The Ultimate Pivot Tutorial II ~ Intermediate Area (Full Version)

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DragonYugi -> The Ultimate Pivot Tutorial II ~ Intermediate Area (11/29/2008 11:08:50)

The Ultimate Pivot Tutorial

Use this tutorial to upgrade your animating skills with Pivot. All .stk and .piv files can only work with Pivot 2. I am sorry that if you use Pivot 3 but I couldn't find better files for it. Because the tutorial is very big I suggest you use CTRL + F to search for terms of your interest. For example push CTRL + F and search "lightning" and it should automatically direct you to the part of the tutorial were it says about lightnings. Please also read the Credits at the end of this post.


1. Intermediate Area
1a. Basic Idea Generation & Implementing Simple Storylines
1b. Camera Animation (Two Dimensional)
1c. Improving Movements (Speed Variance, Easing) and Effects (Basic Beams, Explosions, Debris Physics, Ground Shatter, Light Sources)
1d. Adding Filled Backgrounds

2. Credits

1. Intermediate area

Intermediates will find this section most helpful. There may be some things in the beginner area of this guide that you’re not too hot on, so make sure you check those out. I can’t promise as much detail as the beginner’s hall though.

1a. Basic idea generation & implementing simple storylines

Warning! Lots of reading. :P Now that you have all the basics down and your animations are more or less pleasing to the eye, you can really focus on how entertaining your animation is. Smooth animations with perfect physics and such are ok, but boring as hell. Right now, you have to start generating ideas. As a beginner, you’ll probably have developed an inclination to animate fights all the time. As an intermediate, you have to stop the fights and try something else. Chases, games of giant Tetris, space invasions, humour sketches and war animations are some of the ideas you could consider. Inspiration for an idea can be found anywhere. Some people find that watching movies and cut-scenes from video games and imitating them in pivot gives them great ideas. Whenever people ask me how I find ideas, I usually say “look out your window”. It’s possible to find ideas in the simplest of things. This comes from taking one thing, and using your imagination to visualise things happening around it, like so:

- You see an empty glass next to your pc.
- Glasses are associated with alcohol.
- Alcohol is associated with alcoholics.
- Alcoholics are depressing characters, which is something you want to change.
- Place a stranger in your animation, next to an intoxicated man at a bar counter.
- The stranger spikes the man’s drink with some mysterious substance.
- The alcoholic wakes up in a strange room. The first type of building that comes to mind is “military facility”.
- He is being pressed by an officer-like character to undertake a mission. However, the man takes this request in his stride.
- The viewer is entertained by the sudden change of events, and their curiosity about the main character grows, making them want to watch more.
- Now the main character is seen in a new light. Instead of being seen as an alcoholic, he is now seen as a highly skilled mercenary as the viewer watches him undertake stealth/infiltration missions.

This proves that great ideas can be pulled out of anything as simple as an empty glass. Here are three more similar examples of how ideas come from simple objects:

1.) Books

- You look at a book, and wonder how it could be animated.
- Books are related to students and studying, which is something people of all ages can relate to.
- No one likes schoolbooks, which is again something everyone can relate to.
- Everyone likes comics, or magazines or something like that.
- Now you pit a popular magazine against a maths book in a fight. The two books should have legs and arms to show that they are indeed fighting. Your creative side will show when you animate fighting moves unique to books, like “paper cut” and “French-only instructions”.
- This idea is obviously too ridiculous to be taken seriously, so make it humorous with a guest appearance from a Harry Potter book. The two books that were previously fighting each other team up to destroy the Harry Potter book. Not only is it a happy ending, but also a lot of people will find it funny, hopefully. How funny it is depends on your ability to animate.

