Smart Magnet Rigs overview


Introduction


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: Novem­ber 2020

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.
We made his­to­ry again in 2020 by being the first to suc­cess­ful­ly design and devel­op a pro­fes­sion­al-grade Inverse Kine­mat­ics sys­tem for Flash Animation.

With For­ward and Inverse Kine­mat­ics, chain selec­tion, mag­net­ic joints, auto­mat­ic clean up of arcs and full Lay­er Par­ent­ing inte­gra­tion, Smart Mag­net Rigs are unmatched in the cur­rent Flash or Ani­mate land­scape and light years ahead of Adobe’s own attempts at hier­ar­chi­cal lay­ers 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 Adobe Ani­mate and its month­ly sub­scrip­tion-based model.

Do you have any quick ques­tions? Check out Where to start with SMR and Smart Mag­net Rigs FAQ first!



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.



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



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.

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 with high-pre­ci­sion FK and IK tools.

Both approach­es com­ple­ment 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.



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 shoul­der 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 pro­vides all the meta infor­ma­tion that SMR Kine­Flex needs to pose log­i­cal groups of ele­ments via For­ward (FK) and Inverse Kine­mat­ics (IK) transformations.
It also huge­ly improves the work with the Free Trans­form tool allow­ing it to select and mod­i­fy log­i­cal groups of ele­ments, start­ing with one ele­ment in the chain, extend­ing the selec­tion down or up the hier­ar­chy and plac­ing the Trans­for­ma­tion point at joints to facil­i­tate for­ward or inverse transformation.

Using the SMR tools ani­ma­tors can effort­less­ly do:

  • soft rota­tion – FK and IK
  • hard rota­tion – FK and IK
  • reverse IK trans­la­tion (RIK move)
  • reverse IK rota­tion – soft and hard
  • for­ward chain selection
  • inverse chain selection
  • mag­net joint snap­ping (to par­ent or to child)
  • clean up (mov­ing sym­bols along arcs)
  • reverse IK clean up


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 but­ton in SMR Helpers pan­el or the drop-down menu 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 it 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 Free Style Rig­ging tool or the Smart Mag­net Rig pan­el 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 con­stant­ly main­tained or restored 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 SMR Helpers and Smart Mag­net Rig pan­els also pro­vide tools for edit­ing and repair­ing rigs. 

*Note: Inverse Kine­mat­ics is a fea­ture avail­able in the Pre­mi­um ver­sion of EDAP Tools.

Con­tin­ue with the next arti­cle in the series – Smart Mag­net Rig­ging process.


 
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.

Do these tools work in Adobe Flash CS 5.5, and where can I buy them?

Hi Mikhay­lo,

Yes, Flan­i­mate Pow­er Tools work in all ver­sions of Flash CS, includ­ing CS 5.5; also Flash 8 and all ver­sions of Animate.

Just head over to the Down­loads page and get a copy. The tools are free.

Instal­la­tion instruc­tions are avail­able here.

Lat­er, if you are sat­is­fied with the expe­ri­ence and you’d like to sup­port the project, you can always make a dona­tion and also let all your friends and col­leagues know about it.

Enjoy!

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