Synfig: the free software alternative for 2D animation

November 2nd, 2008 edited by Tincho

Article submitted by Carlos López González. Guess what? We still need you to submit good articles about software you like!

Synfig logoFor a long time 2D animation software has been dominated by proprietary software. Other common multimedia tasks such as video playing, editing, raster and vector 2D graphics and 3D graphics or animation are currently being covered properly by free software / open source (FOSS) but there wasn’t enough FOSS alternatives for computer aided 2D animation.

Synfig increases the 2D animation software available with a brilliant and professional piece of software.

Synfig was primary developed by Voria, an animation company founded by Robert Quattlebaum who was also the lead software engineer of the software. In 2004 Voria shut down and was discontinued. Fortunately Robert decided to license Synfig under the GNU GPL and turned it over the free software community to develop and use.

Synfig has no comparable alternative software in the FOSS world. Unlike other FOSS that can be used to produce 2D animation (ktoon, pencil) in the “traditional” frame to frame animation, the Synfig workflow is based on vector primitives and their interpolation in time. This drastically reduces the amount of work to produce professional animations because the manual tweening from pose to pose is eliminated, without the need to draw each frame individually.

But this is not the only feature of Synfig…

In Synfig, every primitive or transformation is parametrically generated, which gives extreme flexibility during animation and doesn’t restrict artistic expression. Also, those parameters are calculated on a float point basis obtaining smooth results at any size and any frame rate. Additionally it is possible to link any compatible parameter between any two or more different layers, even placed in different canvases or even convert most of the parameters into a mathematically calculated formula, this allows Synfig to produce particle effects, path based brushes, vectors dynamically linked to any place of a curve and other interesting stuff.

In Synfig there are an extensive set of primitives and transformation layers: Blurs (3), Distortions (6), Colour Filters (5), Fractals (2), Geometry Primitives (8), Gradients (6), Transform (3), Stylize (2) Text, Plant, Duplicate, etc. which provide a complete set of tools in the artist’s hand.

Finally in Synfig is easy to reuse libraries, group scattered layers to manage them like a single one, there are 22 different blend methods… If you want to dig synfig visit its web page. You can find there more info about the usage, the features and its development. Behind it, there is a small but friendly community.

Synfig UI

All those features make Synfig a great application but it has also some weak points: there are some missing features not completely developed like the support of sound or saving and loading colour palettes.

On the other hand although the interface of Synfig-Studio can be strange for the first contact (most of the actions are found in the right click context menu), once you understand how it works it is very efficient. I’ve been working with it during last year and I’m completely in love with it. I only miss a quick render engine for editing animation because the current one is quite slow for a normal workflow.

Although it is relatively young it has definitely turned into a program that any 2D artist must have on their GNU/Linux box. It’s been available in Debian since Lenny and in Ubuntu since Feisty.

Posted in Debian, Ubuntu |

9 Responses

  1. ninai Says:

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  2. Fırat Küçük Says:

    right now.
    apt-get install synfig


  3. alphakamp Says:

    Segfaults in Intrepid

  4. flow Says:

    >> Segfaults in Intrepid
    Can confirm that. Starts loading, but at about 80-90% of the progress bar it simply crashes.
    A pity, but I won’t post a bug report anymore today. Would someone else do?

  5. pabs Says:

    Segfault in intrepid is because of the new GTK+ version there. The bug is fixed in synfigstudio 0.61.09.

    Use this to install:

    apt-get install synfigstudio

    Not this:

    apt-get install synfig

  6. anna Says:

    with ubuntu 8.10 synfigstudio says segmentation fault.

    Ubuntu… I am going back to debian

  7. mirc Says:

    It still crashes on Intrepid no matter what the package name is.

  8. Lex Says:

    from the synfig website:
    Due to the incorporation if the newest GTK/GTKmm version (2.14) since Ubuntu Intrepid 8.10, the old version of synfigstudio included in that linux distribution has turned not usable. Until new Ubuntu version or the adoptation of a backport into 8.04 LTS, the only way to have synfigstudio running in Ubuntu Intrepid is build the binaries from he source code.
    To fix this problem, go here.

  9. Adair Says:

    Synfig does, unfortunately, seem to have compatibility problems, at least at present, across a range of common distros.

    We eventually got it up and running under Vista, after installing the GTK packages (and software to hold Synfig to one core on a multi-core system).

    Great bit of software, and all credit to the folk developing it, but really hope the installation issues can be sorted out as that is a major turn-off to anyone wanting to try it out.