Exposure Sheet window is evil

Hello, I am finding Toon Boom Studio insanely difficult to learn. I have purchased the video tutorials ($60!) I pour over the help section, I try to follow the included tutorials, I have tried to follow the tutorials provided by tallgrassradio.com and I am stymied. It seems that everybody writing tutorials and help info assumes that I know way more than I do, and if I don’t, well, tough.

My project right now is animating photos of people, I have cut out the character I want, now I want to animate an arm, the tutorial says to make a copy of my character before I proceed. Great! How do I do this? It doesn’t say! I take a wild guess and copy and paste the original cut-out photo to the next cell down in the Exposure Sheet window, a line appears apparently linking the two, uh-oh I think. (it’s very easy to do unintentional things in this window!) Sure enough, the cells are linked. I try dragging the original to the right, it now says drawing two, my original drawing has vanished to where I don’t know.
I try isolating the arm with the scissor tool, done, I try getting rid of the rest of the character – done. Now I have an arm to the right of the character. Now what do I do? Have I done the right thing? Who knows? I’m on my own.

Stuff like this happens again and again, you go along fine, thinking you’re learning things, then comes something basic, it’s not explained, you’re stuck. They blithely skip ahead to the next part leaving you behind. This was particularly true of the video tutorials, the narrator, presumably paid by the word, would race ahead, things would flash by on screen that you knew were important. I would stop the tutorial in order to figure out what had just happened, I’d back up and play it again and again. I would play it full screen (the video gets very grainy) it’s hard to stop and start accurately with these flash movies, I eventually gave up.

In other times I would write this off as a bad experience and take my lumps, unfortunately that option is not available. I have to learn this program. I tried advertising on craigslist for an instructor to no avail. I have serious issues with expensive Toon Boom training so please don’t advise me to buy more of their stuff. There must be something better out there. HELP!

I feel your pain. That was one of the motivations that caused me to write so many tutorials to help people just like yourself. Of course one of the problems for anyone writing a tutorial is the diversity of the audience. It is impossible to anticipate the knowledge level of every potential reader. Plus, if the author explains every common operation in detail every tutorial then most readers would get so frustrated and bored with the repetition they would cry. So there is a trade off between total completeness and functional completeness. But, hey, I’m right here available to walk you through the parts on which you need help, so just ask your questions and I’ll take you through it step by step. I’ve actually done it lots of time in these forums for others which is also why I wrote the tutorials to save time repeating the same things over and over. But again it is impossible to please everyone. I try my best to help. So ask away and I’ll answer in detail here in this thread. -JK

Copy and Paste has a lot of different contexts so it isn’t just simply a matter of copy and paste, but rather what you are wanting to copy and paste. You can copy and paste entire drawings (cells) or you can copy and paste component parts of complete drawing (drawing objects) or you can copy and paste selective key framed parameters. And in addition to the various contexts for copy and paste there is also duplicating for cells which isn’t the same as a copy and paste.

So how do we sort all this out? First we need to be clear that a cell is a complete drawing. An element is a stack of drawings (one or more cells). Each of those cells can be assigned to one or more frames for that element in a time line sequence. The assignment of a cell to a frame is called an exposure. A cell is not a frame, a frame is not a cell. There is only one of each frame that exists in a time sequence, but there can be many instances of the same cell exposed in that same time sequence. So each frame is numbered to identify its time based location in the sequence. And each cell is uniquely named so that it can be identified each time it is exposed (assigned to a specific frame). When you copy a cell and paste that copy to a new frame for the same element then you have just actually assigned the same identical cell to an additional frame. It isn’t a separate copy it is the same exact cell, it just has been assigned an additional exposure. In the exposure sheet adjacent frames that have the same cell assigned to them are indicated by a line through the frame much like you made a “ditto” notation on a piece of paper to show that the word on the line above is repeated on the next line and so on.

If you want to have a unique instance of a cell you don’t copy and paste the cell you duplicate the cell.

The easiest way to duplicate a cell is as follows.
(1) select the cell you want to duplicate in the exposure sheet or in the timeline.
(2) right click to open the context menu.
(3) select the “add exposure” command (keyboard short cut R)
(4) move to the frame where the added exposure was created and select the new exposure of your original cell.
(5) right click to open the context menu.
(6) select the “duplicate drawing” command.
You now have an exact uniquely named duplicate of your original cell.

