Getting Started > Character Rigging

How to Rig a Cut-out Character

In Harmony, a character rig is basically a template based on your character's model, but in which all movable parts are broken down into different layers, and arranged in a hierarchy that facilitates digital animation, also known as cut-out animation.

To make a character rig, we must first make sure you have a character model to build on. If you have any drawing of a character available, import it into a new scene, then scale and position it to your liking. Otherwise, you can draw your character's model directly in Harmony. Once you have a model ready, we can start breaking it down into parts to build your rig with.

There are many techniques you can use to break down a puppet. In this section, you will learn about one of the most common and simplest methods. For your first character breakdown, follow these instructions to get an idea of the way Harmony works. Once you understand Harmony's basic functions and commands, you will be able to create your own techniques to satisfy the needs of your production.

Drawing the Pieces

The main breakdown technique shown here is to trace your model.

Adding Pegs

Pegs are a special type of layer that do not contain any drawing. They are used strictly to offset and transform drawings that are under their hierarchy, without transforming the drawings directly.

When rigging or setting up a scene, it is recommended to add parent pegs for each of your drawing layers. This allows you to keep animation keyframes and drawings on separate layers, making it easier to work on the position and exposure of your drawing layers independently in the Timeline view. It also makes it easier to create a hierarchy of which body parts can be animated together and independently.

If you want to animate only on pegs, you can activate the Peg selection mode of the Transform tool in the Tool Properties view. You can also disable animating drawing layers, so that only pegs can be animated.

NOTE: It is also possible to make a drawing layer the parent of another drawing layer. Just like the way animating a peg animates its children layers, animating a drawing layer with children will also animate its children layers. Both layers will still appear in the animation.

Creating a Layer Hierarchy

Harmony lets you build your rig in an elaborate hierarchy, allowing you to set which parts of your rig should influence other limbs, and how they can move independently. For example, when rigging a simple character's arm, you can make the forearm layer a child of the arm layer, and the hand layer a child of the forearm layer. This way, if the character moves their forearm, the hand will follow, and if they move their arm, the forearm and hand will follow.

When building a basic character rig, you should at least have a hierarchy for each arm and each leg. You can make a hierarchy going from the torso, the neck and the head, and rig the arms to the torso, and you can rig the legs to the hips. This would make a hierarchy like this:

When rigging, keep in mind that the order of the layers in the Timeline view affects the order in which they are rendered. Layers on top of the list will be rendered over layers at the bottom of the list. Should you need to change a layer's order while animating, you can nudge this layer's position on the Z-axis to override the layer order and force it to appear beneath or over other layers.

Master Peg

Your character rig should always have a master peg which connects to all of its parts. The master peg allows you to manipulate the entire rig from a single layer, without having to manipulate each individual part. This is useful for positioning and scaling your character relative to the scene, as well as to animate your character's trajectory when it has to move between areas of the scene.