Thinking of ways to animate my characters over the top of the rough animation I made previously, I decided to try out using curve and bone deformers. Limited on the amount of time I have left to complete the animation in time for the deadline I tried to think and use faster methods of animated the characters. So in the top menu i right clicked and selected the deformer menu. Using the hammer tool I was able to add the different deformers to the character that I had previously drawn out using the pen tool on multiple vector layers for individual body parts. However because I was new to animating the character using deformers I decided to look up a tutorial to setup up and use the deformers for a cut out animation.
Making a cutout character rig setup
Following this tutorial I made all the relevant components for my character, as by using multiple vector based layers I was able to draw out each of the body parts with the pen tool. I also added some colour using the paint bucket tool on the colour layer. To do this I selected each of the drawings and closed the gaps using Drawing> Close gaps. This provided me with the option to make the colour using the make line art into colour art button. This allowed me to go through my swatches that I made for the character and add them to the drawings on the colour layer.
This tutorial allowed me to add all the relevant bone deformers including a curve deformer and bone deformers. Plus I used this tutorial to add the deformers to each of the body drawings layers, combining them into one posable rig.
Animating a cut out character
This tutorial above helped me in the attempt to move the character using the relevant body pegs to move the character around and pose it so that I could animate it in the similar positions to my rough animation.
Node view- attaching pegs and drawing layers together into one rig
So the image below shows the final hierarchy of the nodes in my character rig. This is where all the individual drawing layers and their pegs are attached together. So following the three tutorials above, I made each of the character drawings separately using the pencil tool in a vector drawing layer. Then having all the individual parts of the drawing onto their layers I went through and added pegs to each of the drawings. This allowed me to move the drawings without making keyframes on the drawing layers, but rather on the peg layers.
The issue I encountered with just trying to animate using the pegs was that the character did not move all together but as individual parts, making it difficult to move each of the parts as one. Therefore using the tutorial I used the node view to parent all the pieces together so that things like the; Upper arm, lower arm and hand moves together, and also being able to move as separate pieces. Having this hierarchy allowed me to animate each of the parts together, having all the character together. Below is some screenshots of a closer look into the nodes being parented to one another and how each part has been attached.
After parenting the nodes together I started to go a little more complex by adding some kilomatic outputs and individual groups of body parts together. For instance I attached the head and the facial features into one group and then inside that I added the eyes into a separate group. Adding the kilomatic outputs allowed me to attach the curved deformer and the bone deformers in the arms together making a fully movable rig. Furthermore having the kilomatic outputs allowed me to move the torso and the arms would move with it. However it took me a few attempts to get this to work, as the arms would not connect to the torso properly, so the torso would move without the arms. Plus as seen above I attached all of the separate body pegs (with drawings attached) to 2 individual groups. So the first peg was the upper body which included; both left and right arms (with attached lower arm and hand), torso, head (with facial features) and the ball.
Then in the lower body peg there was the; waist, both left and right legs (with lower leg and foot attached). Having these attached in the hierarchy allowed me to close the pegs in the timeline, reducing the amount of visible drawings and pegs at a time. The reason I chose to do this was so that when I start animating I could animate each of the layers at a time easily, without scrolling down all the layers. In addition to these pegs I made one final peg called the Master peg. This peg hand both the upper body and lower body pegs attached, meaning that everything will be moved by the master peg all together. For instance if the character moves from one side of the screen to the other I could use the master peg to move all of the character rig and then pose the other parts individually.
Head and facial feature groups inside hierarchy
These two screenshots above show the process in which I added the two groups inside the head group to make the head and facial features move together. So using the tutorial as a guide, I added some other groups inside the hierarchy for the head, meaning all the features such as; the head, face, and jaw could move together with one peg. But inside the head group I made another group for the facial features e.g. the eyes, eyebrow and pupil. This allowed me to move the eye around using one peg that was separated from the head peg. Another issue I encounter before animating was that the ball was in front of the hand and the only way to make it go behind the hand was to attach it to the arm hierarchy which broke the arm movement. So after thinking about a way to resolve it I decided to add a extra drawing and peg that was in front of the hand for the fingers. This mean’t I could have the ball in front of the hand and behind the fingers. Using the composite I moved each of the attached files around in the hierarchy so that objects closer to the left are at the front and then ones to the right are behind. Furthermore having the layers laid out in the composite does not mean that they will break the hierarchy in the arms or legs as the parented drawings still are attached.
Bones and curve deformers attached
For the spine to work naturally I used the curved deformer to make a 4 jointed spine from the waist upwards allowing the spine to bend naturally. The problem was when I used the curve deformer the character drawing looked very unnatural when you used the deformer making it bend in a strange way. The bone deformers were used for the arms, so that I could have a bone at each part of the arm; the shoulder, elbow and wrist. Using the bone deformer tutorial I attached each of the bones to the hierarchy allowing me to have the arms bend naturally using the deformers. However in using these deformers I found that a lot of my drawings deformed in a very odd way making the movement I had roughed out very hard to animate. Furthermore I attached the deformers to the legs like the arms so that I could bend the leg using the three major joints; the hip, knee and ankle.
Deformer animation test
Using the deformers I was able to make a quick test of the main arm movement as the character lifts the ball from one hand to the other. I used the deformers quite easily to move the arm into place, making a natural movement. But the hand was a little more complicated. The issue was I could not use the pegs to rotate the hand or fingers as it just looked unnatural for the movement. So by using the drawing layer, I duplicated the drawing on each of the frames a drew out a new hand and fingers pose for the frame. The issue I had was that this was very time consuming as I drew out the pose using the pen tool and then coloured the drawing using the convert line art to colour art and the paint bucket.
However the reason I am not using the deformers now is because I wasn’t confident in making my animation using the deformers, plus the animation kept going wrong. This is because when I moved the hand in the frame before the hand in the previous frame would move too. I thought it was something wrong in the node view, but there wasn’t. So I tried to fix the issue but it just was not working out. Thinking that I was going to run out of time to animate I decided to go back to hand drawing my animation because I felt I could make the movement more natural using my reference. Therefore my next task will be to make a new version of this file and animate the line work using the pen tool and my roughed out animation to get a natural looking animation with the character design over the top.