Help Shape the Future of Anime Studio

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Help Shape the Future of Anime Studio

Postby Fahim » Sat Aug 20, 2011 11:03 am

Hi Everyone,

I’ve officially been at Smith Micro for 2 months now and have been tasked with the role of Product Manager for Anime Studio. I have been working diligently on coming up to speed with both the business side as well as the technical side of Anime Studio.

So in the last 2 months I’ve attended several tradeshows, including San Diego Comic Con, Siggraph and Anime Expo. I've reviewed documents and existing strategies. I've chatted with new as well as old school Anime Studio users, even some from the Moho days. I've chatted with the press and internal stakeholders at Smith Micro. Thus far the feedback on Anime Studio has been extremely positive. Everyone speaks highly of it and I am positive that it is not just our marketing prowess that led to the positive reviews but it’s folks like you who are the ones responsible for its success. I am sure you’ve spoken highly of our little product and others have responded by purchasing it and using it.

Anime Studio has come a long way since the Moho days and though, I’ve been gone for a few years, I am still pleasantly surprised to see that the LM community has not only grown but flourished without having lost its sense of camaraderie. Unfortunately, like any community, we’ve lost some friends who have moved on to other things, while some others have reappeared. As such, I am honored to be back and though I may not be able to join every conversation on the forums, I will try my best to read and listen to your issues. Ultimately, I would like to interact with you all, get an appreciation of your workflow, requests and check out your animations. My goal is to then take those interactions and represent you at Smith Micro.

Thus far from the forums, I have gathered 6 major recurring comments:
1. The need for more updates
2. Less frequent version upgrades
3. More Pro based features
4. Improvement and enhancement of existing features
5. Better support for scripting
6. Better quality assurance process

I am taking into account all of these items and I am confident a few more will appear along the way. Ultimately, my mandate is to address these issues as best as possible so that I can serve your needs.

One key thing to note, I am sure all of you know this, is that Anime Studio has 2 types of users, Pro users and Hobbyist/Aspiring users. Each type has their own needs but I really believe that we can serve the needs of both groups and ideally, my goal is provide Pro users the features/enhancements they desire and to help Hobbyist/Aspiring users as well, so that they can learn the basics of animation and then one day become Pro users.

With that, I would like to open up this discussion and ask you what features/enhancements/bug fixes you wish to add or see in Anime Studio Debut or Pro. When responding, please let us know what version of the product, Debut or Pro, you are referring to.

A few important comments:
1. We do have a tracking system that is being used to log bugs and enhancements.
2. I have also viewed some of the previous threads on feature requests and you can repeat any items from those threads to this discussion as well.
3. Part of the disconnect that occurs between developers and animators (artists) is an understanding of your workflow. So feel free to explain your animation workflow.
4. Your feedback will be essential in defining the future of Anime Studio. In fact, I will be contacting some of you and hope to have one-on-one discussions about your requests.
5. Eventually, I will be following up with surveys to determine the best and most requested features to implement for future updates & full version releases.
6. If you have a more abstract (high level) comment on the direction of Anime Studio please feel free to mention it here as well. Or you can send it to my email address: fniaz@smithmicro.com
7. If you agree with anyone’s comments, please make sure to say so! If you disagree, you can comment as well, but please be mindful of everyone’s feelings. I’d like this conversation to be positive and constructive.
8. I hope you will take advantage of this opportunity to tell us what features/enhancements/bug fixes you’d like to see in Anime Studio.
9. There are quite a few folks from Smith Micro that visit and read the comments on the LM forums, and they include folks like Tori, Michi, our quality assurance team members, our tech support team members, our in house artists/animators, our engineers (including Mike Clifton) and myself. Quite often, we take your comments and bring them up in internal meetings. So I can say that we are listening to you.

Thank you and looking forward to working with you as well as hearing from you.

Fahim
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Postby Genete » Sat Aug 20, 2011 11:52 am

Hi Fahim,
That's great you've started this thread. This is the right direction to assure a good future for Anime Studio.

I would start with one single request:

I wish to be able to change from design mode (things done at frame 0) to animation mode (things done in current frame > 0) without need to move from the frame I am.

