Toon Boom Animate and importing video…

A visitor just left this comment question in one of the Toon Boom Animate articles, and I might as well answer this in a real post. Here’s the Q…

i’m completely new to animate and i wonder how i works together with illustrator, photoshop and after effects.
i’m used to do all of my characters and illustrations in illustrator and photoshop, and i’d like to import them into animate. (my HD is full of eps-characters … ) have you experienced any problems with adobe and animate? has anyone combined after effects and animate?
thanks for any comment.


Animate works great for importing in images either pixel or vector based (including .swf) . I wouldn’t praising this program at all if I didn’t. Importing in other formats has fortunately become pretty standard in the design world. Even before Adobe bought Macromedia, those two companies did a decent job of importing from one another ( AI to Flash, or Flash to AI). And although I can’t speak for the developers at Toon Boom, I’m sure they realize they are  an emerging player in the world of animation / graphics software and Adobe is king of that world right now. So it makes sense to support importing their files in, because most everyone’s past art has been made in Adobe programs.

Now the real reason I’m writing is because of the last part of leBeat’s question. After Effects and Animate do work VERY well together.  When I first published from Toon Boom Animate one of the things that surprised me (pleasantly though) was that it rendered out a transparent image sequence. First off I love image sequences. I majored in Computer Art at SVA (in da ’90’s!), and my focus was on 3D, so ever since then I get excited watching a computer render one file named sequentially after another….ohhh babby. Name those files in order…  But seriously, an image sequence is ideal for animation. Which might sound strange to my Flash crowd, because we’re just happy to publish a .swf file and be done. But a swf is horrible for doing anything other than popping it up on a website. So if you’re creating an animation for a demo reel, or  festival, or just to import into After Effects, you probably want an image sequence. Especially if its an HD sized project.  But by the way, you can export to a .mov file too (with sound). So don’t think that you are limited to just exporting image sequences.  Again, if you haven’t worked professionally in the video/animation industry and are just used to publishing .swf, the beauty of an image sequence might be lost on ya.

Anyway, long story short. YES! Animate is perfect for exporting either images or a movie to later be used in After Effects. Especially since it creates transparent image sequences, you don’t have to worry about keying out some color once its in After Effects.

Now what about bringing a video file into Animate?? I just did that, because prior to writing this, that wasn’t something I had tried yet. Here’s the options you get when you do this…

Toon Boom Animate Import Movie Options

You might notice that says “Import Drawings” at the top, thats because the video first gets converted to individual frames, then this prompt shows up. So they are treating the imported video like an image sequence.

The defaults, seen above, are probably your best option for just bringing in the video like you’d expect. But notice you can choose to vectorize the video, which would be useful if you wanted to draw on some of the frames, or edit them. Or just give the video a vectorized look.

Once the video is in, you can scrub through the main timeline of your Animate project and see the progress of the video as well. So you aren’t stuck just seeing frame 1 of the video or something lame like that. So you can really time the rest of your project with what you are seeing in the video. Plus, the niftyness of the Drawing Substitutions panel got talked about a lot in my tutorial on that (refresher here), but the video gets treated like a symbol with frames to swap among. So you can really quickly move frame 150, in place of frame 10, if need be.

And best of all… You can animate the video in Perspective just like everything else in Animate. So to see what I mean… Toon Boom Animate, imported video in perspective

The cartoon dude is vector art in front of the video. And you can see the video is obviously being viewed in perspective. And I could stack layers of video behind or in front of each other by changing the Z-depth. So imagine my camera panning or zooming paste different layers of video like that. Pretty cool right.


15 thoughts on “Toon Boom Animate and importing video…

  1. Hello cartoonsmart.You are doing a great job here.Thank you very much.Your way of presentation is the thing that driving people to buy your tutorials.

    It will be very nice if you provide us with tutorials of toon boom others feature like Morphing,3d effect ,character turn-arounds

  2. Hey Justin,

    As always, you’re on the bleeding edge of animating technology, (and I’m not even gonna offer you a band aid, man!

