Step 1: Set your stage
Create a new document. Select MODIFY > Document (*J) to launch the Document Properties window. Enter your dimensions and frame rate. We suggest 960 x 540 for dimensions and 30 for frame rate, the preferred dimension/fps for creating Flash content for HDTV. Next, create your symbols or reusable assets, which include all the body parts of your character. This will let you use the same assets more than once without increasing file size. In this tutorial, we reuse the legs, arms and head.
Step 2: Create a starting line
Now create a comp of your character on your stage (frame 1). Arrange your character’s symbols into a stride pose. This is one step in the run cycle.
Step 3: Forward motion
Now that you have your character on stage, copy the keyframe of the character seven times. We suggest you make each keyframe two frames in length. At this point, activate Onion-Skinning so you can view multiple frames of your animation on the stage to see how they look in reference to each other.
Step 4: Get those legs pumping (animate the limbs)
Adjust the legs and arms to your character for each keyframe. As you modify the limbs, you can utilize some basic flash techniques, including the stretch and squash, to achieve more realistic movement. For extra guidance, we recommend sketching the run cycle (Preston Blair’s Cartoon Animation is a handy reference) and placing it in a layer below the current layer where your keyframes exist. Then, select the layer and right-click (Windows) or Ctrl-click (Macintosh) and select Guide from the Context menu. This creates a guide layer to help you align the body parts. The beauty of this feature is that guide layers are not exported and do not appear in your published SWF file. For those who prefer to go without a guide, this process requires some estimation and, most important, an understanding of the way the body moves.
Step 5: Cross the finish line
Now that you’ve completed your eight keyframes, you’re nearing the finish line. Test your animation (Cmd + Return) to see that your run cycle looks half complete. Your character runs a half step and abruptly repeats itself. Select your first eight frames and apply them to the next seven keyframes. This makes your last keyframe flow seamlessly into your first keyframe, completing your run cycle.
Nicholas Da Silva
Alexandre Brakha, Animator/Director
Nicholas Da Silva is the founder of the multimedia entertainment company ZOOLOOK, LLC. In 2003, he launched the annual Flash Storytelling Competition, TGSNT. He’s currently working on a TV/Web series featuring the Cavedudez characters.
Alexandre “Osmoze” Brakha has created animations and graphic design for ZOOLOOK, MTV England and the French series Shoot the Boss, among others.
Nicholas and Brakha say keep in mind…
If you can learn to master the walk cycle in animation, then you can animate just about anything. Here, we take that theory one step further by creating a run cycle. The run cycle may seem a little difficult to learn at first, but it actually uses the same principles as the walk cycle made famous by Preston Blair, one of the great American animators, who is noted for his work at Walt Disney and MGM. We highly recommend picking up a copy of Preston Blair’s Cartoon Animation, the official bible for professional animators. In developing the Cavedudez, a clan of soccer-playing Neanderthals, into an animated series, we used Preston’s two-legged reference to help us achieve the perfect Cavedude run cycle.
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