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Thread: Darren's Pivot Tutorial

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    Devoted Veteran Darren's Avatar

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    Aug 2005

    Darren's Pivot Tutorial


    Use this to refer to some aspect of pivot you’re having difficulty with. For example, press ctrl+f and search for “lightning”. Your browser will guide you to the part of the tutorial that deals with lightning effects. The .pivs and .stks are all Pivot 2. Anyone who uses Pivot 3, I can’t help you. Anyway, on with the tutorial. Although this is designed more as a reference manual, anyone who honestly reads it all is A GREAT WINNER.


    1. Beginners Hall
    1a. Getting To Know Pivot
    1b. Creating Models
    1c. Where To Start?
    1d. Learning Basic Vital Movements (Walking, Running, Combat)
    1e. Learning Basic Effects (Particles, Blood, Tremor, Fade, Blur, Trails)
    1f. Implementing Simple .stk Backgrounds
    1g. Improving Your Drawing Ability

    2. Intermediate Area
    2a. Basic Idea Generation & Implementing Simple Storylines
    2b. Camera Animation (Two Dimensional)
    2c. Improving Movements (Speed Variance, Easing) and Effects (Basic Beams, Explosions, Debris Physics, Ground Shatter, Light Sources)
    2d. Adding Filled Backgrounds

    3. Pivot Veterans
    3a. Animation Planning
    3b. Effects (Lightning/Electricity, Smoke, Shadows, Fire)
    3c. Camera Animation (Three Dimensional)
    3d. Developing Styles/Traits

    4. Elite Zone
    4a. The Power Of Editing Frames
    4b. Mind Frame Of A Patient (Successful) Animator
    4c. Losing Your Mind

    5. Miscellaneous
    5a. Model Builder Techniques
    5b. Saving Your Work In .gif Format

    6. Thanks


    Beginners will find this section the most helpful. Beginners also need the most attention, so, this is where most of the guide will be.


    Here is your interface:

    1.) Controls:

    “Play”: View the frames in sequence.
    “Stop”: Stop animation from playing.
    “Repeat”: Tick to make your animation loop, or play repeatedly.
    Scroll Bar (Located next to “play”): Adjust frames per second, or the speed of the animation.
    “Stickman”: After loading a figure, its name will appear here. Click the downward arrow (drop-down bar) to view the list of figures currently loaded. “Stickman” is the default figure. To load others, create and then save them. (See section 3.)
    “Add Figure”: Add the currently selected figure to the animation.
    “Edit”: Change the dimensions of the joints of your stickman. (Length, thickness, static/dynamic segment, toggle segment etc.)
    “Centre”: Move the highlighted figure’s orange joint to the centre of the screen.
    “Flip”: Make the highlighted figure “mirror” itself, e.g. this bracket “[“ going “]”.
    “Colour”: Change the highlighted figure’s colour. (I don’t recommend blue, red or orange, as this interferes with the animation.)
    “100”: This figure denotes the percentage size of the highlighted figure. A higher number means a bigger figure, while a lower number means a smaller figure.
    “Front”: Move the highlighted figure to the front of the animation, blocking your view of those behind it.
    “Back”: Move the highlighted figure behind the other figures.
    “Next Frame”: Capture the screen as a frame, and move onto the next one.
    “File”: Make a new animation, load a paint background, clear the background, create a figure, load a figure, open an animation or save an animation.
    “Options”: Change the dimension values of the animation, or the size of the animation.
    “Help”: View legal data about the Pivot Stick Figure Animator program.
    “Exit”: Close the program.

    2.) Simple Figure Operation:

    Each figure has a number of “joints” (the red circles). Click and drag the red circles to move each joint. The orange circle (the origin) moves the entire figure. When un-highlighted, all the joints will be displayed in blue. When you click “next frame” and move a joint, you’ll see a grey outline of where it was in the last frame. This is called the “onionskin”.

    3.) Accessing Models/Animations:

    To load a saved animation:

    1) Click “file”.
    2) Click “open animation”.
    3) Find the animation you want to load and double click it.

    To load a saved model/figure:

    1) Click “file”.
    2) Click “load figure type”.
    3) Find the figure you want to load and double click it.

    If you find my explanation of pivot confusing, look at this interactive tutorial made by Jon: http://www.fileshost.com/download.php?id=D5086D3A1

    Now, that looks mega boring right? That’s why you’ll have to do combos. Here’s how to do a simple three-punch combination.

    Three Hit Combo:

    Frame 1-9: Same as above.
    Frame 10-13: You simply repeat frames 7-10, but the right arm drops faster to make way for the left arm to punch.
    Frame 14-21: The two arms rotate in a circle, with one arm folding almost double. Have the arms form a vertical line as the left leg crosses over the right leg during the step. Also, the right foot should be rotating backwards to allow for the knee joint to bend. If you don’t animate the foot rotating, your stickman will look reverse jointed, or as if his knee was broken.
    Frame 21-26: Move your stickman into a gay bruce lee stance.

