Use this to refer to some aspect of pivot you’re having difficulty with. For example, press ctrl+f and search for “lightning”. Your browser will guide you to the part of the tutorial that deals with lightning effects. The .pivs and .stks are all Pivot 2. Anyone who uses Pivot 3, I can’t help you. Anyway, on with the tutorial. Although this is designed more as a reference manual, anyone who honestly reads it all is A GREAT WINNER.
1. Beginners Hall
1a. Getting To Know Pivot
1b. Creating Models
1c. Where To Start?
1d. Learning Basic Vital Movements (Walking, Running, Combat)
1e. Learning Basic Effects (Particles, Blood, Tremor, Fade, Blur, Trails)
1f. Implementing Simple .stk Backgrounds
1g. Improving Your Drawing Ability
2. Intermediate Area
2a. Basic Idea Generation & Implementing Simple Storylines
2b. Camera Animation (Two Dimensional)
2c. Improving Movements (Speed Variance, Easing) and Effects (Basic Beams, Explosions, Debris Physics, Ground Shatter, Light Sources)
2d. Adding Filled Backgrounds
3. Pivot Veterans
3a. Animation Planning
3b. Effects (Lightning/Electricity, Smoke, Shadows, Fire)
3c. Camera Animation (Three Dimensional)
3d. Developing Styles/Traits
4. Elite Zone
4a. The Power Of Editing Frames
4b. Mind Frame Of A Patient (Successful) Animator
4c. Losing Your Mind
5a. Model Builder Techniques
5b. Saving Your Work In .gif Format
Beginners will find this section the most helpful. Beginners also need the most attention, so, this is where most of the guide will be.
1a. GETTING TO KNOW PIVOT
Here is your interface:
“Play”: View the frames in sequence.
“Stop”: Stop animation from playing.
“Repeat”: Tick to make your animation loop, or play repeatedly.
Scroll Bar (Located next to “play”): Adjust frames per second, or the speed of the animation.
“Stickman”: After loading a figure, its name will appear here. Click the downward arrow (drop-down bar) to view the list of figures currently loaded. “Stickman” is the default figure. To load others, create and then save them. (See section 3.)
“Add Figure”: Add the currently selected figure to the animation.
“Edit”: Change the dimensions of the joints of your stickman. (Length, thickness, static/dynamic segment, toggle segment etc.)
“Centre”: Move the highlighted figure’s orange joint to the centre of the screen.
“Flip”: Make the highlighted figure “mirror” itself, e.g. this bracket “[“ going “]”. :D
“Colour”: Change the highlighted figure’s colour. (I don’t recommend blue, red or orange, as this interferes with the animation.)
“100”: This figure denotes the percentage size of the highlighted figure. A higher number means a bigger figure, while a lower number means a smaller figure.
“Front”: Move the highlighted figure to the front of the animation, blocking your view of those behind it.
“Back”: Move the highlighted figure behind the other figures.
“Next Frame”: Capture the screen as a frame, and move onto the next one.
“File”: Make a new animation, load a paint background, clear the background, create a figure, load a figure, open an animation or save an animation.
“Options”: Change the dimension values of the animation, or the size of the animation.
“Help”: View legal data about the Pivot Stick Figure Animator program.
“Exit”: Close the program.
2.) Simple Figure Operation:
Each figure has a number of “joints” (the red circles). Click and drag the red circles to move each joint. The orange circle (the origin) moves the entire figure. When un-highlighted, all the joints will be displayed in blue. When you click “next frame” and move a joint, you’ll see a grey outline of where it was in the last frame. This is called the “onionskin”.
3.) Accessing Models/Animations:
To load a saved animation:
1) Click “file”.
2) Click “open animation”.
3) Find the animation you want to load and double click it.
To load a saved model/figure:
1) Click “file”.
2) Click “load figure type”.
3) Find the figure you want to load and double click it.
