Monday, September 17, 2018

Animating a Cut Out Character

Now that you have added your final Rig to the Harmony Premium Library, you can now bring that rig into another new Harmony scene file.

You will be animating everything as key poses and creating Key frames. This is known as pose to pose animation. The rig set up allows you to select the body part, say the Right Arm and then click on Deformation chain button to yurn on the bone controls for the right arm. Rotate the bones, Harmony automatically creates the key frames. 

DO NOT ROTATE THE BODY PART AND THEN THE BONES. Doing this throws the bone chain outside and away from the body part it is controlling. See the photos below and remember Harmony will be creating the inbetweens for you, but its up to you to set the key poses and make sure the animation working correctly.

To do a walk cycle, you need these key positions for each step. Below shows only one leg stepping forward as the other foot is going back. This is only the first step of a complete stride. (examples from Richard Williams Animator's Survival Kit (go buy your own)

Below is a timing chart showing the same animation with different timing, giving a cartoony tempo or a more realistic pace.

You should go with the On 16's chart. The first Contact pose is Key .#1, Key # 17 is the opposite of Key #1. Key # 9 is the Pass Position, showing how the back leg comes forward.

Key #1 + Key #9 = Key #5 The leg bends to take the weight making this the Lowest position of your step. Key # 9 + Key # 17 = Key #13 The leg and body's highest position of the step.

You create these 5 poses and then do the same for the other leg stepping forward and you should have the following Keys on the same frames numbers.
First Step K1   - - - K5  - - - K9   - - - K13 - - - K17 
2nd Step  k17  - - - k21 - - - k25 - - - k29  - - - (k33)K1 link up

Turn on the Transform tool and the Animate button first and then select the body part you want to change first. Then turn on the Deformation change button to see the bone chain and rotate the bone. As you do this, Harmony places a key frame on each bone you move. You can also select KF+ to add a keyframe down the entire frame. You can start with the body and legs, position Key #1 on frame #1.

Keep All the Keys on the same Key frames

        Contact       down      Pass        Up        Contact

First Step K1   - - - K5  - - - K9   - - - K13 - - - K17 

2nd Step  k17  - - - k21 - - - k25 - - - k29  - - - (k33)K1 link up
                        inbs       inbs      inbs       inbs
By selecting the Master layer, this selects the entire rig. You can use this to create the up and down motion throughout the 2 steps. Once the body is working, move onto keying the legs, then the arms, then hands.

Always click on the time line in the Master rig layer and then click on the body part you want to select, 

then click on the Deformation change button next to the Deformation tools.

The bone chain appears. Click on the bone then rotate it into position. 

Make sure you pose all the parts on the same key frame. Harmony automatically sets keys frames on the bones you rotate, but you have to key the Master rig layer yourself. 

The Master Rig will move the entire rig, this will help when making Key #5 & #21: the down positions and Key # 13 & #29: the up positions. When you move the Master Rig, use the arrows keys to move it up or down and then adjust the legs and feet. If you click on the Master rig, moving it up or down using the mouse, you will add more side to side motion as well.

Always remember to use your Onion Skin tool to see how the spacing for arms or legs is working. Any motion where the leg's foot moves and then slows down or pauses for several frames and then speeds up.This shows bad spacing and you will need to adjust your leg so its always moving.

Motion and Stop Motion Keys. 

Stop Motion Keys: Are useful for setting up a pose to pose test. Just showing the key poses without the inbetweens added.

Motion Keys: Show the inbetween frames in between the two key poses. 

Here is a good example of what both Motion keys look like in action. The back leg, the one away from us is set on Stop Motion keys.

To change the Stop Motion to Motion keys, go to Animation tab on the top in Harmony and click off Stop-Motion Keys and click Animate on top.

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Sunday, September 16, 2018

24 Hours for 2018

I will be adding to this post as more information becomes available. The most recent posts will be at the top.

For Sept. 16th

The 24 HOURS Animation Contest for Students is back and will take place on Friday October 5th at 3pm PST to Saturday October 6th at 4pm.

