Smart Magnet Rigs

In 2013 with EDAP Tools v.2.0 the Electric Dog team proudly introduced Smart Magnet Rigging to the world.
With each new version we keep expanding the scope and the range of what SMR can do with added features, commands and tools.

Last update: June 2019

We first introduced Smart Magnet Rigs in 2013 and since then countless studios and individual animators around the world have adopted this ground-breaking approach to flexibility, efficiency and control.

With chain selection, magnetic joints and automatic clean up of arcs, Smart Magnet Rigs are unmatched in the current Flash or Animate landscape and light years ahead of Adobe's own attempts at layer parenting or IK.

The Electric Dog team is actively working on expanding the scope of the SMR toolset, adding features and improving user experience, while always maintaining compatibility with older files.

Smart Magnet Rigs and EDAP Tools work with all versions of Flash and Animate, starting with Macromedia Flash 8, providing power, flexibility and unseen before features to all animators reluctant to move on to Animate CC and its monthly subscription-based model.

Table of Contents

  1. Overview
  2. SMR Tools
  3. Smart Magnet Rigging process
  4. Additional information and sources

Overview


Smart Magnet Rigs are a powerful addition to the Classic Tween workflow in Flash/Animate.

Smart Magnet Rigs retain the whole flexibility of a traditional Flash/Animate character build, where elements can be tweened independently of one another, re-layered with ease and so on, while at the same time add unprecedented level of control, which animators couldn't even dream of in the past.

SM Rig elements are 'aware' of their place in the hierarchy, which allows forward and inverse chain selections. Joints are 'magnetic'. Dislocated elements can snap back into their logical position in relation to others at the press of a button.

All built-in Flash/Animate tools and transformations such as scale, rotate, skew, etc. work as expected with Smart Magnet Rigs. On top of that users can manipulate them with high-precision and refined posing tools, designed specifically with character animation in mind.

When opened on a system where EDAP Tools are not installed, Smart Magnet Rigs behave just like any other Flash/Animate build and can be animated or edited with the default Flash tools.

Smart Magnet Rigs allow animators to handle structurally more complex and detailed characters with much greater ease, which results in more subtle and organic-looking cutout animation.

What exactly do Smart Magnet Rigs add to the animation process?


Smart Magnet Rigs are a unique blend of the two existing approaches in the digital cutout world: free-floating, unconstrained elements and bone-based skeletal systems.

Flash animation has gained a lot of its popularity due to the former. The ease of manipulations and the lack of constraints allows for very quick and easy posing, squash & stretch and is technically very user-friendly, due to the relatively easy setup. The disadvantage of this approach is that it requires a lot of clicking, manual selections and constant guesswork about the exact positions of joints. The early enthusiasm of users, who could start having fun almost immediately quickly turns into frustration due to poor ergonomics and precision.

Bone-based skeletal systems, on the other hand, provide hierarchical structure to the rigs, which allows easy chain selection, requires no guesswork about exact position of joints, but also limits movement of elements and imposes some form of skeletal rigidity.

Even well-implemented bone systems such as the one in Moho seem to impact the artistic output in a less than favorable way.
(At the time of writing – May 2019 – the newly-introduced native Layer parenting in Animate CC exhibits all negative side effects of the restrictive skeletal approach.)

Smart Magnet Rigs provide all the benefits of the two approaches, eliminating the negative side effects completely.

With Smart Magnet Rigs animators are free to enjoy the unrestrained approach for as long as they want, whenever they want, while at the same time a non-intrusive flexible virtual hierarchy allows them to chain-select, set Transformation points at joints automatically, or pose a bunch of symbols as a skeleton on-the-fly.
Both approaches compliment one another, removing all frustration with the deficiencies of either and making the process of animating much more enjoyable, faster, more productive and creatively more fulfilling.


All our videos are 1080p. If for some reason full HD is not available here, try watching them on YouTube.


How does it all work?


Hierarchy is realized at the level of Symbol instance. Because of this, elements are layer independent, can be re-layered freely and easily or even placed all on one layer. They contain metadata (SMR info) and are 'aware' of their place in the hierarchy.

Roughly speaking each element has two active points – the Registration point and a Magnet point (often called Magnet Target or just MT) For example: The upper arm has its Registration point in the shoulder and its Magnet point in the elbow. The lower arm has its Reg point in the elbow and its Magnet point in the wrist. Torso has Magnet point in the shoulder.
Upper arm pivots from the shoulder and its Reg point magnetically should snap to the Magnet Target in the torso. Lower arm logically pivots in the elbow and magnetically should snap to the elbow MT in the upper arm. Hand, being the last element in the chain, does not have an MT. Its Reg point snaps to the wrist MT in the lower arm.

