The "New" Happy Bear

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heyvern
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The "New" Happy Bear

Post by heyvern » Mon Aug 10, 2009 6:05 pm

Long story... try to make it short. I have never been a fan of image layers and cutout animation style in Anime Studio... uh... er.. until aliens inserted devices in my brain while I slept and changed my mind. That's the only explanation I can think of. ;)

Anyway, I decided to "go back to formula" on my Happy Bear series characters. I just finished the sound track for episode 1 and it sounds great and has inspired me. I really want to get animating right away. My previous character designs would work but were very complex, very detailed, very long render times. I still hadn't worked out some rigging issues and could see a lot of work ahead before I could get started. So I decided to go REALLY REALLY SIMPLE.

Scanned from a sketch and cleaned up in Photoshop:

Image

So... I started to create this with vectors in AS. It would have worked but... the shading was giving me headaches. I really really liked that shading but I just couldn't get it to work the way I liked.

Uh... er... well... you know how I love vectors and bones. I never really pushed the envelope with image layers so I said to myself "what the heck". I loaded my drawing "as is" into a bone layer set for FLEXIBLE BINDING which normally I don't like at all but is the only way to go for image layers. I then just added a TON of bones to control the image better. Lots of bones but all constrained. I used bone translation to "push" the image around.

Test Animation:

http://www.lowrestv.com/anime_studio/im ... image2.mov

Keep in mind that this test animation is with an image that was never intended for image layer animation. I didn't tweak it or anything. The only addition was a second arm layer with animated layer order to test overlapping images for body parts.

This technique works so well I have to use it. This is not what I consider typical "cutout" style because it is not like a puppet with "stiff" limbs. I can also use vector layers for the face and do simple head turns just by sliding the mouth across. I am going to do a tutorial showing exactly how I did this.

I still plan to use vector layers for Larry The Liger since he will be a more traditional style character that will work better in that style.

-vern
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PARKER
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Post by PARKER » Mon Aug 10, 2009 7:38 pm

What a flexible bear.
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Post by paulcopeland » Tue Aug 11, 2009 4:51 am

What an athletic little bear.

He is hiding his right hand though :)

Seeya,

Paul.
Get my free piano sheet music here http://www.scoreexchange.com/profiles/pianoedition
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Post by Víctor Paredes » Tue Aug 11, 2009 5:37 am

I really like the character, Vern, and works perfectly in movement. I agree you must have some things made with vectors, as the face, but the rest works excellent, I really enjoy that kind of cutout, I mean, the flexible cutout you can make with Moho. I would like to see an screenshot of the rig, can you post it, please?
Thanks for sharing, Vern.
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Post by Blue » Tue Aug 11, 2009 6:45 am

The only addition was a second arm layer with animated layer order to test overlapping images for body parts.
I don't understand that part. I'm guessing you made a complete duplicate of the vector bear--but it only has the arm (for overlapping) showing (the rest masked or alpha'd). But if that is true, I'm surprised I don't see any quirky giveaway where the overlapping arm ends and the original below begins...maybe you used a gradiated alpha...maybe you used some of that Verntastic magic moho mojo.
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heyvern
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Post by heyvern » Tue Aug 11, 2009 6:58 am

selgin wrote:I would like to see an screenshot of the rig, can you post it, please?
Thanks for sharing, Vern.
Yikes! Not THAT rig. ;) I plan to do a better one. This one was purely "experimental" and not planned out. I was just sort of dropping in bones willy nilly without planning it it since the image isn't even done correctly for rigging.

It's a basic bone set up just... more of them. Basic skeleton with bicep, forearm, hands, head, chest, thigh etc etc. The difference is HOW MANY of those bones you NEED!

If you use a basic bone set up images do not bend very well at all. They look AWFUL. No amount of strength adjust can fix it. You need to DUPLICATE the SAME bones in the same area or approximate area.

For example in this rig I only used ONE arm bone (no forearm just a big bicep) for testing only. I then created 3 extra arm bones in the same spot. Exactly on top of each other with a relatively high strength but not really high. Enough to cover the arm. I then angle constrain the duplicates to the base.

Off of the base arm bone I have a bunch of smaller child bones spread out along the length of the arm. About 4 on each side of the arm bone sticking out at 90 degrees.

In the animation there is a spot where the arm bends down and goes behind the body. The arm was "squishing" up around the shoulder and getting thin and skinny as it bent down. Looked awful. By translating those smaller bones sticking out from the arm bone I was able to reshape the arm and maintain the volume.

I only used one bone in each spot which meant those bones had to be moved REALLY REALLY REALLY FAR to overpower the 3 main arm bones. That is the "tweaking" of the rig I need to play with. How many duplicate bones are needed for good motion.

The good part about this is that it is very easy to set up. You just copy and paste the bones in the same spot. Set them all to translate and rotate like the base bone with constraints.

---------
To do this "correctly" my next image will be in a "T" position with the arms and legs and "neck" a bit longer than needed so I can "compress" them with bone offset. This will give me more "image resolution" for stretching things. The legs will be "angled" away from each other. I had trouble with bones in the legs effecting the other leg.