    Here’s one I made:


    Two types of punches will get old fast of course. Try animating different kinds of punches like haymakers and hammer blows. If you need inspiration for different types of punches, watch some Homoshokaiden or Shotokan videos on Google. Uppercuts are fairly popular, so here’s how you animate one.


    Frame 1: Your stickman is at a standstill.
    Frame 2-8: The right foot slides forward until there’s a medium sized space in between the two feet. The left foot stays where it is. Both knees bend forward. The spine slowly bends backward into a slight “C” shape. The left arm pulls back in preparation for the strike, the right arm sticks straight out in preparation to pull back to add power to the strike.
    Frame 9-11: The legs lock out and cross to jump, and the arms cross to punch. The right arm remains straight. The left arm, once crossed over, goes to head height on the 11th frame. The front leg that has crossed over comes just above waist height with the shin pointing downward.
    Frame 12: The punching arm locks out and points to the sky, the neck leans left to make way for the shoulder, the lower leg moves to the right and the lower knee points to the left.
    Frame 13-17: The top leg moves around the waist, still bent double. As it moves away from the waist, it folds out again. The 2 arms simply rotate in an anti-clockwise circle around the head in synchronisation with the legs. The spine curves in the direction of the higher leg. This series of frames suggests a slightly 3D rotation. In the meantime, the origin is coming back down to the ground.
    Frame 18-23: Make the stickman land smoothly. When he hits the ground, his head drops slightly, the spine curves in the opposite direction as he’s facing and the knees bend.

    Here’s one I made:


    3b.) Kicks

    Kicks add an athletic type of skill to your fighting animations; however, they’re fairly difficult to animate properly. There are way too many types of kicks for me to animate them all, so I’ll just deal with some of the basic ones, and maybe one technical kick. Here’s how to animate three basic kicks:

    Straight Kick:

    Frame 1: Your stickman is at a standstill, legs apart.
    Frame 2-5: The origin moves forward and down slightly, the arms move apart, the right foot stays where it is, the right knee bends, the left leg comes forward and stays straight. The spine curves back.
    Frame 6-10: Pretend the left leg is an arm. Now animate this “arm” as if it was punching. Behold, you just animated a kick. As the leg comes to the waist of the stickman, start moving the arms back towards each other, and curve the spine in the opposite direction. When the leg is fully extended, leave it like that for two frames to emphasise its impact.
    Frame 11-15: Drop all the limbs and straighten the spine.

    Here’s one I made:


    If you feel that this kick is too much like a punch, you can try animating a snap kick. This is how you animate it:

    Snap Kick:

    Frame 1: Your stickman is at a standstill.
    Frame 2-4: The left leg is moving forward, bending back as it goes. The right knee bends, the right foot stays where it is. Both arms are moving forward. The spine is curving backwards slightly. The neck moves down slightly, but the head stays up.
    Frame 5-6: The stationary leg is crouching slightly to bear the entire weight of the body on it’s own. The kicking leg comes forward quickly, knee first, with the shin trailing behind. On the second frame, it snaps straight out suddenly to suggest an explosive, fast kick. The arms pull back fast to add power to the kick. The origin slows it’s movement forward to counter the force from the kick.
    Frame 7: The kicking stance lingers slightly to exaggerate the force of the kick. However, all the limbs are still moving very slightly forward.
    Frame 8-14: The kicking leg drops, the stationary leg straightens, the spine straightens, the head comes back up and the arms return to their original position.

    Here’s one I made. This type of kick takes a while to get the hang of, so don’t worry if you don’t get it on your first attempt.


    When you get the hang of that, you can add a slight variance to it; the slightly harder thrust kick.

    Thrust Kick:

    Frame 1-5: The exact same as the snap kick, described above.
    Frame 6-7: The knee keeps coming up and doesn’t straighten out.
    Frame 8-9: The kicking leg now straightens completely out with the foot pointing upward and slightly toward the stickman, to suggest that he’s kicking with the ball of his foot. The arms start coming back down.
    Frame 10-14: The leg comes back down, the spine straightens, the stationary leg straightens, the head comes back to it’s original position and the arms drop.

    Here’s one I made. It’s simply an edited version of the snap kick, seeing as they’re both so similar.


    Now, those kicks don’t have much visual appeal or skill in them. You can try all kinds of kicks, like knee strikes, aerial kicks, donkey kicks etc. Watching videos of Tae Kwon Do experts really helps for finding new types of kicks to animate. My favourite would have to be the heel drop, so I’ll show you how to animate it.

