This week, our challenge was to create a short frame by frame animation.
The Flash Professional assignment
Creative Challenge – Walk Cycle: Using Adobe Flash Professional create a short walk cycle of a drawn character using the frame by frame technique described in the live class.
I’ve used Flash before for creating some very basic text animations, and I’ve also modified an existing Flash photo gallery. None of these projects involved any drawing, so this was a mostly new experience to me.
We were given some excellent walk cycle resources in the class, including this great tutorial from idleworm.com. I thought that a dog obedience recall exercise would give me the movements I wanted to include:
- Sit Axel next to me and ask him to stay.
- Walk away from him for several paces—this would give me a 2-legged walk cycle.
- Turn towards Axel and call him to me—this would give me a 4-legged walk cycle.
- Video the recall exercise. I used the video function of my Nikon Coolpix S51 point and shoot camera. Once again, I had no one to help me film, so I set up the camera on a mini tripod and kept it running for several takes of the recall exercise. I ended up with about six minutes of raw footage.
- Trim the video down to one recall exercise, which was about 10 seconds of footage.
- Import the video into Photoshop, using Import Video Frames to Layers. This is where I learned that I should have used an HD video camera and got closer to the action. Cropping in on the action resulted in an image that was low resolution and more difficult to trace in Flash. Live and learn, and next time, start filming earlier in the day so a reshoot is possible before it gets too dark! This is where I trimmed down the number of frames and tried to pick the ones that would correspond best to the walk cycles. The 4-legged walk cycle didn’t work that well because a dog will run or gallop on a recall rather than walk, and I really didn’t get all of the best frames.
- Export the frames as an image sequence from Photoshop. Import to stage in Flash and trace over me and dog in each frame with paint brush tool. This would have been easier with higher resolution images to trace. Since I am somewhat drawing challenged, I was fortunate to have a Wacom Graphire tablet instead of having to struggle with tracing with a mouse. I was able to reuse sitting Axel and standing me across several frames. In addition to the class resources, I found this tutorial from Ripper Designs and Multimedia to be very helpful. I realized too late that I had no idea how to fill in the shapes I’d created (because they aren’t really closed shapes when drawn with the paint brush) so I could not use the background I’d originally planned. I settled for spray brushing some different greens at the bottom of the stage so it wouldn’t look so bare.
I ended up with six seconds of video, and I’m guessing that over an hour of work went into each second. I did enjoy creating this project and I’d like to do others in the future. For professional or hobbyist uses, I can think of many instances where an animated video sequence would be very effective to illustrate a step-by-step procedure. My drawing skills will need some improvement first, though!