This would speed up the workflow of many users.
-G
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Postby jahnocli » Sat Aug 20, 2011 1:47 pm

Old-time Moho user -- still using version 5.6. I regard myself as a hobbyist, although I have had extensive art school education and worked in art and/or computers all my life. Now retired. I have one immediate question: if you have in-house artists, where were they when you developed the character wizard?
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Postby patricia3d » Sat Aug 20, 2011 2:07 pm

Many Many Thanks for the open discussion
There should be a way to import 3D OBJECTS and they should become Vector 3D Model.
There should be a way to rotate the model 360 degree
without that complicated Bone and masking and scripting solution.

There should be a way to import BVH motions

Hope the team will do that.
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Postby mkelley » Sat Aug 20, 2011 2:22 pm

Workflow is very important, so let me show you mine (it's lengthy but contains some important concepts I hope you'll find worth your time):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NqvFDYww0bo

In this regard there are things that could be added to AS to make it even easy for production work (as it is this allows a one-man shop to produce a half-hour TV series with comparative ease). Specifically there are scripting improvements that would allow even more custom access and UI improvements that would allow custom tailoring to such shops (such as allowing the toolbar to be hidden). The nice thing about all this -- very small additions allow for huge improvements.

I realize the scripting access isn't sexy for Mike to spend time programming, and I also realize it's (mostly) unrecognized in this community, but I think some effort on the part of SM could rectify the latter (and thus make the former easier for Mike to justify).
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Postby jaakay » Sat Aug 20, 2011 4:14 pm

Hi Fahim,

I am a new user to AS and also to animation. I bought my copy of AS just before version 8 was released so was entitled to a free upgrade. :D

Prior to buying AS I bought Crazytalk Animator Pro, but was quickly turned off as I could not create my own characters and props from within the program. What they did have though was premade walk and run cycles. Once I realised that version 8 of AS were adding a Character Wizard which also included walk cycles I was excited.

That excitement was very short lived. Although for a new user like me using the character wizard means I don't have to do all the bone rigging or create my own walk cycle, but the amount of work I have to do to change the ugly premade character to make it into something more pleasing is tremendous. :(

I have to second Jahnocli's statement.

Could we have better looking character from the CW and also, for the female characters could you add breasts that are resizeable with a slider.

Having said that, I think this is a wonderful piece of software and I enjoy using it.
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Postby super8mm » Sat Aug 20, 2011 5:03 pm

Since I have all the features to manipulate the bones scale and displacements and edit the points while the rig is assembled, I test in the normal timeline, once I am satisfied I copy the tweaks to zero. This is very tedious going back and forth.

To improve greatly my workflow, I would like to have easy access to a checkbox at frame zero to keep the bone rig assembled while editing points and to be able to scale or move bones not just rotate for testing. Essentially toggling frame zero to temporarily act like a normal frame for testing.

I would also enjoy having onionskin Display Quality options including opacity. Anything to reduce the guesswork between frame zero and the actual outcome.
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Postby jonbo » Sat Aug 20, 2011 5:36 pm

Hey Fahim, I've used ASP for a few years and love it. As I fall into the hobbyist category, I have only a few requests. I use blend morphs a lot, so the ability to keep the blend morph menu open would really make my life easier. Numerical values and dials for the POSER feature would make it easier to animate with than the slider set-up. IF there's going to be 3-D features, the ability to control the shading would be nice. Also to be able to change the color of the shading of 3-D objects. I agree with super8mm, a better onionskinning option would be helpful. Lastly, maybe a survey of the scripts people are using would give you an idea what features should be looked at including in future releases. Thanks for listening. :)
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Postby madriver » Sun Aug 21, 2011 4:57 am

Welcome back Fahim!

I'm a pro filmmaker making the move to animation and I love the simplicity and quality of AS, as opposed to Flash, Toonboom or Crazytalk (have tried all 3).

I have no problem with the minor updates or the support system. Personally I don't care what's under the hood. I just want the thing to work so I can concentrate on creating and delivery broadcast quality or better animation with maximum ease. The CW is definitely a step in that direction but the implementation (like a lot of AS' features) seems tentative and half-done.

