February 1, 2009

Taking a Crack at the Bone Tool in Flash CS4

This week I was tasked with animating a two-legged figure in Flash and I thought it would be a great opportunity to try out the new Bone Tool. The Bone Tool is a new feature in Flash CS4 that is designed to make character animation easier. With the bone tool, animators can create tweenable arm and leg joints that behave like real joints in the body. Sounds cool right? Let’s find out.

I began by creating a simple leg armature with a thigh, shin and foot. I then added constraints to prevent each joint from bending beyond a certain angle. This is useful since arms and legs cannot bend backwards. So far so good.

Next, I decided to animate the armature by creating three different poses along the timeline, but here’s where things get weird. Often when you delete or clear a pose, it will remain in the timeline even though the keyframe is gone. Scrubbing the timeline will reveal that the pose has not been deleted since the animation still occurs. The only way to delete the phantom pose is to delete the frame that it was on. To make matters worse, armatures often get stuck in a particular position. When you try to adjust the armature, it will go back to where it was before.

These bugs are very frustrating and make it very difficult to control your animation. Just when you think you have it working, one of the poses gets stuck and you have to start over. Overall, I would say the bone tool is an incomplete feature and I’m surprised it even passed Q/A testing. The bottom line is, the tool doesn’t work as promised so don’t waste your time.

Has anyone else tried the Bone Tool? What do you think?