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All animators must learn to walk before they can run. In 2D Character Animation, industry expert George Maestri teaches the basic principles every animator must know to build a foundation for more complex work. These principles are relevant regardless of software used or animation style. George explains how good animation depends on a firm knowledge of the laws of motion, which inform the principles of animation. He teaches the basics of creating characters, squash and stretch, pose-to-pose animation, walking and running, track reading, and dialogue animation. He also shows how to use After Effects and Flash to apply the tools learned in the course. Exercise files accompany this course.
For those people who are using Flash CS4 and higher, you can also set up what's called an armature or a bone- chain to help you animate complicated joints such as arms and legs. Now this is done using the Bone tool. And the Bone tool is over here in the palette, and it looks like a little bone and what we can do is we can use this to set up a relationship between all of the symbols in a layer. In other words, tie them together in a hierarchy that can be animated.
So let's go ahead and zoom in on this woman's arm and we're going to set up a bone-chain. Now what happens is when you select this Bone tool, it brings up kind of like a Drawing tool. So what we're going to do is we're going to set down the first point of this bone. Now, this is very important that we set this down at the right place. This has to be at the center of this kind of joined circle here, where everything is rotating around. The center point of this upper arm or the shoulder is going to be right around here.
So I am just going to go ahead and click-and- drag and you can see now I am drawing a bone. It looks very much like the bones that you'd see in a 3D package. I am still holding down my mouse button and now I am going to ahead and set this point to the middle of that elbow and again, I really need to position this right at the center so that I get a good rotation of that arm. So this is my best guess as to where that is at and then I can let go and what that does is it creates a bone. If I click-and-drag again, I can create a second joint in that chain and again, I am just going to set it down in the middle of this wrist right here and let go.
Now once I have this, I have a joint chain which now can be manipulated. So if I select one of these joints, for example, this forearm here, I can go over to my Properties panel and I can see all the different things I could do with it. The first thing we could do with it is affect the rotation. So for example, I can turn on and off rotation, so that I can just keep that arm so it is locked, so it's always straight, or I can constrain it so that it only rotates through very specific ranges.
So I can just say it goes from -45 degrees to positive or I can make it even bigger than that so that way the joint doesn't turn around on itself. Now, I also can do things such as enable translation, in case you want to move this joint along left or right or something like that, actually move it off of its axis. Now that can be really helpful if you are doing something like animation for a walk cycle or something like that. Now, once you have all of these, you can start to animate it. Let me show you very quickly how to animate such an armature.
Well, first thing I am going to do is I am just going to go ahead and insert some keyframes here. I am just going to select these frames and hit F5. Now if you notice the armature itself is created on its own layer and that layer actually has a different way of in-betweening. It's not the standard in- between that you would have in Flash. In fact, all you have to do is once you have the frames in place is just move the arm and it'll automatically animate. If you notice here, a little dot appeared and now it's just going to automatically in-between.
Now this is very handy. It makes it much easier to animate these sorts of things within Flash. So as you set up your characters and get them ready to animate, be sure to consider using bones and armatures in your Flash characters.
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