Hi @fcollot welcome to the Pencil2D site. Let me dispel some of your doubts:
Some of the devs are french (I only know user feeef), but there are people from all parts of the world. Originally this software was made by Pascal Naidon, a frenchman, but he abandoned the project a few years ago due to his own reasons, so Matt Chang, the current lead programmer, picked up Pencil to restart development.
Pencil2D is not only aimed for “sketching”, that is making a “croquis” or a previsualization of a fully rendered drawing. It is meant to create hand-drawn animation from idea to movie, skipping maybe the compositing part.
A typical animation pipeline overview in a small studio can go like this:
IDEA - STORY (Script)
VISUAL DEVELOPMENT (Character Design, Set Design)
AUDIO RECORDING (animators use pre-recorded dialogue to match up performance)
LAYOUT & POSING
-TIMELINE TIMING (You time out the keys in advance, then scan or draw directly on the shot /scene timeline) (this step often varies between studios)
-ANIMATION (Character Animation, Fx Animation, this is done “rough” based on the storyboards, animatic and the layout reel; for example in tv shows usually they crank super precise storyboards and use that as a rough layout to begin animating)
-CLEAN-UP (INK & PAINT) (Done digitally nowadays)
-COMPOSITING (Overlay of layers one on top of the other. EG. Background last, next character, next foreground elements, etc)
-VIDEO EDITING - RENDER (depending on your pipeline you’ll render out either shots or full scenes, and them stitch them together in your batch renderer or in a dedicated video editor)
Ideally Pencil should help to contribute with mostly everything in the pipeline that has to do with drawing, painting and cleaning-up, and it should be able to be used to animate for 2D games, since what you need for your game engine is either a sprite-sheet or an image sequence of your animation to import.
If you’re interested in learning more about 2D animation software for production I’d suggest going to TVPaint’s website which is a french app for professional hand drawn animation. This is one does cost money, but it’s great.
As a bonus, let me tell you about Natron which is a french node based open source compositor which uses OpenFX plugins, just in case you wanna learn more about that hehe
Hope this helped clearing up what we should be expecting from pencil. And I really hope you can help us developing Pencil, so join the GITHUB whenever you can to stay up to date with the latest revisions!