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Character designTutorial

Animating scenery

Flashmeister and regular Rex Crowle explains how to produce a travelling sequence - one that combines the animated movement of a main character, or object, with a continuously scrolling background.

If you remember watching cartoons as a child, you'll probably recall those chase sequences, where the seemingly endless background - kitchen or hallway, forest or hill - blurred by repeatedly as the foreground characters rushed back and forth. It was a simple technique, but it worked, and it's still being used today.

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The old-school mechanical task of literally 'scrolling' a large background drawing has now been superseded by more powerful software-based techniques. Today, it's possible to create each element in the animation on its own layer and animate it independently. This in turn frees up the producer to explore more advanced techniques, to make the loops seamlessly randomised. And the layered editing environment also makes it easier to add a sense of depth to the animation - multiple layers of scenery all scrolling past at different speeds to mimic the effects of parallax, for instance.

Although you can use the following techniques in a number of animation and motion-design packages, here you'll use Flash, because it provides quick results and it's a little easier to pick up than its rivals.

For this tutorial, you'll animate a pirate ship powering through a violent storm. It's an example that has many different elements: the bouncing ship, the animated waves, the passing scenery, the flapping sails and the rain, and each one harnesses the software's power in different ways, giving you the chance to put your own stamp on the motion design. By putting all these elements together, you'll learn how to create a professional and believable scene. You can then transfer these skills to any type of animated sequence you like.

Click here to download the support files (118KB)

Click here to download the tutorial for free

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