Last week at work I set off to do some relatively complex pixel animations. I mentioned to my lead that I didn’t have a 2D animation software since my computer has been changed. I used to have Flash, it’s not really appropriate for pixel, but then, it animates better than Photoshop. So he suggested I try Pro Motion 6. Which I did, I got the trial version. It’s way cheaper than Flash and it’s conceived especially for pixel animation with extensive palette management options, onion skins, adjustable frame rates and layers.
I have to mention that at my first game job, we used a software that was developped for the Amiga, it was called Aura and was distributed by Newtek (the people who make Lightwave and VideoToaster.) Aura was pretty complete when it came to doing bitmap based animations (as opposed to vector based) with effect brushes, flexible layer management, spare images, drawing modes and onion skins. Aura is not sold anymore, but it was a rebrand of TVPaint, same software but under another name. TVPaint still exists.
Why do I mention this? Because despite having all kinds of trouble getting started with Pro Motion, it did have a lot in common with Aura and I would progressed far slower if I hadn’t had a lot of experience on Aura.
So when I started working with Pro Motion, I was finding it very confusing, frame management was weird, layers was completely wacky, I read the help and it didn’t really help, palettes were very very confusing. It took me about half a day to start finding my way around it. I got some good work done. Then, erm, I tried to fix something with the palette and I accidentally lost most of what I had done. The frames went BLACK. I was pissed. Still, it did take me an hour or two to get back where I was. I learned more about the palette. It’s still not perfect, but getting better.
So all in all, Pro Motion is an efficient if tricky little 2d animation package, priced at 78$ USD it’s way cheaper than most. It has everything I need and I will learn how to handle it and stop loosing work. I think it deserves a look. TVPaint is more of my taste, even if only because I know it better. But it’s also 950€ for the pro version. Both are entirely different from Flash which isn’t very precise for bitmap based animation.