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Monday, April 6, 2009

Rigging a Cut-Out Character in ToonBoom

This is the second part in our new tutorial series on creating and animating cut-out characters in Toon Boom Studio. If you have not read Building a Cut-Out Character in ToonBoom previously, then I suggest that you take time to do that now.

In the first part of this series we imported the black bird character into TBS. We outline the character using the drawing contour tool. Scaled the drawing to fit inside our 12 field guide. Then we cut out many of the bird's body parts and distributed them on to separate elements and then re-positioned them using our original drawing as a guide. We are almost finished with the cut-out phase of the building process, but we have a few more body parts to create before we can begin the rigging phase.

The previous slide show took us through creating the left wing and the left leg for the bird character. That completes the cutting out process for this tutorial series and we are ready for the next phase which is rigging the cut-out character for animating.

Note: You might be thinking " why not do additional parts for animating this bird like separating the pupil from the head so we can move it, or separating the lower beak so we can animate his mouth?" The answer is we certainly could have done that, but I chose not to because I wanted to leave you some future challenges for going off on your own when you finish the tutorial as presented. My goal is not just to show you step by step how I did something, but rather to inspire you to understand the steps so that you can expand that understanding to do your own work and to experiment with TBS further.

So let's get going with rigging this black bird. Rigging is a term used to describe the setting up of the control hierarchy of the cut-out character. It includes the ordering of the body part elements, the assigning of parent-child control relationships, some special 3D space adjustments of appropriate body parts, and the locating and setting of pivot points to provide more natural movements.

That wasn't too dificult. We had to re-order some of our track layers and make some grouping selections and drag and drop labels to attach children elements to parent elements to create a control hierarchy. And we had to take advantage of 3D space to bump some body parts forward or backward in the display planes to compensate for changing the natural layering order of our track labels while constructing the hierarchy. Then we determined the locations of pivot points that would provide more natural movements when we start animating the bird. Of course the rigging does require some advanced planning and understanding of how we will be using the particular cut-out character. Things like breaking the character into two groups in the hierarchy to allow him to bend above the legs and positioning the wings so that when they move they don't get in front of or behind other body parts. It takes practice and experience to spot some of these potential issues and you, like me, will occasionally have to go back and adjust a rig design when you hit a problem during animation. That can be painful if you don't find it upfront before doing a lot of animating work, so I always try to test a rig by trying to make lots of poses with it for practice before I really start significant animating work.

Note: One sage observation on character design and rigging, don't assume that you can build an all inclusive layout or rig to cover every possible situation. Be prepared to build many rigs which are designed to address specific animating needs. Over complicating a rig to be all purpose makes animating more difficult and frankly never works as well as doing specialized separate rigs for specialized needs. Changes in points of view (profile, perspective, front, and back views) require separate cut-out character rigs so be prepared to build more than one rig for a character that you plan to animate extensively.

That concludes the second part of this series. We have taken a single drawing, cut it up into body parts, and constructed a hierarchically controllable rig for our cut-out character. Next time we will begin animating this bird character using key framed animation. Animating a Cut-Out Character in ToonBoom

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Blogger Jigs Gaton said...

This is also a very cool rigging tut, but the most confusing part was the TBS interface click for Tools/Turn Peg Only Mode Off. Which is off, and which is on?

December 13, 2009 at 5:51 AM  

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