Rigging Flash Characters

Rigging can be defined as the construction of a skeleton system for the object to be animated and a specific part of that object to a ‘bone’. This ‘bone’ can be representational as a parent of the skeletal system or a child of the parent.

The process of Rigging in Flash is a little different compared to the 3d system that the industry follows. Here rigging  means setting up the character with all the different poses considered, creating registration points and pivot points for symbols created, adapting a defined naming convention, asset management of symbols created and stored in the library and organization of layers in the Flash source file.

Rigging has two advantages, one being the fact that rigged characters are quicker to animate and secondly, when a character-set is completely rigged (with all the different character turnarounds), this makes it simple to access the library of poses so one does not have to redraw a pose repeatedly.

Using one of my earlier characters that I had created turnaround for, I shall first rig the front pose of that character. Then once I have completely rigged the character, I shall try and reuse as many of the same symbols to create the other pose. For eg: I shall use the same head symbol for the 3/4th or Profile poses, by using a difference instance within the head Graphic Symbol.

From this tutorial you will learn naming convention used for symbols, how to rig the eyes of the character, how to reuse Graphic Symbols and working with Instances and shortcuts and time-savers that I have picked up though experience.

Character Rig Setup

In this tutorial I have used ‘groups’ initially to separate the different body parts (for eg: I have grouped the ‘face’ and ‘eyes’ to form a temporary head group). What we are going to do is to convert these groups into symbols with a specific registration and pivot point. The aim is to symbolize these different parts as illustrated below.

Setting up a character in Flash

Naming Convention

When working on many characters it becomes inevitable to have a sound naming convention. Keeping it short and simple so that by looking at the name of the Graphic Symbol, one should be able to understand which character symbol one is working with and what body part is it.

Thus the naming convention I follow is characterBodypart#,

where ‘character’ is the name of the character (try and limit it to 3 to 4 alphabets and small caps), ‘Bodypart’ can be hands,legs,eyes etc (where the first letter is in upper case) and # is the number value assigned to the body part or the characters view on the whole (this suffix wont always be used).

so for example : redLeg01, redEye, etc.
Note: You don’t need to memorize this, because once you start rigging and converting the different body parts, you will eventually figure out this method.

Registration and Pivot Points

registration and pivot pointRegistration point is the cross hair that appears over a selected symbol, whose (x,y) value is (0,0), pivot  (or transformation) point is the circle that appears over a selected symbol, and behaves as the axis of that symbol. When converting anything into a symbol, Flash by default creates a centered registration and a pivot point for new symbol. When we convert the different body parts to symbols, I like to make sure that the registration and pivot points are at the same ‘specific spot’ for that respective symbol. Thus for a hand, I would like to make sure that the registration and pivot point are created at the shoulder of the arm, since the arm would pivot at that point.

Thus the method used in my process helps to fixate the pivot point. In case the pivot point has moved to another position by human error, double clicking on the pivot point will make it jump back exactly to where the registration point is.

Here is a general idea of where the different registration/pivot points would be for different parts of the body in the front view.

Positions of Registration Points/ Pivot Points on a Character

This tutorial will be broken in to 3 steps:

  • Step A: Character Turnaround
  • Step B: Rigging one view
  • Step C: Smart Rigging for other views

If you decide to do the tutorial using your own character, then listed below is the publishing settings I have used for the example.

Dimensions 585×400 pixels (width x height), Frame Rate: 24fps.

Next update with new videos and images in a weeks’ time.