WHAT is it?:
For those that do not know, I have been running this international event for the past 16 years in which students around the world compete in teams of 5 to complete a 30 second animated film in just 24 Hours based on a given theme (by me). Believe it or not, with these tight constraints - many teams actually complete their films…in color!!! This has been such a successful event with the student’s attendance rapidly growing each year. In 2017, with over 183 teams (over 915 students) from 45 schools in 7 countries (USA, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, Australia, Brazil and Thailand) participating it was the largest one yet! This contest will teach our students much about working together, meeting deadlines and making creative decisions under pressure. Although it is quite a bit to do in such a short time, every year we always have completed, 30-second colored films AND they all have a lot of fun and return for more each year – so it’s a proven model they really enjoy. There is no cost to join - you just need a faculty advisor and at least 1 team of 5 hard working students (or as many teams as your school would like to host)!

HOW does it work?:
Working from their home school all teams will start at the exact same time and submit a Youtube link to their films to before the deadline Saturday October 6th at 4pm PSTLate submissions will NOT be accepted so teams will need to plan ahead and trouble shoot any issues INCLUDING UNSENT EMAILS AND YOUTUBE LINKS THAT DO NOT WORK!!!. Teams will need at least one faculty advisor (one from each school is fine) that will make sure the students have necessary equipment and space to do their work. 

Each team of 5 must choose a TEAM CAPTAIN and choose a team name. Be sure the name is not offensive to others and is not similar to a registered team name (lists will be posted every few days on the 24 HOURS Facebook page):

TEAM CAPTAINS must register their 5-person team before Oct 1 2018 at the following link:
Finished films will be judged by a panel of industry experts and prizes awarded to the top 5 teams. In past years we have had excellent prizes from our industry sponsors, which have included: CSU Summer Arts, TVPaint, ToonBoom, DigiCel, CRC Press, CTNX, Wacom, Animation Magazine, ASIFA-Hollywood, Stuart NG Books, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, Disney, DreamWorks, Blue Sky, Laika, Film Roman, Pixar and more!. 

WHY on earth would anyone participate in this crazy contest?:
This contest will teach our students much about working together, meeting deadlines and making creative decisions under pressure AND they all have a lot of fun and return for more each year – so it’s a proven model they really enjoy. This has been such a successful event and has grown every year. I plan to continue this annually and I hope you can join us.
If interested, please send attached RULES cheat sheet to your student/clubs and please let me know if we can expect participation from your school and I will add your schools name to our list and email group. It is completely free to participate.

Below is a list of schools that participated in 24 HOURS 2017. School not on the list? No problem! Just send me an email ( and I will add it to our drop down menu so that your students see it there when they register. I have also attached this years rules and flier if you’d like to post. Also included is last years sponsorship poster. Questions? Just ask!

Happy teaching and “see” you at 24 HOURS!!!, 

Aubry Mintz, Director, School of Art CSULB and 24 HOURS contest organizer 949-547-2370

List of Participating Schools 24 HOURS 2017:

       1  Academy of Art University, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA (1) 

       2  Art Institute of California San Diego, San Diego CA (4) 

       3  Auckland University of Technology, Auckland NEW ZEALAND (2) 

       4  Austin Peay State University, Clarksville, TN (5) 

       5  Belas Artes University, São Paulo, BRAZIL (4) 

       6  Bradley University, Peoria, IL (2) 

       7  California Institute of the Arts, Valencia CA (5) 

       8  Capilano University, North Vancouver, BC CANADA (6) 

       9  Columbus College of Art and Design, Columbus, OH (6) 

       10  CSUC , Chico CA (6) 

       11  CSUF , Fullerton CA (15) 

       12  CSULA, Los Angeles CA (7) 

       13  CSULB,LongBeachCA(18) 

       14  CSUN , Northridge CA (6) 

       15  Design Centre Enmore TAFE, Enmore NSW AUSTRALIA (3) 

       16  DrexelUniversity, Philadelphia, PA(2) 

       17  ELAC, East Los Angeles CA (2) 

       18  EdinboroUniversityofPennsylvania,EdinboroPA(7) 

       19  Emily Carr University of Art & Design, Vancouver BC CANADA (1) 

       20  Estúdio Escola de Animação, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (1) 

       21  Ferris State University, Big Rapids, MI(4) 

       22  Game Heads Youth Program, Oakland CA (1) 

       23  Grand Valley State University, Allendale Charter Township, Michigan (1) 

       24  Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (2) 