    Heel drop:

    Frame 1: Your stickman has both arms behind his back, and the legs are apart.
    Frame 2-4: The arms move backwards, and trail in the onionskin. The origin moves forward, the spine curves forward, the head moves back, the kicking leg comes forward, the right leg stays where it is and bends slightly to bear the weight of the stickman on it’s own.
    Frame 5-11: The spine curves backward, the kicking leg comes straight up to the head of the stickman, the head leans forward, the stationary leg is still crouching slowly and the arms come up to meet and catch hold of the kicking leg. This helps the leg to tense and therefore give more explosive power and speed.
    Frame 12-17: Every joint straightens out, the arms pull back fast behind the stickman to add power to the heel drop, the kicking leg drops in the space of 3-4 frames, the stationary leg locks out, the spine straightens and the head comes back up.

    This is of course a very advanced move; it took me ages to figure out how to do it realistically. This is what you should be looking at when you’re finished:


    3c.) Now that you’ve learned the most basic parts of combat, you can use what you’ve learned to animate more advanced fighting moves like over the shoulder throws, head butts and leg sweeps. Those kinds of moves are best shown in videos of Ju-Jitsu and Muay Thai. Some great examples of fighting animations in pivot would be anything by Bert or Gray.


    Your animations will never look good with basic movements alone. Effects can be added to your animation to make it more exciting and visually appealing. The more insane the effect, the more enjoyable the animation. However, you have to know how to animate them properly before going nuts. A hard punch to the head can be exaggerated with a combination of a tremor and a spray of blood. A finishing move can be exaggerated by using blurs, slow motion or double framing. A climactic frame (something like a punch line in a joke or the contact point of a flying kick) can be exaggerated by switching the colours to negative and repeating the frame several times. In my experience, beginners find effects very difficult because they’re such a dramatic change from using stickmen. So, I’ll explain the simplest of effects here and their uses.

    1.) Blurs:

    This is one of the simplest effects, and it’s usually one that beginners discover first. This effect leaves a faded copy of the frame before it in the current frame, and does so over a space of 2-10 frames, depending on how many copies are used. Obviously, the more copies you use, the better it looks. Here’s how to animate a blur:

    Watch this animation. I’ve simply moved an object from the left of the screen to the right.

    Looks pretty basic as it is. To add a four-copy blur, do the following. I’m calling the model you’re going to blur “object”:

    Frame 1: The object is in place at the left of the screen.
    Frame 2: Change the colour of that object to dark grey. Now add a second object and place it slightly to the right of the first object.
    Frame 3: Change the colour of the first object to medium grey and change the colour of the second object to dark grey. Add a third object and place it to the right of the second object.
    Frame 4: Change the colour of the first object to light grey, the second object to medium grey and the third object to dark grey. Add a fourth object to the right of the third object.
    Frame 5: Delete the light grey object. Change the colour of the second object to light grey, the third object to medium grey and the fourth object to dark grey. Add a fifth object to the right of the fourth object.
    Frame 6-14: Continue this process until you reach the end of the movement. When the main object (the black one) stops moving, delete the following objects in order of their brightness (light, medium, dark).

    This should be your result:

    Blurs are great for lots of purposes. If you feel that a particularly fast part of an animation looks too fast, and is choppy, simply edit in a blur. For some reason, even though it’s still moving at the same speed, the animation will appear slower and smoother. Also, blurs can be used as a visual enhancement to a slow motion manoeuvre.

    2.) Fade

    This is probably the simplest effect. It involves changing the colour of a model until it’s the exact same as the model behind it.

    Say you want to make something disappear. Deleting it would be the simplest method:

    This looks crap, by any standard, which is why you’ll want to fade it out. To fade out a model:

    Frame 1: Click the model, and then click colour. This window will appear:

    Now click define custom colours. This window should appear:

    You want to fade black into white. So, click black, then set the luminosity value to 60. Click “Add To custom Colours”. Set the luminosity value to 120 and click “Add To custom Colours”. Set the luminosity value to 180 and click “Add To custom Colours”. Now you have your three shades of grey, light, medium and dark. Select dark grey and click “OK”.
    Frame 2: Change the colour to medium grey.
    Frame 3: Change the colour to light grey.
    Frame 4: Delete the object.

    Your result:

    Fading one object against many colours just means that you’ll have to draw several models to make up the original object.

    3.) Tremor

    This is another simple effect, but one of my favourites. Watch this animation:

    I’ve animated a heavy ball hitting the ground. However, I feel that it lacks weight. So, you apply the tremor effect. This simply means moving the ground and ball down on the frames that the ball hits the ground (frame 6, 11 and 13). This is your result:

    4.) Trails

    This is a form of a blur, and has the same effect. The only difference is that it’s easier to animate, but needs more skill to draw. It’s useful for animating a series of moves that change direction sharply and frequently. Here’s an example:

    Looks pretty choppy, doesn’t it? However, edit it with trails and it looks like this:

    All I did was use the same model and resized and rotated it until it’s tip was in the end of the onionskin of the frame before it. The .piv can explain much better than I can, so make sure you study the frames and how the trails are positioned.

