Looping a symbol on the main timeline with Toon Boom Animate

This is a followup to yesterday’s post. I just want to explain the whole looping symbol thing a little better.

Basically if you wanted to have a looping symbol in Toon Boom Animate or Animate Pro and you wanted that constantly running on the main timeline, I’ll list out the best steps to take below. This is a little different from Flash, where you’d create a Movieclip (or the now buggy Graphic clip). Flash is simpler, but I’ll explain the advantages after all this…

  • Draw the first frame on the main timeline.
  • Drag that layer into the library (which will automatically make it into a symbol)
  • Find the symbol in the library, (it will have the layer name by default, best to rename it now just to be organized)
  • Double click it, and you’ll be inside that symbols timeline. Now can add/draw on more frames within that symbol. Frames is accurate to say, but also remember these should be considered Drawing Substitutions as well, which is a really cool aspect of Animate
  • Trim out any extra frames inside the symbol. By default the symbol might have like 60 frames in there, and if you’re only using 10, you want to get rid of the rest now. There’s a red slider above the layers, you want to slide that to the last frame.
  • Once ready,  go back to the main timeline, delete off that original drawing layer you created.
  • Drag out the symbol from the library onto a new layer, (magically it will go to the exact spot that it was at when you created it into a symbol, which is very nice!)
  • Now that symbol will automatically appear on the timeline with each Drawing Substitution within it, in sequence on the timeline. It won’t be looping though, but will have its first cycle in place. You know it will have each Drawing Substitution in there because obviously you can slide the timeline and see them play, but also because there will be a thin line on each frame in the timeline indication a substitution. Otherwise the layer would be a solid block of 10 frames or however many there are. (example below)
    Toon Boom Animate Example of Drawing Substitutions
  • Select all the frames and go to Create Cycle (right click to find it)
  • Choose however many times you want that to loop. There’s no infinite loop option, but you can just set this to a really high number. If it loops well beyond the number of frames in your scene, thats fine. You can drag out that red slider to add more frames, and the cycle will continue.
  • You’re done now. And keep in mind, you can now animate the layer at this point, do your Motion Tweens etc.

Okay, here’s the big advantage to this type of looping symbol. Your cycle now is just the framework for your loop. At any point on the main timeline, you can go and swap out one of those frames using the Drawing Substitutions slider. Doing so won’t affect any other part of the cycle…. So if I had a five frame cycle over 20 frames, the sequence would show the frames inside that symbol like so….

1,2,3,4,5, 1,2,3,4,5, 1,2,3,4,5, 1,2,3,4,5,

well I could easily make that be…

1,2,3,4,5,5,5,5,5,5,5,2,3,4,5,1,2,3,4,5,

…So I could show frame 5 inside that symbol a few times in a row, without altering any other part of the cycle further on in the timeline. And this also isn’t going to affect any motion tweening I’d already done. So if I had keyframe at frame 1 and at frame 20, I can keep that smooth tween from start to finish without interrupting it to swap artwork.

Now if you were using a Movieclip in Flash, first off you wouldn’t even see the animation inside that symbol on the main timeline. If you wanted a pause within the cycle, and you didn’t want to resort to writing code, you’d need to swap that symbol out for another one entirely, or maybe break apart the symbol, then replace it with the unbroken one again later on the timeline. By doing so, you can’t easily motion tween the entire thing. Your tweens would get broken at each pause. Now of course, you could keep making new parent symbols, one just for the pauses in the cycle, but then you get into a situation where you’re having to double-click down two or three symbols to edit your character animation, and you’re not getting a good idea of what’s going on back on the main timeline until you publish. Again, you can’t see what’s going on inside a Movieclip on the main timeline.

What about just using a Graphic clip in Flash. Graphic Clips have their pros and cons. You can have animation inside them and view that on the main timeline as you slide back and forth. But again, you’re stuck making a keyframe on the main timeline if you want to start, or pause that symbol anywhere within itself. What’s wrong with keyframes though? Again, its the same situation where if you were tweening that entire animation you have to lock the symbol in place (so its x,y, z, rotation, scale) are now stuck where they are at ONLY because you wanted to show a different frame within that symbol.

Using the Drawing Substitutions option in Animate totally separates showing the animation within the symbol, and keyframing properties like the x,y, z, rotation, scale.

Basically if you wanted to have a looping symbol (so a symbol with like 10 frames of animation inside it) and you wanted that constantly running on the main timeline, here’s the best steps to take to do it right off the bat…..
-Draw the first frame on the main timeline.
-Drag that layer into the library (which will automatically make it into a symbol)
-Find the symbol in the library, (it will have the layer name by default, best to rename it now just to be organized)
-Double click it, and you’ll be inside that symbols timeline. Now can add/draw on more frames within that symbol. Frames is accurate to say, but also remember these should be considered Drawing Substitutions as well, which is a really cool aspect of Animate
– Trim out any extra frames inside the symbol. By default the symbol might have like 60 frames in there, and if you’re only using 10, you want to get rid of the rest now. There’s a red slider above the layers, you want to slide that to the last frame.
– Once ready, I’d go back to the main timeline, delete off that original drawing layer you created.
– Drag out the symbol from the library onto a new layer, (magically it will go to the exact spot that it was at when you created it into a symbol, which is very nice!)
-Now that symbol will automatically appear on the timeline with each Drawing Substitution within it, in sequence on the timeline. It won’t be looping though, but will have its first cycle in place.
– Select all the frames and go to Create Cycle (in the list during a right click)
– choose however many times you want that to loop. There’s no infinite loop option, but you can just set this to a really high number.
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11 thoughts on “Looping a symbol on the main timeline with Toon Boom Animate

  1. Sounds fantastic. I’ve always had issues changing the animation in the symbol after I’ve made a set of tweens in flash to mimic a multiplane cam. Now it seems like I don’t need to tween the symbols themselves for the multiplane because the cam in Animate will show that effect for me but I can also move a character from one side of the screen to another without worrying about having to lock that ani sequence in place symbol-wise.

    I always hate writing stuff like this down because it’s SO hard to explain in text and you did a great job with it. Thanks for the info!

  2. Excellent post, Justin. Thanks. Hopefully in time people will no longer need the Flash comparison. Heheh. It’s really cool that you show these things, because people like me struggle with them all the time, even if they may seem pretty straightforward to some. We should really start that animation fight club. Have a great day!!

  3. Dude I’m having a hard time understanding this, I’m more of visual person. If it’s not a hassle can you make a short vid explaining this. That would be awesome.
    Thanks in advance

  4. Ive been away from Flash for a while, and as I read your explination, I had flashbacks of that very nightmare. I am still a little hazy with the vs. Flash issue, but I am coming around…

  5. Law says:

    Hi, I am testing animate pro 2. If I had already added a bike to the timeline, and animated it to do a few things like driving over a ramp and doing a wheelie, what is the easiest way of now making the wheels spin continuously – I haven;t done them yet. thanks!

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