Any good head turn techniques for cut out animation?

I’m just transitioning from Anime Studio Pro to Toon Boom Harmony. I know the consensus is Toon Boom is superior and the industry standard.
However Anime had some pretty cool features for cutout animation techniques, such as smart bones that could be used as dials and assigned to head turns. It was great as in you can keyframes a very fluid head turn with a single keyframe using the smart bones. I was curious if anybody had tried and true techniques for head turns in facial expressions in Toon Boom Harmony

I have used Harmony, Celaction and Anime Studio.
At this moment, even against Harmony 12 premium, Anime Studio Pro is by far superior for complex cut-out character animation.
I know, nobody who has spent $2k on their software wants to hear that a $200 can do something better, but it’s simply a fact.

Routinely I use both Harmony and Anime Studio, often both on the same job, whichever is appropriate for the task in question.

It would be nice if Toon Boom looked at some of Anime Studio, and CelActions strong points to bring them to Harmony…

This is a technique I’ve used with After Effects. When I saw this tutorial, my mind was blown!

However, this is not possible in TBH (at least at my level, essentials or advanced) or TBS, since you cannot rotate layers in 3D. only move them back and forward. This might be possible in Premium, though. As much as I like the possibilities of After Effects, I don’t really feel like it was designed with 2D animation particularly in mind, so doing stuff feels way more tedious and complicated than it needs to be. Which is why I’ve been checking out Toon Boom’s offerings.

ALL THAT SAID, I’m mostly +1ing your statement, because I’d like to see the creative ways that people do head turns in cutout with Harmony! Also, the technique in the video is pretty brilliant, and I thought people would get a kick out of it, even thought it’s not 100% relevant. :slight_smile:

Thank u, this is a nice one.

I’ve actually seen similar head rigs done in AE before, but it never occurred to me to try it in harmony. hmm…

This is sort of what I was able to do in Anime studio pro:

There is lots of use of regular bones the way TB does, but pay attention to how bones are used for the turns and all.
You can essentially assign a bone to animate body turns, head turns, facial expressions, etc,…
I would be surprised if TB doesn’t have anything equivalent as this is a great feature to animate with consistency and without having to copy and past keyframes constantly.

Unfortunately Harmony doesn’t have anything at all like smart bones or even point animation.
I hate to say it, but this puts Harmony well behind Anime Studio Pro for cut-out animation.

yeah assigning a bone as a switch is a nice way to simplify things. i’m sure there are ways of doing this in harmony but sharing functions does not always give the result i’m looking for.

Animating in AS without smartbones would be hard, however in Harmony it isnt. It is just a matter of workflow and what tools are part of it. It might take time to get used to the animation tools, or to learn how to build your own automation, but the tool certainly will allow you to achieve the final work.

The concept of smart-bones comes from 3D rigging, where visual handles are essential in order to deal with some otherwise overwhelming character setups. In 3D I cannot live without this kind of tool, however in Harmony I dont miss them, and I am quite happy about this fact.

The question in choosing your software is what do you prefer, automation or flexibility?. there is fully automated software out there allowing you to move things around in seconds by shaking your mouse… however professional tools usually work the opposite way, and try to put you in control. The tradeoff between automation and control is usually a longer learning curve, and a different kind of fanciness which doesn’t necessarily come out of the box.

I agree with you and, in general, Harmony is a much more powerful software than AS.

This being said, what I don’t like about Harmony is the lack of simplicity. I mean, if you can rig and understand nodes and if you have a background in 3D animation, Harmony has the tools to achieve complex tasks (a good example is your recent demonstration on how to create an IK rig with deformers…brilliant, by the way…)

The problem comes when you need simple solutions to simple problems. For instance, my current job is about doing short videos of 60 to 90 seconds. In the last year I have created dozens, maybe hundreds of characters, most of them to be animated just for a few frames. In this case is when I cannot afford to rig those characters in detail.

Sometimes I try to use templates, but my projects use to be very different from one to the next, so I have to rig again and again.

It is then when I’d like to have something like the DuIK plugin for after effects or one of the several autorigs you can find, for instance, for maya.

I’d also like that someone at Toon Boom read this forum and take notice of the things that we, the users, demand, discuss it, give us feedback. But it seems like they only get in here when there is a new release…Must be someone from the sales department…

I agree about the smart bones not being in Harmony. I watched that clip, and it looked like a smart bone was controlling the scale of a bus at one point and at first glance I thought that was nifty, but then I thought about it, and in Harmony I just click on the artwork itself in order to get the exact same result. same with the eye blinks. the reel showed an eye blink being controlled by a smart bone, but in Harmony all I have to do is hit the bracket keys on my keyboard…

there is something to be said about having a persistent controller visible on screen though. like if I continually need to select a characters torso for example which could be potentially a few layers up/down the hierarchy, it would be nice if I could just hit an on-screen controller as a shortcut to that torso peg.

actually I do feel that toonboom is pretty open about listening to feedback. they obviously can’t put every wish-list feature that every user wants into every release.

so I did a quick version of a head using 3D layers to create some volume like what is shown in that AE clip posted above. i did this little version:

as far as i can tell the issue is that unlike AE, harmony only has one active camera. so the moment i move the entire head elsewhere in the camera view, it falls apart. in AE, the camera is locked to the head comp, and moving the head comp around will not effect the layers.

I found this set of tutorials. It’s for Animate Pro, but I think this can apply to Harmony as well (Premium, anyway).

Part 1:

Part 2:

Although so much is done through the nodes/network I’m not sure that I can replicate this exactly in Essentials, but it definitely gives me some ideas to try out. But this should be useful to all of you using Premium or the older Harmony versions.

I think the main hurdle in Essentials will be figuring out how to do the masking. I know that masking was something that was available in studio, but not sure how to do it yet in Harmony Essentials.

With smart bones in Anime Studio Pro, you are not limited to the bones used as dials to animate virtually anything, but you can combine them with conventionally animating any other element of the character, just like in Toon Boom. It’s been a huge time saver and is very intuitive, almost like puppetry. I feel like a similar feature would be awesome, because that is was one huge plus ASP possesses over TB so far, even though it is an overall superior tool.

Maybe they are open to listening via tech support, but not about having someone here, in this forum answering our questions as Lily used to do.

And I’m not talking about just adding new features. I’m talking about fixing problems, bugs and glitches in the program. If you have a look at this forum you’ll see that there are many things that just don’t work well, have been commented here and are still there, in the new version of the software.

But if you have a look at old threads, you’ll see that Lily was always there, answering to questions and (I suppose) giving feedback to the developers.

I miss that.

The bracket key you mention here is strictly a switch to a different drawing, or in Anime Studio a switch layer. This is a poor example of what a smart bone can do. Switch layers or a switch to a different drawing absolute, no interpolation. Open, closed. (or a series of different drawings to “animate” the blink). The smart bone approach interpolates between the two extreme settings, so you have an abundance of animation states between the two extremes, and it much more powerful than switching between two drawings.

However, with that said, smart bones are susceptible to all sorts of rigging “gotchas”, and can be a real PITA sometimes to work with. Actually, as much as I like the concept of bones in Anime Studio, I find them to be a big PITA when it comes to rigging, and tend to appreciate the bones deformer in TBH. Although I’ve still gotta figure out how to do IK with them…