Element / Drawing Node

The Element node is at the very core of a scene's structure. An element is a directory in which drawings are stored, which is associate to an Xsheet column indicating when and for how long each drawing is exposed, and which is in turn linked to a layer which indicates the position of the drawings in the scene. The Element node allows you to connect the element to effects, pegs and composites, determining how its drawings are processed and rendered.

Connection

The Element node does not need an input image. It generates its output image from the drawings in its element and their exposure. Hence, it can be simply connected to a composite.

Although Element nodes can be transformed and animated on their own, it is typical to connect their input port to a Peg. This allows you to keep the position and animation information of the element in a separate node, making it easier to manipulate the exposure and the transformations separately. This is especially useful in digital cut-out animation where manipulating and transforming layers is often the main method of simulating movement, and changing drawings is the secondary method.

You can also connect an Element node to another Element node. Just like with pegs, any transformation done on the parent Element node, whether on itself or through one of its parents, will also be applied to the child Element node.

Optionally, you can connect a matte drawing to the left edge of an Element node. When an Element node is connected to a matte drawing, only the parts of the drawings that intersect with the opaque areas of the matte drawing will be rendered. This allows you to accomplish the same effect as connecting the Element node to a cutter node, without using an extra node.

Layer Properties

The drawing node's properties are organized in the following tabs:

Transformation Tab

The Transformation tab contains parameters for adjusting the position, scale, rotation, skew and pivots of an element.

Parameter

Description

Enable 3D Allows the layer to be rotated and scaled in 3D. This means it can be rotated on the X and Y axes and scaled on the Z axis.
Position

3D Path: Use a 3D path to position the element. A 3D path uses a single function to define the position on the X, Y and Z axes. This function is made of control points linked by a curvilinear path, making the movement follow a natural curve. The pace and ease of the movement is determined by a single velocity function.

Separate: Positions the element using separate functions for the X, Y and Z axes. This allows to control the direction and pace of the movement across all three axes separately. Unless ease is applied to the axes, the trajectory of the element will follow straight lines going between each keyframe.

Path: If the 3D Path option is selected, this field allows you to create or select the 3D Path function used to position the element.

Path (x) Axis: The position of the element on the East-West axis, in fields.

Path (y) Axis: The position of the element on the South-North axis, in fields.

Path (z) Axis: The position of the element in the Back-Front axis, in fields.

Velocity: If the 3D Path option is selected, this function is used to control the pace at which the element moves towards each control point in the 3D Path function, on all three axes simultaneously.

Scale

Locked: Uses a single scale parameter to scale the element, preserving its proportions.

Separate: Uses a separate parameter to scale the element on the X and Y axis, as well as on the Y axis if the element is 3D-enabled, allowing to stretch or squash the element.

 

(x) Axis: The horizontal scale factor. The default value is 1.

(y) Axis: The vertical scale factor. The default value is 1.

(z) Axis: The depth scale factor for 3D-enabled elements. The default value is 1.

Scale in Fields: With this option enabled, the scale factor is based on the amount of fields in the scene. For example, to shrink one of the dimensions of an element to half its original size, the scale factor would normally bet set to 0.5. If this option is enabled and the amount of fields in the scene is 12, then the scale factor to shrink the element by half would be 6.

Ignore Parent Scaling: When this option is enabled, scaling factors applied to a parent layer will not be applied to the current layer. This can be handy in cut-out rigs when you need to scale an arm without affecting the forearm.

Rotation

Angle z: The angle at which the element is rotated, based on the 360 degrees scale. Values below 0 or above 360 degrees will cause the rotation to cycle.

Rotation (3D enabled)

Quaternion: Similar to a 3D Path, the Quaternion determines the angle of a 3D object using a single function.

Euler Angles: Determines the angle of a 3D object by rotating it on the X, Y and Z axes using separate angles.

3D Rotation:  If the Quaternion option is selected, this field allows you to create or select the Quaternion function used to rotate the element.

(x) Axis: The angle at which the element is rotated on the horizontal axis.