This structure allows to select and modify logical groups of elements, knowing that the torso is a parent to all arm elements, upper arm is a parent to lower arm and hand, and so on.

Choosing one element in the chain allows to extend the selection down or up the hierarchy and place the Transformation point at joints to facilitate forward or inverse transformation.

Using the SMR tools animators can effortlessly do:

  • forward chain selection
  • inverse chain selection
  • soft rotation
  • hard rotation
  • magnet joint snapping (to parent or to child)
  • clean up (moving symbols along arcs)


All our videos are 1080p. If for some reason full HD is not available here, try watching them on YouTube.


Are there any special requirements?


Q: Are there any special requirements for a bunch of symbols to be turned into a Smart Magnet Rig?

A: Only one. Proper registration of symbols at joints as described in this article.

Best practices in creating an edaptable build are shown in this step-by-step tutorial.
We also provide a few sample SM Rigs which new adopters can use to test the tools and study how the characters were put together.


What is SMR info?


SMR info is the metadata ID written into the elements of a Smart Magnet Rig which makes them 'aware' of their place in the hierarchy. The SMR Tools read and process the SMR info.

The SMR info is assigned to Symbol instances on Stage.

  • If a Symbol instance is deleted and reintroduced from Library, it will lack SMR info*.
  • If the instance type is changed, for example from Graphic to Movie Clip, it will lose its SMR info*.
  • If an instance is swapped using the default Swap Symbol function, it will retain the SMR info.

*To repair, SMR info can be transferred from 'healthy' instances onto such that have lost it, using Roll Over Rig Info, located in the drop-down menu of the Smart Magnet Rig panel.


SMR Tools


The SMR Tools are part of the EDAP Tools package, specifically designed to work with Smart Magnet Rigs. They facilitate rigging itself, posing and to certain extent – animation.

The Smart Magnet Rig can be moved and modified with all the default Flash/Animate tools and it will behave just as a normal free-floating bunch of symbols.
When modified with the SMR Tools if will behave as a hierarchical structure.

Here is a list of these tools:

Click on each entry above to view the full help article.

When a traditional Flash/Animate build is converted to a Smart Magnet Rig, animators can start using the KineFlex tool, Smart Magnet Joints, Smart Transform, Clean Up and Smart Transform Point (CW & CCW).

Via the Smart Magnet Rig panel or the KineFlex tool users set the hierarchical structure of cutout elements and assign metadata IDs (SMR info) to Symbol instances on the stage. When this is done, each element's relationship to others is clearly defined and can be restored or constantly maintained whenever necessary by a simple press of a button.

Posing is then assisted by the KineFlex tool, Smart Magnet Joint, Smart Transform, Clean Up and Smart Transform Point commands which are accessed via keyboard shortcuts and need the SMR info to function.

The Smart Magnet Rig panel also provides tools for editing, repairing, exporting and importing rigs. After rigging is complete, it is a good practice to close the panel as it is not needed for animation.

KineFlex (SMR Tool)

KineFlex is our revolutionary on-the-fly skeletal system, introduced for the first time in EDAP Tools v.4.0 in 2018.

KineFlex uses Smart Magnet Rig metadata (SMR info) to allow an animator-friendly implementation of a Forward Kinematic system, with bones that exist only during the current transformation and do not impose any rigidity or structural changes to the Classic Tween approach.

Essentially it is an instantly generated skeleton, which takes the current location and position of the elements as initial state (on MouseDown) and ceases to exist after the end of the transformation (on MouseRelease).

As of EDAPT v.5.0 KineFlex is also a SM rigging tool, which can be used to quickly and intuitively establish the hierarchical relationships between Symbol instances.


All our videos are 1080p. If for some reason full HD is not available here, try watching them on youtube.

Smart Magnet Joints

Smart Magnet Joints do not interfere with the traditional Flash/Animate workflow, but are always present and at a press of a button a dislocated limb is perfectly positioned again. Elements know where they should snap to whenever needed.
Smart Magnet Joints bring precision and unseen-before ease to working with complex multi-part rigs.

The knowledge that elements can always be brought back into position eliminates all stress. This allows animators to feel more relaxed and open to experimentation, which in turn yields better-quality results.
Similar to the invention of Undo and later multiple Undo, Smart Magnet Joints reduces the cost of any mistake to zero and in this way empowers creativity.


All our videos are 1080p. If for some reason full HD is not available here, try watching them on youtube.