A different type of duplication:
If you select a cell in element “A” and you drag it to a frame position in a new element “B” on your exposure sheet (or timeline) the cell will be renamed to fit the naming order for element “B” and it will no longer be assigned to the frame it occupied in element “A”, but the originally named version of the cell still exists in element “A”, it just no longer has a current frame assignment. So it appears to disappear. You see a cell is a drawing and it exists in the element where it was created even if it is no longer assigned a time sequence frame position for that element.

If you select a frame for element “A” and you go to the “cells” panel and type in the number for the “missing” cell, it will be there and will be reassigned to that frame in addition to being a unique cell in element “B”.

Because the same cell is part of two separate elements it has two unique names and therefore each instance of that cell is unique and separate from the instance in the other element. Effectively you duplicated the cell in a different element by dragging the cell from one element to another element.

What about other form of copy and paste? Let’s copy a drawing object. First we need to be sure we are clear on what is a drawing object. A cell is a drawing and a drawing is composed of one or more drawing objects. So if you have a cell displayed in drawing view you can use the drawing select tool (keyboard short cut 1) to select any of that drawing’s component drawing objects. You can hold down the shift key as you select drawing objects to create a temporary group of drawing objects. Once you have your desired drawing object selected you can use the “edit>copy drawing object” command to copy the drawing object. Next you need to select a new cell in the same or a different element in your exposure sheet. This often is confusing for people because if a cell doesn’t exist for a frame location in an element and you select that frame location TBS will create a new cell and assign it to that selected frame as soon as you paste into the new cell or start to draw in the new cell. Just remember a frame is not a cell and cell is not a frame.

OK, so how do we paste a drawing object into our selected cell. We will use the “edit>paste drawing object” command. But this command is only available if the drawing view window has “focus”. Which means we must click on the drawing view window to give it “focus” then we can execute the paste action for the copied drawing object.

I’ll save the discussion of copy and pasting keyed frame parameters for later although I explain it pretty well in my blog series on Key Framed Animation in my Cartooning in Toon Boom blog for those interested. -JK

Thank you for your reply, unfortunately most of what you have said is way over my head, I think I understand cells and elements but I can’t visualize what is going on with these “frames”. I have followed your instructions and I seem to have a new, unlinked drawing. Great! - Now I want to animate the characters arm. I have posted some frame grabs at http://www.flickr.com/photos/nicks_pixels/ to illustrate where I am. Please have a look, you will understand how rudimentary I am. Thanks

It’s not over your head at all, we just need to take a step back and review some basic animation fundamentals. So hang with me while I walk you through some key points that should help you to have a better foundation for understanding TBS.

The way that animation is created is by presenting a series of slightly different images sequentially and letting the viewer’s eye blend together the slight variations between the images so that they perceive motion. The number of images presented during a fixed duration of time in front of the viewer is called the frame rate. This is specified in FPS which stands for “frames per second”. For a given animated movie there is only one FPS setting. That means the entire movie has a constant frame rate. If we set our movie’s frame rate to 24 FPS then we are subdividing each second of “on screen” time into 24 images. Each of these time subdivisions is called a frame. To identify the frames in terms of when they will be seen during the presentation of the movie, we sequentially number them. Then because we know that every second is subdivided into 24 images, we know that frame number 72, for example, will be seen exactly 3 seconds from the start of the movie. How? We divide the number of frames, 72, by the number of frames that are equal to one second of time, 24 which is our frame rate, and the result is 3 seconds. Frame 414, as another example, will be seen at 17.25 seconds into the movie and so on. So frames are really increments of measuring time.

The image which is seen at a specific instant of time is actually an assembly of one or more picture elements. Each picture element is a drawing, or in your case a clipped section out of a photo. Because we have to assign a specific picture element to a specific instance in time to control what is seen on the screen, we have to uniquely identify each drawing that is part of our picture element by giving it a unique name. So each drawing for each picture element has a “cell” name. The term cell is an abbreviation for “celluloid” which is a clear plastic material. Before computer animation, animation drawings were made on sheets of celluloid that were referred to as “cells”. So we kept the name and a cell is the same thing as a drawing in TBS terms.