(y) Axis: The angle at which the element is rotated at the vertical axis.

(z) Axis: The angle at which the element is rotated on the depth axis.

Velocity: If the Quaternion option is selected, this function is used to control the speed at which the element is rotated on all 3 axes.

Skew

Skew: The angle at which the element is skewed. This value can range from -90 to 90 degrees.

Pivot

(x) Axis: The horizontal position of the pivot point of the element relative to the pivot point of the drawing, in fields.

(y) Axis: The vertical position of the pivot point of the element relative to the pivot point of the drawing, in fields.

NOTE: These parameters can be changed visually by clicking and dragging the pivot point when using on of the tools in the Advanced Animation toolbar.
Drawing Pivot

An element layer has two pivots:

  • The pivot of the element, which is set by the Pivot parameters above.
  • The pivot of the currently exposed drawing, which is set using the Drawing Pivot tool.

This preference is used to determine what to do with the pivot point of the currently exposed drawing:

  • Don't Use Embedded Pivot:  Ignores the pivot point of the exposed drawing. The pivot point of the element is positioned using the Pivot parameters above, relative to the centre of the drawing.
  • Apply Embedded Pivot on Parent Peg:  Use the pivot point of the exposed drawing to determine the position of the pivot point of the parent peg of the drawing layer. This is useful when making a character rig where each element has a parent peg, and those parent pegs are intended to be used for animation. The pivot point of these parent pegs will be based on the pivot point set for the exposed drawing.
  • Apply Embedded Pivot on Drawing Layer:  Use the pivot point of the drawing to determine the pivot point of the element. This means the pivot point is positioned using the Pivot parameters above, but relative to the pivot point of the drawing.
TIP: The two latter options are useful when making a character rig where a layer can represent a body part from different angles. Since each angle is represented by a drawing, and each angle is liable to have a different pivot point, you can set the pivot point of each angle by using the Drawing Pivot tool on each drawing. Then, if you want to animate the drawing layers directly, you can set this parameter to the Apply Embedded Pivot on Drawing Layer option, and if you want to animate using the parent pegs of the drawing layers, you can set this parameter to the Apply Embedded Pivot on Parent Peg option, so that these pivots are used when animating the different parts of the rigs.

Drawing Tab

The Drawing tab contains parameters for element and timing columns, the art layers, bitmap images and the element's matte drawing.

Parameter

Description

Element Columns

Full Name: Select which element to connect to the node from the list of elements that already exist in your scene.

Synced Sub Element: If the layer is synced to another layer, this field displays the name of the layer's sub-element. A sub-element is an element stored inside another element for syncing layers.

Drawing Path: Displays the full path to the current drawing.

Timing Columns

Name: The path to the drawing file the element links to.

Timing Column: The name of the Xsheet timing column used for the layer's timing.

Extension: The extension of the drawing file the element links to.

Field Chart: The size of the field chart used for the drawings the element links to. This setting is useful when linking to traditional animation drawings.

Art Layers

These parameters allow you to set whether each art layer in the drawing layer is enabled, and whether they should contain vector or bitmap artwork. By default, options for the Line Art and Colour Art layers will be available. If the Enable Overlay and Underlay Arts preference is enabled, options for the Overlay Art and Underlay Art layers will also be available.

Enabled: Determines whether the art layer is displayed.

Vector: Makes the art layer enabled for vector artwork, Vector drawing tools will be used to draw in this art layer, and vector artwork information will be preserved.

Bitmap: Makes the art layer enabled for bitmap artwork. Only bitmap-compatible drawing tools will be enabled when drawing on this layer, and all artwork will be rasterized into a bitmap image.

Bitmap File Options

Colour: Determines whether or not the colours in the image is processed. If unchecked, the image will be solid black.

Transparency: Determines whether or not the transparency in the image is processed. If unchecked, the image will be fully opaque.

Transparency Type: If the layer contains bitmap images with a transparency channel, there are several approaches to rendering the image's transparency. You may need to select the proper transparency type to make sure Harmony renders the image as intended.

