Pros / There is both a beginner and a standard version of this software so you can learn at your pace.
Cons / This software doesn't automatically lip sync, you'll have to do it manually.
Verdict / MOHO Debut 12 is a great software for novices and professional animators alike since it is easy to use and provides drawing tools as well as a library of character options for you to work with.
We found MOHO Debut to be a relatively easy animation program to learn and use. Since it is compatible with drawing tablets, it made it easier to sketch out our ideas. It also offers plenty of premade character options, so you don’t have to be an artist in order to use it. You can record and edit audio, and it even comes with some prerecorded phrases for you to use. It doesn’t offer some of the more advanced animation features that you will find in MOHO Pro but overall, MOHO Debut is a great program for both beginners and intermediate users since it is easy to use and offers a variety of features and premade elements. It's compatible for both PC and Mac.
Smith Micro Software’s MOHO, previously known as Anime Studio, comes in two versions: MOHO Debut and MOHO Pro. Both of these programs are incredibly helpful for creating 2D animation, however MOHO Debut is more user friendly and it’s a lot easier on your wallet since it only costs a one-time payment of $70 instead of Pro’s $400. The fact that this is a one-time payment is also a big deal since many animation software are switching over to monthly or yearly subscription. If you’re unsure about the software, you can test it out using the free 30-day trial.
This animation program uses a bone-rigging system to help control how your character moves, bends and turns. We found that this function smooths any distortion around the joints. Once you have your characters rigged, it’s easy to make them perform complex movements, which in turn makes your animation look more professional. Only MOHO Pro includes an onion skinning tool. Onion skinning is a traditional animation method that allows you to see the frames before and after the one you are currently working on, which helps create smooth movements and transitions.
Within MOHO Debut, you can choose to be in beginner mode or standard mode. We found that beginner mode takes away some of the more advanced tools so the software is easier to navigate and use. You can easily switch back and forth between the two modes while in the program. We were surprised to find that the library is full of premade characters, backgrounds and other assets to quickly create and populate scenes. This includes premade environmental effects such as rain, smoke, fire and explosions. We will say that while there are plenty of options, many of the premade characters, backgrounds and effects look amateurish compared to the premade designs of other programs like CrazyTalk Animator.
The character creator gives you access to preset character features that you can mix and match as well as change colors to create your own unique actors. We found it incredibly fun creating our own characters, especially since you have control over nose, eye and mouth placements so you can really make unique facial features. This software has freehand drawing tools, brushes and vector conversion so you can trace imported sketches or design new character directly within the program.
Both versions of MOHO record dialogue and sound effects directly in the program. You can use the software to edit the audio as well. Most 2D animation software edits sound, but few have the ability to actually record audio. We also found a library of prerecorded phrases you can insert into your animations. While this software has tools to help you sync your audio with your character’s lips, it is not an automatic process like with any program that uses motion capture software. You will need to listen to the audio yourself and then manually insert the correct lip positions to create the illusion of movement.
To make this manual insertion a little easier, the program provides a Select Switch Window where you can import all of your different premade mouth positions and have them ready for you to switch out. If you’d prefer a software that offers advanced motion capture or auto-lip syncing capabilities, you might be interested in Toon Boom Harmony.
Import & Export
This software can import JPEG, PNG, BMP and AVI files. It is also compatible with PSD files so you can create characters in Photoshop and then import them into MOHO with all of the layers intact. This option is perfect for setting up bone rigging. Unfortunately, only MOHO Pro is compatible with Illustrator so you won’t be able to access AI files with MOHO Debut. When exporting your animations, you can create AVI, MP4, SWF, GIF and PNG files but you cannot post directly to social media sites like YouTube and Facebook.
Help & Support
There are a couple of tutorials on the MOHO site, but if you want more detailed instruction from Smith Micro, you will have to pay for more in-depth tutorials. Fortunately, there are plenty of user created tutorials on YouTube or you can access the MOHO forum to get input from other users.
MOHO Debut 12 is a great choice for beginning to intermediate animators since it comes with a library of premade characters, backgrounds, animations and special effects. You won’t need drawing skills to create animations, but if you are an artist, this program offers drawing tools and is compatible with drawing tablets to make the creation process easier. It would be better if this software had auto-lip syncing abilities, but it offers plenty of other features at a low price making it a safe choice for your wallet. Should you want a more professional software, you can always look at MOHO Pro.