Flash Animation Online Course

This site is entirely free and intended for stuents of animation with a basic understanding of traditional animation principles and wanting to explore how to use Flash (or Adobe Animate) as a digital animation tool. If you would like some feedback on your completed tests, feel free to send me your files, I'll gladly make comments and suggestions on how to improve your work.
Email finished files to: ron.doucet@gmail.com

In the 1930's Walt Disney helped to set up drawing classes for his animators. The objective of these classes was to teach the animators a new way to animate objects to make them more life like. The students studied the movements of the human figure and various animals. They would play clips from live action movies over and over just to study the different aspects of the actions. Through time a set of procedures and principles were used to help teach these newly discovered methods to other animators. These principles are still used today for every type of animation.
They are:

Required Viewing - Learn all the fundamantals of Flash Tools and Functions:

> Basic Flash Tutorials

Required Tools: Adobe Animate or the older basic version of Flash and a Wacom Tablet.

Week 1

Introduction to Animation Basics in Flash by Harry Partridge:

In these tutorials, master animator Alex Butera casually goes through basic traditional animation techniques for Flash. There's a lot to learn in Flash, but these will hopefully make the program seem less daunting. Thankfully, Flash itself doesn't have much crazy technical stuff to it, but here's some basics:

Test 01 | Pendulum Swing with Symbols |
> Guide to the Graph Editor

Test 02 | Bouncing Ball with Symbols |
> Tutorial on Timing
> Tutorial on Spacing


> View Another Sample

Watch this tutorial on timing and spacing:

Test 03 | Camera Moves |
> Step-by-Step Tutorial


Test 04 | Tween FX |

Week 2

Test 05 | Bloo Walk |
> Step-by-Step Tutorial

There are two types of animation techniques in Flash.
There's the Traditional Animation method and the Symbol Animation method. The traditional method requires you to hand-draw the poses and inbetweens, frame-by-frame, perferably with a Pen stylus & tablet or tablet monitor system. The Symbols method requires you to draw the shapes, pieces, anatomy of your characters and objects into grouped items, then you puppet them around, similar to stop-motion.

           Traditional                   Symbols

Whether you're animating traditionally (hand-drawn) or only manipulating symbols, using a tablet as your tool will make you faster and more efficient.

Tutorial about Symbols:

Test 06 | BG Clean-up |
> View Samples
> Tips on Cleaning & Rendering Line Art
> Tips on Inking Techniques
> Tips on Painting in Flash

If you've only been using a mouse to animate up until now, then obviously this is where you need an Intuos/Bamboo tablet, or (if you're extra fancy) a monitor tablet from Cintiq / Yiynova / Monoprice.

If you're brand new to using a stylus pen, don't worry, all digital artists and animators eventually go from traditional pencil & paper to this technological device, it might take a few days to get fast and proficient with it. All animated television and film productions require you to be familiar with one. After a few hours of sketching and doodling on a tablet, you'll begin to work with the same ease and speed as regular pencil & paper.

Test 07 | Motion Recreation |
Reference Guide:

Activate the Onion Skin and adjust the keys on the timeline until the spacing looks close to this:

> Arcs and Spacing
> Easing In and Out
> Timing in Animation
> Path of Action Tips
> Article about timing, spacing, weight, balance, and arcs

Spacing refers to the frame by frame displacement of the moving elements. If the element is accelerating, the spacing increases from frame to frame. If it's decelerating, the spacing decreases. Everything that is moving is either accelerating or decelerating. The farther apart the spacing is; the faster the action, the closer together; the slower the action.

[ Animation Physics Lessons ]

Paths of Action and Arcs

These tutorials extend the basic concept of motion to paths of action, such as parabolic and circular arcs.

