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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Animating Cut-Out Characters - Part 2

In our last tutorial / article, Animating Cut-Out Characters - Part 1 , we learned how to copy a library template into our project and how to manipulate the character's arm to begin to pose the Little Boy. If you missed reading that article, now would be a good time to stop and do so.

For Part 2 in our series we are going to use the Toon Boom Studio supplied cut-out character Der Der. The Der Der cut-out was created and rigged in version 3.0 of TBS and there are some differences between its rig's appearance and usage and that of the Little Boy character. The major difference is that prior to version 3.5 there were no pegs integrated into drawing or image elements. Therefore each body part element was required to be attached to a parent peg element for keyframing. Later style rigs that take advantage of the integrated pegs are easier to use because you don't have as many tracks in the timeline, but also as we progress through this tutorial, I will point out other considerations.

We need to create a new project in TBS and set our animation properties for 24 FPS. I always try to animate at 24 FPS because it is an industry standard for timing and it is best to learn to time your animation work at a consistent frame rate.

We open the library and in the catalog list we go to the TOON BOOM TEMPLATES catalog and then to the CUT OUT CHARACTERS sub-catalog where we will find the DER DER RIG template. As we did in Part 1, we want to click and drag the template from the library to our SCENE 1 timeline. The template will be fully expanded when we copy in the template. Our first task will be to prepare the template for animating. So we need to collapse the character's master peg DER_DER_rig.

The Der Der character was created as an example of how to construct a cut-out character and the template has a number of features set up that we want to change because they are not the way we want to get started in animating this character. The first thing we will do is to go to frame 1 of the collapsed master peg and right click to open the context menu where we will select the SET CONSTANT SEGMENT option. We don't want tweens created yet while we are keyframing. Also if you don't have CREATE CONSTANT KEYFRAMES set up in your PREFERENCES do that now also. (explained in Part 1). Also go to your TOOLS menu and select the TURN PEG ONLY MODE ON option. Because we are doing pose to pose keyframing you do not want Snap Last Keyframe to be selected. (revised for V4.5) By now it should also go without saying that because we are key frame animating, you need to be in CAMERA (compositing) view.

Now we need to move the red frame slider to the last frame of our master peg, frame 20, and we will again right click to open the context menu and this time we select the REMOVE KEYFRAME option. Then we want to expand the master peg to see all the tracks in the timeline.

In this particular rig there are four drawing elements that have multiple cells set up for replacement animating. Left_pupil, Right_pupil, Eyes, and Mouth are those multi-cell elements. We want to set them all to just a single cell. So to do that we will adjust each of them one element at a time. Let's start with the mouth drawing element. by selecting all the frames from frame 2 to frame 20.

IMPORTANT NOTE: pegs are blue, drawing elements are green and pegs end with a -P identifier in their track name. As you will see shortly, great care needs to be observed to pay attention to which elements are pegs and which ones are drawing elements. We keyframe on pegs and we do replacement animation on drawing elements. (this is one of those old style rig VS new style rig considerations).

With the frames from 2 to 20 selected in the timeline for the mouth element, we look in the CELLS panel and see the current cell for frame 2 which is Mouth-b. Notice that the range of selected frames is showing as 2 thru 20. Even though there are other cells in some of those frames the CELLS panel displays only the first of the frame range's cell names.

Frame 1 has Mouth-a as its exposed cell, so we want to set the frames from 2 - 20 to also have Mouth-a for their exposed cell. We can type in the letter "a" in this case for the drawing or we can just move the cell swap selection slider until Mouth-a is the current selected cell.

We will repeat this process for the other multi-cell elements,
Left_pupil, Right_pupil, and Eyes. Our goal is to have all of our drawing elements be the same element cell for all 20 frame exposures in our character rig.

You may have noticed that in my project's timeline there is an additional element named drA. As I said in Part 1 you still will often want to do some rough hand drawn animating as part of doing cut-out animating, particularly for the key poses. So I have a rough walk cycle with just the main key poses timed out in drA which we will use as a posing reference. You don't have to have this kind of reference but it helps.

Download drA as a compatible template for either Version 3.5 or Version 4.0. Open your library panel and import the downloaded template to your Global library using the context menu by right clicking in the catalog content pane and selecting IMPORT>IMPORT TEMPLATE FILE. Then you can drag a copy of the drA template to your project's timeline.

