Artist Profile: Juergen Frey and his thoughts on Flash CS4’s IK

Is it fair to call someone the best Flash animator in all of Germany if I’m only familiar with one?… Uh sure. Juergen Frey takes the top spot in my opinion. If you haven’t seen his not-so-short film about the release of Halo 3, check it out. Its incredibly well-animated (all in Flash too), creatively framed, and like all good animation, its funny (press 1 on the keyboard if you don’t speak German). Microsoft, that big megalith company that makes the XBox, even took notice of his work and featured it on their German site. Oh and props to myself, Juergen is a past student from way back in the day, and I’m proud to admit the student has clearly become the master… Anyway, here’s some screengrabs from his animation, click any to check out the full movie….

A Movie"

Aside from just featuring his mighty work, Juergen emailed me yesterday with some tips for my blog readers dealing with Flash CS4’s Inverse Kinematics scaling problem. If you don’t know, you can’t scale movieclips on your IK chain. Which for an animator isn’t a minor issue.  When things move, they change their scale. So here’s what Juergen has to say….

By the way: IK in CS4 has the problem, that you cant scale instances, like a hand. I solved this problem, it’s not realy elegant, but it works:

Convert an  instance “Hand_1” to an new instance “Hand_Container” MC, unfortunately it does not work with graphic-instances. Doubleclick the new symbol “Hand_Container”which contains the basic “Hand_1″_MC- There you scale the instance on the timeline of the Container MC. The timelines must have the same length as the main-timeline of the bone-skeleton to avoid sync-probs. 

 This is a technique I played around with too for dealing with the problem (as well as scripting the scale changes), but I believe any workaround could lead to more problems than its worth. Especially in a work environment where an animation director might ask for seemingly slight changes but then you, the lowly animator,  have to deal with resyncing multiple timelines to compensate for something Adobe should have given us the ability to easily do. Bad tools equal a bad attitude. When its just yourself working on a project, its easy to let quality slide  and think “well, it ain’t perfect but its not worth the effort to change it”.  But professionally you can’t think that way. If you do, sooner than later, you’ll butt heads with your art director enough times that he or she thinks you’re hopelessly lazy and fires you. And Adobe is selling Flash as a product for professionals. This is not a $20 piece of shareware for little kids to animate with. They need to be thinking about the environment that their animation tools get used in. Again, for hobbyists, its okay. For professionals in a collaborative setting, its not okay to have your animation tools hold you back. 

Juergen shares my thoughts exactly here…

 There are many things on the new Flash CS4 wich I am not satisfied with. Good ideas, but some stuff like IK is not helpful and too complicated. The movie export is still as disappointing as ever and so on. There are many things in Flash that could have been done better, but Adobe focuses to much on web development . I am searching for a good alternative animation program.

…True, Adobe has put a lot of effort into making Flash an awesome web development tool. AND IT IS!! Its still the king of website creation in my opinion. Nothing is easier.  But there was this glimmer of hope before CS4’s release that this version was going to finally give something back to us character animators. We have patiently waited through many versions of the program to have professional animation tools like inverse kinematics. Mind you, CS4 is the tenth version of Flash and from at least version 3 or 4 on, its been clear that character animators had a strong interest in the program.  Of course, Adobe just take over the reigns with version 9, so they aren’t entirely to blame for the ongoing lack of pro animation tools, but their first attempt feels even more disappointing because its hard to believe someone thought this was good enough to release.  It makes me wonder if Adobe ever brought in a guy like Juergen to use these tools for a day, or even an hour.  There’s a huge difference between having a programmer test animation tools vs. an actual animator. A programmer probably would have animated a construction crane, and deemed the IK perfect. An animator would have immediately tried a three-quarter view walk cycle and realized right away that the IK needed scaling ANNND the ability to swap symbols on the chain. Which is a different problem altogether. 

To wrap it up… I don’t like critiquing my favorite software, but Juergen’s email reminded that this needed to be addressed again. Users like him are kinda like the man on the street.  My worry is that the next version of Flash won’t address these problems for lack of people squawking about it. And honestly I don’t want Flash to get a bad reputation for animation. When they make great tools, everyone benefits.  Users like myself and Juergen talk about how great they are, and we get everyone on the fence about upgrading to upgrade!


2 thoughts on “Artist Profile: Juergen Frey and his thoughts on Flash CS4’s IK

  1. b1tzmast3r says:

    Whoa!?! The way he creates Depth of Feild using the blur filter is intense! ~ assuming that’s how he got that effect?

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