In order to assemble a single picture image out of many picture elements we build a layered stack of cells, one from each component picture element that needs to be included to create our desired image. That layered stack of cells creates one image. When we actually see that image on the screen is determined by what frame we assign to the image. But because the image is actually assembled from multiple pieces we have to be sure that each piece needed is assigned to the same frame number. That stack of picture pieces, cells, is laid out as a row on your exposure sheet. Each column on the exposure sheet is a picture element and each row on the exposure sheet is a specific instant in time, a frame. So an exposure sheet row is actually one image made of many elements. And its row number, which is called the frame number, tells us exactly when that image will be seen on the screen during our movie. A cell, drawing, from a picture element is assigned to be seen at a specific instant in time by assigning it to an exposure sheet row which represents a specific instant in time during the viewing of our movie.

Not so complicated, a cell is a drawing. It actually is independent of when or if it will even show on the screen in our movie. An element is just a collection of drawings that we will use to build our screen images. And a frame, doesn’t exist, it just represents a specific instant in time during the presentation of our movie.

The same picture element drawing can be used more than once during our movie. That is to say that it can be assigned to show on the screen multiple times during the movie. Each time a specific drawing shows up on the screen is called an exposure of that drawing. So every time we assign the same drawing from an element to a different frame number we are creating an exposure of that drawing. It is only one drawing but it is being seen many times on the screen during our movie. If we want to “hold” part of an image constant on the screen we just repeat exposing the same drawing for an element in sequence. That’s the beauty of using multiple elements to build each image. We can hold some of the elements constant while we change other elements and the result is a slight variation between images in our viewing sequence. That produces the illusion of motion.

OK, so in TBS we can produce changes in a specific image that is viewed on the screen at a specific time by using a combination of techniques. The first technique we will call substitution. We will build up our image using multiple picture elements. And to create a variation between images in our sequence as we view them on the screen, we will substitute a slightly different cell in a picture element while holding most of our other picture elements unchanged. But there is a second technique which can get us similar results. That technique we will call manipulation. We do manipulation not by the substitution of different cells but by telling the computer to slightly change the way it presents a specific cell for a specific frame. We aren’t changing cells we are changing key display parameters for that cell. These key display parameters are things like the location of the cell on the display screen or the scale of the cell or the rotation of the cell etc. We are changing images by changing key display aspects of our cells on a frame by frame basis. This is referred to as “keyed frame” animation. Again going back to our foundation concepts a frame is just a reference to a specific instant in time. And a display key parameter is just an instruction to the computer to display a cell a certain way on the screen. So a “keyed frame” is just assigning a specific display parameter value to a frame number just like we assigned a specific cell to a frame number on our exposure sheet. We assign “keyed frame” display instructions using the scene planning tools while viewing the timeline. The exposure sheet is for assigning cells and the timeline is for assigning “keyed frames”.

Hopefully this starts to clear things up for you. Keep asking questions and I’ll keep adding more clarification as needed. -JK

Here is some extra reading that you may find really useful too.

Understanding Timing in Animation Part 1

Understanding Timing in Animation Part 2

Understanding Timing in Animation Part 3

Understanding Timing in Animation Part 4

Thanks for the reply, however I understand the basics of animation, I previously used super-8 film cameras to make stop-animation. The problems I’m having are more to do with the interface I’ll quote: “Each column on the exposure sheet is a picture element and each row on the exposure sheet is a specific instant in time” this I’m guessing means that the columns running top to bottom contain the images which are made up of elements which are in the rows to the right of the image?
See? The problems I’m having aren’t so much with the concepts, it’s the practical mechanical things in dealing with, and deciphering, the interface. Once I figure out the interface I’ll be able to use this program. What isn’t explained very well is what to do in the various views like the exposure sheet, how to work in these windows and what it will look like once it’s done. This is why I have provided a link to some screen shots. - It’s like a car I guess, all the theory in the world wont help if you don’t know where the gas peddle is! :smiley:

Sorry I was unable to help you with your “driving lesson”. Here is my last attempt at communicating the basics. Please read these two articles for what they are worth and if they don’t do it for you then I suggest you should give FlipBoom a try. -JK

It’s ElementalPart 1
It’s Elemental Part 2