What's the best way to organize a character?

I’m working on a character walking frame-by-frame (not cut-out). The body parts are in several elements (one for the head, another for the body, etc.) and I want to reuse some of the elements, so I don’t want a new drawing on every frame.

The head and facial features are attached to one peg, which in turn is nested with the other body parts to a main peg (which isn’t a parent peg, just a regular peg).

I’ve moved the main peg across the camera view to move it across the screen. However, I want the head and face to move up and down as the rest of the body goes through the walk cycle. The head is usually higher on the passing pose and lower on the contact pose.

I’m having problems keeping the head peg positioned correctly relative to the body, especially if I’m drawing in the drawing view.

Here are my questions:

1. Should I be drawing my whole character on one element or on separate elements?

2. Is there a difference between having everything under a parent peg as opposed to a regular peg?

3. How do I keep all the body parts synched together and at the correct scale?

4. Does it matter what position and size you draw the body parts in the drawing view? And if I did draw them at different sizes, do I just scale and position them once I get them in the camera view?

Whew, that was a long post. I hope somebody can help me clear this up. Thanks!

If you are doing actual frame by frame, either pose to pose or straight ahead, animation then you probably want to draw at least a rough version of your walk in a single element in drawing view. You can create the walk in place or have it progress across the field as you choose depending on how you plan to use it later. (in place is easier to reuse.)

Use this rough to workout the action, things like hip and shoulder rotations as well as the keys and breakdowns of your walk, up and down movements etc. You probably want to be drawing your character inside a six to eight field for scale. No pegs needed just rough out the walk until you like it.

Then using the auto light table you can clean up your walk in one of more elements seperating parts as you desire. Your rough walk is your guide for this action so your clean up is drawn exactly on top of the rough at the same scale. This way when you do move to camera view everything is pre-sized together and if you want to move it closer or farther from the camera you will move its grouping peg and it will stay in sync. You can uncheck the track for the rough in the time line and it won’t show in your published movie.

Let’s assume you cleaned up your walk on three seperate elements you would want to attach all three elements to a single peg which would group them together for animating in camera view. Then you collapse that peg and do whatever keyframing you choose (motion path, scaling etc.) I prefer having pegs attached to pegs so that I can seperate parts of my animation but its more a preference than required. So for me I would use a peg to group the walk cycle and attach that peg to a motion peg to move the character across the screen. I explained the process in the cut out walk thread, the fact that the walk cycle was done with a cut out is irrelevent to what I explained there, the method is the same for a hand drawn walk cycle. You create the walk cycle and make as many repeats as you need for your purpose and then motion tween it to move it across the screen.

As explained above, draw them at the same scale to begin with using your rough walk as a guide. Then when you attach them to your grouping peg they will stay together and scale together. As long as you don’t start selecting the individual parts and keyframe them to scale seperately. By selecting the grouping peg and not the individual parts you should be fine. Peg Only Mode should be “ON”.

The answer is yes and no. You don’t have to draw things the same scale in drawing view and you can scale them to fit in camera view but you have increased your complexity significantly by doing that. It is better to build your character at a single scale in drawing view. If you are concerned about detail, use the zoom tool to get closer to the work, but that has nothing to do with the scale of the drawing. - Hopefully this gives you some ideas on how to proceed. -JK

Thank you JK, that does help! I guess I had been doing it correctly. I did do a rough version and drew a clean version over it. I did have a separate element for the head, but maybe I should just copy and paste the head drawing into the same drawing as the body, moving the head part up and down with the body.

Then, I can have separate drawings for the eyes and mouth with different frames for smiling, phonemes, etc.

These would be parented under a motion peg.

I’ll try that and see if it works better.