2.) Vacuum

- You’re using the vacuum cleaner (or neglecting to help your mother while she uses it), and your mind strays to Pivot land.
- In your animation, a malfunction occurs at the electricity company and they overload all the transformers, giving the country a 500% power increase.
- The vacuum grows to ten times its original size and triples in power, resembling a giant version of the suck gun from Ratchet & Clank. It sucks up the main character.
- The main character is now trapped inside the dark tube with random objects like chairs and pots passing by him.
- He meets a group of other people who have also been trapped inside the vacuum. They have a conversation and decide to change the settings of the vacuum to “blow” from the inside.
- They journey to the heart of the vacuum and mess around with the circuit boards. The objects flying past suddenly change direction and the group get blasted out.
- The group go to the transformer fields to cut the power to the area. It turns out that the electricity company are evil and want to take over the world. There is then a struggle between the group and some electricians, and the main character shuts down the main computer.

3.) Dartboard

- You’re watching a game of darts on TV, and you wonder how the players are so accurate. The announcer calls out “one hundred and eighty”.
- In Pivot, you create a character a lot like “Bull’s-eye” from the superhero movie “Daredevil”. This character has the ability to throw projectiles with high skill and accuracy.
- Change the setting to feudal China in the 17th century. Your character is a legendary ninja known for his deadly precision with throwing knives and shurikens.
- You see him undertake several short-lived missions, where people die quickly from a dart to the neck or heart. He kills someone close to an authority figure, who swears revenge.
- This authority figure is in charge of an elite group of soldiers called simply “The Hundred & Eighty”, in imitation of “The Thirty” in the David Gemmelle novels.
- The ninja is overtaken on a wide open plain by a force of twenty cavalry. You can now have fun animating a small battle against the cavalry.
- The remaining 160 men overtake the ninja however, and, seeing their dead comrades in heaps around him, they attack ferociously. The viewer knows that he is done for, when, out of thin air behind him comes a hundred similar ninjas. There is of course no need to animate them all at once. A row of twenty men decreasing in size behind the first man can simulate a thousand. The air is now thick with throwing knives and arrows. The ninjas win, of course.

A book, a vacuum and a dart inspired those ideas. If you have a better way of generating ideas, feel free to post a paragraph or two on it and I’ll edit it in.

1b. Camera animation (two dimensional)

With frequent use of backgrounds, you’ll eventually start losing interest in the monotony of a static drawing behind the action. By moving the background around though, you simulate camera movement. There are a couple of tricks you can use here.

Let’s say you have a simple two-dimensional background like a cityscape behind a walk cycle:

Now say you wanted to make the camera pan right as the stickman was walking. What you do is, move the cityscape model left by one pixel every frame, and do the same with the stickman.

This is the simplest camera movement. Panning is most often used for a dynamic looking camera during fight scenes or when two characters are fighting in the air at speed.

Another type of camera movement is zooming in. This just involves increasing the size of a model. Before you start increasing the size of a model however, it’s best that the origin is on the exact point of the model where you want to zoom in on. Pivot will move the model in such a way that it appears to zoom in on the origin. Of course, if you have a lot of patience, you can move the origin in sync with the resizing. Unfortunately, this takes an agonising amount of time to do properly.

Easing applies to zooming in. The best way to do this is on the first frame, increase the size by one, then 2, then 5, then 10, 15, 20, 25, 35, 50 and so on. Just reverse those figures for when you’re finishing with the zoom movement. Here’s a small example:

There are different purposes to zooming in too. If you’re trying to build suspense, it’s best to have the camera zooming in at one pixel at a time, so that the figures appear as 100, 101, 102, 103 and so on. If you’re trying to show how powerful or dramatic something is, you can stop the camera suddenly. The figures would appear as 100, 110, 130, 175, 250, 254, and 255. You’ll have to use your own common sense for when it comes to different situations.

Those are the simplest two dimensional camera movements. Use your imagination for unique camera effects. Here’s one I did:

1c. Improving movements & effects
You may be out of intermediates, but your movements and effects will still need a lot of work before you reach veteran standard. First of all, you have to work on your movements. You know all the basics, now you need to fine-tune them. There are a few techniques to improve movements.

The first one I call “onionskin trailing”. It works on the same principles as the trail effect mentioned in tutorial #1, but it’s a lot easier. Watch this animation:

You’ll notice that it moves very stiffly. When you apply onionskin trailing, this is what it should look like.