If you find my explanation of pivot confusing, look at this interactive tutorial made by Jon: http://droidz.org/RANDOMFILES/getting_to_know_pivot/
1b. CREATING MODELS
To create a model, click “file” and then “create figure type”. This opens up a new window. Here you’ll see a straight line and a few buttons on the left. Highlight each button to see its function.
“Add line”: Create a new line segment to attach to the model.
“Add circle”: Create a new circle segment to attach to your model.
“Toggle segment kind”: Change the segment from a line to a circle, or vice-versa.
“Change segment thickness”: This edits the thickness of separate segments. By setting thickness to 0, you can make “invisible lines”.
“Duplicate segment”: Makes a copy of the highlighted segment, which can then be attached to another segment.
“Static/Dynamic segment”: Dynamic segments can be moved around in animations. Static segments cannot be moved.
“Delete segment”: Removes the highlighted segment from the model.
“File”: Here you can start a new model, open a saved one, save the current model or add the current model to the animation.
“Options”: Here you can undo a mistake made with the model or switch to edit mode.
“Edit mode”: This mode is used to change the length of a line or circle on your model.
I recommend that you only attach one segment to the master joint, and continue constructing your model from that new segment. If you attach two or more segments to the master joint, you won’t be able to rotate the entire model without leaving half of it behind. This obviously doesn’t apply to stickmen.
1c. WHERE TO START?
First of all, you have to be sure you enjoy pivot. If you do, try animating small things like fights between two stickmen. When you get bored with that, have a look around the veteran and elite galleries. You’ll more than likely see a lot of inspiring stuff, which you could try yourself in your own animations. Entering competitions and collaborations will also inspire you to animate better. When it comes to the actual animation, you’ll want to make your animations as smooth as possible. Even if it looks crap, as long as it’s smooth, that’s all you want. As you practice more and more, you’ll be speeding up without even knowing it, and your movements will slowly but surely get more realistic. It took me over a year to start animating movements at an intermediate standard; so don’t worry if this process takes ages. It will, and there are no shortcuts around it. Practice, practice and more practice. :)
1d. LEARNING BASIC VITAL MOVEMENTS
This section is for perfecting the most basic and useful movements you’ll need in your pivot career. The number one and most important rule is that every joint must move in every frame. Even if it’s a tiny, indiscernible move, it still adds to the realism of your movements. There are rare occasions where this rule doesn’t apply of course. Particles and foot joints on the ground are good examples. But for the most part, it’s the key to realistic animation.
Learning how to make a stickman take a step is the most important thing, ever. It’s pretty much impossible to animate anything realistically without steps. Anyway, here’s how you do a left to right walk cycle:
Frame 1: Your stickman is at a standstill, about to move off.
Frame 2: The right arm moves forward slightly, the left moves backward slightly, the origin moves forward slightly, the right leg moves back slightly while still on the ground, the left leg moves forward. The spine leans forward a tiny bit.
Frame 3: Same as frame 2, except the right forearm moves forward slightly more than the right bicep. The left arm stays straight however. The right leg stays on the ground in the exact same place, the left leg rises more, the left foot also rises slightly. The origin moves forward.
Frame 4: Same as frame 3, except the left forearm curves slightly toward the body of the stickman. The origin moves forward.
Frame 5: Same as frame 4, except the left foot touches the ground. The origin moves forward.
Frame 6: The left foot stays where it is, the right thigh comes forward, the right shin goes back, the right foot is still touching where it originally rested, the right forearm keeps curving forward, the right bicep moves back, the left arm moves forward. The origin moves forward.
Frame 7: Same as frame 6, except the right foot leaves where it originally rested and rises into the air. The origin moves forward.
Frame 8: Same as frame 7, except the right shin now moves forward instead of back. The origin moves forward. It is vital that the two legs and arms now cross over each other at angles, to simulate a realistic crossing over of limbs. This part of the walk cycle is probably the most important for realism.
Frame 9: The arms and legs move apart again, continuing their original paths. The origin moves forward.
