Barana Cut Out Biped Autorig

Hot on the heels of our post last week about a 3D Studio Max cut out plugin, here’s another one specifically for Autodesk Maya.

Barana is available on the Autodesk Exchange

Steps to create a cutout rig…
1. Create Full Rig
2. Auto Skin
3. Full Mirroring
4.Capable of Skin more than one cloth and switch between them (Body,Arms,Legs,Shoes,Foots)
5.Create And Add Hair Dynamic to Rig.
6.Add other tools for character.

The Surface Pro 2 from an Animator’s perspective

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The Surface Pro 2 from an Animator’s Perspective

I’ve been drooling over the Surfaces since Microsoft first announced them and have been lurking in the shadows quietly studying reviews and feedback and during all of it I NEVER once heard whether Adobe Flash worked with the device. Or Toon Boom Storyboard Pro. Or Harmony for that matter. Even the apparent Go To Site for all things Surface; has been oddly silent about this. I figure it’s just simply that animators have just not bought the device yet and that’s the reason.

Sooo… I decided to buy one and find out for myself how well this thing works from an animator’s perspective.

So here we go.

The Hardware
First off let me say it’s an AWESOME piece of tech! It’s sturdy, light and feels good in your hand on the way to Starbucks or lunch for some freelance… (something I do with regularity). And MAN is the thing FAST! I don’t know what Microsoft did under the hood here folks, but it’s not like your normal laptop or tablet. Programs open in mere seconds which is startling at first. Installing Toon Boom Storyboard Pro took less than a minute and Adobe Flash which is an absolute pig when it comes to installing (as is really ANYTHING Adobe) installed in under 4 minutes which is quite an achievement in my book. I’m quite sure some of that has to do with the large 256 gb SSD drive I got with it as opposed to the typical 64gb drive the cheaper model comes with. I also have 8gb of memory in there too which helps. So let’s just say it’s FAST.

Also, I don’t know about you but I personally like to draw at more of a flat angle and not so upright as many do. But trying to draw with the tablet completely flat also is too much of an angle for me to be happy either (What can I say, I’m complicated). Anyway, years ago I found this cool laptop wedge called The Allsop Cool Channel platform for my old LE1600 which angled the tablet just perfectly for me to draw.

Allsop Cool Channel Platform

The Allsop Cool Channel Platform for Laptops

I started using that with my Surface Pro 2 and it works well also but of course I then have to disconnect the keyboard and if you’ve ever used Photoshop, Flash or Storyboard Pro without a keyboard you know it’s much more difficult. Suddenly I realized that I could actually keep the keyboard connected and if I left the kickstand open anyway it sat at the perfect angle with the Allsop Wedge to keep my keyboard AND the tablet connected together which no other tablet has been able to do! Also by the way I don’t think the Surface Pro 3 would be able to do this because the Kickstand has many more angles and it would likely fold over form the weight of my hand. the more limited angles of the Surface Pro 2’s kickstand actually ends up working to my advantage!


My perfect angle for animating!

My one and only pet peeve on the build of the device goes to the complete IDIOT who decided that the charge adapter should be a magnet connecting to the device as opposed to an actual plug that’s inserted. Clearly this fool never actually uses a tablet. I mean COME ON! If you don’t know what I’m referring to the Surface Pro 2 does not have your typical AC jack with the hole in the side of the tablet. Instead, some ‘genius’ and I use that term loosely, decided “Hey that plugging in and out all the time is SO much work, let’s just make it a magnet instead, shall we?” So they did. And it does exactly that, it snaps easily to the side of the tablet. Problem is, that it also PULLS OUT easily as well and quite often unplugs if you’re, oh I don’t know… USING THE DEVICE! I swear, why don’t people test these things out first? Not only that but it’s damn near impossible to attach the cord to the tablet without picking it up, looking at the hole and then connecting it because it’s also at an odd angle and you can’t really connect it while it’s propped up on a table. I know that Apple does this magnet thing as well on their MacBook Pros but they must hold a patent on using a strong enough magnet to stick because my Surface Pro 2 disconnects when I sneeze.



Surface Pro’s charger cord



That five dot hole is where the Surface Pro 2’s cord connects to…

Anyway, other than this flaw the Surface Pro 2 is built quite well as far as I can tell.


Since, I bought the device I also grabbed a better keyboard for it called the Surface Type Cover which has a plastic trackpad instead of the ‘pleather’ trackpad my original keyboard had. What was Microsoft thinking?!?!



Original keyboard



The new keyboard. It may be hard to tell from these pics but the new trackpad is FAR more responsive.