All I did was edit the frames so that the ends of the model were bending slightly to where they were in the last frame. This is how it works:

The second and better-known method is called “easing”. This idea comes from a car accelerating and gaining speed. It’s slow at first, but speeds up. It then slows down gradually to come to a stop. The same principle applies to Pivot.

As you can see from that animation, it’s not very realistic the way that the object changes direction and moves off from the start. However, when you use easing, you can use the same number of frames to achieve a more realistic, visually appealing motion:

Here’s how easing works:

Easing becomes second nature after a while, so there’s no need to worry that much about it.

Now that your movements can’t be improved by any method other than practice, time for you to start learning how to do new effects.

1.) Beams

Beams are the most popular effect. It’s one of the more creative processes and it gives your animation flair and breaks up the repetition of a fight scene. Beams are made up of a few different components, so I’ll show in diagram from how to draw, place and animate them.

These diagrams have been drawn in Photoshop; so don’t worry if you can’t match the quality perfectly. To enhance the impact of a beam, use a constant tremor effect. Beams are mostly drawing skill, but the surge and particles parts need some animating skill. The surge simply moves along the end of the beam and degenerates. The particles float away from the main beam. The degeneration stage will show how lazy an animator you are. Don’t be tempted to delete everything when you’re finished the beam; let a large group of particles linger in the air, and shrink them over a space of 10-15 frames. Animating the stickman at the receiving end of the beam is pretty difficult. It’s best to move him off screen, or have him cut into parts from the force of the beam. There is also the alternative of deleting the stickman and replacing him by a hundred particles, which fly away as the beam hits. If it turns out that you enjoy animating beams, try adding your own additions to the beam. Something I would do is adding bolts of lightning breaking out from the sides, but it’s up to you. Here’s an example of an ice beam I did:

Yeah sorry for the little guy’s head...I used a random stickman... :P

2.) Explosions

Explosions require all drawing skill and too much patience. The only “animation” in it is placing the models. You can’t get away from the fact that explosions are meant for programs like Flash and EZtoon, and have to be drawn frame for frame. Here’s how you animate an explosion:

Let’s say this is your object to explode, a simple grenade:

In the second frame, the light fades as a build-up to the main explosion, the grenade separates and the ground shakes:

In the third frame, the explosion swells to its full size. The lighting now goes back to white to emphasise the brightness of the explosion. The colours should be dominantly red, orange and dark grey, but you’ll only need about 3-4 different models. How you draw and edit them is important. Draw the models as clouds, the darkest on the inside and contrasting hard against its surroundings and the brightest on the outside, blending in with the background as best as you can manage. Normally I’d recommend animating about 30 particles to account for the shattered ground, but you’ll need a lot of time for editing the cloud models later. This is the kind of thing you’re aiming for:

Let these clouds expand for 9-18 frames, depending on the power of the explosion. Make the explosion bend to the right, as if to suggest wind affecting its movement. For the first 8 frames, you have to re-draw the single cloud models bending in a certain direction. This suggests movement in the cloud so that it doesn’t look like a series of static models. As time wears on in the explosion, the distortion increases accordingly. Finally, to account for wind variance, you make two or three “series” of distortion paths. Put simply, imagine that the first shape in this diagram is one of the clouds in your explosion:

This is how you distort a cloud over a series of 27 frames. The line represents the two visible ends of the cloud. In the first series, the wind is blowing through the middle of the cloud, pushing it through the centre to the right. In the second series, the wind moves higher and pushes the top half to the right. The same thing happens in the third series.

