Layer Management with Character Animation

Hi All,
So I’m trying to figure out a good workflow in Harmony(really in any digital animation program). I am doing character animation and am trying to figure out a workflow that is somewhere between “every frame is a new drawing” and “every body part is a seperate layer”.

Much of my frustration comes with layer management. For example, let’s say I’m working on a layer that has the entire body of the character i’m animating. I draw two or three different poses, perhaps he squats down and then stands up. Ok fine, but what if after he stands up I want to go to a full-body hold, and keep his arm is swinging. So now I create a new “arm” layer and animate the arm on a separate layer swinging back and forth.

The trouble comes when it’s time for him to do something new, like walk off screen. Do I maintain having his arm on a separate layer or do I just go back to drawing the whole character on one layer? As time goes by and he does things like kick or blick, are each of these generally placed on separate layers?

This is just a simple example, but basically the number of layer gets really out of hand for me very quickly. I also tend to do all my sketching on the underlay layer, so then I’m sketching on 4-10 layer for all the different body parts. Is this how other people work? Is there a simple layer creation strategy/rule to use while I work along?
I’m familiar with things like create your keys, then your breakdowns, then inbetweens. And that works fine when everything is on one layer, but I just can’t wrap my head around using separate layers for things like holds and loops.

any help would be greatly appreciated. thanks.

Working with a hybrid traditional animation (keys and in-betweens) mixed with cut-out style can be tricky unless you are very organized. Normally you would create master templates for each orientation of the character with the variations of the arm and other body parts as extra drawings in the master template’s element columns for that same body part.

For special situations where the character is crouching, it depends if the character would do this often enough to make a template for it (or an action template that animates the movement) or if you would just draw the movement.
It may actually be easier to use pure cut-out for this because you need to displace the character and add extra drawings under that element which is being changed (i.e. the legs for a crouching movement). Compare this with disabling or showing an empty frame for the cut-out part and inserting a new element using the traditional animation.

That said, you can often get a smoother, more lifelike movement by traditionally animating the movement. Remember that cut-out techniques are meant as a time-saver so you may wish to limit the traditional drawing to pivotal sequences to put the effort where it will produce the greatest results.

With the workflow you describing, I would have a “full drawing” layer, then add others layers as required. Don’t make a new layer for each new full drawing cause they can all sit on the same layer.

Thank you both for the reply.

I’m still feeling the way I’d like to work is a bit clunky.

Over the weekend I experimented a bit and found that if work as TheRaider suggested on one “master” layer in camera mode it works pretty well. I can draw in this layer most of the time, but if i need to use a quick bit of motion tweening on a piece of the character, I just use a separate layer for that piece of the character.
For example if I need to have the traditionally animated character pause and wave. I would create a new layer above the master layer. Draw a wave arm and motion tween it back and forth. After this action, I will just drop back to using the single “master” layer.

I’m really hoping to get a workflow that is very simple, uses no templates, views, etc. That stuff is great for big productions but I’m working on small projects where most of the animation needs to be quick.

My only remaining gripe is that I lose most of the functionality of the Drawing view. Since I have to do all my work directly in Camera view. This is OK, but I’m really missing the light table feature and the ability to select only drawing elements on the layer I’m currently working on.

I understand the purpose of the Drawing view but with the above workflow it seems to muddle things when it comes to registration and tweening. As it’s always trying to register everything in a layer to itself, just like pegboard would on an animation table, using a layer as a “catch all” for bits and pieces of a character that need to be tweened causes all sorts of registration errors for me.

Thanks again for your help and I you have any other tips for working this way please let me know.

Limited animation is a clunky process and always has been, even before these digital processes came along (I’d say it was even worse back then!) I worked on some stuff for Cartoon Network back in the Cow & Chicken, Dexter, etc. days and we were doing everything on paper but with a very similar process to what you’re describing in Harmony.

It has a lot to do with being organized both on your x-sheet/timeline and in your head. In ToonBoom I like to keep things separate until they absolutely need to be done all as one drawing. If I’m going for full-on, fluid hand-drawn animation the opposite would take effect where I would only separate elements for a rare hold (blinks, lip sync, etc.).

I guess what I’m saying is that sometimes animation is just tedious but organization is a lot easier digitally than with stacks of paper (I remember having a tower of paper trays filled to the brim for one character’s parts/revisions of each part - shudder!) For cut-out I generally rough all my animation out (very loosely) on a layer and then set up my individual pieces with their own layers and pegs and animate as much of it using that stuff as possible. Then I go back in where necessary to add new drawings (some times just on the individual elements sometimes on a full body layer for that purpose only). Good luck!