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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 here we are. The body has been lined. As you can see the basic arm torso shapes are very simple. They are little more than rectangles with points added. Now it's time to do the hands, which are a little more detailed, and the hands initially were simply going to bend them as you see them on this drawing, but in a future chapter, we are going to add detail to these symbols. We are going to join the fingers so we can move them. Otherwise they look very stiff. As you begin to move the hand, the fingers really need to be able to splay and bend and they will give the character a little more natural feel.
But like I said, the first stage in the process is to simply line them and the beauty of Flash is we can add complexity later on. We can create a simple placeholder symbol and we can go in and add layers and layers of additional animation and jointing and pivoting. It doesn't trap us. That's one of the advantages of this program. So that said, I'm going to double- click. Either we can double-click on the symbol on the stage or you can double -click on the symbol in the Library. And now we are back in and we are ready to start lining the hands.
Okay, so let's create some temporary layers for the right hand and the left hand. And even though they are temporary layers, I think it's a good form to name them properly. Ultimately the hands are going to be nested inside the arm symbols, so these layers are temporary. But we can also move symbols from the inner arm comp or symbol by going to the outer body timeline, as we need them.
And you will find when you begin to animate, that you will be doing this back and forth depending on your scene. So I have just assigned the same color, using green for the right side of the body and blue for the left. So now we will zoom in on the right-hand. I am going to say right. Again, I mean his physical right hand. Always use that convention. Never call it the left hand of the screen or the right hand of the screen. That will cause problems if the character turns around for example. So we would be using the V shortcut for the Selection tool and the N shortcut or the Line tool and we will be toggling Snap to Objects back and forth if we want to make these lines join together very tightly. So let's start.
And if I switch my outline color on, that gives me a better idea that the layer I am working on is active. And you will find the Snap tool can be very aggressive. It likes verticals and horizontals. This can be a problem, so let's switch it off for this line. And the other thing I like to do with lots of complex shapes like this is sometimes throw down temporary lines. If you have used Illustrator, you might find this is not a fun way for you to work. If you have a personal preference for your own aligning system, by all means use it.
This is the system that I've become very adapted to over the years. So this works for me but if a better system works for you then I would say go for it. As long as the only health warning on that, if you use the Subselection tool, be sure to check your points to make sure that you have the minimum number of points to describe any shape. Don't go crazy with points. Flash won't like it. Yu will at some point hit a wall. As you can see, the fewer points you have, the easier it becomes to modify these shapes.
And that will be good enough for our first pass for the right hand. Padlock that layer and be sure you are also working in the correct layer. That's where the outline is very handy. If you start drawing and you are in Outline mode and you see that your green hand on a blue body you know, oops, I am working in the wrong level. As you can see this is a very slow and the repetitive process. This probably will drive some people crazy.
Lining is one of those meticulous but brain-dead functions. So as you can see, I am working with Snap On quite a bit because a lot of these points have to be connected. Your problem will be having to go back and forth switching Snap On, switching Snap Off, I find that's one of the more time-consuming aspects. But the nice thing about doing this is that it is very precise and once again always check with the Subselection tool to make sure your geometry is very clean. As you can see it's a reasonably fast process and you do get used to the back and forth.
You might find this easier if you select a hotkey for Snap to Objects, something that's close to the V and the N key on the keyboard, and that way you can switch it off without having to put miles on your mouse. So this is our hand. It's lined now. So the next thing I want to show you is just very quick on a clean layer some other little drawing methods for lining. Your problem will be creating joins like this as you are creating these more complicated forms. As you can see this is one way of doing it. The only problem with that is Snap has to be on to make this a clean form.
The other way you can do it is just simply create a single line and then holding down the Alt or Option key, pull that line and that's as you can see much faster. And the other problem that you will have when you begin drawing these shapes is when lines intersect as well. Sometimes you can do an overlap like this and cut away the pieces that you don't need. It just simply depends case-by-case. When I'm lining a really complex character, I will use any number of these techniques over the course of that lining process. Sometimes it simply depends on the area. It's quicker just to do that and remove the line and once again always check them to make sure that our points are nice and minimal and then you can modify the shapes to whatever form you like.
You might find that if you're an Illustrator expert, by all means take your line drawing into Illustrator, line it in there, and then bring it back into Flash. I would just do a test on a simple area first. Make sure that it works. That you've got the right versions of each program. Some studios do that. Yhey love to use Illustrator, the different look to the Illustrator graphic, but it's still very important, even if you are going to do that, to have some inkling of how internal Flash tools work because for fine-tuning small things, you certainly will have to use these inside Flash at some point. It will damage your workflow if you're constantly happened to move your line work into Illustrator and then back into Flash again.
So now that we have that covered, first delete this layer and we have our fully lined character out here. Don't worry about the missing leg. That will be covered. We're ready to move onto to the head layer.
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