Anime Studio Debut 8 is the latest incarnation of Smith Micro Software's popular entry-level creative software aimed at animation newbies and younger students.

A fifth of the price of the Pro version, Anime Studio Pro 8, Anime Studio Debut 8 still manages to pack plenty in for less than £30, while keeping the learning curve relatively simple. A Beginner's Mode simplifies the process further with a more focused user interface, although the process still requires thought and application to avoid producing clichéd results.

Users can create art with vector-based draw and paint tools – and audio tools – directly from within the software or import drawings and photos in various popular file formats. A new feature converts files into vector images for scaling and animating more easily, while an equally new Character Wizard aims to automate the creation of fully rigged characters better with a series of slider bars.

Version 8 adds new enhanced drawing tools for creating more complex shapes and sketching styles, the ability to add a cut-out style effect to any character or object and Vector Shape Selector tool.

Anime Studio Debut 8 comes with some dull, generic characters – Jace, Liz, Lightning Man, Dexter (not the serial killer) and Anime Boy – included as standard, which are hopefully simply a stepping-stone to bigger and better things. Provided props and scenes do at least fill the dead space when you are starting off.

Additionally, Smith Micro Software offers tips and tricks along with sample animations online to hopefully get your creative juices further flowing. The software is Windows and Mac compatible out of the box, which is a bonus if you have a choice of computer platforms at home or at school.

Complete newbies should really consider budgeting for a pen tablet, such as those produced by Wacom, as creating moving images is very much a hands-on experience.

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I've reviewed previous versions of Anime Studio Debut, Smith Micro's animation suite for beginners before favorably. With the release of version 8, Smith Micro has streamlined Anime Studio Debut 8 and made it even easier for anyone to pick it up and animate characters.

New features with Anime Studio Debut 8 are a new Character Wizard, which lets you get up and running with animation in no time, and an Image Vectorizer, which turns your existing drawings into vector images that are ready to animate and scale better. Smith Micro has also revamped the drawing tools, allowing you to create shapes more easily.

Though I haven't used any version of Anime Studio for a year, I found the interface admirably user-friendly. Like sister product Manga Studio, Anime Studio is a translated Japanese application from the same source company. Included documentation is extensive, and Smith Micro's website (and its e-commerce site Content Paradise) is filled with examples, tutorials, downloadable animations, and so on.

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As we've noted in the past, Anime Studio is bone-based, meaning characters are animated based on lines going through their spines, limbs, and so on. When you draw a new creation and want to animate it, you first need to create a skeleton for it.

Then, it's a simple matter of recording movements and editing the steps frame-by-frame. This animation can then be played back or exported to the most popular web and video formats, or even uploaded directly to YouTube.

Since this is the inexpensive Anime Studio Debut product, there are numerous features in Anime Studio Pro that you won't find here, among them the ability to handle 3D objects, and the ability to interact in real-time with external applications, such as movie editors.

Still, if you're a professional animator, you're more than likely going to use a different product that works with Flash animation (if 2D) or 3D Studio Max (if 3D).

Anime Studio Debut makes a lot more sense for beginning animators, as it's a smooth introduction to something that could become a profession or serious hobby with a lot of practice.

Steve Horton

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Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7; 250MB free hard drive space, 256MB RAM, 1024x768 resolution, 16-bit color display, Adobe Flash Player 9, Internet Explorer 7, Internet connection

Anime Studio Debut 8: Specs

  • Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7
  • 250MB free hard drive space, 256MB RAM, 1024x768 resolution, 16-bit color display, Adobe Flash Player 9, Internet Explorer 7, Internet connection
  • Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7
  • 250MB free hard drive space, 256MB RAM, 1024x768 resolution, 16-bit color display, Adobe Flash Player 9, Internet Explorer 7, Internet connection

OUR VERDICT

Anime Studio Debut 8 scores big on value for money and user friendliness, particularly in Beginner's Mode. It clearly lacks some of the bells and whistles that the Pro version adds such as 3D video rendering. Still, with the ability to export your animations to Flash, AVI and MOV formats, and directly to YouTube and Facebook, it's a great and fun tool for getting your work seen with the minimum of expense or fuss.

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