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Cool Froyd the Cat and Crazy Talk Animator Pro

Original Cool Froyd Painting.
Acrylic on Canvas 2009
Cool Froyd is an original character painting (image right) that I created in 2009 based on a sketch I drew back in 1999. Since buying Crazy Talk Animator Pro I've thought Cool Froyd would be a good candidate for turning into an animated web series.

Nothing too complex. I picture him as a kind of animated cat vlogger giving his views on any subject you can imagine in short 1 or 2 minute episodes.

The following blog post documents my journey so far of turning a painting into an animation. I'm not going to go through every step in detail. This is just an overview of the process.

Fitting the character skeleton.
One thing I have become very familiar with is the character creation process of Crazy Talk Animator Pro (from here on in to be known as CTA). The easiest way to start is with a photo image imported into the Actor Creator to get your basic character skeleton (or bones in most other software terminology). Note that this process doesn't allow you to add bones for the tail.

I didn't have to be too careful with this first pass of creating the character because the entire image of Froyd will be replaced later due Froyd not being a standard humanoid style character. As I said this was just to define the skeleton.

Dissected body parts.
Next I fired up Serif DrawPlus X6 where I cut out all the different body sections (image right). At this stage I could have refined each body part so that limbs had rounded edges at the joints and to redraw parts of the body not visible in the original painting.

However CTA has some pretty reasonable pixel editing/paint tools of its own so I decided to do that kind of work back in the CTA's Actor Composer.

I did create the shadow in Serif Draw. All of the body parts were re-imported back into CTA individually as PNG files.

All characters in CTA are made up of sprites, whether they be PNG images or SWF vector images. The character trees are identical too. You just add in the body parts you need or take out those you don't. For example most human characters don't have a tail but there's room in their character trees for a tail with up to nine segments (See image below - click to enlarge).

Although Froyd only has one tail sprite notice
the character tree lower right has room for
a more flexible tail.
The sprite system also allows you to store multiple images for any body part to be swapped in and out depending on what the scene requires. This allows you to create multiple views of a hand, for example, which you can swap on any key frame of your animation (ideal if your character needs to flip someone the bird!).

Froyd's semi 3D
'morph based' head.
Currently Froyd's head is what CTA terms as a 'morph based' head. Originally I was going to give him a Sprite based head but this would require me to actually animate his eyes and mouth in various positions e.g. eyes closed, angry, sad etc. Each image is swapped out as needed based on what your character is doing.

A morph based head gives your character's head a semi three dimensional quality that enables it to turn the head partially in every direction. It also adds in pre-made eyeballs and mouth interiors and allows the eyes and mouth to be animated without needing to draw anything.

It does this through the placement of points of a wire frame mask which you can manually fit to the character's face. You then go through and select different style of eyes and mouth interiors from very human looking to complete cartoon style.

Morph based heads can only be created from bitmap images and not flash, vector based images.

Face Fitting a morph based head.
Once I had Cool Froyd's character complete I imported his shadow image and linked that to his character. Then I created a background image based on the background in Froyd's painting using GIMP.

You can see the final scene set up in CTA below in 3D view. This view is used mainly to show the depth relationship between objects and isn't a view that you can record as part of a completed animation.

Completed Cool Froyd Character and set.
Finally how the scene looks when viewed through CTA's 'camera'...

Final Scene.
That's as much as I've completed so far. I have still to write a script for Froyd's first episode and hope to get this done really soon. Next time I write about Cool Froyd I'll look at the process of animating him using CTA's time line and various animation methods.

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