Okay, then moving on…

I’ve read about people having issues with the high resolution screens and Adobe apps like Photoshop having squiggly jagged lines and Flash only drawing straight lines instead of curvy ones. I have not had that problem and only the largest Photoshop brushes cause it to lag for a heartbeat which in all fairness happens on my desktop sometimes. there is no drawing lag in Flash. Even Storyboard Pro which is usually pretty processor intensive performed very well using both the vector brushes AND the newer bitmap brushes. No lag whatsoever while drawing. I recently finished up a 500 page board using Storyboard Pro (on my desktop) and the file opened very quickly and flipping through panels was every bit as fast as on my desktop.

All in all everything I threw at the Surface Pro 2 performed admirably.  Even Maya, Mudbox and Z-Brush preformed admirably on it. Also, it was fairly easy to animate on it using Sketchbook Pro’s Flipbook timeline as well. I animated the quick pencil test below on my Surface Pro 2.

In fact for pure drawing? The Surface Pro 2 performs more than admirably! It’s perfect. The pen glides nicely on the glass, it has a little pull and there is absolutely zero lag as I sketch. It’s fantastic and if that’s all I judged a tablet on this would be a clear win.

But it’s not…

Hacking the Screen
Coming in at only 10″ the Surface Pro’s screen size is actually smaller than a sheet of Letter size Paper (8.5 x 11) to draw on which isn’t so bad on paper but then when you add all the toolbars and floating palettes there’s not so much room to draw upon!  That’s okay I guess because with collapsing palettes and whatnot, you can work around it. What IS harder is the high DPI screen that makes apps TINY and particularly anything Adobe. The resolution is SO high on *Photoshop and Flash I couldn’t even SEE the menus. And when I say I can’t see them I literally CAN’T see them. I had no idea what frame I’m on and couldn’t even see the Preferences palette to swap out a frame in a symbol. Yes, I know Flash inside and out and so I could pretty much run blind, but it was still REALLY hard to see.  Check out the example.


Adobe Flash on the Surface Pro 2

Tiny huh? Remember this is on only a 10″ screen about the size of your mouse pad, so it’s REALLY hard to see. That said, there is a hack that let’s you uprez the interface on high DPI screens which works flawlessly and makes Flash (and any other app) usable again! All that said, hacking the registry can cause other problems and while this particular hack is really easy to pull off, you could still brick your computer if you do it wrong, so unless you like to tweak software the Surface Pro still isn’t for you. Check out this example of after the screen hack below:

Flash with Hack

Flash Pro with the High DPI Manifest Hack

Much better if not a little cramped. Storyboard Pro works with this fix as well, but I did find that the new Flash CC 2015 (which has it’s own problems anyway right now) sadly does NOT work with this hack yet. Other programs like Premiere and Illustrator works too. I have an email to my friends at Adobe to see if they can do something similar to what the *Photoshop team did to address the high DPI issue.


A bit of art I did on the Surface Pro 2 using Storyboard Pro.

A bit of art I did on the Surface Pro 2 using Storyboard Pro.

Software that works
Sketchbook Pro
Photoshop-(works well with Adobe’s zoom preference)
Flash-(requires manifest hack to see well.)
Illustrator-(requires manifest hack to see well.)
Premiere-(requires manifest hack to see well.)
Audition-(requires manifest hack to see well.)
Storyboard Pro-(requires manifest hack to see well.)
Autodesk Maya-(requires manifest hack to see well.)
Mudbox-(requires manifest hack to see well.)

Windows 8.1
But that, dear friends is the good stuff… now comes the bad, because in order to USE the Surface you need Windows 8.1 which is a giant piece of donkey doo. Yes, even though Microsoft has been trying like a little puppy to get you to like them with their happy-singy ads, talking about how you can dance on picnic tables AND use the Surface, Windows 8 is still a giant hunk of shit. It’s a HORRIBLE interface even on their OWN hardware designed FOR their software!

Case in point. You start up Sketchbook Pro and try to draw with it, but when you place your hand on the screen it causes your palm to also draw. Okay, no problem, disable the Touch interface right? Well Microsoft doesn’t WANT you to do that so they make it hard for you and so you have to go into the Device Manager and disable it. Luckily there’s a little app called Touch Toggle which sits in your System Tray and let’s you click it to enable touch and click again to disable touch. And therein lies the reason I use Windows. It’s hackable.



