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Which Animation App is 'Professional' and What Does 'Professional' Mean to You?

What's the Best Animation Tool?
There is an ongoing debate in animation circles about what animation tools are considered 'Professional' and capable of producing 'Professional Quality' animation? Can only tools with the status of 'Industry Standard' be considered professional and by extension be the only tools that can produce professional quality animation?

Is it the target market of an animation tool that makes it professional? Is it the skill of the person using it that determines whether a tool is capable of professional quality output or the specs of the app?

What Animation Tool Should You Learn?

In a discussion in the Cartoon Animator Users Facebook group a member noted that they had been learning Cartoon Animator (CA4) for four months, only to find out that the application isn't used by professional animators (based on asking 30 professionals on LinkedIn). The consensus was that learning Toon Boom Harmony or MOHO was the better option because both those applications have track records for producing animation for TV and Cinema. The implication was that learning Cartoon Animator had been a waste of time.

A secondary part of the question was incorrectly thinking that you needed to buy hundreds of dollars worth of assets to do professional work with Cartoon Animator, where as with Toon Boom and MOHO you don't need to buy any assets. The people who create professional content for you to buy for CA4 don't have to buy anything to create professional quality animations, therefore, logically, if you can produce professional quality art yourself, then you don't need to buy any assets either.

(Not to mention MOHO also has its own content pack addons you can buy if you can't draw, and Toon Boom... well their business model is a subscription service to the app, so you're going to need professional quality art skills to get professional quality results).

The Better Question: What Does Being an Animator Mean to You?

Back to the first questions about what makes an app 'professional' and what app is for 'professional quality' animation?

Reallusion Content Developer and two time winner of Reallusion's Animation@Work Competition, Francesco Tammaccaro, also known as Frank's Pencil, gave a very detailed response that reads like a tour through some of the leading animation apps used in the industry, and how Cartoon Animator measures up alongside them.

He also specifically addressed what it means to be professional, and what actually matters when it comes to professional quality output. I was so impressed with his answer I asked if I could reproduce it here in full. Thankfully he said yes.
Francesco Tammaccaro: The "professional" tag is something I'd like to discuss in depth. Trusting the internet about what's the "best" software is something that personally made me WASTE many years in my 20s and almost made me give up on animation, so please, be very careful when you interpret that advice.

The right tool for you is the one that takes you where you need to go, according to your skills, time and money. Is as easy and complex as this.

First and foremost, we need to define "professional". I think that the creators of South Park, Happy Tree Friends, Peppa Pig and the major youtube animation channels with millions of subs are all professionals, regardless of my personal taste.

Creating the Peppa Pig series is a different beast than the Rick and Morty or South Park series. Yet, they are all extremely successful productions.

Each episode of South Park, for instance, is produced within a week, focusing mostly on the storytelling, drawing and animating as fast as possible (using corel draw and Maya). Rick and morty, instead, focuses a lot on visual quality, it has a good size team of animators and illustrators that use Toon Boom. Peppa Pig was very time consuming during the pre-production phase, where all the assets where produced. After that, each episode is completed very fast, reusing the same assets in CelAction.

Before picking your software, you need to ask yourself very carefully (and do it, please guys, don't do the same mistake I did) what does it mean for you to be an animator.

Do you want to create beautiful disney-like animation and you HOPE YOU GET HIRED IN A STUDIO? You want your work to be seen by recruiters and they maybe can offer you a junior position somewhere, in a super-high competition and low paid industry? You want to focus more on the visual style and NOT on the storytelling? Pick Toon Boom. It's a software designed for big animation studios. Offers a lot of possibilities, bulky, heavy. Feels like driving a plane. Wanna get to the other side of the world and look cool? Toon Boom man. Not so useful if you are a lone wolf tho. Would you move around your city with a plane?

You don't know what you want to do at all and you just want to mess around, but you want your friends to perceive you as a Pro? Pick Flash. We all know flash. Tons of youtube channels use flash to make tons of $. Oh, and another tiny thing: so, so many successful shows that now use Toon Boom and all the other "professhiional" stuff, were born as crappy flash animations (please read the last sentence a couple of times 💓).

You like a more modern, fast and smart way of animating? Bones, rigs, real-time rendering, props and animation libraries? Pick Moho! But just if what you want to do is focus on experimental visual shots or indulge in some over-complicated rig-automated mess, and pretend you enjoy drawing with those messy drawing tools. (sorry Moho users).

If you like the Moho concept but you actually want to get an animation done from start to finish, pick Cartoon Animator 4. In my opinion, it's like Moho with a many, many limitations, but the important juice is there. And you get stuff done.

My 2 cents here. But again, please ask yourself one more time "what does it mean to be a professional animator" for you. I generate income from my art, and I'm right now investing time in learning Rough Animator, cause I want to create an entire animation on the iPad.

I leave you with an annoying question: do you think a recruiter would be more willing to offer a Toon Boom job to someone that created many good videos with CA4, or someone that started but never finished any projects on Toon Boom?
Hint on that final question, it's the first option most of the time.

If your take away from this article is "I need to learn Toon Boom or MOHO" to be a professional animator then check out these blog posts on my experiences of trying to learn Toon Boom here, and MOHO Here. Neither post is meant to discourage you but they will give you some idea of what you're up against in terms of the learning curve.

I'm very much in agreeance with Francesco. I choose Cartoon Animator 4 (which was known as CrazyTalk Animator when I first discovered it) because it is the ideal tool for lone, independent animators, who need to produce content quickly.

It never once crossed my mind about whether CA4 is considered a professional tool or capable of professional output. It met my needs and I know professional output hinges entirely on the person using it.

The best Animation Tool is the One You Like to Use the Most

That said, what's right for me, may not be right for you. I've tried a lot of different animation tools and I can tell you, the best tool is the one you like to use the most. You'll do your best work in that application.

At the same time I discovered CA4 I also discovered MOHO, and always kept my license current. I was sure it was a great tool for animation if I could just get around to learning it. When I finally did learn it, I discovered it's an amazing tool for animation (so amazing that I'm still considering upgrading my license to the latest version even though I probably won't use it) but it's filled with features I don't need, and I just didn't enjoy using it.

However, if I had enjoyed it, I'm certain I would've become proficient with it, and probably left CA4 by the wayside because, just look at everything MOHO can do that CA4 can't.

Anyway, this thought piece has become far longer than intended. The bottom line for me is use what animation tool works for you. It may not get you a studio job but there's so much opportunity for freelance web animators out there.

There are literally thousands upon thousands of Youtube businesses out there that won't care at all what application you're using to make their super cool animations with.

Even cooler, why not make your own animated series and pitch it to a network?

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