Dr. Mussey's Blog
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By Andrew Mussey
One of our favorite Convertible Tablet PC’s was pulled from the market this past summer: The HP tm2. For a Tablet PC running Windows 7, it was relatively inexpensive (under $1000) and unique, featuring an ATI graphics processor in select configurations. The digitizer was quality Wacom with excellent pressure sensitivity.

The tablet was an excellent animation tool and handled even complex Animate Pro scenes. It was relatively compact and had great battery life.

On the negative side, screen brightness and viewing angles were less than other tablets. Its mouse pad was an acquired taste. The HP repair experience could be generally frustrating for its consumer product line.

Overall, though, we loved this machine for its audacity at packing so much power into so small a tablet convertible PC at a price point far below the competition.

This is still a great machine to use with Toon Boom products.

You can probably find them on Amazon and eBay, but make sure you get the ATI graphics option. It is telling that prices for this discontinued machine are actually higher than when you could buy it direct from HP.

Even for a company with so many faults, HP could still create winners. We will miss this one!


By Steven Mussey, M.D.
When animating with a computer, you have several options:

1. Draw the picture on paper, scan it, clean up and color the image on the computer.
Good for folks who still prefer the feel of paper.
Post-production work needed.
Not as smooth as drawing straight into the animation program.

2. Draw the picture using a standard Wacom Tablet attached to a computer.

Wacom tablets offer quality pen on “paper” experiences.
Unless you opt for an expensive Cintiq, you must learn to draw with your hand in one
spot while the drawing appears in a different spot.
Not very portable.
Ties you to a desk.

3. Buy a Windows Tablet PC.

Highly portable.
You can draw and watch your image in the same place.
You can draw anywhere.
Can be expensive.
Hardware choices confusing.

So, what about buying a Windows Tablet PC? This is NOT the same as an iPad or Android Tablet. This is actually a laptop computer running Windows 7 and using a convertible screen that is also a Wacom Drawing Tablet.

As of September 2011, this is the list of current tablet pc’s to consider:

Tablet PC’s with Intel Integrated Graphics:
Fujitsu Lifebook T731
HP EliteBook 2760P
Lenovo ThinkPad X220 Tablet

Tablet PC with additional Graphics co-Processor:
Fujitsu Lifebook T901

In a later post, I will review the Fujitsu T901 as an animation platform.

Hint: I really like it!


Toon Boom animation software saves time over older tools from years ago. Creating a sophisticated seven minute animation in the era of the 1930s to the 1970s required a large room of animators, lots of expensive equipment, and more money than I can imagine. Thus, by the end of the 1940s, the average seven minute cartoon was very unsophisticated and the animation was called “limited” because it took so many short-cuts. Cartoons from the 1950s and beyond looked less interesting because they were made so “cheaply.” Yet, even these “cheap” cartoons were terribly expensive to create.

My last cartoon took less than two weeks to create and tackled the issue of malpractice. Take a look at it.

This cartoon utilizes several effects and benefits available in the various Toon Boom packages:

The following effects seen here are possible in Toon Boom Studio, Animate, and Animate Pro:
1. Reusing characters from other projects
2. 3D camera that allows camera motion in and out with depth of characters and surroundings
3. Creating characters with cut-out parts that can be moved in a manner that reduces the number of drawings and adds more expression and motion to characters.
4. Speedy lip-synch with high levels of accuracy.
5. HDTV 1080p output

The following effects in the cartoon are possible in Animate and Animate Pro:
1. You may note there is subtle shading of the characters to create more depth. It makes the cartoon look less “Flash-like.”
2. Easier assembly of parts.

The following features are exclusive to Animate Pro:
1. The amazing swooping camera at the start and end of the animation that involves both 3D camera movement AND 3D ROTATION. The rotation is the key ingredient here.
2. The set is also 3D. Look at the announcer’s desk, walls and floor. The same is also present in the doctor scene but is kept more subtle. This was created totally in Animate Pro.
3. The shading effects on the floors, walls and characters are much easier in Pro.

Take home points: The majority of the cartoon effects are available in the entry product, Toon Boom Studio. Studio is a great starting point for the beginning animator. Then, once you are comfortable, you should graduate to Animate Pro. Animate Pro then allows the incredible shading, camera motion, and character interactions that make your production more professional.

The idea is to create a big-budget look with only a little time and money.



The newspaper industry is in trouble. Unfortunately, newspapers are simply just plastering the same stuff online that would be in print. The online experience allows full motion video. What about the comic pages? How realistic is it for one artist to create a weekly short animated comic. By short, I mean about 15 seconds: Just enough to deliver a punch-line.

This month, I am trying just that: Create my weekly newspaper comic….

…and also create an animated version for online.

Can it be done?

Yes, but there are some requirements:

1. Any of the Toon Boom products will work: Studio, Animate, or Animate Pro.

2. Set templates must be made in advance. For cartoons, you usually tend to use the same five or six locations. Create them now.

3. Character templates with movable parts, changeable facial expressions, and mouth positions must be set in advance.

4. Standardize your character sizes and structure so you can quickly create new characters with old parts and maybe just utilize a new head or hairstyle.

5. Keep your templates organized. This is really important.

This initial setup is time consuming. Once you have the pieces, however, one artist can create a new animation in just a matter of hours.

Wouldn’t it be great to see more animated comics on the iPad version of a newspaper?


One of the interesting features introduced into Toon Boom’s Animate Pro series was true 3D positioning and rotation of objects as well as the camera. This allows a lot of techniques and shortcuts for creating animations quickly with great quality.

In this short experimental four second clip, I created a doctor’s office. The characters are strictly 2D. Their world, however, is 3D with a few 2D objects scattered throughout.

The effect is very interesting.


The showfloor at CES opened Thursday, January 6 and the first place we went: The Toon Boom booth, of course!
Karina Bessoudo and Steven Chu were present in the booth describing the educational benefits of Toon Boom’s line of software for young animators.


In contrast to the Lenovo’s “a work in progress” tablet, Motion seems to have its act together.
Appearing in March or April is their Motion CL900.

Up to eight hours of battery.

Lightweight and rugged with a four foot drop test.

Display with Corning® Gorilla® Glass.

Both touch and stylus input.

30GB or 62GB solid state drive (SSD), and up to 2GB of RAM

This one got me excited. Motion has been in the tablet industry for almost a decade.


It feels like all of the big companies are freaking out and screaming: “Oh, no! We need to get a tablet out right now!!!”

Lenovo is promoting a cool looking tablet, maybe in a $600 price range. We posted on this earlier.

Further questioning of the Lenovo reps was a bit disappointing. There seemed to be a lot they simply did not know. Using the stylus was anything but easy. The touch experience was okay. Availability was extremely vague.

This is a prototype. I doubt we will see much of this in 2011.