Touch Toggle On


Touch Toggle Off

Touch Toggle Off

See Microsoft? That wasn’t SO hard was it? I am left wondering WHY WOULD MICROSOFT BE SO STUPID!?!?!?!? Do they even USE their products before skipping them off to the shelves in a trail of flowers and rainbows? And if you’re not computer advanced like I am, you might not even know what the Device Manager is! Let alone how to make Touch Toggle start up each time with the system. Grandma sure won’t, so forget those commercials about how it’s easier than an iPad. Pffffff. And I don’t even LIKE iPads. Yes, I know here’s where some of you say “Get a Mac!” but see Dead Uncle Steve proselytized the Mac faithful that “No pen shall toucheth thy Macintosheth!” and so there IS no portable device with a Mac interface to draw on except the iPad which is akin to drawing with a crayon on a window pane made by Fisher Price. go ahead tell me about the $4000 Modbooks that use to exist. They don’t anymore so…


To Sum it All Up…
So at the end of the day, will I keep the Surface Pro 2? I’m honestly not sure yet… What I look for in a tablet is the ability to draw (and Sketchbook Pro does that admirably) and to write (and I can easily do that with Word and the surprisingly decent keyboard cover). I can even animate with it using either Flash or Harmony and if I choose to get an adapter, suddenly now I can add an external monitor to it as well making it much more powerful. I might also just get a Surface Pro 3 but I am leery of the N-Trig Digitizer as I have heard that it’s not the best and even messing aorund with it in the store left MUCh to be desirred. you’d think that Microsoft would put a decent drawing app on a tablet with a pen, but noooooooo.

Idiots, truly idiots.

Still they make a 12″ Surface Pro 3 AND you can even get it in an i7 so I may yet go down that road…

-Impressive speed and performance.
-Innovative design.
-Surprisingly comfortable keyboard.
-Literally ran anything I threw at it.
-Pressure sensitivity performed well.

-Text too small on all Adobe apps except Photoshop with out hacking.
-Screen size too small to do serious video editing or animation.
-Windows 8.1 still sucks ass.

*Adobe released Photoshop CC 2015 which automatically uprezzes the app for super high resolution screens but the screen’s menus are then too big for me and you endlessly scroll to get to the bottom of a menu.

Flash Professional CC 2015 New features summary

The 2015 release of Adobe® Flash Professional® CC reintroduces the IK bone tool that enables you to create bone armatures using symbols or shapes that can be easily turned into life-like animation. The release also comes with H.264 video import, universal document type converter, integration with the latest Flash Player and AIR SDK, and many more enhancements. Continue reading for a quick introduction to new features available with the latest update to Flash Professional CC, and links to other resources that provide more information.

Adobe Flash Professional CC 2015 release provides you capabilities to create great cartoon characters with life-like movements using the new bone tool, convert your projects to any document type using the universal document type converter, import H.264 videos, work with the latest Flash Player and AIR SDK, and many more cool capabilities that help you to take your graphics and animation projects to the next level.

Adobe Flash Professional CC 2015 Release

Bone tool

New in Flash Professional CC 2015

The Flash Professional CC 2015 Release offers you the capability to lend life-like movements to your animation characters using the all-new bone tool.

The bone tool gives you inverse kinematics (IK) capabilities within Flash. IK is a way of animating objects using bones chained into linear or branched armatures in parent-child relationships. When one bone moves, connected bones move in relation to it. Inverse kinematics lets you easily create natural motion. To animate using inverse kinematics, specify the start and end positions of bones on the Timeline. Flash automatically interpolates the positions of the bones in the armature between the starting and ending frames.

You can use IK in the following ways:

  • By using a shape as a container for multiple bones. For example, you can add bones to a drawing of a snake so that it slithers realistically. You can draw these shapes in Object Drawing mode.
  • By chaining symbol instances. For example, you can link movie clips showing a torso, arm, lower arm, and hand so that they move realistically in relation to each other. Each instance has only one bone.

Bone tool comes with on-stage controls to ensure greater precision in movements. The onstage controls allows you to switch between Locked, Open, and Constrained states for Rotation and Translation properties of individual bones in the IK armature. You can now directly adjust these constraints on stage with accuracy using clear visual feedback.

On-stage controls for the bone tool

For more information on using the bone tool, see Bone Tool Animation

Import H.264 videos with audio

New in Flash Professional CC 2015

In addition to FLV videos, this release also introduces an option to embed H.264 videos in the timeline. When an H.264 video is embedded, the frames of the video are rendered on the stage when you scrub the timeline. This feature enables you to use videos as a guide to synchronize your animation on stage. Since the Flash Player and other run-times do not support rendering embedded H.264 videos, they are not published. Importing H.264 videos is a design-time-only feature.

