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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.
Now we're going to cover how to vectorize the character beginning with the body. Now, what this means is we're going to take the pencil drawing, the sketch of the character, bring it into Flash, and we're going to line it. We're going to draw a series of vector lines over the pencil drawing and that'll enable us to rig and pose the character in Flash and ultimately animate it. So let's take a look first at the sketch. This is our character. This is pretty standard. you'll get your character from the designer if you work for an animation studio, and if they are good one, you'll get it with a turnaround in more than one angle, beginning with the front down view three-quarters profile, all the way to the rearview.
This is the image we're going to work from. So let's start a new project and let's import the image. So now, we have this huge turnaround on the stage and our bitmap or our PSD file in the Library. So, the first thing I like to do is convert this into a symbol. So let's hit F8. I want to call this bd, short for body, and I'm going to make it a movie clip, which is my shorthand for signifying that it's going to be a big symbol full of lots of secondary symbols, or a comp, or a composite as it's widely known.
Let's keep the Library clean. I'm going to make a new folder, call it character for now, and let's drop all of these inside that. It's very important that we keep our Library clean and organized. For now, this should be enough for the moment. So now let's double-click on the bd symbol and we can work directly in that. So, the ideal would be to start rigging in the front view and the reason being why is that it's fairly easy to take the work what you do, rigging the character in the front view, and then twist it and repurpose it into the three-quarters view and the profile view.
Now, we do not have the time honestly to do that, but it's more than enough to work in that three-quarter view because we can then work the three-quarter view into the profile view. These are the two poses that we're going to be working with in this course. It's actually also quite rare to do production work in the complete flat front down view. If you've seen TV shows, they tend to avoid too many direct front down views. slightly three-quarters is the norm. So, we're going to start working with the three-quarter pose. So after we align that up, center it roughly around the character's center of mass, then we are ready to begin lining this character.
Okay, so the next thing we have to do is remove the character layers that we don't need. That is the other four. So let's right-click and break apart the layer and then select and delete the parts that we don't need. Ctrl+X here and here. Very important that we padlock the reference layer and name it ref for reference. Next, we make a series of layers for the different body parts. You can be a pretty broad at this point.
You do not have to be too exact. We want more than one layer to work into. So, we'll need one for the head, neck, torso, so I would guess seven or eight. So, we can just think, okay, one for the head, one for the neck, one for the upper torso, lower torso or the groin area, the right arm, the left arm, the right leg, the left leg, and the feet. So, now we have that, we can just throw in some names, and I like to keep the naming convention short and sweet, but easy to see what they are. You want to keep your Timeline really straight. As you can see the screen gets really full.
So I like to keep the things as condense and compact as I can. So, beneath that, there may be the neck. I like to call that torso neck, so like I tend to group it with the torso, beneath that the torso upper and the torso lower. Oops! Again, no need for the O. The right arm, left arm, left leg, and the foot, and again, I'm calling it left leg and left leg foot, because you will find you'll be selecting these two layers together, so I like them to read.
They are a little more easy to follow. Leg Right and leg right foot. Already made a slight error. Right leg should be on top of the leg left. I'm naming them anatomically. The left leg means the character's physical left leg, not the one on the left side of the screen, and it's very important that we keep that accurate. And even at this point, you can begin to roughly say to yourself, okay, the right arm's going to be above the torso, put it above the torso layer. We will tweak these and refine them greatly later on.
Having created our rough layer set, the other thing I like to do is get rid of these horrible random color outlines. It really is nice if you have like a much more standardized color methodology as we've already seen in earlier overviews of the rig process. So, I like to control and select all of the-- hold down the Control key and you can batch select a bunch of layers. Go to your Commands menu and you may remember we've already installed the LayerColor plug-in, the extension. So we select that and I can select a nice deep blue color for all the right layers, and I'm going to select a nice green one for the right ones and just some generic body color.
This one's usually good. There we go. I want to be even pickier and just select an odd color for the reference layer. I find it really helps me to select layers visually. That reduces a little bit of the visual confusion in the scene. Now, we have our named layers and we're going to actually be keeping this naming convention when we begin symbolizing these layers and that'll help that they're color-coded and we are now ready to begin drawing the line art that will be ultimately the final rigged assets that'll constitute our character.
So, we have our character, the layers are set up, they're named, they're colored. So let's save this project and we'll be ready to begin creating the line art in the next lesson.
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