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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