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Flash Procedural Modeling and Inverse Kinematics

This newest version of FlashR has some very nice new animation tools that help you to create complex, realistic-looking animations. Procedural modeling and Inverse Kinematics are the two new features in Flash CS4 that will cut your animation time in half, while giving you better results than ever before in Flash.

Procedural modeling and the Deco tool are the secret weapons behind one new way to create animation. Procedural modeling is the process of assigning complex algorithms to Flash symbols. With this new Deco tool, you can quickly create some cool effects such as an animation that progressively covers the stage. To start, we click on the Deco tool in the Tools panel. which will give us the corresponding controls in the Properties panel. Under Drawing Effects, we have three choices; Vine Fill, Grid Fill and Symmetry Brush. Let's take a look at all three.

For the Vine Fill tool, we have two default symbols; the Leaf and Flower. Under the Advanced Options, you can choose the Animate Frame option which will create an animation of how the Vine Fill works. When we choose this option, Flash builds an animation along the Timeline that we can use alone or within a larger project. So when we click on the stage with the Deco tool, we get this. Of course, the magic begins when you replace these defaults with your own symbols.

The next Deco tool is the Grid Fill tool. This tools builds a grid pattern from your chosen symbol. Your third choice is to use the Symmetry Brush option, which creates a Kaleidoscope effect with a symbol. You have four choices for the Advanced Options; Reflect Across Line, Reflect Across Point, Rotate Around and Grid Translation. The fun starts after you click on the stage. You can control the number of symbols and other properties with the green control handles.

One tool that can help you add random graphics to your stage is the Spray Brush tool. You will find this tool hidden under the Brush tool in the Tools panel. This tool works as an airbrush to spray symbols on to the stage. The default symbol is a dot but you can use any symbol in your Flash Library. As you spray your symbols onto the stage, you can control the scale, width, height and brush angle.

Another new animation feature which will greatly increase your animation skills is Inverse Kinematics and the Bone and Bind tools. Have you ever marveled at an animation such as a walk cycle and wonder how the animator got his animation to look so realistic? One of the secrets to realistic animation is Inverse Kinematics. This is a process that links various parts of your animated object together so that they can be animated to work as one unit. But it does more than just link them.

IK is a way to build an hierarchical relationship between these linked parts. It is this hierarchical relationship that causes the realistic movement. For example, if you wanted your character to raise his hand, he will need to also raise his arm and move his shoulder. Depending on how high he raises his hand, he might even need to move his spine. Before IK, it would take a long time to create this type of chain-reaction animation. But now, Flash has IK and you can build a chain-link "skeleton" into your character with a click of your mouse and the Bone and Bind tools. Once you have created this puppet-like armature, you can refine the animation further. You can also add interactivity into your Flash movie that allows the viewer to control the IK movement of your character. This is done by adding the Runtime option.

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