Frame 10: The left arm moves forward, the right moves backward, the right leg moves back while still on the ground, the left leg moves forward. The origin moves forward.
Here’s one I made, following my own tutorial:
1: Running is naturally a fast motion. Speed is better than smoothness, but speed results in choppiness. Finding the balance between smoothness and speed is very difficult. In my opinion, 4 frames per stride is the best for speed, and 9 is the best for smoothness. 7 is the best for realism.
2: When running, the camera should be following the stickman. Usually you’d have the arms going back and forth in a moving camera run. You’ll get a normal looking run out of that. However, if you animate running with a stationary camera, you have to find something to do with the arms. To alleviate the choppiness, you can try a masking blur (See my third general tutorial). Also, you could occupy the stickman’s arms with a machine gun or a sword or something; otherwise you get an extremely choppy animation. This point isn't "pivot law" per se, it's just one of those things you can't really get around.
3: There is a “vital frame” theory for running, or so I call it. Even if you animate running as you imagine it in real life, in most cases it won’t look right in pivot. The most important vital frame is the one where the legs and arms cross over each other. One limb must be angled slightly, while the straight one crosses over it.
4: When running, both feet come off the ground longer than the feet on the ground. Don’t go nuts with this though, otherwise your stickman will look like he’s floating. One frame’s difference is enough.
5: Running adds motion and “cinematic speed” to your animation, which means animations with running in them are better than ones where the stickman is moving around the same space all the time.
6: Keep the stickman leaning forward while running. It makes him look like less of a loser. Yeah.
7: When the front foot slams down onto the ground, make the head bob down slightly on the next frame, and then resume its position the frame after. Also, the spine moves up and down slightly and rythmically while running. Don’t overdo either of these, they’re really just small details if you’re after some s**z running.
8: When the stickman is standing stationary, about to run, lean forward slowly and move the arms less intensely as you would when in full, fast running. Make him crouch slightly on the front knee, and then you can take off into the main running.
9: Download these running animations, and study the frames.
Learning how to animate fighting is a great way to learn how to animate many diverse movements, not just punches and kicks. Fighting animations are also the most popular kind, so, you may as well learn now.
Punches are the most basic building block of a fighting animation. Chaining a series of fast punches and combining them with blurs and tremors can make an animation very exciting for the viewer. Here’s how you animate a few different types of punches:
Punch from a standing start:
Frame 1: Your stickman is at a standstill, legs apart, spine curved, arms loose.
Frame 2: The right arm moves forward, the left bicep moves backward, the left forearm contracts slightly and moves into the bicep. The right leg slides forward on the ground slightly, and the left stays where it is. Both leg’s knees drop slightly, making the stickman crouch.
Frame 3: Same as frame 2, but each movement is more pronounced.
Frame 4: Same as frame 3, but each movement is more pronounced.
Frame 5: Same as frame 4, but every joint except the arms slow down.
Frame 6: Same as frame 5.
Frame 7: The right bicep moves back, but the forearm still moves forward. The left leg is brought forward. The origin rises over the right leg. The left arm is almost folded into one joint. It’s important that you don’t fold them perfectly; otherwise it looks like your stickman has lost half his arm.
Frame 8: The right arm comes back, with the forearm bisecting the torso. The left arm should now be hidden inside the right arm, to suggest that the arm is going straight through the stickman. It looks unrealistic, but no one notices one frame.
Frame 9: The left arm fully extends out, making the punch look explosive and fast. The right elbow is pointed backwards. Don’t ask me why, it just looks the most realistic to have it like that when the punching arm is fully extended.
Frame 10: The punching arm stays extended for one more frame, to emphasise the locked out arm. The rest of the limbs start to drop.
Here’s one I made:
Now, that looks mega boring right? That’s why you’ll have to do combos. Here’s how to do a simple three-punch combination.
Three Hit Combo:
Frame 1-9: Same as above.
Frame 10-13: You simply repeat frames 7-10, but the right arm drops faster to make way for the left arm to punch.
