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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.
So we are finally ready to start actually drawing our head. So double-click on the symbol on the Stage or double-click on bd in the Library and we are inside it. One thing to notice is our head symbol, which is already created, it doesn't have anything in it yet, so what you are going to see is either a circle with a square or if you're not on that layer you might have just a circle. So this is why I like to keep everything properly labeled. You can find things that want to hide. So double-click on the circle with the square and we are inside the head symbol or the comp, composite.
This is going to contain everything that will animate for the face. We've already got our layers colored and roughly named. So the first problem is to decide what the basic level hierarchy should be. So one obvious place to start would be the very top. Now his hair will definitely be on top with everything, so let's just start with this guy. So it's padlock everything beneath just to be careful. Select the Rectangle tool, draw a box, get rid of that internal shape, and let's drag our points. If Snap to Object is off you'll find it's a bit easier to get things where you want.
And when you are positioning this point, bear in mind what you think the animation of the curve is going to be, and that looks like a good range. We can add more points later on if we want this to be a little richer. To begin with I'd like to pick as few points as possible. Hold down Alt+Opt and add another point in here and you can make a couple of curves, so that we have what basically is either an S-curve on one side or a C-shaped curve on the other. And bear in mind, Flash oftentimes will make a shape, a point, disappear. You may even encounter this before.
It's happened already. So I am going to undo that. I like to have access to these points and one of the problems that you find with Flash is that if you make a curve that's too smooth, it's simply not there anymore, even though it's accessible through the Subselection tool. So this is an area where I do like to be very picky about it. It may not bother you but it does bother me. I find that it already gets in my way. So I'm going to recreate that line, making sure that we have clean points, and I'll switch Snap off. As you can see our line is still selectable.
That's nice. That's a very smooth curve. The point is still accessible. Now this one is gone. This might seem pretty inane. It's really something we want to have to do once, at this point. This is basically lining, rigging the character, so you really want to get it right at this point. That's good. So that's a smooth S-curve, all the points are still alive. You've got an easy to manipulate piece of hair. So the next most important aspect after we do that: outline it and padlock it.
So the next thing that will be most important will be the eye layers and the mouth. So I am going to very quickly go into the right eye. Now these are going to be essentially more complex forms later on. Let's get the Oval tool and to shape this, use the Free Transform tool, rather than pulling the points of the circle. It will get very ugly if you do that. I'll show you. As you begin to manipulate the Oval tool, it will get very difficult to pull things back in. I like to use it very lightly towards the end of the process.
And as I said before these are temporary symbols or shapes. They are going to be drawn in much finer detail later on with eye blinks, nested, and so forth, but bear that in mind this is a first generation. So the eye right, colored the eyebrow. Also very important, the eyebrow is going to be-- Let's pick the Rectangle tool for this and go into the Fill Color mode, and we want to pick, I would say, five or six points for this.
Hold down the Alt/Option key and this will allow us the ability to pull and push the eyebrow into different shapes that will allow us to make the character act and express. We'll undo that and again make sure that our points are still accessible. Switch to outline and lock that. So as you can see as we begin to progress we try to figure out which layers are on top of others. That'll be very important for the hair, so for example the hair right layer here.
I am going to do that that has a box, a rectangle. Let's go into Fill Color mode. That's fine for now. Lock that, outline it, left side as well, and we can make tweaks and changes later on. Very much a first pass. As we add colors that'll affect your number of layers and the position they occupy. So for now I am just going to make this hair area cover that and we will patch another one in beneath on a lower level.
We definitely need to have another hair layer here and we're calling it lower because it's beneath this area and let's make it dark green as well. I'll use the Rectangle tool. It's basically in the little box shape. Put Snap to Objects On so that can pinpoint that, and back Off again. And we can save, pick a point, make it follow through. Because this hair is going to flow through and it should really join up with that, so let's see if we can make it follow that line.
And then we are actually drawing what's supposed to be a three-dimensional object in the two-dimensional space. So the other shape that's very important is the mouth. You do a lot of acting with the mouth. Unlike the eye this is going to be another temporary symbol. Ultimately this mouth is going to open, close, and speak, but for now we need something that we can color and place a name correctly. We will then go in greater detail later on and add layers and shapes that can be tweened and that gives us absolutely amazing amount of performance.
But that simple can't be done at this stage in the process. It's its own project. So for now let's just create a simple form and that's nice and can cover to that area, outline that. And I'm going to proceed with this. I'll continue with the nose, the other eye. The other thing to really prioritize will be the jaw area. This will be something that I'd like to keep as structural as I can. So the upper layer will follow roughly the eye line on the original drawing and trying to keep the shape. Even though it's a flat shape I'd like to keep it as close to the anatomy of the form as possible. That will really help us when we start to animate it. And again check the geometry with 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 points.
Now this jaw we will be animating later on and we are going to be pushing and moving that about. So we definitely want this shape to be stable and flexible, and that's a good way of doing it. So I am keeping it as simple as we can. We could add more points too, but this is a good starting place and the skull. And as you can see, we are losing that so let's go to outline with the jaw so I can see where the skull layer is. It saves me the bother of having to recolor lines all the time. And the skull is going to beneath the jaw. So you want to make sure that there's a good amount of overlap between these two. Otherwise we'll see like a little shimmering area here.
The skull should be reasonably approximate to the position of the actual skull beneath the hair. This is hair here, I am not going to do. That's going to be out external to the head symbol because the hair will go beneath the neck area, which is on outer layer. You will see that clearly going to be begin to color the character. Here is a more complex shape. I'll use the box for that. Switch off Snap. So I am going to keep relining this character. Do the nose, the other eye, the under layer of the hair, the top of the head, back and forth from the Line tool to the Selection tool. You'll have access to this final Flash file in your projects folder, so I think that's good for now.
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