       25  ITESMCampus Querétaro, MEXICO (2) 

       26  Kansas City Art Institute , Kansas City, MO (Missouri) (1) 

       27  Kendall College of Art and Design , Grand Rapids, MI (5) 

       28  Middle Tennessee State University , Murfreesboro, Tennessee (7) 

       29  Nevada State College , Henderson, NV (1) 

       30  PointPartUniversity,Pittsburgh,PA(2) 

       31  Rangsit University, Bangkok Thailand (2) 

       32  Ringing College of Art and Design, Sarasota, FL (2) 

       33  SAE Institute México, Mexico City, MÉXICO (1) 

       34  Sam Houston State University, Huntsville TX (3) 

       35  San Jose State University, San Jose CA (10) 

       36  Seneca College, Toronto CANADA (7) 

       37  Sheridan College, CANADA (15) 

       38 South Dakota State University , Brookings SD (1)

       39 Universidad delValle de Puebla Puebla, MÉXICO (1)
       40 University of California Berkeley , Berkeley CA (2)
41 University of Southern California , Los Angeles CA (1)
       42 University of Texas at Dallas, Dallas TX (1)

       43 Woodbury University , Glendale CA (7)

       44 Franklin High School, Elk Grove CA (1 very brave team)
       45 Aveson AGLA Charter Middle School, Altadena CA (1 very brave team) will be following along with the contest (but not competing).

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Setting up the Cut Out Character

Rigging a character is like building your own Frankenstein monster. Not only do you have to design it, but you must make sure to set up all the parts correctly and make sure all the parts are moving correctly.

The first thing is to use the same naming convention throughout your project. This allows everyone working on your project to work on the same rig with the same labels.

Please relabel your layers the following way...

If you have used a Bone or Curved Deformer in your rig, rename: Deformation-Rt_Arm to BN-Rt_Arm for a Bone Deformer or CRV for a Curve Deformer; CRV-Rt_Arm.

If you have used a Kinematic Output to keep your hand from deforming when moving the arm. Rename this layer from
Kinematic-output_ Rt_hand, to KO-Rt_hand.

I've noticed the some people are renaming all their drawing layers without parenting and adding the proper controls. Or adding a Kinematic Output to every layer. Both are not necessary. 

Once you setup your rig, you must test every layer or deformer to make sure its rotating at the pivot point you set up. Once the pivot are set up, you shouldn't need to reset them everytime you animate them.

Please do not parent your arms or legs to the body. The Arms and Legs basically float above or behind the body. 
The body is the parent of the head, when rotating the body, the head goes with it. Just as the Head is the parent to all the facial features; Eyes, Pupils, (sometimes nose), mouth, extra things like hair, a hat or helmet.

The whole advantage to rigging is to first create all the parts and how they fit together. This is creates a long layer list of parts and controls.

The top Deformation layer controls everything underneath it and you can click on it to hide all the parts. This creates one layer on the timeline of say, the Right Arm layer.

Here's the BN or Bone Deformer controlling the body and the face parts.

v BN-body < Top Deformation layer
   v body
    |_ KO_face
            |- Hair
            |- Hat
            |- mouth
            |- eye_brows
            |- Eye_nose   

This character has no head to rotate, so all the face parts are attached to the body as the Parent. When you move the parent, the child or children go with it.

Here's how each body layer should be labelled and connected.

