Before jumping into actual animation process I had to plan the workflow, but is not that easy as it sounds because of all that software choices we have now. Of course some of programs were designed for animation and therefore became industry standards. But because of personal aesthetics preferences, the limitations could be powerful tools by itself. Here are my experiences so far, will update with links and thoughts.
Photoshop: wasn’t designed for animation at all, but many of successful short films and commercials have being made using it (no need to say, many of them are my favourites).
+: the best choice for straight ahead animation, has no rivals for its brushes, familiar interface
-: almost impossible to work key-to-key method, some glitches, slow, have to set your own workflow with actions, hotkeys, etc.
=: always refreshing to draw some gifs here and there, perfect for sketching and colour tests, could be used as finishing treatment and clean ups.
Flash: have to admit, I didn’t like it before, especially that “online flash cartoons” look. But it is the quickest way to get timing and movement right.
Pro: easy to use, super quick, vector based, very convenient to work with limited colour palettes
Cons: no texture brushes, crashes time to time, some glitches
=: surprisingly, more I use it, more I like it. Also I came up with nice and easy workflow for producing animatics – thumbnails on paper, crude sketches in Flash, adjusting composition, setting up the timing, shading on the layer below, cleaning up sketches a bit, adding music – done!
After Effects: no need to speak, absolutely love it. It’s an industry standard for compositing
-: high system requirements for smooth workflow
*: crashes on rendering with .swf files
CelAction: haven’t used it much, but we had a couple of workshops last week.
+: you can rig your own drawing, use and reuse loops, some filters, perfect for lipsync.
-: no inverse kinematics, no Mac version, no web community around to ask questions,
=: honestly, I wanted to like it. But after some time I realised I wasn’t enjoying the process of moving components (but if I really need to do something like that I’d rather go to AfterEffects). Lastly, there’s no easy way to learn it – for each little thing you have to learn a button – could do it, but why would it worth it?
TVPaint: I’ve heard a lot about it and looks like it’s all true. Have been testing it for a couple of days now, but was’t impressed by brushes and interface. Meanwhile, looks like it’s worth to give it a try – timeline and onionskin are organised much more logically than in Flash.
links: inspirational tutorial
Maya: industry standard for 3D animation, but could be used for 2D as well (f.ex. Southpark)
Super complicated and heavy, but I liked the rigging mechanism and the animation process.
Google SketchUp: perfect for environment sketches and for testing camera angles on it
+: superquick, easy to use, free
-: weird navigation sometimes, some glitches and crushes
Useful links: Sketchup\photoshop tutorial