Audio playback is enabled for H.264 videos. You can now select the ‘Include audio’ option while importing H.264 videos. Once imported to the stage (with ‘place instance on stage’ option selected), scrubbing the timeline must play the audio for the relevant frames. Playing the timeline (Enter) must play back the animation at the fps of the imported video so that the audio is in sync with the video frames on stage.

To learn more about importing H.264 videos, see Add videos to Flash.

To import video:

Click File > Import > Import Video and select the Embed H.264 video in the timeline  (design time only – the video cannot be exported) option as shown in the following image:

For more information about using audio, see Using sounds in Flash.

Export bitmaps as spritesheet for HTML5 Canvas

New in Flash Professional CC 2015

Export sprite sheet as bitmap allows you to pack all the bitmaps in canvas document in to a sprite sheet. A new Export the Bitmap as Sprite Sheet check box has been added and enabled by default. You can specify the maximum size of the sprite sheet by giving the height and width values in the publish settings. This enhancement reduces the number of server requests, which in turn results in improved performance.

For more information about this feature, see Creating and publishing HTML5 Canvas documents.

Brush scaling with stage zoom

With this release, Flash Professional scales the brush size proportionately to the changing zoom level of the stage. Proportionate zooming allows you to draw seamlessly adjusting to any zoom level and preview your work as you draw. If you want to revert to the earlier default behavior of brushes maintaining a constant pixel size even when you change the zoom level of the stage, you must disable the ‘Stage zoom level’ checkbox in the brush Property Inspector.

A. Increase/decrease brush size B. Brush size preview C. Option to scale brush size according to the zoom level of the stage 

For more information about this feature, see Custom brushes.

Universal document type converter

New in Flash Professional CC 2015

The universal document type converter enables conversion of your existing FLA projects (of any type) to any other document type such as HTML5 Canvas or WebGL.

To use this feature, click Commands > Convert to Other Document Formats and then select the target document type and specify the path of the converted file.

To learn more about universal document type converter, see Convert to other document types.

Improved audio workflows

New in Flash Professional CC 2015

Enhanced import workflow

In earlier versions of Flash Pro, you had to import the audio file in to the library and then add it to a layer on the timeline. In this release, you can directly import audio in to your stage/timeline by dragging and dropping the file to a layer or by using the File > Import > Import to Stage option.

Split Audio option in context menu

The stream audio embedded on the timeline can be split at ease using the Split Audio context menu. Split Audio enables you to pause the audio when it is necessary and then resume the audio playback from the point it was stopped at a later frame on the timeline.

Remember audio sync options in PI

Flash Pro now remembers the sync options in property inspector. If a sound is selected from the “Sound” section of the Property Inspector, then on trying to set another sound on a new keyframe from the Property Inspector, Flash remembers the sync options “Stream” or “Event” of the previous sound.

To learn more about audio in Flash, see Using sounds in Flash.

Improved Motion Editor

New in Flash Professional CC 2015

The Paste functionality has been enhanced as follows:

  • Paste: Until the 2014.1 release, when you copy a curve in the Motion Editor and use the Paste option to paste it in a new range, it pastes within the current curve’s range and not with absolute values. In this release, the Paste option pastes the curve with absolute values.
  • Paste to fit current range: This option now replicates the old Paste operation and pastes the curve within the current curve’s range and not with absolute values.

To learn more about Motion Editor, see Editing Motion Tweens using Motion Editor.

Panel locking

A new option, Lock/Unlock, has been added to the fly-out menu of the panels to lock the dock. Once a dock is locked, all the panels in the dock can be resized, but cannot be moved. This feature helps you prevent accidental drag and resize of panels.

Code snippet support for WebGL

From this release, code snippets are available for some commonly used actions in the WebGL document type.

Note: This enhancement is available only in the English language version.

Enhancements in Custom Platform Support SDK

This release includes the following enhancements to Custom Platform Support SDK and the sample plug-in:

  • Ability to query the type of a library symbol: ILibraryItem::GetProperties() returns an additional key “SymbolType” for symbols. The value of key can be “Button,” “MovieClip,” or “Graphic.”
  • Ability to distinguish between button and movie-clip: Until the previous release, the button instances were treated as movie clips by both the DOM and the IFrameCommandGenerator service. Starting with Flash Pro CC 2015, an interface has been added to support button instances. If the IMovieClip instance also implements the IButton interface, then it can be treated as a button instance. The four states of a button namely, Up, Over, Down, and Hit are always mapped to the frames 0, 1, 2, and 3 respectively. See the file IButton.h to know more about the button instance.
  • New API to get the bounds of IClassicText objects: The AddClassicText function in ITimelineBuilder interface now returns an object of CLASSIC_TEXT_INFO_2 (instead of the old CLASSIC_TEXT_INFO), which contains a new field “bounds” representing the bounds of the IClassicText object.

