Open Source Animation 2: Baby Steps

So as you may have read, I’m trying out moving to a wholly open source animation workflow. Well, here’s the first installation of my progress on that front!

Let’s start off in Synfig. In terms of interface, it’s been quite an adjustment from using Flash. Tools are very different, and shortcut keys are nonexistent (beyond basics like ctrl+z) as far as I can tell. However, once I got started animating with their basic tutorial the interface started making a lot more sense – it would still benefit from some shortcut keys, though.

The tutorials (and other documentation) on the synfig wiki are not the best written I’ve seen. Many have inconsistencies in spelling and grammar that make them hard to understand, and in at least one case provide inaccurate information (that took me a half hour to figure out, since I figured I was just doing something wrong). You’ll want to be very careful going through them to make sure you don’t read something the wrong way and mess up your project. I may end up writing some tutorials of my own and putting them up.

I find the way Synfig goes about animation very interesting, and also much better than how Flash does (at least for vectors) so far. I can see it solving a lot of problems I had with animating in Flash. I am a bit concerned about a couple of areas where MovieClips really shone (Specifically lip syncing), but I’m not that far through their tutorials yet.

The rendering side of Synfig was also fairly unimpressive. While there’s an ffmpeg export system, it’s limited to single threaded and you can’t specify any parameters, which is hardly ideal. Exporting a series of PNGs, however, ended up working fine (better than Flash’s png export).

That, however, was when things went really downhill from a machine perspective. Like I said in my last blog, I’m running this in a virtual machine – as it turns out, running FFMPEG (or avconv as the case may be) to convert a stream of PNGs in a virtual environment is really, really slow. But OK, I can deal with that for just trying things out.

However, when I decided to start looking at NLEs, I started hitting the wall in terms of what a virtual machine could do. KDenLive would crash as soon as I tried to play back the timeline, and even VLC started being incredibly unstable. I’m reasonably certain that this is because of the virtualized graphics device in my VM.

So, I’ve gone out an gotten a small SSD (a 64GB Crucial M4), and set up Debian Testing on my system (I may roll it back to Stable). We’ll see how it handles with the full, unvirtualized machine next time – thus far results have been promising, even if hardware configuration was a bit of a pain.

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