Frame 14-21: The two arms rotate in a circle, with one arm folding almost double. Have the arms form a vertical line as the left leg crosses over the right leg during the step. Also, the right foot should be rotating backwards to allow for the knee joint to bend. If you don’t animate the foot rotating, your stickman will look reverse jointed, or as if his knee was broken.
Frame 21-26: Move your stickman into a gay bruce lee stance.
Here’s one I made:
Two types of punches will get old fast of course. Try animating different kinds of punches like haymakers and hammer blows. If you need inspiration for different types of punches, watch some Homoshokaiden or Shotokan videos on Google. Uppercuts are fairly popular, so here’s how you animate one.
Frame 1: Your stickman is at a standstill.
Frame 2-8: The right foot slides forward until there’s a medium sized space in between the two feet. The left foot stays where it is. Both knees bend forward. The spine slowly bends backward into a slight “C” shape. The left arm pulls back in preparation for the strike, the right arm sticks straight out in preparation to pull back to add power to the strike.
Frame 9-11: The legs lock out and cross to jump, and the arms cross to punch. The right arm remains straight. The left arm, once crossed over, goes to head height on the 11th frame. The front leg that has crossed over comes just above waist height with the shin pointing downward.
Frame 12: The punching arm locks out and points to the sky, the neck leans left to make way for the shoulder, the lower leg moves to the right and the lower knee points to the left.
Frame 13-17: The top leg moves around the waist, still bent double. As it moves away from the waist, it folds out again. The 2 arms simply rotate in an anti-clockwise circle around the head in synchronisation with the legs. The spine curves in the direction of the higher leg. This series of frames suggests a slightly 3D rotation. In the meantime, the origin is coming back down to the ground.
Frame 18-23: Make the stickman land smoothly. When he hits the ground, his head drops slightly, the spine curves in the opposite direction as he’s facing and the knees bend.
Here’s one I made:
Kicks add an athletic type of skill to your fighting animations; however, they’re fairly difficult to animate properly. There are way too many types of kicks for me to animate them all, so I’ll just deal with some of the basic ones, and maybe one technical kick. Here’s how to animate three basic kicks:
Frame 1: Your stickman is at a standstill, legs apart.
Frame 2-5: The origin moves forward and down slightly, the arms move apart, the right foot stays where it is, the right knee bends, the left leg comes forward and stays straight. The spine curves back.
Frame 6-10: Pretend the left leg is an arm. Now animate this “arm” as if it was punching. Behold, you just animated a kick. As the leg comes to the waist of the stickman, start moving the arms back towards each other, and curve the spine in the opposite direction. When the leg is fully extended, leave it like that for two frames to emphasise its impact.
Frame 11-15: Drop all the limbs and straighten the spine.
Here’s one I made:
If you feel that this kick is too much like a punch, you can try animating a snap kick. This is how you animate it:
Frame 1: Your stickman is at a standstill.
Frame 2-4: The left leg is moving forward, bending back as it goes. The right knee bends, the right foot stays where it is. Both arms are moving forward. The spine is curving backwards slightly. The neck moves down slightly, but the head stays up.
Frame 5-6: The stationary leg is crouching slightly to bear the entire weight of the body on it’s own. The kicking leg comes forward quickly, knee first, with the shin trailing behind. On the second frame, it snaps straight out suddenly to suggest an explosive, fast kick. The arms pull back fast to add power to the kick. The origin slows it’s movement forward to counter the force from the kick.
Frame 7: The kicking stance lingers slightly to exaggerate the force of the kick. However, all the limbs are still moving very slightly forward.
Frame 8-14: The kicking leg drops, the stationary leg straightens, the spine straightens, the head comes back up and the arms return to their original position.
Here’s one I made. This type of kick takes a while to get the hang of, so don’t worry if you don’t get it on your first attempt.
When you get the hang of that, you can add a slight variance to it; the slightly harder thrust kick.