Smart Transform

Smart Transform allows chain selection of all linked children (forward) or parents (inverse), placing the Transformation point of the selected group of symbols at the Reg Point of the highest ranking parent for easier-than-ever posing.

It is the most natural and logical enhancement of the Free Transform (Q) tool in the context of the needs of a character animator, taking away all the guesswork where to put the Transformation point of a selected group of symbols, while saving all the time wasted to select multiple symbols and constantly drag the T-point after changing the selection.
Smart Transform saves the user from the need to do a huge number of unnecessary clicks and drags and allows to redirect this precious time and energy toward better and more polished animation.


All our videos are 1080p. If for some reason full HD is not available here, try watching them on youtube.

Clean Up

Clean Up utilizes Smart Magnet Joint functionality and automatically adjusts the positions of child elements to move along arcs, once timing is complete and the animator is happy with the poses and dynamics.
It works on Classic Tweens and can even allow easy and efficient ways of getting overlapping action between keys.


All our videos are 1080p. If for some reason full HD is not available here, try watching them on youtube.


Smart Magnet Rigging process


When work on the traditional character build is completed, it can easily be turned into a Smart Magnet Rig.
A detailed step-by-step tutorial how to set up rigs for Flash character animation is available here.


Before you begin

The only requirement for the flawless transition to SMR is that all elements should be properly registered.
Proper Symbol registration is explained in detail in this article.

Registration points of symbols should be correctly and logically positioned, i.e. upper arm's Reg point must be in shoulder, lower arm must register in elbow, thigh – in hip joint, lower leg – in knee and so on. Registration must always facilitate forward kinematic.
If necessary, Symbols can be easily re-registered via Set Reg Point To Transform Point command Ctrl+T.

Users have a choice of three rigging methods:

  1. Classic (Full manual), using the Smart Magnet Rig panel
  2. Auto-rig, using the Smart Magnet Rig panel
  3. FreeStyle rigging, using the KineFlex tool

The third is faster, potentially easier and more interactive. The first two require some preparation and may be more suitable for designs with a lot of heavily overlapping elements.
Choosing one over the others is only a matter of preference.

1. Classic SM rigging (Full manual) is a multi-pass process:


  1. Place Center Markers (CM) and Magnet Targets (MT) inside symbols, using Create Magnet Target Or Center Marker command.
    Shortcuts: Shift+`(tilda/~ key) and Alt+`(tilda/~ key).
  2. Create a node-based representation of the character structure in Smart Magnet Rig panel.
  3. Using the panel's tool, add SMR info (metadata ID) to each element of your character. This is done by clicking to select a Symbol instance on stage (hand for example) and then clicking on the corresponding node in the SMR panel. When tagging is successful the node icon changes to show the presence of a tagged MT.
    Important: Always start rigging by first tagging the Master Parent, which is visualized as the only blue node in the panel.

Once the elements have SMR info, they become 'aware' of their place in the rig hierarchy.

Test your Smart Magnet Rig by dragging the Master Parent symbol (the pelvis in the example above) away from the others and while it is selected, press 1(for­ward) and then `(tilda/~ key to the left of 1/! and below Esc). This should select all children and assemble your character around the Master Parent (represented by the blue node in panel).

Full manual rigging video demonstration


All our videos are 1080p. If for some reason full HD is not available here, try watching them on youtube.



2. Auto-rig SM rigging is a multi-pass process:


  1. Place Center Markers (CM) and Magnet Targets (MT) inside symbols, using Create Magnet Target Or Center Marker command.
    Shortcuts: Shift+`(tilda/~ key) and Alt+`(tilda/~ key).
  2. Select one Symbol instance on the stage which will be the rig's Master Parent.
  3. Press the Auto-rig button at the bottom of the Smart Magnet Rig panel.
    The panel will analyze the chains of elements, CMs and MTs and will automatically generate the hierarchy, tag all elements with SMR info and display a node based representation with a default name. You can change that name from Rename Rig in the panel drop down menu.

Test your Smart Magnet Rig by dragging the Master Parent symbol away from the others and while it is still selected, press 1(for­ward) and then `(tilda/~ key to the left of 1/! and below Esc). This should select all children and assemble your character around the Master Parent.

Automatic rigging video demonstration


All our videos are 1080p. If for some reason full HD is not available here, try watching them on youtube.



