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Reasons to use CelAction2D

CelAction2D is designed for professional animators who are pushing the boundaries in terms of visual style and technical limitations. At its heart, CelAction2D is a scalable, industrial-strength application whose sum is far greater than its parts, and as such, we have identified six areas where CelAction2D truly excels.

Automation


CelAction2D allows you to automate your workflow to an unprecedented level. When building the models for the scene, characters can be automatically rigged based on rules you set up, enabling fast construction of skeletons with hundreds of parts. Then rules can be applied to groups of parts that link them together so that adjusting one part automatically adjusts other parts - this means the animator doesn't even need to know how the character has been set up, it just works. The complexity of the rig is completely hidden from the animator.

The process of animation is made simple by the automatic inbetweening of skeletal animation and vector points, aided by advanced yet intuitive inverse kinematics, and reparenting of the skeleton on a frame-by-frame basis.

Using a simple scripting language that you don't have to be a programmer to understand, CelAction2D allows you to set up shortcut keys that automate repetitive actions, and you can even create scripts that can be run on several scenes at once without human intervention. In addition, you can categorize parts of characters for easy selection and manipulation.

Re-use


Built into the core of the way CelAction2D works is an inherent re-use of drawings - because assets are created in Photoshop or Illustrator, they are only "drawn" once, and re-used where necessary throughout the whole production. In addition, the structured process of creating characters makes it easy to take an existing outline or texture and use it again in another way.

A character model can also be used as a template to construct other characters from, saving time in the already fast rigging procedure. Should you add drawings to or otherwise modify a character model, special tools within CelAction2D allow the animators to replace the character model in an already-animated scene with the updated version - without having to re-animate anything. This is a hugely important feature, giving designers and directors confidence to make fundamental adjustments to improve future animation without wasting any work that has already been done.

Once animation has begun, there are many ways that re-use can be achieved, and the key factor is that it should never look like re-use. CelAction2D has several clipboards, allowing different types of animation to be stored, either in memory during the current animating session, or on disk to create a library that all the team can use. Not only character animation can be stored, but effects animation and even the mathematical algorithms and function curves that are use in the automatic inbetweening process. So it is very straightforward to have a whole animation team working with the same toolset and building blocks.

When skeletons are similar, you can even copy animation between different character models. Even if the skeletons aren't so similar, facets of the animation (like rotation) can be copied over to get the basic timing perfect, then the rest of the animation can be built on top of it.

The ultimate method of re-use comes in the form of Actions, which are sequences of animation, either for the whole character or just a single part (like an arm waving), that are stored within the character model itself, with a thumbnail image and description. The animator can bring up a panel for the selected character and choose from a page of images, exactly which Action is required. They can even be automatically sequenced randomly, for instant unique crowd animation. Walk cycles can be stored and restored with a couple of clicks, and then blinks, nods, waves and whatever else you can imagine can be overlaid on top of the walk cycle to make it fit the requirements of the scene, with no extra animation needing to be done.

Vectors/Bitmaps


We allow vectors and bitmaps to be used side-by-side in CelAction2D on an equal footing - you shouldn't be forced to choose one or the other, you should be able to use what is right for the visual style you want. If you want complete resolution-independence you can work with vectors alone, but because of the high-resolution bitmaps that CelAction2D can handle, the conventional wisdom about not being able to zoom in enough is no longer valid. The superior complexity of our vectors, however, allows amazing effects by layering transparent vectors over one another.

To simulate a drawn line, vectors can be created as stroked lines in Illustrator and imported in such a way that they maintain their thickness if the elements are scaled up and down, but not if the camera is zooming in and out. This creates the appearance that the character has been "drawn" specifically for that frame.

Vectors can also be created within CelAction2D to allow the lines to be animated and morphed - for example a rope or even a torch beam can be implemented simply and then manipulated by the animator as if they were regular elements. So the rope can be tethered to a character and as the character moves, the rope moves too in a sensible way. Or the beginning of the torch beam can be attached to the front of the torch and the beam will deform correctly as the torch itself is moved.

But it's not only simple vectors that can be created and morphed, you can create complex vectors in Illustrator and convert them to animatable paths in CelAction2D with one easy to use function. So you can keep maximum flexibility in your animation even with the most complicated constructions.

If you want to go for a very textured look, or maybe want to emulate an illustrator's style for adapting a book, then bitmaps are an easy way of achieving it. Yet you don't have to be afraid of high-resolution textures slowing down production, because CelAction2D takes care of the bitmaps for you. The original files are kept on the network server, and are only accessed when the final render is being performed. While animators are working, the software automatically creates lower resolution proxy files for them to use, keeping the network free of unnecessary traffic and even allowing them to work from home.