Frame 1-5: The exact same as the snap kick, described above.
Frame 6-7: The knee keeps coming up and doesn’t straighten out.
Frame 8-9: The kicking leg now straightens completely out with the foot pointing upward and slightly toward the stickman, to suggest that he’s kicking with the ball of his foot. The arms start coming back down.
Frame 10-14: The leg comes back down, the spine straightens, the stationary leg straightens, the head comes back to it’s original position and the arms drop.
Here’s one I made. It’s simply an edited version of the snap kick, seeing as they’re both so similar.
Now, those kicks don’t have much visual appeal or skill in them. You can try all kinds of kicks, like knee strikes, aerial kicks, donkey kicks etc. Watching videos of Tae Kwon Do experts really helps for finding new types of kicks to animate. My favourite would have to be the heel drop, so I’ll show you how to animate it.
Frame 1: Your stickman has both arms behind his back, and the legs are apart.
Frame 2-4: The arms move backwards, and trail in the onionskin. The origin moves forward, the spine curves forward, the head moves back, the kicking leg comes forward, the right leg stays where it is and bends slightly to bear the weight of the stickman on it’s own.
Frame 5-11: The spine curves backward, the kicking leg comes straight up to the head of the stickman, the head leans forward, the stationary leg is still crouching slowly and the arms come up to meet and catch hold of the kicking leg. This helps the leg to tense and therefore give more explosive power and speed.
Frame 12-17: Every joint straightens out, the arms pull back fast behind the stickman to add power to the heel drop, the kicking leg drops in the space of 3-4 frames, the stationary leg locks out, the spine straightens and the head comes back up.
This is of course a very advanced move; it took me ages to figure out how to do it realistically. This is what you should be looking at when you’re finished:
3c.) Now that you’ve learned the most basic parts of combat, you can use what you’ve learned to animate more advanced fighting moves like over the shoulder throws, head butts and leg sweeps. Those kinds of moves are best shown in videos of Ju-Jitsu and Muay Thai. Some great examples of fighting animations in pivot would be anything by Bert or Gray.
1e. LEARNING BASIC EFFECTS
Your animations will never look good with basic movements alone. Effects can be added to your animation to make it more exciting and visually appealing. The more insane the effect, the more enjoyable the animation. However, you have to know how to animate them properly before going nuts. A hard punch to the head can be exaggerated with a combination of a tremor and a spray of blood. A finishing move can be exaggerated by using blurs, slow motion or double framing. A climactic frame (something like a punch line in a joke or the contact point of a flying kick) can be exaggerated by switching the colours to negative and repeating the frame several times. In my experience, beginners find effects very difficult because they’re such a dramatic change from using stickmen. So, I’ll explain the simplest of effects here and their uses.
This is one of the simplest effects, and it’s usually one that beginners discover first. This effect leaves a faded copy of the frame before it in the current frame, and does so over a space of 2-10 frames, depending on how many copies are used. Obviously, the more copies you use, the better it looks. Here’s how to animate a blur:
Watch this animation. I’ve simply moved an object from the left of the screen to the right.
Looks pretty basic as it is. To add a four-copy blur, do the following. I’m calling the model you’re going to blur “object”:
Frame 1: The object is in place at the left of the screen.
Frame 2: Change the colour of that object to dark grey. Now add a second object and place it slightly to the right of the first object.
Frame 3: Change the colour of the first object to medium grey and change the colour of the second object to dark grey. Add a third object and place it to the right of the second object.
Frame 4: Change the colour of the first object to light grey, the second object to medium grey and the third object to dark grey. Add a fourth object to the right of the third object.
Frame 5: Delete the light grey object. Change the colour of the second object to light grey, the third object to medium grey and the fourth object to dark grey. Add a fifth object to the right of the fourth object.
Frame 6-14: Continue this process until you reach the end of the movement. When the main object (the black one) stops moving, delete the following objects in order of their brightness (light, medium, dark).