Looking in CAMERA view we see our character Der Der is not facing the same direction as our first pose in frame 1 nor is he the right scale size.

We will select the scene ops SELECT tool (6) and select the Der_Der_rig master peg in the timeline. Then we will look in the PROPERTIES panel where our selected peg's properties are displayed. These are static properties.

We will set the value of the second box for the Scale to negative which will flip the character horizontally. If you had set the value in the first Scale box to negative you would have flipped Der Der vertically. (This is a handy tip for changing an object's screen orientation, but be careful to remember that these are static properties and this is not how you flip characters if you wanted to do it dynamically through key framing. For that you would use the scene ops TRANSFORM tool (7) and not the PROPERTIES panel settings)

Now we have Der Der facing the correct direction but he is still too large so we need to scale him down to size. We are going to scale the entire rig and all its elements and not just for a single frame so we use the scene ops SELECT tool. We want to have the master peg Der_Der_rig selected and collapsed in the timeline. (Remember to watch for the solid bounding box handles for the SELECT tool and the hollow handles for the TRANSFORM tool ).

We will hold down the SHIFT key as we click and drag the upper right corner grab handle diagonally toward the center of the character to cause Der Der to get proportionally scaled smaller.

Once we finish scaling the character, we will click and drag him into position over the top of our hand drawn first pose reference where we can begin manipulating the rig to pose our character. To do that we will expand the master peg to make all of the rig's elements visible in the timeline. Then as we learned in Part 1, we will select the scene ops TRANSFORM tool (7) and use it to manipulate the character's body parts.

make sure that you only keyframe on the peg elements for Der Der and don't select the drawing elements by accident. If you forget and select a drawing element you will have to use UNDO to fix the mistake. Again, please note that this is an old style rig to new style rig, Version 3.0 to Version 3.5 and above consideration. Der Der's drawing elements don't have their rotational pivot points set for keyframing but because you are using V3.5 or V4.0 the drawing elements have integrated pegs and thus you can set keyframes in them which is not what you want to be doing for animating Der Der.

Be sure your red frame slider is positioned at frame 1. Which body part you choose to manipulate first is a personal choice. I typically start with the legs and work my way up to the arms. As we discussed in Part 1, you can move parts and then move other parts and just keep adjusting the pose until you are satisfied it is pretty much the way you want it. It doesn't have to be totally perfect as you can always come back later and adjust it as we will see in Part 3. When you finish manipulating Der Der into the first pose, collapse the master peg and with the scene ops TRANSFORM tool still selected use the keyboard short cut key " I " to set a keyframe. This locks down that pose for all elements in the rig from top to bottom.

Here is a great tip for using a reference drawing for setting poses for a cut-out character. In the properties panel for the drA element I have the element TYPE set to "background" which means that the element is visually behind all the "normal" type elements in Der Der's rig.

But to help see the reference more clearly while working you can go to the PROPERTIES panel and switch the drA element's TYPE to "foreground" which will pop it on top of Der Der. You can then switch the drA element's TYPE back and forth between "foreground" and "background" as you work to see it better or get it out of your way as needed.

With our frame 1 pose finished we are ready to do a second pose. We are going to animate Der Der using the pose to pose technique. When animating a walk cycle I do the contact poses first. So our second pose is at frame 16 and is the repeat of the first pose except that it is in a different location on the screen. Before we can create this pose we need to add a parent peg to the Der Der character for the purpose of animating his forward motion. We want to separate the forward motion from the actual walk cycle motion so that we can reuse the walk cycle itself later in other scenes or projects.

We will collapse the master peg for the Der Der character and select it in the timeline. We then click on the icon for adding a parent peg. (see the photo above)

Once the new parent peg is added to the Der Der character we want to rename it to forward-P. We will only be keyframing Der Der's forward motion on this peg while all his walking motions will be keyframes on his character rig pegs. So with the forward-P peg expanded and selected and the Der_Der_rig peg collapsed, but visible, we will select the scene ops MOTION tool (0) and move the red frame slider to frame 1 and press the keyboard short cut key " I " to set a motion keyframe. Then we move the red frame slider to frame 16 and set a second motion keyframe.

