The Future of Animation Software

I’m an animator and director. I work with animation software every day. I’m always on the lookout for new software, something that will change the way I work. I’m an artist, trained in traditional hand drawn animation. In my opinion, of all great art forms, hand drawn animation has the perfect balance of control and intuition. I am torn between my love of hand drawn animation and the productivity I get from digital tools that make my work more efficient. At my job, I don’t get to draw as much as I would like. Hand drawn animation has not been truly computerized, on the computer it’s either 3D or an advanced cut-out animation. Animation software falls short in bridging the gap between paper and screen. There are four characteristics that I’ve come up with that I think we could see in future animation software.


New animation software should consider the entire animation process. Storyboarding, backgrounds, animation, and editing. Current software prioritises fitting with existing software packages. I think future of animation is going to lie with small studios or small teams. Small teams need shared tools.


I dream of software that makes me want to animate. The software should be approachable for new users and have tools that support becoming a better animator. The interface should inspire focus and flow. There are so many animators that have not accepted digital tools because they don’t feel that those tools are better than a pencil and paper. Something really compelling has to be created to make them switch. Something really intuitive has to make them commit.


Hand drawn animation has not yet been truly computerized. I think a lot of people would be surprised that most animation is still done with pencil on paper. At 24 frames per second there is a lot of paper before it hits a screen. Automating animation will be difficult but I think soon Machine Learning and computer vision will help bridge that gap. One thing I fear is that automation will not take into account the animators workflow. Animators are people who want to make films one frame at a time. Tools should help that, not try and get in the way. The animation pipeline that was developed in the 1930s was made to account for an unreliable in-betweener (someone who does less important in-between drawings). We should treat any automation like an unreliable in-betweener.


Google Docs has proved that productivity software is better when it’s collaborative. Future animation software should allow multiple artists to work on the same scene without conflict. Versioning and file share will be mostly seamless.

I am optimistic about animation software. People are captivated by the magic trick of seeing drawings move and I don’t think this will change any time soon. I expect the industry to fragment. Teams will get smaller and more independent. I work on a series with a team of three people. What we’re creating would have not been possible without our digital tools. My hope is that the software focuses on the user experience. I think there’s a real market for new animation software, every animator. Animator want to make animation.

If you’d like to continue the conversation comment or reach out to me on Twitter. Sharing also really helps.

Types of Computer Animation

CG Animation from Wikipedia, Stop-motion puppet 20 million miles to earth Ray Harryhausen, Character Build Toon Boom Animation, Paper Cut out Animation Terry Gilliam

Most versions of computer animation have real world counter parts. For instance 3D animation takes the sculpted and three dimensional forms that we’re used in Stop motion. We created virtual cameras, lenses, and lights. This wasn’t how it was developed, but I think the comparisons hold.

The computer brings it’s own characteristics. We’ve taken advantage of things that computers do not having gravity, so puppets don’t fall down on their own. We’ve also created new features, the computer gave us near infinite space, and infinite edibility. The computer also can interpolate positions of objects, helping create inbetweens.

Computer animation done in Toon Boom or Flash has more in common with paper cut-out animation than hand drawn 2D. Paper cut-out animation works by manipulating pieces of paper under the camera. Or swapping out new pieces. But the computer again brings infinite edibility, interpolation, infinite space, and invite drawing substitutions.

What’s interesting is that we don’t have a digital version of hand drawn animation. Something that brings the efficiency of computer animation to traditional animation. There is some interesting attempts with applications like Cacani. And there is some interesting research into building tools that speed up hand drawn animation. It hasn’t been figured out yet, but it’ll probably happen soon.

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