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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.
Okay so it's time to take our character and create the symbols for the different body parts to take the overall vector artwork, turn them into symbols, and to place the pivot points, and it's very important that we do this just right and we name them right, that we pivot them properly, because we are going to be using this rig a lot, and if we make any boo- boos in this part of the process we'll be paying for them for a long time to come. So not to scare you, but it's important that we do this properly. So let's double-click on the character or I would prefer to double-click on the character in the Library, and go straight in, and this is our old color model down here on layer 2. We can get rid of him now.
Now we still have our black-and- white pencil reference on here. We will keep that until we finally position that left leg and get that done. So let's hide the head. We will do the body in this part and let's do the-- I think the right arm would be a good one to start with. So let's hide everything else. I am going to keep the upper torso there in Outline mode and we are going to symbolize the arm. So simple enough. Hit F8 on the keyboard, make sure that your pivoted point is set to the middle here, and we will call it arm right.
The same name as our Timeline, keep everything consistent and easy to follow. Click OK. Now the problem is, oops! That's not good. So let's find a way to make this pivot thing work. So we double-click on the arm symbol and obviously we want to drag our entire artwork. Just click on everything on the Timeline, and we want it to snap to this point here, and the way to do that is to go to Snapping and Snap to Grid, because this is the 0,0 point of the entire grid.
So if we click into there, you'll notice a little bit of a lag on that little circle. Don't be freaked out by that. Just take your time. It will go in and if you are not sure, zoom in as far as you can go and that's it. That's precise. So now when you tunnel out, back onto the main stage, you will see there we are. So now it's just a question of dragging this and make sure that Snap to Objects is on, because we want to snap to the object that is the point at the shoulder, and there we go. That's it, and you can test it if you like. It looks fine.
Let's undo that. Let's repeat that process for the left arm, and again arm left, and again double-click on the arm and that's lineup with that 0,0 point. We have Snap to Grid On and Snap to Object On, so we can position these pretty quickly. You notice that we are generating as we go. Our Library starting to fill up now with body parts. So those were two easy ones. I mean it was pretty obvious with the pivots we are going to go on those.
Now let's do something like the torso neck. This one is more of an open question because we can put the pivot here. We can pivot around this point. We can pivot around that point. We can also change the pivot point later on, but let's pick the one that's probably the most common. The spine goes up the back of a neck, so I would think probably we can pivot from here. So let's select this one. Before we do this, the other thing that we are going to do, since we are moving these objects around, I like to be pretty picky about the process. So let's hide the head again. I am going to make a temporary guide layer and this will really help us, as we move through the scene. Let's hold on Shift and unselect the arms, copy everything.
I am going to make a new layer, a temporary one. Put it in outline and padlock it and I like this orange color. Let's keep that. This is only a temporary thing to help us position things. So now let's go into the torso neck layer. I am going to symbolize it, torso nck. That's our pivot point, so drag that to the cross, snap it back, and the beauty of having that orange layer now is that we can position things precisely to it. The menu to unpadlock it is really snap to it.
You notice sometimes when you padlock a layer, the snapping functions doesn't work. So that is 100% accurate, and that's nice to be able to work to that level. It can be critical for very precise scenes. So here is the layer of the torso. Now with the torso, it's fuzzier. You could place the pivot in the center of mesh. You could pivot it down here or somewhere in this general area. So you could even place the pivot.. I guess on a corner, but I like to place the pivot, and it's a matter of personal preference, somewhere around here at the lower base of the body.
So torso upper and for this kind of positioning, double-click on the torso and hold down the Shift key and move the Arrow key up by a fixed number of clicks, like 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 16 up and then 16 back down, and that will be exactly the same. So now you have the body pivoted over the correct area and that's a nice little rotation. Let's see what else we have to line up here. So we have the lower torso, the leg and the foot.
I am going to pick the lower torso now, torso lower. Double-click on that so we are inside it. And I think again pivot point somewhere about here will be better. So move that down by 1, 2, 3, Shift with the arrow, Shift back up, 1, 2, 3, that was easy. And now we want to place the pivot on the leg, and we could pivot it here, we could pivot it in the middle or we could pivot it there. Let me save this to pivot it from the corner here. Let's try that.
Again, we can change this later. If we begin to animate, do a couple of scenes, but if you are going to do say 20 scenes from one rig and you want them to be interchangeable then you really should commit yourself to a full permanent position for these. Here we go. Let's switch off everything except the two layers, that and the-- this. I want to put them both in Outline mode, and go into the maximum. Now I am using the Arrow keys until I get as close as I can.
That's pretty close. Okay. I think the last thing is the right foot. So we select that, F8, leg right foot, and we could pivot around the ankle joint, and that's probably an anatomical pivot, but there is going to be times when you might want to be able to pivot around the point of the foot. But I think the primarily along the conception for now around here. If you've animated a scene later on and you want them to do tiptoes, then you can always do this.
It's a bit extreme but you can do that. It's nice to have the anatomical pivot be our primary pivot, and then if you want to do specific actions then they can be secondary to that. Now the last really remaining big move would be the hands. Now I go back into full color mode and also if you hit Ctrl+A, that will very quickly show you how many layers you have left to symbolize. We have the hair with the little dots and the two hands. So the hair is easy. Let's go in there and do that first.
Same thing with the Shift key and the Arrow. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 down, 6 back up, and 9 over, 9 back and that's pretty close. Now the hands, so let's select the right hand. I think a nice pivot point would be either this corner here or at the middle. I am going to go at the middle. I am going to use the orange layer again as my repo guide, to re-correct the position of the hand, and then repeat that process with the left hand.
Double-click on that, position over the wrist, and again use our repo layer as a guide. And I think now that we are safely repo-ed we can get rid of that orange layer, and one last step and that's creating the leg using the right leg. So I am going to copy the right foot onto the left foot layer, Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V, then reposition that, and Ctrl+Copy for the leg, and we place that over here.
Now you go in to Outline mode. You might need to make them a little bit smaller. So Ctrl+Alt+S to activate Scale and Rotate and let's make then maybe 95%. I may skew these symbols too a little bit. If I was going to skew these a lot to make them work, I would actually make a new symbol, but I think it's best that we can keep at the same. Later on we can duplicate these symbols, if we want to make them original to do their own thing, but it's nice to have thing standard and save us a bit of timelining too.
So now that we have that, we can again hide the reference layer, and quick box around everything, all blue lines, no dots. So one last step. Go into the Library panel and under Character, create a new folder, and we are going to call it body parts. So I call it body parts for now, and I am going to Drag+Shift+Click all the body parts into that folder. Ctrl+Click to select multiples. I think we can get rid of the color reference from the Library. Bit of housekeeping. Keep that for now.
So we can drag that into that character folder. Now this is going to a reference folder. So let's make a little folder as well for all the little reference bits. Of course we are about to start cluttering up the Library, so we would like things to be reasonably clean. So the other thing I would like to do make things bump up is to put a space before the actual primary comps that we will be building into the body and the head, and that puts them at the top of this list, and I will make a folder called head parts because we are about to make head parts.
And we have got out first head part here, that hair symbol that goes in there. That can go into our reference folder and that is looking really nice. We don't want to let the Library get out of control, or be sorry. So this is clean and we are now ready to move on to symbolizing the head parts and pivoting them.
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