Jake Rig

 |- v BN-Rt_leg   (PARENT)
 |    |_ Rt_leg       (child) 
 |  the Body is the Parent of the Head.
 |- v BN-body   Top Deformation layer
 |--------v body
 |          |_ KO_Head
 |            |_ Head
 |               |- nose
 |               |- glasses
 |               |- pupils
 |               |- Eyes

 |               |- mouth 
 |- v BN-Lt_arm
 |    |_ Lt_arm
 |            |_ Lt_Hand
 |- v BN-Rt_leg   (PARENT)

 |    |_ Rt_leg       (child) 
 |- v BN-Rt_arm
 |    |_ Rt_arm
 |            |_ Rt_Hand

You should have only 5 layers like this, that all can be Parented to a Master Rig, named as the character's name.


This Master rig also you to move and scale the entire character all as one.

Add a Peg to the top layer in your 5 controller layers.

BN-Rt_Arm-P  Peg layer is created to control BN-Rt_Arm

v BN-Rt_Arm-P
 |_ BN-Rt_Arm

Select the other parts and drop them on the peg layer and you get this.

v BN-Rt_Arm-P

|_ BN-Rt_Arm
|_ BN-Rt_leg
|_ BN-body
|_ BN-Left_leg
|_ BN-Left_arm

Change Peg layer name to whatever your character is.  

v Jake
|_ BN-Rt_Arm
|_ BN-Rt_leg
|_ BN-body
|_ BN-Left_leg
|_ BN-Left_arm

When click on the triangle next to the name, this hides the other parts.


Before you can submit it to the Harmony Premium Library, 

You must move Jake's Pivot down to the base of his/her feet.

You need to make sure there are no keys in your timeline, nothing is moving, etc. If there are any problems, fix them before saving Master file to Library. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Hand and Mouth Drawing Substitution

Drawing Substitutions are useful for setting up a series of drawings for eye blinks, mouth positions for lip sync, hand positions and even extra body parts like hair,feathers or extra parts. 

Here's a brief tutorial from Tony Ross explaining the process.

Here's a more detailed tutorial from Frank Summers about how to set up your character's drawing substitutions.

And speaking of Substitutions. I will post my own tutorial as soon as it is available, but for now, these are pretty helpful.

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Monday, September 10, 2018

Bone vs Curve Deformers

Harmony Premium has two types of Deformers to help bend your Character's arms and legs. Instead of redrawing the arm and leg positions in traditional animation, we can add controls to them in Cutout animation and animate those controls using key frames. 

When in Rigging Mode everything turns Red, if you turn on the Transform tool, everything turns green.

There are Bone Deformers and Curve Deformers. 

Bone Deformers work well for all occasions, especial more realistic characters. You can make them more "Rubber Hose" in style if needed. Below is a demo video of how to set up a Bone Deformer in an arm. 

Curve Deformers deform or move the artwork in a different way. This method would be used for a very "Rubber Hose" animation style. Below is a video showing how to set up the rig using a Curve Deformer.

I know its rough and I will be updating these videos soon, but for now this should help you see how to set up the rigs for both Deformer methods.

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Thursday, September 6, 2018

Harmony Cut Out Puppet project

Rigging a Cut Out takes a lot of work to set it up before you can animate it. I've tried to go through this process step by step. I have also included some helpful tutorials explaining this process and will add my own soon.

If you have any problems setting up your character, document what happened and let me know. Here's something that happened to me and a solution to it.

The goal is to design a biped human character in a 3/4 pose, making sure the feet are both facing the same direction. Similar to the posed characters below. Simple is Better.
Use the Pencil tool to outline your cleanup drawings of each part of the character. Use the erase tool or cutter tool to clean up the lines before adding color.

Cutter Tool Options

When you select the Cutter tool, its properties and options appear in the Tool Properties view.
Cutter Tool Properties View
Paint the color into your body part shapes by using paint bucket. If a drawing does not fill, there may be a space in your drawing, you can use the Gap tool to fill in the gap.
Once everything is cleaned up and painted, turn on the Transform dotted square and the Rotate tool at the top,near the display all window, next to Translate icon.
Your selected body part is highlighted and you should see a blue pivot point with a yellow arrow sticking out of it. Click on the pivot with mouse, holding it down and moving the pivot point to the correct place.

