A while back, independent animator and open culture advocate Nina Paley pined for an open source, 2-D vector animation program. Now her prayers have been answered; sort of. Tupi is a Kickstarter project whose goal is to create a fully functioning 2-D animation program that is also open source. But that’s not all, there’s also another Kickstarter project that aims to upend the ubiquituous animation GIF.
The Tupi project wants to give the same freedom to 2D-animation artists. Tupi is a 2D animation platform (GPL licensed ) whose main focus is to become the free/open source industry standard for every person interested in learning 2D animation—from beginners to professionals. Tupi’s strength is its emphasis on usability and a friendly interface. This project is still under development and requires a lot of work. That’s the reason of this campaign. If you are a 2D animator and you want the freedom to express yourself with software that is truly yours, Tupi is your future and we need your help.
That’s a lofty goal (with a similarly lofty fundraising target of $30,000) but if it is achieved, then it would do much to make inroads into the currently very closed world of 2-D animation software.
At present, Adobe has Flash along with the likes of Toon Boom offer animation software that can be utilised for 2-D projects. All this software is expensive no matter who you are; studio or independent artist. Flash is a minimum of $240 per year and Toon Boom Animate is $699 for one license!
Why is all this noteworthy? Well, in the 3-D space, there is actual, real competition between the various players. Autodesk sells their commercial software, but they must compete with the open source Blender. The latter’s free price has proven extremely tempting for plenty of animators, professional and otherwise.
Yet the 2-D space is left to the mercy of commercial companies. Blender extends the tools of the pros to even the lowliest independent. The 2-D space is not like that (yet.) Independents are faced with little choice: either pony up for a commercial program, or find another method. Unfortunately this ‘other’ method can mean going back in time to using cels and a camera.
That isn’t to say that such a move is a bad thing, but it is a retrograde step compared to the benefits that modern technology is supposed to provide. Pretty much everyone has a computer nowadays, and it’s a shame that there are barriers put in place to stop artists using them to their full potential.
So here’s hoping that Tupi succeeds. It may be a clunky start, but if it can build on its success, within a short space of time, we could have a real, viable 2-D animation program on out hands, and loads of lovely animation to boot.
The second Kickstarter project is quite different from the first (h/t to Techdirt). It’s main goal, which was quite surprising to learn, it to create a set of tools that allow users to make moving PNG images.
What? Yes! PNG images can be animated in exactly the same way as the GIFs we all know, love and cringe at on Tumblr. Not convinced? Have a look at this comparison:
The bottom image twirling around on your screen really is a PNG. Go ahead, save it and see for yourself. The differences should be clear, and obvious! Besides much smoother movement, the APNG blends much better into the background than the GIF.
The project’s main goal has already been achieved, and their stretch goal is within reach. If they make it, not only will be be able to drastically increase the quality of spoilers on Tumblr and elsewhere, we could also see a vast improvement of the ability of animated images to tell stories, or engage audiences. That’s something to consider, especially if animated images continue to gain popularity and prominence in entertainment and fandom.