With the myriad of animation software programs hitting the mainstream, leaving the choice up to aspiring animators is like letting kids loose in a candy store. By that of course I mean they are only limited by the amount of change jingling in their pocket.
To help our aspiring animator readers choose the right software tool(s) we have taken the best pieces of advice from our Interview Series when it comes to animation-industry software standards and programs, and filed it down to a list of prorgams most-recommended, by pros, for beginners:
Richard O'Connor, Ace & Sons
Software is a secondary concern for beginners. Anyone can learn it. If you don't understand animation and film making all the technical skills in the universe won't make you a good animator.
We mostly use the Adobe suite -Flash and After Effects. These are typically combined with other media.
We use AutoDesk products – mainly 3D Studio Max, and sometimes Maya. We also use AfterEffects and the whole suite of Adobe products. Also a variety of plug-ins. Try anything and everything you can get your hands on. Be versatile. I would suggest that beginners use free software, or failing that, Cinema 4D.
Kai Bovaird, AD/M
We use many products from Autodesk, The Foundary and Adobe. Learn what ever your local companies are using. Don't get too caught up on any one particular software. Its ONLY a tool. Learn the foundations!
Arthur Kautz, Aniben
We use Maya and 3ds for 3D work, Toonboom Storyboard for board work, and Adobe Illustrator. Maya is an industry standard and a beginner might as well start with that package. The transference of technique is what is important between software packages.
Joe DiDomenico, Applehead Factory Design Studio
We primarily use LightWave 3D for our 3D animation and Flash and After Effects for our 2D animation. All three of these tools are great for beginners that are interested in getting into animation.
Robert Stava, ARUP
3ds Max is the primary package we use, augmented by other software like Dynamite, Vue Xtreme, Craft Director tools, After Effects, Composite, etc. Max is fine for all levels of users.
Glenn Barnes, Big Sandwich Games
For 3D, we use both Maya and 3DS Max, and both are represented more or less equally within the industry. Either of those would be a great place to start for beginners. For 2D, Adobe Photoshop is definitely the standard, and even 3D artists use it every day for texture painting and render touchups.
Brad Trofin, Bradleez Cartoons
I almost exclusively use Adobe Flash. I love that program! It allows artists to be artists and it doesn’t smother artists with too much “techy stuff”.
I prefer Maya for animation. My newest inspiration is using Modo. I can't wait to open that every day! I would recommend Modo definitely. Having gone through Maya training and remembering what that learning curve was like Modo seems to be very intuitive.
Trevor Davies, Core Animated Effects and professor at Sheridan College Animation
The standards vary from studio to studio but locally, I think you will be marketable with good skills in Photoshop, ToonBoom or Flash, Maya or 3DMax, Sculpting Tools like Mudbox or Z-Brush, After Effects and Premiere or Final Cut Pro.
Gary Thomas, CRUSH
We have Maya, and Cinema 4D. Cinema 4D is an excellent package priced for the real world. Plenty of good tutorials available online too.
Andre Lyman, Clambake
Our studio works with the Adobe Creative Suite, and we animate in Flash. Our designers work in Photoshop, audio editors in Protools, and editors in Final Cut Pro and After Effects. Our storyboarder is working on good old fashioned paper! But, we seek a strong knowledge of Flash and Photoshop in general.