing element with keyframes. This option will ‘invert’ all of the rotation angles etc. (-90 degrees rather than 90 degrees).

In fact, it would be useful to have a ‘master control’ on the properties window: Select Drawing Element with keyframes, select Properties (with some heading like “Global Values”) and use it to “flip” values throughout the keyframes (like rotation, up movement to down, movement to right instead of left etc.)

(19) New “detach” keyframe
You might make a ‘prop’, such as a newspaper, a child element of a hand. Move the hand and the newpaper moves with it. However, when you try to animate a character throwing the newspaper you get problems. The newspaper’s movement remains tied to the hand. If the newspaper is still in the air, and the hand (or arm) is moved back, the hand’s movement will affect the position of the newspaper.

Create a “Detach” keyframe option. That would allow a child element to be permanently detached from the influence of the parent object. It would also make sense to also have an “Re-Attach” option also.

(20) Stroke Tool
Provide an option for a stroke tool that works like the Line Tool. Most of the time it’s easier and quicker to curve a line between two points, and then add additional points as needed, than to use the existing tool and have to “Smooth” multiple times, or, delete unwanted points.

Change the color of the square, blue boxes, defining the points on the line, when they have positively connected with another line. That makes it easier to know that the paint tool will fill the defined space.

(21) Drop Shadow Tool
Instead of providing the weird and difficult to use skew-like tool to move and change the shape of the shadow, why not simply let people edit the shadow using the same select/transform tool that are used for Drawing Elements. Being able to add keyframes to the Drop Shadow element would also add some extra flexibility

(22) Media Element
This may be a bug: If you save a set of animated Drawing Elements, nested within one parent peg, then you need to make sure that there is a keyframe in the very last peg frame before saving it into the library. If you don’t do this, you will end up with problems when trying to use the template as a Media Element. In this case the Media Element will appear in the timeline as a single frame. A Media Element should not require a final keyframe in the parent peg. Instead, it should work out the length of the Media Element from the frame number of the very last frame in the template.