Using the Camera Layer to move a character across the animation stage

Using the Camera Layer to movea character across the stage is an easy process, once you get your head arround how it’s done. This is an English expression, that means you understand the process!

Walk-1.pclx is the Pencil2D file and Walk-1.mp4 is the resulting animation. There are 4 move frames and a stand frame at the end.

Walk-1.pclx (234.7 KB)

The next stage is to make 2 copies of each of the walk frames, making sure that you move the stand frame to the end of the sequence. Not that i’ve changed the frame spacing from 4 to 3 frames.


The next stage is to save the frames as a .png sequence, in a separate directory, this makes the reloading much easier.


The saved frames were then loaded, into a new Bitmap Layer. For file size reasons the duplicates at the start and finish of the sequence were then removed.


The Camera Layer must be modified, to prevent the character being moved too far. ALL frames except frame 1 must be deleted.

After a few final adjustments are made the project is complete.

Walk-5.pclx (532.1 KB)

A few extra refinements can be made, by adding an extra frame at the start and end of the walk sequence to give the impression of acceleration, rather than instant transition from rest to full speed.

The addition feature that are planned for the next version of Pencil2D, to the Camera Engine include Ease In and Ease Out and the ability to easily modify the path should make this process better.

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Using the camera layer, or object interpolation in other applications, is generally a bad idea for full-body shots of moving characters that are walking, running, etc. The problem is that people don’t move linearly, and even easing in and out is not completely accurate. When it comes to the feet in particular, movement stops and starts regularly. If you do not design your walk cycle just right, and translate it at just the right speed, the grounded foot will appear to slide and the whole movement will not feel realistic. The technique you described can work well enough for situations where the feet are not shown though.

Also, there is a very common mistake being made with this walk cycle. Except in cases where your character has no depth cues (such as stick figures), animating one foot moving from back to front is half of the walk cycle. If you loop that, you will have your character move one foot in front of the other, than the two legs magically swap places and the same leg is moved forward again. Obviously this isn’t right. Sometimes you can get away with this to save work, but it isn’t a practice you should necessarily be recommending in a tutorial.

Here’s your final animation (with a standing pose added to the first frame, and the final frame duration extended slightly): Walk-5

And here’s a quick example of what it could look like taking the above into consideration: Walk-6

The character is moved according to the foot position, and additional walk cycle frames have been added with the other foot moving forward. There’s still lots of room for improvement with this such as easing as you suggested. Adding more frames to the walk cycle would result in a more fluid motion. Modifying some of the walk cycle poses would help get rid of the “shuffling” appearance of the movement currently.

Ultimately what approach one chooses to take when animating something like this will depend on the shot framing, style of animation, and amount of time they wish to spend on it.

Something that i didn’t mention in the earlier post, was that the frames in Walk-5.pclx can be edited.

If you attempt to edit frames in an animation of say a single image of say a car, which has been moved using the same technique. Then you can’t edit them because the individual frames do not exist as individual .png files, but just as the same image, the .png file, in different location on the animation stage.

I would also like to point out that when the next version of Pencil2D is made available, the new features in the Camera Engine, currently under development, will make this technique much more flexiable and therefor powerful.


The previous posting in the Pencil2D discussion was based upon a student project which I give my students, in which they convert a simple an on the spot walk sequence into their first moving animation.

I do realise that this animation will not be perfect because the character will appear to slide forwards or backwards during various steps. But as a first attempt is OK.

At the start of the next lesson, I ask the students to examine their animation and describe what is incorrect about it. We discuss how objects, including our bodies do not instantly accelerate from stationary to fixed velocity. We hopefully then realise that all parts of steps move forward the same distance.

At the end of this exercise hopefully we arrive at an animation similar to yours.

Looking back, on my life experience, I am aware of the motion of my trunk and head, in the vertical manor, which before I drew my first animation I was totally unaware of. Also the acceleration within the components of the individual steps. My animation experience has totally changed my perception of how my body operates.

Also animation, TV and film usually digital nowadays rely on the fact of persistence of vision in the human eye. In CRT based television and film there’s a gap between successive frames where no image is displayed. What we see on screen and or in life is defined in Gestalt psychology. Our brains are very powerful computers, but we don’t see all we think we do. Our brains fill in a lot of the details, from memory of past events. These facts are used by magicians to fool us. They use detailed understanding of Gestalt psychology and visual processing within the human brain to fool the audience.

Animators use the above information to create an illusion, which makes the viewer feel that what they are seeing is believable. Sometimes modern animation at 60 frames per second is too perfect because the way a character walks across a space is affected by the surface they are walking on. In real life a character is stumble slightly caused by surface changes, say loose stones and change walking speed depending on the surface. Any animation is a subjective set of compromises which the animator considers good enough.

The process of drawing the movement of a character across the animation stage using a fixed movement between each frame is a good first step in a process of teaching new animator their craft.

So Scribblemaniac I’ll give you an A+ grade for the assignment. Well done you didn’t even get the hint, that there was a problem with the animation.