The following tutorial will show you how to create a property in your rig that can replace objects, which is very useful for cutout animations.
Using a slider property to replace objects is more intuitive then replacing them manually everytime, also it keeps the keyframes and action of the object replacement together with the rest of rig (otherwise you would get a separate action for the rig and for the mouth objects in the action editor)
*The character example was taken from a TV serie I was working on called “Maya and Yaya” created by Edik and Nurit Mitgartz for BabyTV
Download and install two addons:
Timelapse tools written by Bassam Kurdali from tube`s gitlab:
and commotion written by Mikhail Rachinskiy from:
Before starting, to get things organized I usually put all the mouth object in a separate layer, and in their own group, so that it’s easier to select them.
Create keyframes for one of the mouth objects in the visibility and render icons in the outliner, so that the mouth object appears only for one frame (off-on-off)
Unhide the rest of the mouth objects, by clicking on the group visibility.
select the rest of the group with shift+g, and copy the animation to the rest of the object using commotion`s “copy animation” tool, choose copy and not linked so that each object gets a new action clip.
Then while all the mouth objects still selected, use the “offset animation” button, to offset the keyframes for all the objects
I have 25 object that are switching between on and off from frame 1 to 25, so for the values of the bone property “mouth shapes”, I selected min value 0 and max value of 25, I used integer numbers by giving a value of 1 (instead of 1.0 for creating a float input)
The timeline should be also set to start:0 and End:25
Frame 0 is when all the objects are turned off
Select all the mouth objects and then the bone with the property, make sure that it’s active. Use timelapse tools pie menu by pressing ctrl+F1, and then select drive curves.
That’s it! Now just make sure that the property works.
you can delete all the mouth objects keyframes, since they are now stored inside the drivers.
When I animate the mouth shapes, I obviously use Constant/Stepped Keyframes for the slider, Otherwise everytime when I change a shape it would go through all the shapes that are inbetween.
Some more Tips
Sometimes the alpha transparency of the image is not completely clean and some small dots can appear, in this case you could try different filters in the image sampling of the texture.
While working on the chapter for yaya and maya I wrote 2 small addons, to help speed up some process and practice my new python skills.
You might find them usefull, not necessarily for cutout animations
Randomize keysframes – adds a random value to the selected keyframes based on their min and max values, usefull to give some randomness and some variation to walkcycles
Rename outputs – because I still had to do some compositing for the shots, I rendered each character separately using the compositing editor output nodes.
Because I had a lot of shots that are numbered I had to rename the number of the shot for each character every shot, so I added a rename tool that find and replace string for all the render and compositing outputs.