  • Premultiplied with Black: Semi-transparent pixels in the original image are blended with black.
  • Premultiplied with White: Semi-transparent pixels in the original image are blended with white.
  • Straight: Semi-transparent pixels in the original image are left as is (unmatted).
  • Clamp Colour to Alpha: Semi-transparent pixels in the original image are blended with black. On import, each of the RGB channels is clamped so that a color value never exceed the alpha value for a given pixel. When the RGB values are multiplied with the alpha value, that is to say, if you have a pixel of value R=247, G=188, B=29 and the alpha is 50% or the image has a 50% transparency, then the actual RGB values output would be half of the amounts listed above.

Colour Space: If the element is displaying original bitmap files that are not tagged with their colour space information, this allows you to set the colour space in which Harmony should render the image.

  • Linear: The default value. The linear colour space is one where the intensity of each primary is directly proportional to their value. Typically, visuals are rendered in a linear colour space until the final compositing stage.
  • sRGB: The most common colour space used with computer and digital device displays. With this colour space, the relation between the value of each primary and their intensity is defined by a gamma function.
  • Rec.709: A colour space commonly used for HD television. It is very similar to sRGB with a slightly lower gamma curve.
Matte Invert Matte:  If a drawing, composite or effect is connected to the drawing's matte input port, the part of the drawing that intersect with the matte's opaque areas will be cut out by default. If this parameter is enabled, the part of the drawing that intersect with the matte's transparent areas will be cut out instead.

Controls Tab

The Controls tab contains animation control options.

Parameter

Description

Animation

Animate Using Animation Tools: By default, a drawing layer can be animated directly, as if it was its own peg. If you disable this option, it will only be possible to animate the layer using its parent peg. If the layer has no parent peg, it will be immutable.

This can be useful if you want to create cut-out character rigs that should only be animated using pegs, which can help separate the drawing exposure from the transformations on the drawings. If every drawing layer in a character rig has this option disabled, only layers that have a parent peg will be animatable, and the animator will only be able to animate on the pegs. This also rules out the possibility of accidentally animating an element directly and using its parent peg concurrently.

When this option is disabled, clicking on the drawing layer in the Camera view with the Transform tool will automatically select the layer's parent peg.

Angle Limit Values

Lets you set a maximum and minimum rotation angle for a drawing. This option is used mainly for a cut-out character when you do not want an elbow to bend too far in or out.

Enable Min/Max Angle: Activates the minimum and maximum angle constraints.

Min Angle: The minimum rotation angle for the element.

Max Angle: The maximum rotation angle for the element.

Spline Offset

If the layer's controls are displayed, you can see its animation trajectory in the Camera view. This is referred to as the spline. By default, the position of each point in the spline is based on the element's pivot point. However, you can use the spline offset to give it a more fitting position if desired. You can do this by using the Spline Offset tool of the Advanced Animation toolbar, or by manually entering the offset values in the Spline Offset fields.

(x) Axis: The horizontal offset of the spline, in fields.

(y) Axis: The vertical offset of the spline, in fields.

(z) Axis: The depth offset of the spline, in fields.

TIP: To display the animation trajectory of the layer in the Camera view, select the layer, then do one of the following: 
  • In the Camera toolbar, click on Show Control .
  • From the top menu, select View > Show > Control.
  • Press Shift + F11 (Windows/Linux) or ⌘ + F11 (macOS).

Line Thickness

The Line Thickness tab contains options regarding the way pencil lines in the element are rendered. These options can be very useful to enhance the quality of line art without having to work on it.

Parameter

Description

Line Thickness

Adjust Pencil Lines Thickness: Enables the options below to adjust the line thickness in the rendered image.

