Need help with layering

I’ve been having some serious issues with keeping everything in a scene layered the way it should be. Basically, I’m importing cutout characters that I’ve created in Flash and then rigging them to pegs for animating. Everything works fine when I play around with a character within their own little project, but as soon as I bring them into a new project with a background and other characters and try to layer them all correctly, everything goes haywire. The characters overlap inconsistently and in strange ways.

I’ve played with the Z-value of each element and I can stack things correctly that way, but it takes an enormous amount of time to do this for every single piece of every character. I’ve tried selecting all the character’s elements by selecting the top peg and hitting Arrange>Select Children, and then moved the elements in the camera window using the keyboard, but they all move at different rates and pretty soon the character is a mess.

Is there any simple way to make this work? Can I somehow move a peg (and its child pegs) through Z-space? Or is there some other solution? Sorry if this sounded convoluted. I’d appreciate any help I can get.

Please have a look at JK’s “ Tips and Tricks”:;action=display;threadid=2631

especially the section ” Some Tips Regarding Element Layers ”


If I’m understanding your issue correctly, there are a couple of possibilities to what is happening. Let’s cover a few steps in the process to see if you are missing a step or not.

(1) You draw your character (in Flash) and save each part of the character as a separate symbol.

(2) In Flash you create a “clean” timeline and place each part of your character in its own frame so that you now have a movie of frames which is totally composed of your character’s symbols. (by the way this is the best way to move symbols from Flash to TBS) Don’t move your character over as a single composited symbol. (You could skip all this if you created your character parts in TBS but if you use Flash then this is relavent)

(3)You import the Flash movie of symbols into TBS, preferably in its own separate project or at least its on scratch work scene, and then you create an element for each type of body part (left arm, right arm, left leg, right leg, etc., similar parts like different right hand positions can be in the same element)

(4) Now that you have all your body parts in there own elements, you turn on the autolight table (L) and you go through the process of ordering your parts layers to create your character. This means that you may have to move element layers up or down in their stacking order as well as repositioning drawing objects on their respective cells so that they line up in Drawing View. NOTE: you are doing all this in Drawing View so no peg work has occurred yet.

(5) Once you have assembled your character in Drawing View with all of its layers ordered appropriately in the exposure sheet you are ready to switch to Camera View to build your character’s peg rig. Once in camera view you should create a unique peg element to be your main peg for this character and attach all your character’s parts to this main peg. This is done by selecting all the body part elements in the timeline and dragging them all together at the same time on top of the main peg. Then you will see them still ordered as from the exposure sheet but indented under the main peg. Now you select the character’s body parts individually and build your sub-main peg hierarchies. This should be made easier as the layers are already ordered appropriately in the exposure sheet and the timeline so it is mostly a matter of arranging groups of parts in to common hierarchies like legs, torso, head etc. In most cases you will choose to use the elements integrated peg but depending on your rigs needs sometimes you may want to use unique peg elements as parts of your sub-main peg hierarchy. (Note to new users: integrated pegs are only available in V3.5 and above)

(6) Ok, now you have finished building your main peg hierarchy and your sub-main peg hierarchies and your character should look pretty good, but you may have some issues with parts not being visible based on the fact that layers are stacked but share the same “z” (front -back) level. This is where you need to use the adjustments to the part’s “z” position to slightly bump the part forward or backward to make things be visible as desired. I described “z” direction fine adjustments in the “Tips and Tricks” thread on “layers” as previously referenced. Keep the increments very small as you don’t want huge gaps in “z” space in your character.

(7) Now you have your character rigged and ready to be used in future productions. So collapse the character’s main peg so that none of the body parts track labels are showing in the timeline. Then open the Library panel and select your global library. Then drag the character’s fully collapsed main peg to your global library panel. This creates a global template of your character.

(8) You will repeat the process as stated above for each character you create and rig until you have each character in your global library as a template.

(9) Now you can use these characters in a new project together in the same scene of different scenes. Just drag the global template for the character to the timeline in your new project. Collapse the character’s main peg in the timeline if it isn’t already collapsed. Then drag in your next character and also be sure its main peg is collapsed. Now before you start to do any animation of these characters you will want to select each character’s collapsed main peg and position the character in Top View and Side View this way you are placing them on their “marks” (a theatrical term for positioning actors on the stage). I normally use the transfom tool to position things in top view and side view to set all the keyed frame types.

(10) You only want to animate in peg only mode, and you only want to expand one character’s main peg at a time and recollapse it when you switch to a different character. You shouldn’t have any problems with character’s overlapping because you separated them in 3D space with their main character pegs “mark” locations.

Almost a tutorial, but I hope this starts you on the way to using cutouts and character rigs. -JK

Thanks for the lengthy response! I haven’t had time to go through all of this yet, but already it looks like I’ve made the mistake of importing the character as one nested symbol, so I’ll definitely try to change that. I’ll go step-by-step through this as soon as I can and hopefully I should avoid my current problems. Thanks!

Please keep us posted and please continue to ask questions as that helps us all to learn more -JK