At frame 16 we see the position of our second pose. We still have the forward-P peg selected and the MOTION tool is still selected. We click and drag the Der Der character while holding down the SHIFT key to constrain his up and down position until the character is on top of our reference pose. You could also have used SHIFT plus the RIGHT ARROW key to make this move.

When you have the pose lined up over the reference pose, select the collapsed Der_Der_rig peg, and select the TRANSFORM tool (7) and using the context menu or the keyboard short cut key " I " set a keyframe at frame 16 to lock down the pose. Don't forget to do this because if you do forget and start changing keyframes down stream on any previous frame, they will effect frame 16's pose.

We are ready to do the middle contact pose for our walk cycle which is on frame 9. So we select the MOTION tool (0) and we select the forward-P peg and move the red frame slider to frame 9 and using the
context menu or the keyboard short cut key " I " set a new motion keyframe at frame 9. Then we use the SHIFT key and click and drag the character into position over our reference pose.

The character's pose is not correct for the middle contact position so we need to re-pose Der Der to match the reference pose.

We do this exactly like we did for the first pose using the TRANSFORM tool to adjust the body parts for Der Der. Remember to be careful and only keyframe on the peg elements and not on the drawing elements of Der Der's rig.

So at this point if we turn on ONION SKINNING we can see the first two poses which are opposite contact poses. And we can also see the second and third pose which are also opposite contact poses.

Our next steps will be to create the three poses between frame 1 and frame 9 as seen by our reference drawings above.

And we also need to create the three poses between frame 9 and frame 16. So that's where we will pick up in Animating Cut-Out Characters - Part 3. We will also then begin doing the additional in between poses to smooth out our character's walk.

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Blogger Benjamin Hiatt said...

I really hope Part 3 is coming up...

March 25, 2008 at 1:57 PM  
Blogger JK said...

Coming soon, but if you need help sooner, then write me an e-mail with your questions and I'll try to answer them.

March 25, 2008 at 5:04 PM  
Blogger Benjamin Hiatt said...

The one thing I'm having trouble with is figuring out how to fade to black efficiently. Other than that, I'm in pretty good shape. Still looking forward to part 3, though.

April 23, 2008 at 3:29 PM  
Blogger nyw said...

hello, I did a walk ccle with little boy. I found how to cycle a peg or a draw but it seems that you must do it one by one ( I mean cycling the head then the neck then the arm etc ...)! I wonder if we can control the whole character in one time or if I made an
error during the animation.

I m sorry for my english I hope you understood
thanks a lot !!!

June 6, 2008 at 12:17 PM  
Blogger JK said...

Collapse the top most level peg for the character. Then select the frames that make up your cycle on that top peg. Copy the peg. Move to the starting frame for the next cycle which should be one frame after the last frame of the previous cycle and use the paste special command to paste the peg into your time line. You can repeat this for each additional cycle desired and you don't need to do it one body part at a time because all the children of the top most peg where copied with it because it was collapsed when you made the copy and paste.

June 6, 2008 at 8:26 PM  
Blogger nyw said...

so magic !!!

Thank u very much !

June 7, 2008 at 9:37 AM  
Anonymous Yuki said...

Hello, just a quick qn.
Can the latest toon boom do auto in-betweens and auto coloring with just the drawn key frames?


October 11, 2008 at 2:29 AM  
Blogger JK said...

I believe that you are asking about the ability of TBS to animate parameters across time. Tweening is the term usually used for this function. So the answer is that animating parameters is done by setting keyed frame parameters and setting non constant segments between those keyed frame values. This feature has been part of TBS pretty much from the beginning version and continues through V4.5.

You must use key framing if you want the computer to assist you with your animating of parameters.

October 11, 2008 at 9:27 AM  
Blogger Fabiano Gama said...