Normal Thickness: This setting makes the line thickness adjustments take one of two very different behaviors:

  • Enabled: The line thickness settings are applied to pencil lines in all art layers in the element. This setting should be used if you want to adjust the line thickness of pencil lines.
  • Disabled: The line thickness settings are applied to all art, whether brush strokes or pencil lines, in the line art layer, so that it fits the desired thickness pattern around art in the colour art layer. This setting should be used for drawings that have their line art on the line art layer and their colour art on the colour art layer, which is typical of traditional and paperless animation productions.
  • NOTE: When this option is disabled, all artwork in the line art layer that does not surround artwork in the colour art layer will be cropped out.

Zoom Independent Thickness: Makes the thickness of pencil lines remain unchanged when the camera zooms in or zooms out.

Proportional: The factor by which to adjust line thickness. The original line thickness in the drawing will be multiplied by this value. A value between 0 and 1 can be used to make pencil lines thinner.

Constant: The offset by which to adjust line thickness. This value will be added to the original line thickness in the drawing. A negative number can be entered to make pencil lines thinner.

Minimum: The minimum pencil line thickness allowed. Line thickness will not go below this value.

Maximum: The maximum pencil line thickness allowed. Line thickness will not go above this value. Set it to 0 to disable maximum line thickness.

Deformation

Pencil Lines Quality: The quality of the rendered pencil lines when deformed by deformation chains. Increasing this parameter is unlikely to wield noticeable result unless rendering in very high resolutions.

Preserve Line Thickness: If this option is checked, the thickness of pencil lines will not be affected by deformations. Only their directions will be affected. Also, if a pencil line is textured, it will not be stretched or squashed by deformations.

NOTE: This setting must be enabled for the Pencil Lines Smoothing and Fit Error parameters to be available.

Pencil Lines Smoothing: The smoothing factor applied to pencil lines when rendering. This value can range from 0 to 10. The higher it is, the more corners and points will appear smoothed out.

Fit Error: When this parameter is increased, pencil lines in the rendered image will have less vector points and the curves between the remaining vector points will be adjusted to fit the original shape. This setting can be increased if the amount of details and points in the pencil lines creates problems around deformation articulations and corners. Its value can range from 1 to 100.

NOTE: The Fit Error parameter will have no effect if the Pencil Lines Smoothing parameter is set to 0.

Advanced Tab

The Advanced tab contains options for setting the alignment of drawings, clipping, line thickness, vector render options, and more.

Parameter Description
Alignment

Alignment Rule: The alignment rule selections are intended to deal with drawings that were created on paper of a different size or orientation from the default alignment rule (set up in the Scene Settings dialog box) or imported bitmap images. The drawings are then scaled to match the Harmony alignment rectangle. Note that alignment rules are not based on the camera frame, but on the scene frame. Refer to the Fundamentals Guide to learn more about scene alignment and scene settings.

  • Left: The default alignment for drawings; aligns the drawings to the left side of the scene’s alignment rectangle. Harmony scales the drawings to match their height to the alignment rectangle of the scene.
  • Right: Aligns the drawings to the right side of the alignment rectangle. Harmony scales the drawings to match their height to the height of the alignment rectangle of the scene.
  • Top: Aligns the drawings to the top of the alignment rectangle. Harmony scales the drawings to match their widths to the width of the alignment rectangle of the scene.
  • Bottom: Aligns the drawings to the bottom of the alignment rectangle. Harmony scales the drawings to match their widths to the width of the alignment rectangle of the scene.
  • Centre Fit: Centers the drawings.
  • Centre Fill: Centers the drawings and then scales them so the width or height fills the available space.
  • Centre LR: Aligns the drawings in the left-right centre of the alignment rectangle. Harmony scales the drawings to match their height to the height of the alignment rectangle of the scene.
  • Centre TB: Aligns the drawings in the top-bottom centre of the alignment rectangle. Harmony scales the drawings to match their widths to the width of the alignment rectangle of the scene.
  • Stretch: Scales the drawings so they fit within the alignment rectangle of the scene. This is particularly useful for images that you will manipulate with a Quadmap node. If the drawings in the Quadmap node do not have the same aspect ratio as the alignment rectangle of the scene (from the Scene Settings dialog box), the handles on the quadmap will not appear on the corners of the image, making it difficult to manipulate the quadmap. In this case, you would set the drawing layer of the quadmap images to Stretch to make the handles appear on the corner of the image. This can have the effect of distorting the images, but it is not an issue with images that will be distorted through the Quadmap node anyways.
  • As Is: Leaves the drawings aligned as they are.
  • Centre First Page: Aligns the centre of the first part of a standard pan cel with the centre of the field chart.

