Toon Boom Animation Inc. is the worldwide leader in digital content and animation creation software. Toon Boom carries user-friendly animation applications for all, catering to the needs of children, home users, creative professionals as well as students, educators and schools.
As importantly, Toon Boom is fully dedicated to the needs of independent animators and studios, offering a wide product range from powerful pre-production tools to leading-edge animation production solutions. Relying on its extensive expertise in animation production, Toon Boom provides consulting services in the fields of optimization, pipeline integration, production assistance and custom development.
To learn more about new animation creation programs from Toon Boom we interviewed Joan Vogelesang, Toon Boom’s President and CEO of TOON BOOM and Karina Bessoudo VP, Marketing and Communications of the company.
Bijan Tehrani: What have been the changes in Toon Boom since the last time that we spoke?
Joan Vogelesang: As you probably are aware we bring out new product releases at a minimum of once or twice a year, so each product that we have is continually upgraded and adapted to meet the needs of the market and customers. A few years ago some of the features that have been brought into the product offering on the high-end positioned our network system as the main pipeline solution. We are now announcing 2-D and 3-D integration, where you can bring 3-D objects into our pipeline and manipulate them in real 3-D space, we are bringing out particles, the pencil lines with texture and all of this to increase the capabilities within the studios and to enable them to reduce cost and increase quality. So as you know on the high end, people will be doing much more multimedia as we discussed before and now we have enabled them to bring that new media into our pipeline. On the storyboard side we are going to be announcing our 3-D storyboard to handle storyboards specifically for the gaming industry or with 3-D productions, so they would be able to have their 3 dimensional objects presented in the story board.
BT: It seems that you guys always stay ahead at the market by always finding new solutions for the market? Has Toon Boom Studio gone through evolutions in terms of the ease of use or is it similar to the first one that was presented.
JV: Toon Boom Studio upgrades on a regular basis.
Karina Bessoudo: Yes the new features include the bone animation capability. Toon Boom Studio is now positioned as a tool to learn animation and it is very good for hobbyist and also education. We provide with the software a series of curriculum that will continue to take the technology to the classroom and teach science and geography and history. Toon Boom Studio is really the platform to start creating animation.
JV: Now this capability with Toon Boom Studio has put us in line to be up for an award in Washington for the most innovative curriculum, we are in tens of thousands of schools with that product. We have empirical feedback from South Carolina that says that when they are implementing our curriculum in the classroom then the averages of the students in the class are going up in both math and English.
BT: How much can Toon Boom Studio help students create their own animated shorts?
JV: Toon Boom Studio is an outstanding product, and for the small application it is perfect, the reason we recommend people to go higher up is so that they can ultimately get to the networking power, if they are going to be using distributed studios. Toon Boom Studio continues to upgrade just as we do with the others. You might also be aware of our Flip Boom family. We now have iPhone and iPad applications and we have thousands of people downloading those applications and using them.
BT: I can see that the pricing has been drastically changed and even Toon Boom professional products are now affordable while years ago it was difficult for an independent animator to purchase it.
JV: Yes we definitely have priced for that what you might call a lower to mid-range marker so that the entry point is more accessible; it definitely continues to be a factor with a single user of small studios. We made a conscience decision to price within their comfort zone.
BT: The approach in Toon Boom software has changed to make it a lot easier to use for someone who is used to work with the other packages.
JV: Well that is a very good observation we went through quite a re-write of the technology to make it easier to use. We recognized that coming from our foundation many, many years ago and dealing with the major international studios that there would need to be a lot of consulting. As we cater to hobbyists and single users, we recognized that we had to make the technology easier to use and so we did focus groups, tested the market to the point that the technology is much more intuitive today and we continue to find ways improve the ease of use.
BT: Please tell me a little about the storyboard product that you have.
JV: Well Storyboard pro is a revolutionary product and the day we announced that product it was adopted by major studios to completely storyboard things like Family Guy, when you talk about staying ahead of the curve and the way that we do that is really by going into the field, observing what people are doing and asking them where the pinpoints are and what solutions would make their jobs a lot easier. One of the obvious ones was storyboarding because so much of the storyboarding was still being done manually and on paper; at a time when we are trying to encourage a green globe and use less paper and have more flexibility. So we came back in to our engineers and said look we need to solve this and that product I think if you go around the major studios in Europe or Asia, they will say that that product in the last couple years single handedly saved them money and time and improved their flexibility and we are going to continue to make that product and continue offering better solutions.
BT: As far as the pricing of the Storyboard Pro?
KB: It is $900; we have actually one of our power users who said that he recovered his investment in not even one job. So for a professional storyboard artist that works independently, it is really a smart move to adopt this product because it is going to make them save so much time and be able to accomplish many more projects, so it’s really at this point it’s a very good opportunity for them.
BT: Is there a bundle offered for someone that wants to by Animate Pro as well?
KB: Yes we offer from time to time some bundle offers. They are at the moment presented as time limited offering.
BT: Are you thinking more and more about 3-D movies, will there be any features that will be added that will be able to handle 3-D animation.
JV: Harmony is the product at the moment that offers 3-D integration. Now there is a product called Harmony Standalone so if someone decided that they wanted that flexibility versus taking Animate Pro, they should take Harmony standalone and then over time they can either upgrade and get all of the Harmony capabilities related to networking. If people want to do something interesting they can send us an e-mail and let us know exactly what it is they want to do and then we can recommend which is the best combination solution and the best price to take care of their needs.
BT: That’s another interesting aspect of Toon Boom that you can actually get a honest and productive advice about what you need to do. Please tell us about the support and the tech support that the customers get after they adopt the technology.
JV: Well we believe and I think it is part of our culture that we are more in partnership with out customers and our users rather than selling them a product because we see our relationship with them to be over a lifetime and not just a single transaction. As such we are very committed to their success and we believe that it results in our success so we put a lot of effort into the customer support as well as free tutorials and access to professionals on the website because we believe that we are the glue that very much holds a lot of this industry. It is very important that we maintain a very high quality and respectful standard and I think that it is a win-win for all of us.
BT: Can you tell us a little bit about the Harmony product and the changes that it has gone through.
JV: Yes that product is the one that we are announcing now; we are going to be doing a major tour, all of the new functionalities which include the pencil lines with texture and pressure sensitivity, the 2-D and 3-D integration, the particles and advanced Bone animation capabilities, along with Manager, our production management tool.
These are things that are very much in demand in the industry and we are going to be announcing them now and embarking on an international tour. We will deliver a complete demonstration to really illustrate the additional benefits that studios and animators are going to be getting from this.
BT: What are the plans for the future?
JV: As we go forward, every six months, we will bring new products announcements for what we see is the demand within the market. So we will definitely bring exciting things out for you. On the lower end we will work closely with Apple and the offerings that we can bring you through the Mac Store and with education we are working with the smart board and the other functionalities within the educational environment.