NYCC 2012: Animation Made Easy (Anime Studio Review)

Wandering through the floor of every New York Comic Con, I’m always in awe of the talented artists and illustrators. Since I have a weird menagerie of skills and interests, I’ve always wondered how differently my life could have been if I took a more creative path. Sketching for hours instead of coding JavaScript for hours always seems like it would be a welcomed change of pace. Each and every year, there are tons of talented artists that inspire me to pick up a pen again and start sketching, even if it only lasts for a few days. However, this year I was inspired to start playing around with animation. Animation is something that has alluded me in the past and was never easy to pick up on my own. Bringing my sketches to life does sound interesting and ever since I gave Anime Studio a spin after New York Comic Con this year, I know it’s not as hard as it would seem. You just need a ton of patience.

Brief History Behind the Creators: Smith Micro

Smith Micro actually creates software for the big five mobile carriers: AT&T, Sprint, etc. But what you might not realize is that the graphics division at Smith Micro have created illustration staples like Poser and Manga Studio. Poser is their core software that is mostly used by CGI users that allows them to create and manipulate realistic figures. From there they developed Manga Studio, that was being showcased on the New York Comic Con floor, which is a unique tool that allows you to create a comic book from start to finish. Manga Studio is being used by some major names in comics but it all started out with Manga artists. Lovers of manga aren’t just consumers, they often aspire to create their own manga and often sketch and create manga on their own.

Similarly, Anime Studio is an easy to use animation suite that allows you to create animations without having to create each individual frame. While most of the animations that have used Anime Studio aren’t Anime inspired, it’s still interesting to see what type of content people are creating through the software. From 30 second spots to full length movies have been created using the Anime Studio. Now how long it takes totally depends on you.

Anime Studio is available in a beginner’s version, commonly known as Anime Studio Debut, and the software that retails for around $50.
For the more seasoned animators, there is a Pro version that retails for $200.

So, with the reasonable price points and the promises of ease of use it was time for me to take this software for a spin.

Personal Experience

For the purpose of this review, I will discuss my experience with the Pro suite since it’s the first one I installed on my computer and was provided for review from Smith Micro. 

Once you start up the Anime Studio for the first time, you might be overwhelmed by set up if this is your very first time playing around with any animation software suite. Tools are located on the left. The Timeline is on the bottom. The Color Palette is on the right and sitting right in the middle of the canvas is a character. At startup, you are greeted by a character that has already been pre-rendered for you. Here you can playback the set up and see your character move around the stage as well as all the keyframes set up in the timeline. Below is a screenshot of the setup after I logged in for the first time.

Anime Studio Screenshot on Initial Log In

Then, the rest is really up to you and your imagination. You can play around with this preset character and manipulate his pose, create some new key frames of your own or just scrap the whole thing altogether to start creating your own animation by importing your own videos, illustrations or even draw directly in Anime Studio.

“Hey, look! I can fly!” (Started playing around with the character on stage)

Anime Studio makes it extremely easy to create a skeletal structure of your characters known as “Smart Bones Technology”. Using “Smart Bones” you can apply actions to the bone as well as easily transform 2D objects into 3D. “Smart Bones” intelligently morphs and transforms your 2D objects so that you don’t have to draw or illustrate all aspects of your 2D objects.  Meaning if you draw a car, you can only draw one side of the car and then animate it’s turning without having to draw all sides of the car. “Smart Bones” makes it easy to manipulate your object’s bones and is definitely the highlight of Anime Studio.

Additionally, if you aren’t a skilled artist, the Anime Studio comes with a ton of pre-rendered characters, props, audio, video, scenes, images, and even 3D renders ready for you to use in your animations. That’s a lot of content at your disposal that is just available for you to use. Additionally, if you don’t want to use any of those there is a character creation wizard that allows you to play around with features to create your own character by simply moving around a few sliders.

Anime Studio Character Wizard

Additionally, if you are a beginner, Smith Micro provides a wealth of tutorials within Anime Studio as well as through their YouTube channel. Seasoned animators will be able to dive right in and begin creating new animations quite easily while beginners will appreciate all the documentation contained within Anime Studio as well as tons of online tutorials to help get you started.


I was honestly sceptical about how easy it would be to start creating my very first animation, I only wish I started with the Debut version of the software instead of the Pro one. I’m definitely not a professional animator but was still able to maneuver around the software but I kept feeling like there was something I wasn’t taking advantage of. However, it was definitely easy to get in there and start creating something. The wealth of content available for me to play around with is amazing, especially for a beginner like myself.

If you’re interested in starting out with Animation, I highly recommend the Debut version. There’s a wealth of information included within Anime Studio as well as online through their YouTube channel. Plus, it’s often on sale on Amazon.

For professionals, it’s still worth checking out even if it’s for the “Smart Bones” feature which easily allows you to easily create the movable joints for your characters and props.

All in all, it was a refreshing experience. I wasn’t frustrated or overly overwhelmed by the software and I was able to get my very first animation started rather quickly, even if it was with the default character. It’s just important to note that animation is something complex. It often takes an extremely long time to pick up and catch on. So, Anime Studio definitely helps with being that important first step in getting started with animation as well as making all the tough aspects of animation a whole lot simpler.