  Pivot Placement
To save time, when you select the drawing layer name it the body part name. Here's a sample list of naming the parts. Short and Simple, please do not get clever naming these parts like: My_Mans_FunkyHead. 
If you do this just to get a laugh, you will have to rename all the layers again.

All layers need to have the same naming convention so all animators are using the same thing. Its a group effort, get use to it.
Here are our naming conventions for this rig.
Head **
  • Eyes (white eyeballs) Separate drawings for blinks
  • Pupils
  • Mouth  Separate drawings for mouth poses for lip sync
  • Hair If your Character has hair, this will be placed behind the head.
  • ** (Ears and Nose) can be included on the head, this all depends on your design)  
Body  (includes neck stub)
  • ** Butt:  (More realistic designs will need this to cover the legs as they rotate.)
Also depending on which way you character will be facing, you can use Lt = Left or Rt = Right
When you have more rigs like front and flipped 3/5, etc. you will want to Change Left or Right to Front and Back. This refers to what Arm or Leg is facing in front of your character and which is in Back. 

The hand can have many more hand positions which you can change during your animation. Neutral hand, Fist hand, Pointing hand, cupped shaped hand, hand with fingers splayed out, thumbs up hand, etc. 
Each hand has the same amount of separate hand choices.

Make sure feet or shoes and sitting flat on the ground and pointing in same direction. Take a look at the drawing below.

Once all the pivot points are moved to the right place, its time to Parent the Parts!

Parent the Head first. 

  1. Click on Harmony Premium and click on Preferences 
  2. Under General, click on the button: Focus on Mouse Enter.

If you are set up correctly, your head should rotate as if its on top of the neck. Rotate it to check the motion, you will notice that the face parts do not move with the Head. They need to be Parented to the Head. When the Parent moves, the children (Face Features) move with it. Here's how to parent the face parts to the head.
Make sure you have all the face parts ready to go, you can't add new drawings later. Add an eye blink and different mouth positions for lip sync.
Turn on the Transform dotted box on tool bar. Select all Face/Head parts in the Layers list, click and move the selected group to land onto the Head layer. Unclick and group is pasted below the Head layer. 

Harmony pops the group under the Head layer and all the parts should be listed there, but the drawing is behind the head itself. You must use "Nudging" to bring the Face parts to the front of the Head. Here's where the "Focus on Mouse Enter" comes into play. 

To bring the Face features forward, you need to use something called "Nudging". 
Select the face feature layers as a group, make sure the Transform dotted square tool is on. Move the cursor into yjr Camera (Stage) view. On a Mac hold down the Option button as you click the arrow down button on keyboard once. This should send all the face parts to the front.  Use the Alt button and arrow key when using a PC.
Here's a video going over "Nudging" and how to deal with the arms.
If Nudging does not work, you have to place the cursor in the Camera view, then hold down the Option button and press the arrow down V on keyboard.

If it still doesn't work, you can do this instead. You will need to click on the + on each Face layer to open the position control. All the positions will be at 0. You will need to enter 0.001 on the Position: Pos z layer. 

Doing this will bring the face part forward in front of the Head.
Once the Head is in control of the Face Features, you need to select the Head in the Layers list on timeline and add a peg to the Head. 

Remember, if you haven't added a peg before, Harmony will ask you to change your Display option to Display All. Go to the Scene tab at the top, click and change Default Display to Display All. Then go back to adding a peg to the Head Layer.


Now the Head rotates above the Body/Neck. You can parent the Arms to the Body and the Hands to the Arms. And then we will Bone Deformers into the arms and legs in the next lesson.

by Frank Summers. This explains how Deformers work for the Arms and Legs.

Here's an overall Harmony Tutorial

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