Here's another cool thing! I plan to create the image characters IN ANIME STUDIO! I have no problem illustrating the "images" with AS. Shading and everything else works fine and is very simple if it is all one shape and I don't have to worry about breaking it up and points for rigging.

This means if I need a higher res image for a close up, I can simply open the AS "base file" and render the character to a larger format PNG file.

Everything will still be done in Anime Studio... it's just... not the way I usually use it. This is a big shift for me.

------

What I find fascinating is how AS "knows" or "decides" to put parts of the same image in front of other parts? For example the arm initially goes behind the body... but in other areas it will be in front. Obviously not a concern since I can use layers for parts but it would be interesting to know what this is based on.

-vern
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Post by heyvern » Tue Aug 11, 2009 7:10 am

Blue wrote:
The only addition was a second arm layer with animated layer order to test overlapping images for body parts.
I don't understand that part. I'm guessing you made a complete duplicate of the vector bear--but it only has the arm (for overlapping) showing (the rest masked or alpha'd). But if that is true, I'm surprised I don't see any quirky giveaway where the overlapping arm ends and the original below begins...maybe you used a gradiated alpha...maybe you used some of that Verntastic magic moho mojo.
Simple really. I had the original image and by "default" the arm would go behind the body part of the image. The image was a transparent PNG file.

So as I played around with this I wanted to have the arm "flip" front to back and then go in front of the body. I took the original image, changed the hand so it looked like the back, then ERASED the body from the image up to the shoulder with a fuzzy soft edge brush in Photoshop.

I did not change the size or cropping of the image, I just popped it in place exactly like the other image layer. Because it is IDENTICAL to the other image it warped EXACTLY THE SAME WAY. No seams, no funky things showing up because they are the same image. The arm image just has no body and can be placed over the body.

-vern
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Post by Blue » Tue Aug 11, 2009 7:28 am

Gotcha, I was experimenting before I got your follow-up. My image setup is a crude simplification but it proved as you say there will be no division weirdness between the images.

You are right. You need some fancy bone work to make image deformation work. So I look forward to seeing your rig setup. Mine gets a nasty thinning at the bicep when you bend his left arm down and to his right:

http://www.joelcardinal.com/ASP/Sticky.zip
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Post by uddhava » Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:45 am

Heyvern, nice animation using images. And this is an interesting topic. Can't wait to hear more. I would be interested also to see how you set up the bear.
Blue, thanks for the input and the file. Very interesting.

Udd
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Post by Blue » Tue Aug 11, 2009 10:36 am

To do this "correctly" my next image will be in a "T" position with the arms and legs and "neck" a bit longer than needed so I can "compress" them with bone offset. This will give me more "image resolution" for stretching things. The legs will be "angled" away from each other. I had trouble with bones in the legs effecting the other leg.
You may or may not need to do this. If you texture a vector as in the manual on page 87 it teaches you to basically use the resolution that your project size is. Well, frankly that is bad advice, if you go in close on your character you will see pixelation.

So what you do is, open the render of the vector outlines in Photoshop, and resize to 200% or whatever. Do your painting and save. Open in AS and scale the image back down so it's screen size again. Continue with masking and such. Now you have a vector shape using an image with MUCH greater resolution so you can go into close shots and not get pixelation.
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heyvern
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Post by heyvern » Tue Aug 11, 2009 1:27 pm

Just finished my video tutorial for this using happy bear.

I discovered my original plan will work quite well. I set up a "base" AS file of the vector artwork for Happy Bear. It is 900 x 800. I use that to render out the image I need for rigging. I can go back to that base file at any time, increase the size in project settings and rerender replacing the original image.

This works fine as long as I REPLACE the original image before opening the project. If I open the image layer settings and select a new source image that is larger the image size changes. Not a big deal. It's very simple to just scale it back down.

My concern though is whether scaling the image layer "removes" resolution. If you zoom in on an image layer that is scaled... does it take advantage of the FULL resolution... probably not but I will do some render tests to be sure.

Still not a big issue... I have a script to "scale" bone rigs using a percentage... so I could scale the bone rig up to match the larger image size. I will know the exact percentage.

-vern
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Post by Blue » Tue Aug 11, 2009 4:59 pm

Interesting, keep me informed on that please.

Take a look at the third technique here:
http://my.smithmicro.com/tutorials/2306.html

Using a different bone group for each arm and legs would be a way to get a lot of flexibility and minimize cross influence of the body parts. However you would have to come up with a good way to marry the over/underlap of the arms/legs to the body.

I was thinking how cool this would be with stopmotion puppets. Put some alternate angles in a Switch folder and you could do something pretty cool.

You could even bring in video of just the head animation and track it to the body. Or your own head! I'd have to think of a way to time live-action with the animation. I think you'd have to do the animation first and then physically practice any movements. Oh man, it would be cool to have live video capture in AS!

I LOVE stop-motion, but this would allow you not to worry about the 3rd dimension and animating would be WAY less time consuming.
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