Week 3

Test 08 | Model Pack Clean-up |
> Sample 1    > Sample 2
> Tips on Inking

Test 09 | Headturn |
> The Anatomy of a Head Turn

Tutorial on Movement and Spacing:

Slow-in / Slow-out
As an action starts, you may have more drawings near the starting pose, one or two in the middle, and more drawings near the next pose. Fewer drawings make the action faster and more drawings make the action slower. Slow-ins and slow-outs soften the action, making it more life-like. For a gag action, we may omit some slow-out or slow-ins for shock appeal or the surprise element. This will give more snap to the animation.

Timing, or the speed of an action, is an important principle because it gives meaning to movement - the speed of an action defines how well the idea behind the action will read to an audience. It reflects the weight and size of an object, and can even carry emotional meaning.

More than any other principle, timing defines the weight of an object. Two objects, identical in size and shape, can appear to be two vastly different weights by manipulating timing alone. The heavier an object is, the greater it's mass, and the more force is required to change its motion. A heavy body is slower to accelerate and decelerate than a light one. It takes a large force to get a cannonball moving, but once moving, it tends to keep moving a the same speed and requires some force to stop it.

When dealing with heavy objects, one must allow plenty of time and force to start stop or change their movements, in order to make their weight look convincing. Light objects have much less resistance to change of movement and so need much less time to start moving. The flick of a finger is enough to make a balloon accelerate quickly away. When moving, it has little momentum and even the friction of the air quickly slows it up.

Timing can also contribute greatly to the feeling of size or scale of an object or character. A giant has much more weight, more mass and more inertia than a normal man; therefore he moves more slowly. Like the cannonball, he takes more time to get started and, once moving, takes more time to stop. Any changes of movement take place more slowly. Conversely, a tiny character has less inertia than normal, so his movements tend to be quicker.

The way an object behaves on the screen, the effect of weight that it gives, depend entirely on the spacing of the poses and not on the poses themselves. No matter how well rendered a cannonball may be, it does not look like a cannonball if it does not behave like one when animated. The same applies to any object or character. The emotional state of a character can also be defined more by its movement than by its appearance, and the varying speed of those movements indicates whether the character is lethargic, excited, nervous or relaxed.

The relationship between timing & spacing:
Timing is the amount of time or frames that you give to each movement.
Spacing is the space or gap that you leave between each frame or pose.
Here's the old school, traditional animation version:

Flash version:

Charts can be made in halves or thirds, or animated on 1s or 2s.
It's all about how to break down and divide up the action within 24 frames per second.

In the first 45 seconds of the clip shown here, you'll notice these timing charts popping off & on around the character. They help indicate to the inbetween/clean-up animator how to space out the drawings between the keys as well as how many inbetween drawings to place between those poses.

The relationship between timing and spacing is the very core of all animation.
See these three samples below, they all have the exact same timing (start and stop at the same time), however the spacing for each one is very different, producing three very different effects.

For example, see how John Kricfalusi has a distinctive style in the timing of his animation:

See when he decides to hold the poses, and for how long, when he slows down, and when he speeds up.

Learn more about Timing Charts here.

Test 10 | Standing High Jump |

Jump Samples:

> Animation Tutorial: Jumping Up & Down
> Animation Tutorial: Pose-to-Pose vs. Straight-Ahead

Practice drawing/posing this simple character model:

A character jump is a great way to practice overlapping action; the tendency for parts of the body to move at different rates (an arm will move on different timing from the head and so on).
Look at this sample to observe how all the fundamentals of animation can be shown in a single clip.

Overlapping action is one of the most important principles to practice over and over again, it adds so much weight and life to character movements.

Here's a character jump tutorials and other helpful tips:

Tips & Tricks:

Since a fully traditional animation technique should be used, I'd recommend you read these:
How to Draw Cartoons for Animation
Preston Blair's Cartoon Animation
Gesture Drawing for Animation
Dynamics of The Animated Drawing
Walt Stanchfield's Action Analysis

Remember - Many character movements can follow this system:

Anticipation - Action - Reaction

- Preparation.
- Catches audiences eye.
- Directional focus, points out object of the action. Usually moves in the opposite direction to add punch and contrast to the action itself.
- In acting it will indicate character and personality.
- Once anticipation is established, the action itself is usually self evident (especially in fast actions).
- Slower actions have more minimal anticipations.

