Scanning to Animate Pro 2? Here’s How!

For the past few years, my wife, Joanna Davidovich has been working on a fully traditionally 2-D animated short film/music video called Monkeyrag. I scanned and painted her student film in Photoshop and then sequenced the scenes in After Effects, and it took forever. So rather than dealing with the tedious hell that is the previous method, we decided to go with Toomboom Animate Pro 2. After all, they’ve been around for a long time and are dedicated to the ever evolving animation industry. Or at least that ‘s what I thought until I started scanning.

Animate Pro is a little different than any other application that I’ve used; the key commands seem kinda arbitrary, the interface isn’t intuitive and much of the terminology used is kinda confusing. I use professional production software everyday and I have a degree in traditional animation. I know how software works and the terminology, yet learning Animate Pro has been frustrating as all hell; scanning was like being in hell and trying to escape. Below is the entire multipart playlist for your viewing pleasure, and here’s the playlist on YouTube. Keep reading for the entire process in wondrous text form!

Click here to keep reading.

We have ben using Digicel Pencil Check Pro for several years and hoped to use it for our paint program,but ran into compatibility issues. After an extensive search, we decided to go with Animate Pro as our Scan & Paint program. ToonBoom has been around for a longtime and if anyone should have the workflow for hand drawn animation nailed down, it’s this company. Needless to say, we ran into massive issues. Since most of the current animation workflows revolve around Wacom Cintiqs and Adobe Flash, paper based workflows seem to be all but forgotten.

  1. When scanning via the ADF, the cells have to be placed in the feeder rotated 90° due to the dimensions of 12 field animation paper. This wouldn’t be an issue except that neither the Brother Twain Driver nor Animate Pro have  away to rotate the Cels before Vectorization. Since Animate Pro must have the pegholes at the bottom of the page for peghole registration to work yet has no way to rotate the cels, this has been beyond frustrating. I have been assured by Toonboom that this feature will be added in a future release, but there are other reasons that make scanning directly into Animate Pro 2 difficult.
  2. Renaming Cels is a complete pain. You need to type them all in by hand in the xsheet. There’s no way to automate this in Animate Pro and you can’t do it as you’re scanning or in the scanner album. Imagine typing the name of several THOUSAND cels.
  3. Files are a mess and you can’t easily find the originals.
  4. You can place a beg par on the scanner and scan each cel individually and eliminate the need for Optical Registration, but this is significantly slower and the issue is with the software, not the hardware, and the renaming and file management are still present though.

To create a workflow that overcomes these issues involved a lot of trial and error and even more dead ends. I’d really like to have a way to write my own drivers for the scanner, but I don’t have a team of programmers on hand to create them.

Prepping the Scanner

The first thing that you need to do is prep your scanner. I connected mine to my network and be sure to install the Bother Control Center application; It’s the best option for scanning. The next thing is placing some black tape on the ADF White Bar so the Peg holes show up. The White Bar is the part that presses the paper from the ADF onto the scanning surface. It’s held in place by plastic tabs in either end. These seem very fragile and should be handled with extreme care. If these break, then I’m pretty sure that your ADF scanner is screwed. Carefully press in on the tab and the bar should pop right out. It’ll still be attached on the other side so don’t yank it. There should be a couple of springs on the back that press it down on the surface, don’t loose them. Use electrical tape because it doesn’t have a rough texture and pages glide right over it. I place a 1 1/4” width of tape 1 3/8” from the edge of the bar.  Overlap the tape on the under side of the white bar to ensure that it doesn’t peal off over time. Carefully reinstall the White Bar and you’re scanner is ready!