This should be your result:
Blurs are great for lots of purposes. If you feel that a particularly fast part of an animation looks too fast, and is choppy, simply edit in a blur. For some reason, even though it’s still moving at the same speed, the animation will appear slower and smoother. Also, blurs can be used as a visual enhancement to a slow motion manoeuvre.
This is probably the simplest effect. It involves changing the colour of a model until it’s the exact same as the model behind it.
Say you want to make something disappear. Deleting it would be the simplest method:
This looks crap, by any standard, which is why you’ll want to fade it out. To fade out a model:
Frame 1: Click the model, and then click colour. This window will appear:
Now click define custom colours. This window should appear:
You want to fade black into white. So, click black, then set the luminosity value to 60. Click “Add To custom Colours”. Set the luminosity value to 120 and click “Add To custom Colours”. Set the luminosity value to 180 and click “Add To custom Colours”. Now you have your three shades of grey, light, medium and dark. Select dark grey and click “OK”.
Frame 2: Change the colour to medium grey.
Frame 3: Change the colour to light grey.
Frame 4: Delete the object.
Fading one object against many colours just means that you’ll have to draw several models to make up the original object.
This is another simple effect, but one of my favourites. Watch this animation:
I’ve animated a heavy ball hitting the ground. However, I feel that it lacks weight. So, you apply the tremor effect. This simply means moving the ground and ball down on the frames that the ball hits the ground (frame 6, 11 and 13). This is your result:
This is a form of a blur, and has the same effect. The only difference is that it’s easier to animate, but needs more skill to draw. It’s useful for animating a series of moves that change direction sharply and frequently. Here’s an example:
Looks pretty choppy, doesn’t it? However, edit it with trails and it looks like this:
All I did was use the same model and resized and rotated it until it’s tip was in the end of the onionskin of the frame before it. The .piv can explain much better than I can, so make sure you study the frames and how the trails are positioned.
Particles are absolutely vital for any effect. They require the most patience, but pay off in the end. They’re used in blood, fire, lightning, explosions, dust etc. I believe that they’re overlooked by a lot of animators, so hopefully this section will convince you otherwise.
Any particle is animated by degenerating it from it’s original size while moving it along a path. This path usually rises into the air, because particles are lighter than air. However, heavy particles like parts of debris hit the ground and bounce around while remaining at their original size. Every particle is animated differently depending on the object it’s broken off from. Use your common sense as to what kind of physics you apply to it.
First of all, you need to know the different types of particles I’ll be dealing with, and how to animate them. How you draw your particles is up to you, but I usually use simple circles in mass. Other animators that use a lot of particles, for example Doddsy and lf2master, draw their particles as straight lines that get thinner the closer they are to the origin of the particle. There are also animators like eetwo that have a great deal of patience and add details to the particles themselves. I’ll try to show examples of all three methods.
The first particle is the simple static sphere, animated like so:
The second particle is automatically animated when you resize it. This is done by making the first segment from the origin an invisible line, and having the actual particle about 70 pixels away from the origin. When you make it smaller, the origin drags the particle toward it. The longer the first line, the faster the particle moves toward the origin. Here’s how you animate it:
A third type of particle, one that I’ve never used, is one that can be easily seen and rotated when dealing with mass particles. It’s probably best used for rain, snow, flies and sniper lasers. It’s drawn with a dynamic line about 35 pixels away from the origin, and a second static line overlapping the dynamic line and passing through the origin, sized at 70 pixels. Here’s something I did with one of these particles:
These examples are pretty boring on their own, but they make animations look ten times better. Examples of great particle animations would be anything by Doddsy.
When a spray of blood comes out of a stickman, people get excited. Don’t ask me why, people are just weird that way. Animating blood well is fairly important in animations where weapons are being used, like guns and swords. Blood is one of the more creative processes, so I’ll just explain one way of doing it.
My method of animating blood is basically dark red particles in mass breaking off a large clot. Here’s a small example:
Frame 1: The first mass of blood comes out fully formed.
