Deformation Basics

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Harmony Stage provides you with the deformation technology to deform bitmap and vector drawings over a period of time. These deformers can be linked to create a hierarchy of deformation. This technology allows you to deform a character made out of one, or many, drawing or image layers and make it move as if it were a cut-out puppet. It also allows you to take an area in a single bitmap image and create animation by distortion.

Refer to the Deformation chapter in the Harmony User Guide to learn more details and for step-by-step explanation about deformation.

About the Deformation Effect

The Deformation Effect can be used to animate either bitmap or vector based graphics, it even works on gradients and textures. The Deformation Effect acts as a skeleton in which you can manoeuver different articulations or bend it into a fluid curve. It can prove useful in many situations including cut-out animation. When paired with your creativity, the Deformation Effect can produce some stunning results.

There are 2 main types of deformer:

  • Bone Deformer
  • Curve Deformer

All the Deformation Effect modules are available in the Module Library, under the Deformation tab.

  Bone Deformer

The Bone Deformer allows you to create a basic or advanced skeleton structure in which the parent deformer will move the child deformers. The Bone Deformer is mostly used when animating the extremities of a character such as arms or legs and will add fluidity and a natural feel to the animation. The Bone effect can be manipulated to rotate a limb at an articulation joint and to also shorten or elongate the extremities of a limb. Every Bone module within a skeleton chain is linked together by an Articulation module.

  Curve Deformer

The Curve Deformer has a hierarchy similar to that of the Bones Deformer and provides you with complete flexibility. For example, when editing curves, you can deform a straight line into an arc or a zig-zag with only a few clicks. Curve Deformers are mostly used to animate elements that do not have joints, for example hair or facial features. However, in some cases they can be used to animate limbs to create a specific animation genre, similar to the early rubber hose style of animation with typically simple, flowing curves, without articulation (no hinged wrists or elbows).

This section explains the essential items you need to know before starting to work with Deformation Effects:

  • Setting the Performance Preferences
  • Displaying the Deformation Controls

Setting the Performance Preferences

There are some preferences that you must set in order to work efficiently with the deformation effects.

Setting up the performance preferences:

  1. Open the Preferences panel:
    • Windows/Linux: Select Edit > Preferences or use the default keyboard shortcut [Ctrl]+[U] (Windows/Linux).
    • Mac OS X: Select Stage > Preferences or use the default keyboard shortcut [z]+[U] (Mac OS X).
  2. Choose the OpenGL tab.
  3. In the Settings section:
    • Enable Use Hardware Shaders to Render Textures and Gradients. This preference optimizes the process of rendering textures and gradients. It is enabled by default.
    • Enable Use Hardware Vertex Texture Fetching if Available. This preference is disabled by default, however it is strongly recommended that you enable it before using the deformers. If your CPU and graphic card allow it, the system will use vertex shaders to considerably help the process of deformation.
  4. In the Real-Time Antialiasing section:
    • Make sure the Real-Time Antialiasing options are disabled, uncheck the enabled box.

Displaying the Deformation Controls

To be able to manipulate the deformer outside of the Setup Mode, you must enable the Deformation Controls.

You can also select all the modules from your Network view and select View > Show > Controls from the top menu.

To display the selected deformation controls:

  1. In the Network view, select the Deformation Group containing the deformation chain you want to display.
  2. In the Camera View toolbar, click on the Show Control  button. You can also select View > Show > Control from the top menu or use the default keyboard shortcut [Shift]+[F11].

To display the selected deformation controls and hide all the others:

  1. In the Network view, select the Deformation Group containing the deformation chain you want to display.
  2. In the Deformation toolbar, click on the Show Selected Deformers and Hide All Others  button.
  3. The selected deformation controls will appear in the Camera view and all the others will be hidden.

To display all the deformer controls at the same time:

  1. In the Top level of the Network view, use the default keyboard shortcut [Ctrl]+[A] (Windows/Linux) or [z]+[A] (Mac OS X) to select all the modules, you can also select Edit > Select All from the top menu.
  2. In the Camera View toolbar, select Show Control . You can also use the default keyboard shortcut [Shift]+[F11]. This will display all the deformation controls in your scene.

Creating a Basic Deformation Rig

This section explains how you can quickly use the Rigging tool to create a basic Bone and Articulation or Curve rig. Before you can create a Basic Deformation rig, you must set up the performance preferences which are necessary to allow the system to process of the deformation effect efficiently.

To create a basic deformation rig:

  1. You must set up the Performance Preferences as explained aboce. After you have done this continue to step 2.
  2. In the Preferences panel, under the Deformation tab, disable the Create Posed Deformer in Create Deformation Above/Under
    Disabling this preference will result in a simpler Network rigging structure.
    But remember that this option must be re-enabled when rigging a multi pose (front, quarter, side and back) character.
  3. From the Deformation toolbar, select the Rigging tool.
  4. In the Rigging Tool Properties, enable the Automatic Mode.
  5. In the Network view, select the element that you want to add a deformation to.
  6. In the Camera view, you can either start to create a Bone or a Curve rig.

To Create a Bone rig:

  • Place the cursor at the far end of your element, click once and release. For example, on the shoulder.
  • Click again at the location where you want your first bone to finish and your second bone to start. An articulation will automatically be inserted between each bones you create.
  • Repeat this until you are finished creating the Bone chain.

To Create a Curve rig:

  • Click at the far end of your element, for example, the shoulder and drag your cursor to extend the control handle and release, just as you would do when using the Polyline tool.
  • Click again at the location where you want the curve to end and drag your cursor to extend the second control handle.
  • Repeat this process until you have finished building the Curve chain.

This will automatically create a Deformation Group connected to the top node of the selected element. This group includes all the necessary deformation modules as well as the Bones, Articulations or Curves you created.

  Note that this Network structure is the result of a simple rigging which was a created with the Create Posed Deformer in Create Deformation Above/Under preference disabled.

Artwork from Stella and Sam courtesy of ©2011 Stella and Sam Productions Inc.