Complexity


In CelAction2D, the number of characters and elements you can use in the same scene is virtually limitless - as an example, the scene pictured here consists of over 8000 Photoshop layers, and the total pixel count is nearly 3.5 billion pixels - that's over 1600 HD frames worth of unique graphics. If that sounds like a lot, it is. But the beauty of it is that each of those characters only had to be drawn once for the entire series, and only episode-specific drawings needed to be added in subsequent episodes.

But it's not only the number of drawings that our software can handle that is impressive - the amount of effects that can be processed on those drawings is also staggering, because we can get much more use out of a drawing than first imagined, using things like masking and colour changing. Every single element in a scene can have a list of effects applied to it, and this can be done uniquely on every single frame if necessary. This is not only simpler than a giant effect node tree, it's also more flexible and powerful.

The canvas that CelAction2D allows you to work with is virtually infinite, so if you need to add some more background to the far left of a panning scene, it's a simple process. And speaking of panning backgrounds, when you are working with bitmaps, you can handle truly massive ones. Again in the pictured scene (in which the camera pulls out), there is a background that is 10000 x 6000 pixels in size, as a single layer. If you wanted a bigger background, you could easily add extra layers to continue it.

Sometimes the complexity isn't just in the content of the scene, it's what you want to do with it. You can set up every layer in the scene to have a depth, allowing multiplane movements, and user-definable vector-driven paths allow movement of camera and characters alike to be executed with pinpoint accuracy.

And if all that isn't enough, if you still need more power, we have effects that allow you to copy elements within the scene and recolour them (for crowds) and you can either import or export levels to and from compositing packages to really create scenes of a scope previously unheard of.

Speed


CelAction2D is the most powerful 2D animation software in the world, able to handle more layers and pixel throughput comfortably than any other software. However, with such complexity comes a cost in terms of speed of processing. We negate this cost by allowing the animators to easily turn off the layers and effects that aren't necessary to the part they are animating - but we cleverly don't require the animators to turn them back on prior to rendering the scene, as CelAction2D remembers what is to be rendered and switches the right things back on for you automatically. The animator can define the list of effects that are turned off to increase speed, and switch them back on with a single mouse click. So CelAction2D remains responsive, and makes previews while the animator works on other sections of the same scene, reducing the waiting time to check scenes with many effects.

Another aspect of CelAction2D that increases speed is the sheer ease of learning it. Every facet of the software is broken down into small, easy-to-understand sections, so that animators can focus on the tasks they need to know, without getting slowed down and confused by irrelevant concepts. With our on-site training course lasting just a couple of days, animators can be working at production speed within a couple of weeks. This means that you can choose the crew you want for their animation skill, not for their software knowledge, and be sure that they will be productive within a small time frame.

One of the things that really speeds up animators is the ability to use shortcut keys, and we use just about every key on the keyboard to give great functionality (and we let animators define their own too!). By taking our own path with keyboard access and not slavishly copying other software packages, we create an ergonomic nirvana, finely tuned to the fastest possible way of working.

In terms of speeding up production, all of the methods of re-use in CelAction2D are very important, and as production progresses, more and more new animation can be used again. Our methods of storing and retrieving these sequences and very quick and easy to do, encouraging animators to share their best work with the rest of the team.

So in all aspects of the workflow, CelAction2D allows you to work at top speed and to get the most from your assets, no matter how complex the project.

Support


Our support options are second to none, because we take the time to find our what our clients want, then offer advice on the best way to go about it in CelAction2D. Furthermore, on larger projects we will customise the software to make best use of the clients' desired workflow, including interoperability with other software and even adding new features unique to the project.

Within CelAction2D itself, every window and dialog box has a context-sensitive help option, so wherever you are in the program, simply pressing F1 will explain where you are and what you can do.

But the best type of support is for it not to be necessary in the first place. This is best exemplified with our scripting functions. We take a different approach to scripting compared to other software. We believe that automation should be usable by even the most technophobic animator, so we developed our own macro language which is simple to learn yet very powerful. But we don't see scripting as a way to "fill in the gaps" of the functionality of the basic software. We don't think animation companies should HAVE to employ programmers to get the best out of software they have already paid for, or go hunting the internet for scripts to put professional functionality in, or to work how everyone else does. The out-of-the-box experience with CelAction2D is powerful and usable immediately - you don't need to re-program it yourself. But of course if you do find a better way to work with your graphic style or pipeline, our support staff and programmers respond quickly, helping you realise your new methods.
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