CW is a game changer. If you're going to include a CW, make it totally customizable with full turns, mocap or bvh capability...keep the Debut version simpler if you have to but make the pro version capable of creating pro quality, IMO.

p.s.--I would gladly pay an additional 100. or more for a fully realized, customizable CW!
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Postby Fahim » Sun Aug 21, 2011 8:23 pm

jahnocli wrote:Old-time Moho user -- still using version 5.6. I regard myself as a hobbyist, although I have had extensive art school education and worked in art and/or computers all my life. Now retired. I have one immediate question: if you have in-house artists, where were they when you developed the character wizard?


Good to see you here Jahnocli. It's been a while and yes I do remember you from the Moho days. There's been a lot of discussion around the character wizard and it is something that I am evaluating thoroughly. I do believe that in the future, we can add more value to it. Suggestions are welcome.
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Postby jahnocli » Sun Aug 21, 2011 10:10 pm

Good to see you back. I hope Smith Micro are sharpening up their act. They have a little gem here and there has been little evidence that they are interested in marketing it properly. I really hope that is changing.
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Postby hayasidist » Mon Aug 22, 2011 7:15 pm

Hi Fahim,

I'm sure you've done this - but I'm responding to your
... repeat any items from [other] threads to this discussion ...
and suggest a look at the scripts on http://animestudioscripts.com/scripts.php and http://www.lostmarble.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=17405. I think this will give you some idea of where real users have found the need to enhance the standard features... but I'm not even sure that those two URLs give an exhaustive list.

Thanks
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Postby synthsin75 » Mon Aug 22, 2011 10:24 pm

Above all else, I think AS needs much better performance. Whether this means 64 bit or not, a handful of point heavy layers shouldn't effect performance.
- Wes
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Postby funksmaname » Tue Aug 23, 2011 12:34 am

while we're here, might I draw your attention to this thread regarding blend morphs/morph dials? http://www.kelleytown.com/forum/animato ... PIC_ID=676

If a simple update can be implemented to include relative blending so morphdials can work in real time it would really change AS significantly.

Thanks Fahim :)
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Postby Rudiger » Tue Aug 23, 2011 4:24 pm

Hey, great to have you back, Fahim! Thanks for giving us this opportunity to share our views on this great program.

I think those 6 points you mentioned are a great summary of what a lot of long term users have been asking for. The only thing I would like to add is the wish that the flow of information go both ways and that you also represent Smith Micro to us. For example, once we have taken the time to inform you of what we would like to see improved about the software, it would be nice if we could be given some idea of which features are actually going to be worked on, perhaps in the form of a development road-map or even the occasional preview video. I know of other software companies that do this and it seems to be a great way to build anticipation for the next version of their software.

Also, there's no doubt that Mike is a programming genius, but unfortunately there's only one of him and human cloning is still illegal for the time being :D. Is there any chance of hiring some other programers to help him out with the development of the next version?

I know you didn't ask for it this time round, but I couldn't help but post my top 10 list of feature requests. I'm happy to say that it's quite a bit different than the one I posted 4 years ago, since many of them have either been implemented in the software or I've been able to come up with scripted solutions for them myself.

1. Ability to change layer properties and animation keys for multiple selected layers at a time.
2. Be able to create an instance of a layer from either the current or a separate document.
3. Same style options for 3D objects as there are for 2D objects, ie masking, scale compensation, alpha, gradients, brushes, etc. Also have the option to apply the gradient as a diffuse or specular shader, so you could have complete control over the toon shading (similar to jonbo's request).
4. Use bezier handles to control animation curves. Would prefer them to be integrated with the main timeline window rather than the graph window, which I have never found at all useful.
5. 3D skeletons. Yes, it is possible to control a 2D character with a 3D skeleton, as I have emulated it with a script. You just have to use point animation and shape order animation to complete the effect.
6. Extend brush system to support natural media simulation. In particular, allow pen pressure to control opacity as well as line thickness. Also, add anti-aliasing to improve quality when brushes are used with small line widths.
7. Switch to construction mode using button instead of moving to frame 0 (as per Genete's request).
8. Bitmap drawing, plus onion-skin support.
9. Boolean operations for shapes and shape-based painting.
10. Change style for multiple selected shapes at a time

10.1. Last time my bonus request of an integrated Physics engine actually got in :o, so what the hell, this year's bonus request is a full node-based compositor :).
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