- PRIMARY ACTION is not caused by another force. It is the motivating force.
- Once an action is started it must be completed.
- In dialogue, strong actions are cued by strong inflections in the spoken phrase.
- Real action is a manifestation of force. All actions have meaning, some stir an emotional response, these become gestures.

- FOLLOW-THROUGH ACTION occurs as a result of another action.
- Subject to the effects of gravity, elasticity, buoyancy.
- Clothing is always secondary, either fixed or flowing.
- Drapery is secondary to body action and gravity.
- Appendages (ears, arms, tail, legs,) can be secondary to body actions and gravity, or become primary when motivated by thoughts.
- Overlapping action BEGINS within the action itself.
- Overlap a series of actions to enhance overall fluidity.
- Characters are subject to ALL the mechanics of structure and gravity.

(C) Animation by Dana Terrace

[ Animation Physics Lessons ]

Timing, Spacing, and Gravity

These tutorials cover the basic elements of falling motion, specifically how to create believable timing and spacing.

Week 4

Test 11 | Smoke Burst |
> A Step-By-Step Tutorial

Test 12 | Laser FX |

> A Step-By-Step Tutorial


To see lots of tutorials on Flash FX animation, go here.

Week 5

Test 13 | Ball Pitch |
> Successive Breaking of Joints & Flexibility
> Guideline for Smears Part 1
> Guideline for Smears Part 2
> Tutorial on Timing
> Anticipation and Path of Action
> Silouettes & Moving Holds

Keep in mind timing involves 2 things:
1) How fast something moves
2) How long it doesn't move (holds)

Evenness in timing is boring. A scene with characters all moving at the same speeds and inbetweened evenly, will look like mush. Even timing should only be used for smooth or mechanical movements. The closer together the drawings are, the slower the action.

Flash allows for animating on 1s and 2s (in combos) to be quite easy.
Use Flash to your advantage, render line tests often (On a PC: CTRL+ENTER - - on a Mac: CMD+ENTER) and quickly edit and move frames around to adjust your timing. Use combinations of 1s and 2s to keep from having the timing look too even. When something is moving fast (spacing between the drawings are far apart) have it on 1s, most other times it should be on 2s.

Slow moving action means heavy weight, tired and deliberate, animating on 2s and even on 3s to help keep it looking slow. The farther apart the drawings are, the faster the action. Quick movement implies lightness and high energy. Using 1's in the middle of an action adds fluidity, and keeps the time and attention focused on the extremes, where it belongs!


Planning Key Poses
Obviously when planning a set of key poses for a shot or scene, the animator needs to be acutely aware of the requirements of the script and the particular actions and events that are necessary to progress the storyline. Background layouts will define an 'acting space' while storyboard frames will indicate the 'business' of each shot. What is entirely under the animator's control is the way the character 'acts' out these events as informed by an understanding of the character's personality traits, visual design and current emotional state. The key pose planning process goes hand-in-hand with the idea of staging each action in such a way that it 'reads' well and communicates clearly.

Pose-To-Pose Animation Method
'Key poses', 'key drawings' or just 'keys' are terms used to describe those critical positions of an animated character or an object which depict the extreme points in its path of motion, or accents in its expression or mood, or even antics and overshoots. For this reason they are sometimes called 'extremes'.

This method of animating from one pose to the next, hence the term 'pose to pose' animation, allows the animator to map out the action in advance with storytelling drawings. It is a particularly useful animation method when a character must perform certain tasks within a predetermined time or where a series of actions must synchronise accurately with a recorded sound track. The technique helps ensure that characters arrive at a particular place on screen at a precise point in time. Usually the storyboards/animatic nd lengt of shots cannot be altered, the animators must work within these limits to complete the characters' performance within the given amount of scree time.