Hello! Very nice tutorials. But I have question. I was following carefully this tutorial, but I had a problema that is giving me headache. I put Derder in his position at the frame 16, put the ketframes on his pegs, then I go to frame 9, make the contact position and when I go back to the 16 frame,I this frame was affected with the movient of frame 9. But it's all keyframed. I did this several times to make sure I wasn't forgetting something, but it keeps happening. So I cerated another file, made a drawing object, keyframed with the transform tool selected (keyframing all of the parameters) the start and the end position of its peg, move it at the end position to another place on the screen and the motio worked well. Then I went to some frame at meadle of the way, changed the size, again with the transform tool, and when I went to the end keyframe, the size was the same as the meadle way kayframe. In another words, the last keyframe was affected by the parameters of the meadle keyframe, except by the moviments. Is this a bug in Toon Boom or in my brain? hehe..

December 6, 2008 at 10:54 PM  
Blogger JK said...

I believe that this is being caused by the fact that you have "snap last keyframe" toggled on. Switch that command off and your downstream keys should not be effected by those previous keys. Snap last keyframe is useful sometimes and a bit confusing at other times. I hope this helps.-JK

December 7, 2008 at 7:59 AM  
Blogger Fabiano Gama said...

Thank you very much ,JK! Your lessons are realy helping me. Actually, just after I wrote this question to you yesterday, I found out the solution in Toon Boom in a restless exploration. But I'm grateful for your attention and how fast was your answer. I'm glad there are still people in this world spending time on helping others and sharing knoweledge. Thank you again :)

December 7, 2008 at 10:06 AM  
Blogger Fabiano Gama said...

Hi, JK. I have another headache question. I'm making a cut out animation like this, but in this time it's not for study, it's for my real job, and suddelly I stumbled upon a problem that seems to be impossible to find out a solution:

I Built, rigged and tested my characteres and everything was all right. But when I began to built my scene itself, I couldn't animate my charactere because the handles and the boxes of the select, transform and rotate tools just didn't appear.

I have ither coppies of this charactere in the same document and the other coppies don't show this problem.

I created other two cameras as I was seacring for solutions, and through this other cameras sometimes it all appears again.

What kind of mess I may have done?

December 10, 2008 at 3:51 PM  
Blogger JK said...

One possible cause of this is that if you build a hierarchy of elements without having the top most element being an actual "peg element" and you have "peg only mode" turned on, then the keyframing tool bounding boxes and their handles will not be displayed. To fix this you either must turn "peg only mode" off or just attach your hierarchy to a top level element that is a "peg element" as opposed to an "image" element or a "drawing" element. I hope this help you resolve your issue.

December 10, 2008 at 4:36 PM  
Blogger Fabiano Gama said...

Actually, all my drawing elements are attached to a parent peg, the top of my charactere hierarchy is a peg element and the top of this specific camera shot is attached to a peg just to keep it all organized.

The Pegs only mode was really turned on, but when I turned off, nothing different happened. The weird part is that some other elements in the same shot have their handles displayed, and sometimes, onli sometimes, the handles of my character are displayed, but for a short time.

But now I set the camera menu to "Default" and through this view I can see and grab the handles. I will do the animation through this view and test in the actual camera view.

Weird isn't?

December 10, 2008 at 5:05 PM  
Blogger Fabiano Gama said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

December 10, 2008 at 5:05 PM  
Anonymous Will said...

I absolutely love your tutorials! Well written and highly informative. Just one thing though... Will there be a part 3 to your "Animating Cut-Out Characters" series? I hope so, as the first two have been very educational...


January 27, 2009 at 11:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has it really been more than a year since this two-part tutorial was introduced?

What happened to the momentum?

March 9, 2009 at 2:15 PM  
Blogger JK said...

I have really been busy and that sometimes makes it difficult to find the time to do more "spare time" tutorials. Thanks for the "nudge", hopefully I will get back to writing more soon.

March 9, 2009 at 5:26 PM  
Blogger JK said...

To all those people who have more than patiently been waiting for part 3 of this series. I have two excellent pieces of information. First, I just posted a new series on cut-outs that introduces building the cut-out, rigging the cut-out and animating the cut-out. I did that because I found from numerous comments and e-mails that there was a real need to have those tutorials.

The second piece of news is that part 3 of this tutorial will also be publish with in a few days. Actually the two series complement each other because this series works pose to pose and the other series works straight ahead so you will see some of the differences in techniques. Additionally if you have been following my newer tutorials you know that I now use much more detailed step by step slide shows and part 3 of this tutorial is also written in the new style. Thanks for being so patient.

April 9, 2009 at 9:23 PM  

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