Turn Before Alignment: Rotates the drawings in the selected element 90 degrees to the left before scaling and aligning them according to the alignment rule, and before performing any offset, rotation or scaling for the element or peg. This and the Alignment Rule are intended for drawings that were created on paper of a different size or orientation than the other paper in the scene, and requires alignment so they are treated accurately.

Flip Horizontal: Flips the drawing on the horizontal axis.

Flip Vertical: Flips the drawing on the vertical axis.

Clipping

No Clipping: By default, when using the Apply-Image-Transformation node on a bitmap layer, the image is clipped by the camera frame before the transformation. This can cause the resulting image to appear cropped if the peg connected to the Apply-Image-Transformation node brings the element from outside of the camera frame, or shrinks it. Enable this option to avoid clipping the image—see Apply Image Transformation Node.

NOTE: In the great majority of cases, it is recommended to use an Apply-Peg-Transformation node instead to avoid clipping—see Apply Peg Transformation Node.

Clipping Factor (X): This parameter would extend the horizontal clipping area of vector drawings before effects are applied to it. Using this parameter is no longer required as Harmony manages the clipping areas of vector drawings automatically, and is only made available for legacy support.

Clipping Factor (Y): This parameter would extend the vertical clipping area of vector drawings before effects are applied to it. Using this parameter is no longer required as Harmony manages the clipping areas of vector drawings automatically, and is only made available for legacy support.

Vector Render Options

Antialiasing Quality: The smoothness (antialiasing) setting used to make the crisp vector contours appear smooth.

  • None - No Transparency: Dsables antialiasing, renders semi-transparent pixels either fully opaque or fully transparent, and fills single-pixel gaps with an opaque pixel to avoid generating out-of-place gaps when lines intersect each other.
  • Low: Disables antialiasing, but renders transparency.
  • Medium Low: Renders vector artwork with basic antialiasing.
  • Medium: Renders vector shapes with improved antialiasing. Bitmap texture fills will appear blurred.
  • High: Renders vector shapes with improved antialiasing, without blurring bitmap texture fills.
TIP: It is recommended to leave this setting to High unless you are working on a pencil test, or another type of scene where rendering speed is more important than rendering quality.
TIP: If the production requires exporting line art without antialiasing to colour them in a third-party software, it is recommended to use the None - No Transparency setting. This setting automatically fills one-pixel gaps created by crisp lines intersecting each other, which would otherwise need to be filled manually in the third-party software.

Antialiasing Exponent: Determines how much the artwork is scaled up to apply antialiasing onto it. A higher value will results in sharper edges, and a lower value will result in softer edges. Typical values range between 0 and 3. Higher values may be attempted but may result in overly crisp outlines. Negative values will cause the outlines to appear blurry.

Texture Filter: This setting determines how textures in the element are resampled when rendering:

  • Bilinear: This option takes the four pixels around each point and makes a bilinear interpolation between them, which may make them look blurry.
  • Nearest: When sampling the texture up, this option generates extra pixels by using the colour of the nearest defined pixel. When sampling the texture down, this option simply removes pixels from the texture.
  • Nearest (Filtered): This option is similar to Nearest, but it adds an extra layer of resampling to make all pixels look like they are the same size.
Miscellaneous

Depth: Overrides the order of cables in the node system to determine the forward/backward order in which this element is rendered. The Z position value overrides the depth value.

Morphing Velocity: When morphing drawings in the element using the Morphing tool, this parameter can be used to create or select the velocity function used to determine the pace of the morphing animation.

Opacity: Lets you quickly change the transparency of the selected element. Opacity settings here will be reflected in both OpenGL preview, and full render.