1. Mouse wheel - zoom design camera in or out.
2. Control+Shift - move design camera.
Control Points Tool
Control points tool is the most important tool in Stickman.
It allows Elemento users to build interface to control digital characters and effects.
You can also lock control points to it's position in order to prevent the character from moving in unwanted position.
For some character with many control points, it can be useful to set up "Keyboard Control" to change to a preset
pose with a single keystroke.
In Elemento, there is a node called "absolute", which is kind of magical.
It draws all subnodes to the screen like it was attached to the camera.
Combined with the "design" node, you can create graphics that only appear
when certain control points are selected.
All you need to do is to
1. put the design node inside the absolute node.
2. put the absolute node in the same parent matrix as the control points.
(if the control points are at the top level, then put the absolute node at top level too).
Together with curve tool, control points tool takes one of the longest and most advanced algorithms in Stickman.
Here is the one of the reasons: When two selected points gets close to each other, new yellow control points will appear
in a circle around them. By pinching one of the yellow points, you can separate them.
By the way, you can put control points into absolute nodes too!
Have you seen the movie? A matrix is a construct that in raw format is used by computers for geometry transforming.
It is just a table of numbers, and for 2D, a 3x3 matrix is enough for most operations, while 4x4 is used for 3D.
Stickman builds a nice extra layer at the top of the matrix table, where position, rotation around center, scaling and shearing can be adjusted.
Behind the scenes the computer does tricks to let you pick up something, move it and drop it somewhere else.
Unlike skeleton simulation, a matrix works like a serving plate. What's place on top of it (or as we say, "inside it"), goes with it.
To move a matrix, you simply drag with your left button and you can rotate and flip it by changing to another mode.
When picking up an item, which you do by selecting start or animated relation, you do it in the opposite direction of what's normal thinking.
1. First select the figure or item you want to be picked up.
2. Add a relation (animated if you are in the middle of your scene) and select the "parent figure" and then a "container".
A container is just a matrix layer at top level in a figure. Don't worry too much about it, you will naturally add them for your different body parts.
In earlier versions, a container had to be empty, but this raised a lot of confusion and therefore it now detects all top level matrices, empty of not.
Each figure has it's own internal matrix called "placement". This is for adjusting the figure so it shows up properly when first adding it in Stickman.
You can set the center of the figure with this tool, but I would advise to learn the different between placement and what matrix tool is normally used for.
The matrix you move and rotate in Stickman is stored in key frames, these are one level higher up than placement.
Stickman counts both the matrix keys and the placement in all calculations from drawing to how to transform items in and out of containers.
That's the magic of the matrix. It is very fast for computers to use, only 6 numbers used for 2D graphics.
For deforming, effects and likewise, more information is necessary and this slows down the computation.
We can range the computation requirements from low to high:
3. Deforming (depends on complexity)
4. Effect nodes
There is one way to make matrices hard to chew for the computer, and this is by putting them into "stroke", "repeat", "revolve" and "recursive" nodes.
These nodes are used to make cool effects like fractals or trees.
If you want to get your hands dirty, play with Elemento and matrices combined with other nodes.
Ahh, the path tool. Think of it as a fine adjustment tool in addition to matrix tool.
Logically, if you don't have any key frames, you don't have any path, so Stickman will remind you if you select it without adding key frames.
The white dots correspond to the center of the matrix.
One thing you might notice in the path tool, is how Stickman calculates the motion between the key frames.
The algorithm used is developed specifically to avoid the use of tangents, which requires a lot of time to adjust properly.
I call it "Lazy-Catmull" and it takes shortcuts if two neighbor keyframes gets close in time or in space.
This adds a natural effect like the characters are really interacting with objects around it, not just moving the hand through them.
Simply put, the tools in Stickman is kind of like numbers in mathematics, you can have real numbers (control points) and integers (switches).
Usually a switch is created with the "switch" node in Elemento, iterating through the sub nodes when you change the ShowIndex value (the little number).
You can simulate the behaviour of a switch using the "SwitchSelect" function in an expression (advanced).
It's easy on the surface, but offers a variety of possibilities combined with the other features in Elemento.
Key frame preview is the illustration of different values that key frames have on the time line.
If you have noticed in the key frame preview that some figures zooms in on the area where the switch center is, you might understand this sometimes is handy.
Just put the switch inside a view node, and set the rectangular area of the view node approximately where you want to point the key frame preview.
You might notice that in Elemento, there is no "visibility" switch. This is added when the figure is added to a Stickman scene.
The drawing tool is a beast that suddenly found a way into Stickman and refuses to leave.
The idea is to let the user draw on anything, everywhere and without limits.
It has limited resolution, which can be fixed by zooming out the canvas with matrix tool before you begin drawing.
You can draw on all "containers" (matrices at top level) or it's own canvas (which is just an empty figure).
The fill mode in drawing tool is special compared to other drawing programs.
Since the canvas in Stickman is unlimited, it needs a region to limit the filling of color.
This allows you also to color open areas without closing them.
Do you like Photoshop or GIMP? Stickman has it's own feature for linking the canvas to an external software that handles PSD images.
It takes the visible area on the screen, creates a PSD format and when you save it, it automatically reimports the data and replaces the pixels on the canvas.
Elemento has a set of objects that are setting constraints on control points.
These objects include:
1. Bone - constrain distance between two points (you can select between 3 different modes).
2. Feedback - constrain a matrix controlled by control points relative to another matrix.
3. Rigid - constrain multiple control points like their were one body.
4. Rope - constrain the bending of control points using their order.
As with most logic in Elemento, simulation objects require expressions to work.
The reason why expressions are chosen is because it sorts out the order to compute things all by itself.
Elemento does not only compute expressions, it analyses in detail the attributes of different formulas used and draws conclusions.
This allows the simulation to make many changes and still the figure need only one computation to update the expressions.
Feedback is the most advanced simulation node.
In 99% of the cases the best way to use it is to first create a bone then convert it to feedback.
The rest 1% is taking advantage of the somewhat rare nature of the mathematics behind it.
For example, if you set feedback on a foot, then the leg should serve as relative matrix.
When you attach a matrix to control points, always use the matrix that is created, since it contains the expressions that moves it by control points.
If you are unsure how to use it, then stick to bones and rigid, you can get the same results without using feedback.
Rigid can be used at two control points to get the same behavior as one bone.
Be careful to not include one extra unwanted control point during setup.
Always test the figure after doing a "Setup" action, and if something is wrong, use undo (Ctrl+Z) and try again.
Rope is used to achieve effects like a tail or .... a rope.
It works great together with deform if you have a shape that is horizontal or vertical.
Sometimes you might feel the limits of 2D burden you, specially with rope since it's so clearly flat in motion.
You can compensate this by planning your movie in detail.
"Limitations makes you more creative and forces your attention toward the camera" (Yuri Norstein).
He is one of the best animators in cutout style, perhaps you should listen to him.