Setting up the Scan Settings & the Brother Twain Driver

Custom scan settings: I like having the open folder option selected so when the scan is done, the finder folder with the scanned images will open. Naming the files is done automatically and all you can change is the suffix, But if you check the “Show Save As Window”, you’ll get the option to rename the main file name and create a directory for the files. Otherwise it’ll always name the files to the current date & time. It will always start the numbering at “_00001”. You have to change this after scanning. It sucks, but there’s no other way that I know of. Set your desired default directory. The most important thing is that you make sure that “Show Scanner Interface” is selected. Click save and your custom setting is ready to go and will be there the next time you open the Brother Control Center.

Press the button for your custom scan and the Brother Twain panel will show up. now here’s where things may get a little weird. the problem with this panel is that older versions amy not let you change the numbers behind the decimal. As of this post, Brother has fixed this, but if you find this issue; set it to A3 and then set ONLY the number in front of the decimal to 10 and 12 so the final dimensions are 10.7 x 12.5. Luckily, once you set these you don’t have to change it again. The proper dimentions for 12 field animation bond is 10.5” x 12.5”, but I started scanning before the latest update from Brother, so I’m not changing it now. Set the DPI to 300 and I’ve been using True Gray since it’s more accurate. Since the resolution is so high and it’s really going to come in as black and white, JPEG will be fine. I’d normally say use TIFF, but for some weird reason, Animate Pro doesn’t support TIFF. Load the cels in the ADF and try to keep them in stacks of around 50 max. Brother recommends only 35 for this scanner, but I’ve definitely put more in than that.  Also, fan them a little bit so the top most is closer to the feeder to keep them from getting pulled in together. Press scan and wait for that stack of cells to scan! If you’ve got a big stack of cels, then it’s a good idea to scan them into a 002 folder since each scan starts back at 00001.

Rotating your Cels: Automator is you Friend.

Once you’ve got your cels scanned in, there’s some automated processes that can make the next few steps a lot easier. First, you need to rotate your cels so the peg holes are on the bottom. You could do this next step in Photoshop, but I like to use Automator. It’s free with Mac OS and is much faster. Automator is in Applications -> Utilities ( or search in Spotlight). create an Application Workflow, then go to Images on the side toolbar and select “Rotate images” and set it to left. If you’re peg holes are on the top of the page, then it’ll be right. save this workflow to somewhere like your desktop. you can also place it in your Dock like any other application. select all of your images and then just drag them over the automator workflow application you created and in a few seconds, all your images are rotated! f-ing magic!

Renaming your Cels: How $20 Can Save your Sanity

Now comes the file naming. I wanted Automator to work here too, but it doesn’t do incremental sequence numbering, so I when with a 3rd party app called A Better Finder Rename. I highly recommend this app to anyone who works in production as it has saved my ass more times than I can count. one thing that you have to remember when naming your cels is the use of a hyphen right before the cel number. This will allow you to import the cel with their cel number into Animate Pro.  I only found this out after J.R., a Toonboom product trainer and demonstrator showed this to me. I don’t remember seeing this anywhere in any manual or tutorial, so Thanks JR! Put the Cel name in the prefix field with a hyphen after it. here I named the cels Sc05_Spanko- and the set the start frame, increment and amount of numbers. Press return, click rename all and there you go! Renaming animation can be a be tricky due to the nature of traditional animation, so I tend to go through all the images and make sure that they’re named properly. A bit painstaking, but a hell of a lot easier with Better Rename 9. I separate each scene’s layer into a new folder to make my files more organized and easier to import.

All that’s left now is to import into Animate Pro.

After all that set up, you’ll be left with cels that are properly scanned, rotated and named. This makes bringing them into Animate Pro so much easier and gives you files that are easily accessible to any application that accepts jpegs; which should be anything. Who doesn’t like that? Once your files are formatted properly, bringing them into Animate Pro is really easy. Below is part 7 from my series that will describe the rest of the process.

Next is Part 8 that describes an issue that may come up during the vectorization step. It’s not bad, it’s just something that’s bound to happen at least once during a production: multiple cels got scanned together.

And that’s how you scan in 12 Field animation into Animate Pro v2 on the Mac with a Brother Scanner!