Breakdown drawings decide the path of action for all your movements.

Look through this Flash file to see the difference between pose-to-pose and straight-ahead animation.

Here's samples of 'straight ahead' technique by master animator Rune Bennicke. You'll see how loose and lively the animation is. What it lacks in consistency, it makes up for in energetic and spontaneous actions:

Animation usually operates in the realm of caricature in which exaggeration becomes an important factor in order to capture the spirit of the action being depicted. Good strong key poses emphasize and communicate the intent of an action more efficiently than ill-considered ones. Put simply, strong keys lead to strong animation. It is therefore vital to spend time and thought working out the key poses until they do their job as expressively as possible as it will pay dividends in the quality of your scene. "Limited" styles of animation are based on keys only, and this labour saving technique does not necessarily affect the audience's enjoyment of a piece:


Expressive Poses
As animators we must work out the key poses of a particular sequence, you must also consider whether or not the action works well if reduced to a silhouette. Staging the action of hands gesturing immediately in front of the body may not be as effective as staging this action in profile where the various shapes and forms can be seen in a way that does not rely on the challenge of drawing complex foreshortening.

Poses should have both function - depicting the physical extreme of an action or setting up the character for an action to follow by loading its 'muscles', and impact - an expressive pose with a dynamic quality that implies what has gone before, what is about to come, and which registers and emphasizes the inner emotional state of the character.

Animation is an illusion requiring the audience to suspend its disbelief. The audience can be absolutely engaged within the stories we tell and the world of characters that we create. However the illusion is a very delicate one, and alas, it is all too easy to remind the audience that they are merely looking at a series of drawings, a puppet, or a moving computer model.

Test 14 | Dillon Walk Cycle |
> Dillon Character Model

> Walk Cycle Tutorial by Alan Becker
> Walk Cycle Tutorial by Alex Butera
> Walk Cycle Tutorial by Harry Partridge
> Walk Cycle Guidelines
> How to create a walk cycle

> Tips for planning out a walk cycle #1
> Tips for planning out a walk cycle #2
> The Anatomy of a Walk Cycle

Finished Sample:

The Physics of the Walk Cycle:

In all walk cycles you need arcs. They give the animation a more natural action and better flow. Think of natural movements in the terms of a pendulum swinging. All arm movements, head turns and even eye movements are executed on an arc. Arcs are a major principle attached to the inbetweening process. Most actions follow an arc or curved path of action. The reason for this is that most actions work like a fulcrum or pendulum. For example, your arm swings from your shoulder. The length of your arm is constant and so as it swings back and forth, the path of action forms an arc.


In its most simplest form: Always start off with the main poses. Based on what the legs are doing; A, C and E are presented as the key positions. The step, then the transition, then the next step - those are the legs' extreme poses. However, the torso's extremes (its highest and lowest points) are left to the breakdowns: B and D.


There is countless video resource archives for every possible action, always make sure to build up your personal stash of footage and lists of online sites to visit:

Week 6

Test 15 | Bat Swing |
> Tutorial on Balance

> Posing your Animation
> Favouring Poses

Tutorial on the technique that can be used for the fast bat swing action:

'6 Important Tips for Animating' by Xavier Ramonede:

Test 16 | Attitude Walk | - BONUS EXTRA POINTS ASSIGNMENT -
> Lots of Walk Cycle References
> 3D Attitude Walk Tutorial (Awesome)
> Creating a Characterized Walk Cycle (Part 1)
> Creating a Characterized Walk Cycle (Part 2)
> Richard Williams on creating exaggerated walks




There are various styles of drawing, design, and techniques that can be use for a typical profile-view of a walk cycle, but the methodology is usually the same:

"...no matter how amazing you think your animation looks, it is NEVER perfect. Don't take criticism personally, use it to make your animation better and learn from it. Every animator struggles with this from time to time, but you must shake it off and make the best of what you're given..."      - John Lasseter

> Part 2 (Tests 17-24)