Faster, Smoother, Simpler! Toon Boom Introduces Harmony & Storyboard Pro 22

***This article originally appeared in the November ’22 issue of Animation Magazine (No. 324)***

Just in time for the busy fall season, Montreal-based software powerhouse Toon Boom has released the 22 version of its standard-setting Harmony and Storyboard Pro tools which promise to expand the possibilities of visual storytelling while giving artists more control and freedom of ease.

The Duke's Game
The Duke’s Game

Harmony 22: Creating Worlds of 2D Animation

Industry artists rely on Harmony Premium’s tools and workflows at every step of the production process, from roughs to ink-and-paint as well as 2D rigged characters and compositing. A benefit of using a consistent set of tools throughout the production process is that revisions can be made at any point, without needing to import and export scenes or compromise in quality along the way.

Industry artists recognize that Harmony’s industry-leading drawing engine and workflow tools provide the flexibility to produce animation in any style; with organic bitmap brushes, precise vector lines, a robust color management system, an easy-to-use 3D stage and multiplane camera system, as well as tools for both traditional animation and rigged characters — while always offering artists the freedom to seamlessly draw special poses when needed for a scene.

Harmony 22 Premium introduces new features for artists and studios alike, including full support for HDR pipelines, improved support for Python scripting, as well as new effects for animators and compositing artists. Rendering operations are now performed using 32-bit floating point values, which not only enable native support for HDR color and brightness values but also improve precision and performance on heavy scenes.

Python scripts can now run from Harmony’s own Python Console to access and manipulate scene data, which provide technical directors with more flexibility when developing workflows tailored to their production’s needs.

The animate pencil texture effect node allows artists to quickly add line boil to textured vector lines, and the new bokeh blur effect allows independent artists, as well as compositing teams of all sizes, to bring cinematic effects to their projects.

The Duke's Game
The Duke’s Game – Mouse and Nitro face off.

Storyboard Pro 22: Where Every Great Story Begins

From seamless integration with screenwriting tools, to drawing thumbnails, revising storyboards or timing an animatic with camera movement and sound, Storyboard Pro allows creatives to get content off the ground quickly and easily.

With the same industry-leading drawing tools found in Harmony, Storyboard Pro provides artists with the flexibility to sketch scenes quickly and efficiently using shorthand or draw precise, on-model poses when needed. With a built-in multiplane camera and support for 3D assets, Storyboard Pro can be used on any production, whether 2D, 3D, hybrid or live action.

Meanwhile, updates in Storyboard Pro 22 bring improvements to conformation with non-linear editing software, native Apple ProRes support and new quality-of-life features, such as an audio levels monitor for creating animatics with sound. Improvements to conformation allow editors and directors to more accurately track scenes in their editing software and bring changes, including to camera movements and timeline markers, back into Storyboard Pro. Native support for Apple ProRes codecs allows for consistency across macOS and Windows, and allows for rendering in high resolution without memory limitations. The new audio levels monitor is essential for working with both scratch audio and final sound, to prevent audio clipping and more easily ensure consistent levels across a project.

The Duke's Game
A Stylish Journey: To mark the release of Harmony 22 and Storyboard Pro 22, Toon Boom commissioned Mercury Filmworks to produce the short film ‘The Duke’s Game’ by Shane Plante.

The Duke’s Game

To mark the release of both Harmony 22 and Storyboard Pro 22, Toon Boom Animation commissioned the team at trailblazing studio Mercury Filmworks (Hilda, Kid Cosmic, Centaurworld) to produce an original animated short. The new film, titled The Duke’s Game, was directed by Shane Plante and will be used to develop demo scenes that users can download to learn how to use features in Harmony 22 Premium and Storyboard Pro 22. The team at Mercury Filmworks was given full creative freedom on the project.

“The projects that I do on my own tend to be a little darker,” notes Plante, a senior animator at Mercury Filmworks. “There are lines that we don’t get to cross at the studio regularly, and I was a little hesitant to pitch them.”

“The only thing that we were told was a requirement was that this short needed to be about skateboarding in some form,” adds Collin Tsandilis, a director at Mercury Filmworks who collaborated with Plante on the project. “We didn’t want to just have the short set at a skatepark. We wanted it to be set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.”

The short film makes use of 2D character rigs for the Duke, Nitro and Mouse; Master Controllers on both characters and the hoverboards; a 3D environment inside Storyboard Pro and Harmony Premium; as well as scenes composited using Harmony Premium’s new bokeh effect node. In addition to storyboarding and directing the short, Plante also voiced the Duke and provided the guitar track that accompanies the film, making use of the new audio monitoring tools in Storyboard Pro 22. With help from artists at Mercury Filmworks, this new short sets a benchmark for what can be accomplished in Storyboard Pro 22 and Harmony 22, and demonstrates tools that artists have at their disposal to produce stunning animated sequences of their own.

What’s New in Harmony 22:

  • HDR rendering with 32-bits per channel. Render operations in Harmony can now be performed using 32-bit floating point values. This means more precision, better accuracy and support for color values below 0 and above 1 for high dynamic range (HDR) rendering.
  • Python scripting. Python scripting can now run natively from Harmony’s own Python Console to access and manipulate scene data. If you need to leverage JavaScript API functionalities, the new Python Console also interacts with the existing JavaScript/Python bridge.
  • Bokeh Blur effect. The Bokeh Blur effect added to Harmony Premium’s Effects Library simulates how a camera lens blurs elements out of focus based on the shape of its iris. An alpha depth matte can be added to this new blur effect to determine the amount of blur a desired area of the image will receive and, in so doing, simulate depth of field.
  • Animate Pencil Texture Effect. Want to make vector lines look hand-drawn by simulating a line boil? Harmony 22 Premium has a new node for that, with controls for adjusting the random offset and stretching applied to your pencil line’s texture.

What’s new in Storyboard Pro 22:

  • Apple ProRes codec support. With increasingly demanding high quality video requirements Storyboard Pro brings consistency across platforms and allows rendering in high resolution without running into memory limitations.
  • Improved conformation with NLE software. Bring camera movements to your NLE software, allowing for non-destructive changes on your timeline.
  • Audio levels monitor. visually monitor audio output levels in order to prevent audio clipping as well as ensure consistent audio levels throughout the production pipeline.

Licenses for Harmony 22 and Storyboard Pro 22 are available for purchase on Toon Boom Animation’s website. Users with existing annual or monthly licenses can find the latest updates in their accounts under Downloads. Harmony 22 and Storyboard Pro 22 are compatible with Windows and macOS, with support for Intel as well as Apple Silicon devices. Artists can download a free 21-day trial and find free training resources on the Toon Boom Learn portal.

For more info, visit toonboom.com.

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