As the cloud expands, a rip enters through it and parts the cloud into sections. When the sections are free of each other, they float away in the same direction that the main mass bent in, following on from the wind idea:

Finally, as the sections float away, replace them with particles in mass and degenerate them:

You’re probably wondering who in God’s name would actually go to so much bother to animate an explosion. You don’t have to animate all of the parts I mentioned. You could animate one orange blob and “pass it off” as an explosion, but like I said before, you’d be the only one to know that it’s an explosion. Everyone else would “pass it off” as a basketball. So, the more techniques I mentioned that you use in an explosion, the better it looks. Here’s an example of a simpler explosion. It doesn’t have the rip or distortion techniques, but still looks like an explosion:

3.) Debris Physics

Particles from blood and beams can float away and degenerate in the air, but you can hardly expect a brick wall to float away. Here’s an animation where a heavy object hits a wall:

Even with the tremor effect, it lacks impact. So you make the ball go through the wall. To animate this, you need two types of particles. Firstly, the standard sphere particle that you already know how to animate. The other is a top-heavy splinter particle. Here’s how to draw and animate one:

When the object crashes through the wall, parts of the wall remain hanging to suggest realistic wood qualities. The part of the wall that gets destroyed and creates a hole is replaced by splinter and sphere particles. The majority of particles will appear on the right side of the wall, where the object is facing, but there are still a few particles moving on the left side. The splinters are constantly rotating in the same direction to suggest movement even from the particle. The sphere particles can simply be moved as static models. When they hit the ground, they bounce and you apply physics according to what direction and speed they hit the ground yourself. Your result should look something like this:

4.) Ground Distortion

A trait I often see in intermediates is their tendency to get sick of the static black line and animate it distorting. This is one I’ve done, but again there’s a limitless number of different ways to animate it.

Frame 1: The black line is at a standstill.
Frame 2: The centre caves in slightly.
Frame 3: The centre caves in a small amount more.
Frame 4: The entire line sags but the two ends rise slightly to exaggerate the drop in the centre.
Frame 5: The centre drops sharply and two peaks jut out from the line.
Frame 6: A third peak juts out and the first two peaks move slightly.
Frame 7: The entire line breaks into its individual segments, which makes the line appear as though it’s reached it’s most tense point and is about to break.
Frame 8-15: The segments rise into the air, spinning, and slow to a halt a small distance above their original position.
Frame 16-19: The segments fade.

Here’s what it should look like:

5.) Light Sources

You can suggest light sources with this, which makes it useful for suns, muzzle flashes, beams, lasers, fire, lightning... flashy stuff, basically. If you combine shadows with light effects, it looks even better. To actually do this technique, you first draw a simple shape, like a square. Make each segment 100 in length, and 10 in thickness.

Add this model to your animation. Click “edit”, and reduce the thickness of each segment on the square by 2. Add this model to your animation, and place it on the screen. Repeat this process until you have five squares, one with thickness at 10, one at 8, one at 6, one at 4 and one at 2. Place the five squares around the screen.

Make the 2 square white, the 4 square grey (luminosity 120), the 6 square dark grey (luminosity 90), the 8 square darker grey (luminosity 60) and the 10 square darkest grey (luminosity 30). Click “front” on the 10, 8, 6, 4, 2 squares, in that order. Now center all of them. Finally, place a random figure and increase it to 10,000. Place it in the back and colour it black.

This technique can be applied to any model, colour and light intensity.

1d. Adding filled backgrounds

For your storylines to be original, you need to implement backgrounds. Your scope of originality is severely limited when you have only a black line to animate on. The setting is very important, as it can advance the story. For example, if you drew a dark alley and added it to your animation, that in itself is a story. You could then animate three stickmen mugging another one.

To draw a filled background, draw the outline first, and then edit the outline so that everything inside the outline is filled with static segments. In most cases, this eliminates use of onionskin. To animate without onionskin, you have to animate away with the outlines only. Then, every time the first unfilled frame comes to the end of the timeline on the left, go back and edit in the fills. This saves you time later instead of having to scroll back through all the frames and edit them individually. Pivot automatically and annoyingly drags the scrollbar all the way to the right when you finish editing a frame before the end of the timeline to the left, which is why you have to edit them as you animate.

Not only do filled backgrounds give your animation a massive graphical boost, but they also serve to slightly hide sloppy movements from imperceptive people. :P

2. Credits
This is the second part of the Ultimate Pivot Tutorial made by "The Stick Files" gallery. This tutorial is for public use to help everybody out. Don't keep it for yourself.
There is no Stick Files Gallery anymore. -28.07.2010

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