To learn about Custom Platform Support APIs, see Custom Platform Support API reference.

Integration of latest Flash Player and AIR SDK

This release comes to you with the Flash Player version 17.0 and AIR SDK 17.0 integrated.

Integration of latest CreateJS libraries

This release of Flash Professional comes with the latest CreateJS libraries integrated.

Since the latest libraries are not yet hosted via CDN, clear the Hosted LIbraries checkbox under the Advanced section of the Publish Settings dialog box (Edit > Publish Settings > Advanced) to see the output.

Other enhancements

New in Flash Professional CC 2015

Save optimizations

This release comes with the following Save optimizations:

  • Save algorithm optimization resulting in faster saving of FLA
  • File corruption issues while saving files over the network are now resolved

Auto-recovery optimizations

The following auto-recovery enhancements are part of this release:

  • Flash Professional does not create unnecessary auto-recovery files. An auto-recovery file is created only if the document is modified after the last auto-recovery files were created.
  • Progress bar is displayed only when the Flash Pro application is in focus.
  • Auto-recovery file is removed only after completing a successful save operation.

The following auto-recovery changes help you avoid continuous loop of auto-recovery for short auto-recovery duration:

  • At each auto-recovery interval,  snapshot for all files modified after last auto-recovery are created.
  • Next auto recovery timer is started only after this process is completed.

To learn more about auto-recovery options in Flash, see Set preferences in Flash.

Organize imported GIFs in library

This enhancement allows you to import Animated GIF files in a more organized way so that you can keep your library in proper order. In previous releases, the imported GIF assets were placed in the library root folder without proper naming. In this release, a folder with the GIF filename is created and all the associated bitmaps are organized under it. As shown in the following image, the bitmaps are now named appropriately based on their sequence.

To learn more about organizing your library, see Working with the library.

In this release, the library search panel has been enhanced to include searching for symbols by ActionScript linkage names in addition to searching by symbol names.

To learn more about searching your library, see Working with the library.

Invert selection

This new option in the Edit menu and the Stage context menu inverts the selection of currently selected objects or shapes on the stage.

Paste and overwrite frames

New in Flash Professional CC 2015

The new ‘Paste and Overwrite Frames’ timeline context menu option enables you to paste the copied frames by replacing the exact number of frames without pushing the frames forward. This replaces the existing way of selecting the exact number of frames which you want to replace with the same number of copied frames. For example, if you want to copy ten frames from a timeline and replace the exact number of frames in another timeline, copy the ten frames and use the Paste and Overwrite Frames frames to paste it at the starting frame-the next ten frames are overwritten with the copied frames.

To learn more about the Paste options, see Classic Tween animation.

Reset timeline zoom to the default level

You can now reset the timeline zoom to the default level with one click as shown in the image.


I’ve just become aware of a plugin for 3D Studio Max called 3DCutout which you use in conjunction with Photoshop (or any other drawing program I would think) which essentially lets you animate Flash or Harmony type cut out animation using a custom interface in 3D Studio Max. You can rig characters, create and library assets and of course use the 3d camera. It looks REALLY cool! Check out the clip above!

Apple iPad Pro with a stylus this Fall?


Apple Insider is reporting that Apple may finally be unveiling an iPad with a stylus.  Apparently the device will be called the iPad Pro and is currently being beta tested as we speak. This is not the first time we’ve heard this rumor but recently Apple filed for a new patent concerning a stylus and that seems to have renewed excitement for a stylus enabled Apple device.

From the site:

AppleInsider’s own sources have indicated that the company is working on a 12.9-inch tablet, known colloquially as an “iPad Pro,” that will feature a Bluetooth-connected stylus. Separately, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities has said that Apple plans to launch the larger iPad with a simple stylus this year, while more advanced features such as 3D handwriting, are unlikely to arrive until next year at the earliest, with a new and more advanced stylus.

All that said the article goes on to say:

This week’s patent application is far from the first filing by Apple revealing the company’s behind-the-scenes interest in developing a stylus. One concept detailed by AppleInsider last year included anextendable multitouch nib with onboard light and motion sensors, while another stylus patent published earlier this year described once again how a stylus can offer more precise input than a fingertip.

You can read the entire article here.