3. FreeStyle SM rigging is a single-pass process:


With KineFlex tool selected, hold down F4 to activate rigging mode. Cursor will become a cross (+).
While holding down the modifier key F4 click and drag from one Symbol instance on stage to another. An arrow will be drawn from the center of the first instance and a box will be drawn around the target instance.
Upon MouseRelease the target instance will become a child of the instance you clicked and dragged from.
Both instances will be tagged with metadata IDs (SMR info) and Magnet Target and Center Marker will be added automatically where needed.

Repeat this click-and-drag process until you have linked all elements in your character in a logical hierarchy.

Test your Smart Magnet Rig by dragging the Master Parent symbol away from the others and while it is still selected, press 1(for­ward) and then `(tilda/~ key to the left of 1/! and below Esc). This should select all children and assemble your character around the Master Parent.

FreeStyle rigging video demonstration


All our videos are 1080p. If for some reason full HD is not available here, try watching them on youtube.



Additional information and sources


For a detailed step-by-step tutorial with video demonstrations on Character rigging + transitioning to SMR follow this link.

The video below shows the process of converting the EDAPT Rabbit to a Smart Magnet Rig - final part of the step-by-step tutorial on how to create character rigs for Flash or Animate.


All our videos are 1080p. If for some reason full HD is not available here, try watching them on YouTube.

Download KineFox, EDAPT Rabbit and Smart Magnet Bot Smart Magnet Rigs from the Downloads page
Download the latest version of EDAP Tools from the Downloads page
 
Comments
Wasib Qureshi

Hi nick,
Great Tool buddy, not yet use but i sees lot of potential watching the demo.

I'm starting to use it and not able to find Create Center Marker in my commands menu. Any idea how to fix this. (Installed EDAP Setup using Adobe Extension Manager CC 2014 for Adobe Flash CC 2014)

Hi Wasib,

If you load the EDAPT shortcuts and press Alt+` you should get a Center Marker instead of a Magnet Target.
The Magnet Target command does two things (MT and CM) and 'listens' for a second shortcut which has to have Alt+ assigned to it.
You can't do it via the menu. You will need to assign a shortcuts. Shift+anything for MT and Alt+anything for CM. Or just use ours if you want to give them a go!

Check this link to see what our keys do
http://flash-powertools.com/edapt-keyboard-shortcuts-set/

And here is some more info on the command
http://flash-powertools.com/create-magnet-target/

Have fun!

Hello love the magnet tool! but just one question, on the Smart Magnet Rig set up,
How do i delete nodes if i accidental put one down? or maybe i need to reorder the linkage?
i wonder if it would easier just too add nodes first then link after if you needed to edit
thanx

Hi Ian,
Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!

If you mean a node in the SMR Panel which you don't need, you just drag it over the bucket icon (the bottom-right corner of the panel) with the panel's move tool. When you drop it over the bucket the node will disappear.

If symbols have already been tagged with rig info (metadata) and you need to remove an element that is in the middle of a chain, you can delete the symbol, but will have to tag again its children as they will be orphans, because their parent will not be present.
Remove their rig info first using the broken chain button at the bottom of SMR Panel.
(You can also use Roll Over Rig Info to fix the orphans. That should be done before removing the unnecessary element in the chain.)

For a full description of SMR Panel functionality and methods of use, please follow this link:
http://flash-powertools.com/smart-magnet-rig-panel/

There is an expandable section which gives full description and also information and video on the rig repair tools provided in the panel.

If you don't find the answer to your question there, please send us an email with the problematic file so that we can look into it.

Enjoy using EDAP Tools!

Changing the location of the magnet target with a new key frame inside of a symbol to accommodate foreshortening breaks the connection to the rig.

For example. In side an Upper Arm symbol. there is one instance drawing of the upper arm that is one length. Then on the next frame is a foreshortened drawing of the upper arm, that is shorter, requiring a new key to be placed on the magnet target layer to reposition the target to accommodate the change of length of the upper arm. This appears to breaks the connection between the symbol and the next symbol in the chain when the foreshortened instance is in use.

I am new to edapt tools. I may be missing something. If so, What would the fix be for this issue?

Hello Matt,

It has to be the same MT, that is all. Not a new one.
Just Alt-drag the first frame key with your MT to the second frame and then reposition it.

Have a look at the MagneBot sample file for guidance how this is done and works in practice.

BTW, what version of Flash/Animate are you using?
There were some releases that just wiped out metadata, so it could be you are seeing that bug.
You can check whether your MT in the second frame has the same SMR info as the one in the first frame via Edit Magnet Targets which is located in the hamburger menu of the SMR panenl. You can read about that and watch the video here.

If you still have trouble, just drop me an email with the problem file attached. Address is in the contact page.

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