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In Flash Professional CS5: Character Animation, Dermot O' Connor explains the process of character animation in Flash, using nested symbols and motion and shape tweening to create believable characters. The course covers the process from start to finish, from rigging a character to creating a walk cycle animation. Along the way, Dermot demonstrates techniques such as animating eye blinks, head turns, and mouth movements during dialogue. Exercise files accompany the course.
Before we begin, let's look at the character that we're going to create during this chapter. Here we have him in the Library. Let's drag him onto the stage so we can have a better look at the guy. Now, I'm going to show you how this puppet, this rig works. Let's double-click on the rig, have a look inside, and as you can see, we have multiple layers from the hair, legs, arms, torso, and so on. This is called a comp or a composite, meaning it's a symbol that contains many different layers and secondary symbols, and these can be changed and repositioned so that we can make this character do any number of actions.
So, I'm going to switch into outline mode, so we can have a look at the layers and you can see how they overlap one another. I've color-coded the layers, so we have green for the right side, blue for the left. This makes things a little more simple when you're selecting things in Outline mode. Each layer has to be named correctly. So we have arm right, head, hd. I use short, very snappy naming conventions, torso nck or torso neck, torso itself, the leg right, the leg right foot, which will be this symbol here.
In addition, everything has to be pivoted as well. So, for example, let's take the right arm and as you can see, our cross circle pivot is here. So, if we want to rotate this symbol, it'll pivot correctly around that object. I'm going to undo, Ctrl+Z. Next, I'm going to tunnel into the head. This is also a comp. Double-click on that. As you can see, we're already in outline mode. At this point, you'll notice that there are many many layers, and it gets quite compact. Very hard to see exactly what's going on.
So, what I'm going to do is switch our layout, and we have a second layout called lynda_character_animation_2, and this provides us with a vertical Timeline, and we can reposition our head to here. In fact, we can close our Library panel. We want to zoom in on the head and now we can take a closer look at the head. So, if we look at the head in full mode, we can play through this comp and I've created some pre-existing animations that occur in here, and these are also nested comps.
Let's look at them one at a time. So, if we tunnel into the mouth comp, double-click on that, you can see we have quite a timeline in here. We have six individual mouth shapes and these are all animated. The beauty of this system, and we'll cover this in a later chapter, is these can be played in any sequence we like, and this is the Flash equivalent of blend shapes in 3-D program such as Maya or a 3D Studio MAX. Now, let's move outside of the mouth. I'm going to look inside the eye symbol. One of the things we need to do a lot of with character animation is eye blinks.
Again, they can be quite tedious. So it's nice if we have them already done and in this case we have a shape-tweened eye blink. And again, the beauty of the system is we can make this fast or slow depending on the needs of the scene itself. So now it's a much quicker eye blink. Ctrl+Z, undo, fix that. Again, in Outline mode, if we look at the character, the same color conventions, green for the right side, blue for the left. So I can see at a glance, for example, that this ear is the right side, his anatomical right ear, and now on the opposite side of his head, you'll find that this technique will come in very useful as we begin moving these many-many layers around.
So, let's move back outside to the main body comp and the process of animating with this method, I like to think of it as like a Russian doll. The outer comp, the body symbol, the bd symbol in the Library, that's the outer doll, and inside this symbol exist the head, the mouth, the eye blinks, and the other body parts. So, when we animate this character, you have to think of multiple timelines. We're going to have one timeline for the body. Inside that will be a head.
That will also have its own animated timeline. inside that, the mouth comp will have its own timeline. One will work inside the other, inside the other. It sounds complicated, but it's surprisingly easy to get used to and once you've adapted to it, I don't think you'll go back to pushing symbols around frame by frame by hand. So, the next thing we're going to do, now that we've explain what this thing is going to be, we're going to convert our hand-drawn pencil sketch into a vectorized symbol, much like the thing you're looking at now.
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