Article from Issue 239/2020

Graham looks at OpenToonz, Qtile, SageMath, starcli, Fermentrack, Mindustry, and much more.

Animation powerhouse


OpenToonz is an open source version of Toonz, a widely used and influential 2D animation platform that's been in existence since the early 1990s. In particular, it was famously used by Studio Ghibli to help create Hayao Miyazaki's remarkable Japanese anime movies, Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, and Howl's Moving Castle. Like Blender, Toonz has gone through a metamorphosis from a long-standing macOS and Windows proprietary application to an open source project that finally runs on Linux, a process that started in 2016 and is still finding its own feet. All of which means any of us can now install OpenToonz and start creating our own surreal voyages of animation discovery.

As you might expect from an application with such a long and prestigious history, OpenToonz is seriously capable. Its capabilities start with the way you can create the images used as the source for an animation. Not only does it contain powerful vector tools for sketching and drawing, it can also scan or camera-capture hand-drawn cells from the real world before cleaning them up, making them color consistent, and finally converting them into vectors. Vectors are the key to this kind of animation. Not only do vectors let you easily edit specific elements of your drawings across multiple timelines, they allow you to create keyframes. A keyframe is a snapshot of vector positions at a specific point in time. OpenToonz can smoothly tween between keyframes to create perfectly smooth animations. When combined with the inverse kinematics support for limb movement, you can create amazingly realistic animations without having to draw each individual frame.

But OpenToonz isn't anchored to the 2D realm either. Much like animations in Blender, the rendered scene is merely a viewport from a 3D stage, where the rendered 2D output is the result of framing a multi-layered composite visible from a virtual camera; you can even add multiple cameras. This enables you to create the kind of complex three dimensional and multiplane parallax movements you see in modern animations, where the camera changes angles around a supposed 2D object, all of which can then be synchronized with motion tracking and a custom scripting engine.


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