Multiple character animation?

After a couple months playing with TBS (cut-out style), I now want to attack a full fledged storyline with multiple characters and scenes. It’s a bit daunting, though…to put it mildly. I’ve built and rigged the individual characters, drawn simple backgrounds/set pieces, I’ve recorded the voice overs and I’m ready to go…then I look at that blank screen and I have no idea how or where to start. As a novelist and having been a working television writer for many years, I have a strong grasp of story – but this animation thing is a whole new animal to me. Not that I haven’t always loved it, but I certainly have a new-found respect for this medium.

Here’s my immediate concern: The element list in the time line, even with just three or four cut-out characters, gets crazy huge quick. Does one animate only a single character all the way through the scene, then start on the next or should I collapse the pegs and animate all four right in the scene planning window by clicking element graphics?

Also, I recorded the voice over as one file for all voices…is that too constraining? Should it be broken into separate tracks? If so, should that soundtrack then be put on the character’s peg?

Sorry for the long post…I’m more excited about this than confused so I ramble on.

My stock answer to these type of questions is “it is a matter of personal preference.” As to animating multiple characters in the same scene, one at a time is usually less confusing. But, it really is a function of the nature of their interactions. If several characters are directly interacting you sometimes have no choice but to work them as a group. In any case multiple passes working from rough action to more detailed action is always a good practice. Direct selection and manipulation of body parts is easier and more natural so I work with the character peg collapsed as much as possible, but sometimes you can’t easily select a particular part without selecting its track first which means you have to expand the character peg to get at it. You are going to use that expand and collapse track arrow often, it is a critical feature.

I use peg elements as organizational folders. I normally subdivide my track list this way grouping all types of elements in logical groups (IE. audio group, background group, foreground group, character a, character b etc.) Even though TBS does not have folders like Flash, a peg element works just as well. You don’t do any keyframing on that “folder” peg you just use it to control track clutter while you are working. I label “folder” pegs as -F instead of -P to help keep them separate in my head.

I prefer to work with separate tracks. Not on the character peg itself, but it can be included in an organizational “folder” peg with that character if you like working that way. I normally have all sound tracks at the top of my timeline grouped under a “folder” peg inventively named “Audio-F” . One thing that I do quite often is to drag and drop the Audio-F peg folder up and down in the track list so that it is next to the character peg which I am currently animating. That lets me visually keep them together when needed and allows me to keep my timeline display footprint more compact.

I’m looking forward to V5.0 because I’m hoping that the new “annotation” tracks will be useful for animator notes and stuff that I currently keep on a pad of paper next to my computer. I use frame/cell notes and element notes as much as possible now to help keep myself reminded of things to be done based on my pre-planning work. -JK

You have already consolidated the management of the program so as to avoid technical difficulties in developing its history, this is a good start.
Also you are a novelist so that his story is completely defined only remaining plan takes through a story board of how to make it very clear visual development associated with the script, length of scenes, frames, camera work etc.
You can start the work of animation with all the characters, but encouraging each other to simplify collapsing the timeline, if you render with TBS. You can also create scenes with a character and create templates with them together all in part to a final scene, as it is more convenient. Regarding the audio, always separate vocal tracks individually. Music and effects separately. This may give lip-sync correctly every voice and every mouth, and move the audio in the timeline to make final adjustments in the composition. Maybe I can help. Yoryo

Replies of great help, guys. Thank you.

I realized this morning that I have to go back in and rename many elements – can’t have three characters all with an element called just ‘head’ or ‘mouth’. That makes sense. Renaming and giving their main peg tracks their own color will help me anyway (I like that we have the ability to change track colors; it’s quite helpful.) I’m finally getting the hang of camera movement as well and it’s a LOT of fun to play with! In fact, I was able to create a pseudo-3D architectural walk-through for a completely unrelated project using the camera in TBS. Very slick.