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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. This is our character and we have lined the body, we have lined the hands, and we are ready to move on to the head layer. So let's double-click either on the symbol on the Stage or double-click on the bd symbol in the Library and we are inside our body. This i, as I said before, it's a composite, meaning that this symbol has multiple layers and objects inside it that can be controlled individually. There is a layer for the major body elements and also one for the head up here at the top. Now as you can see the head is not going to be a single static shape that will be a very limited and boring kind of character to animate.
We are going to make separate layers for the eyebrows, the eyes, the nose, mouth and so on. And if we put these layers in here, just simply adding them, then this is not going to be a very easy to use symbol or a comp. I am going to undo that, Ctrl+Z. So the solution is to add those layers inside a single head symbol. It's going to be a comp inside a comp, and this will allow you to control the animation inside a bounding box or the Russian doll. It will its own internal world. It's much easier to control and animate inside.
So the first thing we have to do is a basic symbol that will have the properties that we need. The symbol is going to be the head, about this shape, and it will be pivoted around this point here. Let's switch the Outline mode off. We can see it in black. So the head is going to rotate around this point. So let's simply select this. Hit F8. We will call it hd for head. Make sure it's symbolized in the center and that is close enough. A little bit of housekeeping. We've got our head symbol in the Library. Just drag it into your character folder so that all our assets are created in here.
And now we can double-click on the hd symbol. It's close enough for our purposes. So now we have our pivot and our head area and we could see on the lower layer, the reference line work. So we can now begin to create the layers that are going to constitute the head. So as a quick count, I can see the left eye, the right eye, the eyebrows, the mouth. So at this point as we did with the body, I am just going to create layers so the hair upper area, maybe a couple more for the hair on the left side of the head, the right side, one for the ear, one for the eyebrow, the other eyebrow, left eye, the right eye, the nose, the mouth, maybe the jaw area, and a little piece of hair at the back of the head.
And that's pretty much enough for us to begin with. And the other thing we could do at this point if you lie, you don't have to, but you can begin naming these. So let's try to do that. Hair upper and it will be this area here at the very top and I am going to call the next area hair right for maybe this area here. We can play with these as we go along, but I like to have some kind of structure as we work. The ear right and also these layers can be moved and as we begin to find that we can prefer the ear be above the hair layer or vice versa. Maybe this hair could be above that ear.
Again we are playing with two dimensional shapes and a lot of cheating and creative decisions have to be made to find the best combination of layers that will work in the most scenarios. So the eyebrows, eyebrow right. This naming convention that I use is designed to make at the forms logical so they're easy to find and pick out. We are going to have very long vertical timelines with some of these. So it's obviously nice if your eye can scan, eye, is it the right eye, is it the left eye, and so forth. So this is the system that I found works for me.
There is also a stack you'll see very nicely in the Library if you follow this method too. I think that should be enough for at the moment. So the first thing we should do to color these layers if we want and simply select all the right elements and use the LayerColor extension. If you don't have the extension, you can do them one-by-one but it's much quicker if you use the extension, which we have covered in a previous course.
And that's available from toonmonkey.com, along with many other excellent add-ons to Flash, all free. So I am just going to pick a generic color for everything that's-- I am holding down the Ctrl key to multiply select, I am going to undo that, the layers that got missed. And that makes it a little easier to see what levels we are working on. So now that we have the layers labeled correctly and colored correctly, it's time to go in and begin actually drawing the vector line art, which will be the final stage before we can actually begin to color the entire character and begin to bring him to life.
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