Frame 2: The full mass holds together, but several particles come behind.
Frame 3: The mass shrinks slightly, and is replaced by several particles. The particles from frame 2 are still following and shrinking.
Frame 4-6: The mass shrinks slightly, and is replaced by several particles. The particles from frame 3 are still following and shrinking. The original particles are veering away from the main stream, varying the animation.
Frame 7: The leading mass has now degenerated completely into particles. You should be dealing with about 20 particles.
Frame 8-14: The particles degenerate while continuing their path through the air. Try varying separate particle’s paths to make the blood seem more realistic.
Other styles of blood involve a mass hitting an invisible wall with no particles coming off (not good), or blood flowing along the edges of an object, mimicking water (pretty good). It’s up to you which way you animate blood. If you're looking for great examples of blood, watch Doddsy and lf2master's stuff.
1f. IMPLEMENTING SIMPLE .STK BACKGROUNDS
Backgrounds add the most visual appeal to your animations. They need no actual skill in animation, but the more advanced they get, the more demanding they are on your drawing ability. Filled backgrounds take up the entire screen, and therefore hide the onionskin. Beginners can’t operate without onionskin, so the only backgrounds you’ll need are outlines of buildings, trees, chairs etc. Here are some examples of backgrounds you could use while still retaining use of most of the onionskin:
Simple Living Room:
I’m Running Out Of Ideas:
There’s not much to backgrounds. Simply put them there and you win.
1g. IMPROVING YOUR DRAWING ABILITY
When drawing backgrounds and models, you may want to use google image search to find pictures of the thing you’re drawing. If I asked you to draw a cardboard box in pivot, I know that 99% of pivot animators would draw a perfect square with flaps on either side, and colour it brown. But how is a random viewer who knows nothing of how you did the animation supposed to know that it’s a cardboard box? It could be a random block or a podium for all they know. So, the minimum detail a cardboard box needs is the corrugation pattern and two darker coloured sides to show that it’s a cube-like shape. This kind of thing should become second nature whenever you draw something.
Some simple tips:
- Before you draw something, google it! This is probably the most helpful aid for drawing.
- Use transparent windows programs to trace pictures in the model builder. Cheap and effective.
- If you’re using pivot 3, use sprites. Don’t bother wasting half an hour on something that could be drawn in paint in 5 minutes.
- If you’re drawing a highly detailed background for a simple loop with no camera movement or a short 2D test, draw it in paint and load the background in pivot. Don’t waste time with the much slower model builder..
- Although I don’t encourage this, if you’re in need of a specific model, use one made by someone else and credit them for it.
- Draw stuff in real life whenever you get a chance. I’ve been drawing random pictures at school or at home whenever I got a chance all my life, so it helped my drawing ability a lot. The sooner you start practicing drawing, the faster you can apply it to animation.
Patience is the key to drawing semi-appealing things in Pivot. Spend a lot of time on setting up your scene and it will look good.
Run Down Building:
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.
2a. BASIC IDEA GENERATION & IMPLEMENTING SIMPLE STORYLINES
Warning: lots of reading! 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. Outside my window, I see a lot of trees. That’s how I got the inspiration for the forest battle and last sunrise animations. By looking up at the sky I got inspiration for pandemonium. 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.
I just noticed that this idea is identical to the famous Metal Gear Solid. 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
2b. 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. Your result will look like this:
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:
2c. 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 above, 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.
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:
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:
http://Illegal link.org/upload/v2/nevcalia ... _203de.piv
If this kind of animation appeals to you, watch animations by SA. His physics are regarded as the best out of the elites, and you may find inspiration to find patience to animate so many particles.
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. You’ll get this:
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. You should now be looking at this:
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.You should be looking at this:
This technique can be applied to any model, colour and light intensity. The first test animation below shows how to variate the light intensity. The second shows how to make light move, and how it casts shadows:
2d. 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 mask sloppy movements.