    Thanks for the heads up and subsequent tasty tutorial morsels on TBA. I look forward to more. Though oddly, I’m still a bit stumped by the basic animation steps. It seems that on a character’s head, you change out eyes and mouths and pimples using drawing subs, then take the entire rig and use key frames, right? (Scary, I’ve been a 3d guy for 15yrs, and this is my first ‘tru’ foray into 2D.

    (btw, Go SVA! I’m a computer Arts thesis instructor at your alma mata. )

  3. Paul says:

    Hey Justin, I see you use Animate on a Mac. Just wandering if you have ever had any playback issues like Flash does sometimes? Thanks

  4. Nope Paul, haven’t had any playback issue with Animate. But I think I know what you’re talking about with Flash CS4. For some reason when I publish now, and view the swf from Flash, it will show for a few seconds then go black. I’ll have to resize it to get the picture back. Usually I just open the swf in the standalone Flash player now if I want a clean playback. Its a strange bug since my desktop Mac is a very fast machine.

    And yeah, Brendan that sums up animating in Toon Boom Animate. The drawing substitutions are separate changes than keyframes. Very nice way to animate in 2D.

    Crack the whip on those thesis students!! Its March, I hope you are seeing some awesome work already. No whammies =)

  5. Stefan Mitchell says:

    wow, I’m totally into toonboom animate now…

    better start dll that PLE and start practicing =)

    Justin, will you start to make toon boom animate, advanced lessons in the near future?

  6. Tony says:

    Hey Justin, just a quick question, is toon boom an alternative to animating with flash?
    I have purchased quite a few of your tutorials for flash animation and hope that this new system doesnt replace them.

  7. Good question. I love both programs, but to be honest was very disappointed with CS4’s inverse kinematics. It could have been an amazing feature to the program IF it worked as well as what Toon Boom Animate did with their kinematics and character rigging. Currently in CS4, you cannot skew, scale, or replace any symbols that are connected with bones. So you are limited to using the same art, and just moving position and rotation. That’s the type of crude animation you want to avoid as a character animator, especially when putting together a demo reel.

    So yeah I think Animate is better for animation, but Flash is okay if thats the program you’ve got now… plus Flash is great for what its used for most nowadays which is web development, game development, and rich internet applications. And I wouldn’t choose any other program other than Flash to develop that type stuff in. Animate just has the edge for character animation because thats their sole focus. They’ve definitely been listening to what Flash animators have been craving for years and delivered.

  8. Tony says:


    As always I appreciate your view on these things, and your tutorials have taught me quite a bit. Animate is a bit out of my budget at the moment still using cs3 here, so since its just a hobby i will do with what i got..

  9. tony237 says:

    “But seriously, an image sequence is ideal for animation. But a swf is horrible for doing anything other than popping it up on a website.”

    I’m in the process of learning both Flash and Animate for a game project and still trying to wrap my mind around some of the concepts. You mentioned transparent image sequences – after creating animations in Animate what would be the workflow to get them into Flash? For example, after creating lip sync, blinking eyes or even an attack routine what format would I need to use when exporting? Would I have to bring the images from the sequence in one by one?

  10. I’d still recommend exporting out either an image sequence or Quicktime. Then to bring into Flash, you could always import the image sequence, or if its a long animation then probably best to go with exporting out the Quicktime into an .FLV format and bring that into Flash.

    I know Animate does have the option to export to .swf though, so don’t forget about that. Swfs are fine to use, especially if you’re just going to be bringing them back into Flash (like in your case, that game). My point with the article is just that swf’s are not something you want to be using as your final render for an animation. Its not a very convertible format like a Quicktime file which can be converted to all kinds of other formats.

  11. tony237 says:

    Ok, thanks for the info – nice tutorials so far on this amazing product. I hope we’ll see more.

  12. Hi Justin. I am not using TB Animate but TB Pencil Check Pro only and I am hoping you can help me know how to convert a movie file to Flash’s .swf file format so we can put it on a website. If you don’t know, can you point me in a direction to find out. Thanks!

  13. I hadn’t even heard of Pencil Check till just now, so I’ll have a look out of curiousity, but obviously I’m pretty clueless on the export options. Sorry I can’t help more. Animate exports to swf though, so maybe if you can pull your Pencil Check files into Animate, that would do the trick as a workaround (if need be)

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