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Making Armatures With the Bones Tool in Flash CS4

by
Gift

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Getting started with the bones tool can be intimidating and tricky, but it can be your best friend for animating once you've had some practice. You can create bones (armatures) for graphic shapes (like a simple triangle) or a set of movie clips. During this screencast, I'll demonstrate using the bones tool with shapes and will follow up using bones with movie clips.

Shapes

Animating shapes with bones gives your animation abilities you don't have with a simple graphic shape tween. This example shows animating the undulating tentacle of an octopus which would fall apart with a regular shape tween, but can be held together by using bones.

Movie Clips

Animating movie clips with bones is a real time saver for the animator once the bones are set up. You create poses by moving the individual bones (nodes), without having to worry about moving each piece separately on its own layer tween.

Bones Rules!

  1. You can create bones (armatures) for graphic shapes (like a simple triangle) or a set of movie clips.
  2. Use the Bones Tool to create bones then use the Selection Tool (black arrow) to pose them.
  3. You do not need to have your movie clips on their own layers. When you connect them together with the bones tool they are all brought into the single armature layer (one armature per armature layer).
  4. The starting point of the first bone that you draw is the locked/fixed position of the arm or set of arms. In other words, if you were animating a human arm, you would start dragging the first bone at the shoulder, not at the fingertips. Think of it as sticking a thumbtack through the movie clip, to a bulletin board. You can rotate it around the tack but can't move it. Use the Transform Tool to move an entire armature or fine tune the positioning. The rotation point of the movie clip is also the joint of the bones.
  5. To animate the armature layer, you extend the timeline and right click/insert pose, rather than keyframe. Basically the same thing but with different names.
  6. If you want to connect shape armatures with movie clip armatures, just make sure your shape armature is nested inside a movie clip, and it can then be connected to other movie clips with the bones tool.
  7. You can set armatures in the properties to authortime (for animating by the Flash author) or runtime (can be manipulated by the user or with ActionScript). See Rich Shupe's page on Learning Flash for great sample files working with ActionScript.
  8. Options for working with armature joints include: Rotation or non-rotation, rotation range and speed, and armature easing. You can also enable joint translation, meaning a joint could also slide left/right or up/down or both.

Go be Creative!

Thanks for tuning in, and may the zen of Flash armatures be with you!

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