    5.) Particles

    Particles are absolutely vital for any effect. They require the most patience, but pay off in the end. They’re used in blood, fire, lightning, explosions, dust etc. I believe that they’re overlooked by a lot of animators, so hopefully this section will convince you otherwise.

    Any particle is animated by degenerating it from it’s original size while moving it along a path. This path usually rises into the air, because particles are lighter than air. However, heavy particles like parts of debris hit the ground and bounce around while remaining at their original size. Every particle is animated differently depending on the object it’s broken off from. Use your common sense as to what kind of physics you apply to it.

    First of all, you need to know the different types of particles I’ll be dealing with, and how to animate them. How you draw your particles is up to you, but I usually use simple circles in mass. Other animators that use a lot of particles, for example Doddsy and lf2master, draw their particles as straight lines that get thinner the closer they are to the origin of the particle. There are also animators like eetwo that have a great deal of patience and add details to the particles themselves. I’ll try to show examples of all three methods.

    The first particle is the simple static sphere, animated like so:

    The second particle is automatically animated when you resize it. This is done by making the first segment from the origin an invisible line, and having the actual particle about 70 pixels away from the origin. When you make it smaller, the origin drags the particle toward it. The longer the first line, the faster the particle moves toward the origin. Here’s how you animate it:

    A third type of particle, one that I’ve never used, is one that can be easily seen and rotated when dealing with mass particles. It’s probably best used for rain, snow, flies and sniper lasers. It’s drawn with a dynamic line about 35 pixels away from the origin, and a second static line overlapping the dynamic line and passing through the origin, sized at 70 pixels. Here’s something I did with one of these particles:

    These examples are pretty boring on their own, but they make animations look ten times better. Examples of great particle animations would be anything by Doddsy.

    6.) Blood

    When a spray of blood comes out of a stickman, people get excited. Don’t ask me why, people are just weird that way. Animating blood well is fairly important in animations where weapons are being used, like guns and swords. Blood is one of the more creative processes, so I’ll just explain one way of doing it.

    My method of animating blood is basically dark red particles in mass breaking off a large clot. Here’s a small example:

    Frame 1: The first mass of blood comes out fully formed.
    Frame 2: The full mass holds together, but several particles come behind.
    Frame 3: The mass shrinks slightly, and is replaced by several particles. The particles from frame 2 are still following and shrinking.
    Frame 4-6: The mass shrinks slightly, and is replaced by several particles. The particles from frame 3 are still following and shrinking. The original particles are veering away from the main stream, varying the animation.
    Frame 7: The leading mass has now degenerated completely into particles. You should be dealing with about 20 particles.
    Frame 8-14: The particles degenerate while continuing their path through the air. Try varying separate particle’s paths to make the blood seem more realistic.

    Other styles of blood involve a mass hitting an invisible wall with no particles coming off (not good), or blood flowing along the edges of an object, mimicking water (pretty good). It’s up to you which way you animate blood. If you're looking for great examples of blood, watch Doddsy and lf2master's stuff.


    Backgrounds add the most visual appeal to your animations. They need no actual skill in animation, but the more advanced they get, the more demanding they are on your drawing ability. Filled backgrounds take up the entire screen, and therefore hide the onionskin. Beginners can’t operate without onionskin, so the only backgrounds you’ll need are outlines of buildings, trees, chairs etc. Here are some examples of backgrounds you could use while still retaining use of most of the onionskin:

    Indoor Balcony:

    Dilapidated Room:

    Brick Wall:

    Simple Living Room:

    Hospital Ward:

    I’m Running Out Of Ideas:

    There’s not much to backgrounds. Simply put them there and you win.


    When drawing backgrounds and models, you may want to use google image search to find pictures of the thing you’re drawing. If I asked you to draw a cardboard box in pivot, I know that 99% of pivot animators would draw a perfect square with flaps on either side, and colour it brown. But how is a random viewer who knows nothing of how you did the animation supposed to know that it’s a cardboard box? It could be a random block or a podium for all they know. So, the minimum detail a cardboard box needs is the corrugation pattern and two darker coloured sides to show that it’s a cube-like shape. This kind of thing should become second nature whenever you draw something.

    Some simple tips:

    - Before you draw something, google it! This is probably the most helpful aid for drawing.
    - Use transparent windows programs to trace pictures in the model builder. Cheap and effective.
    - If you’re using pivot 3, use sprites. Don’t bother wasting half an hour on something that could be drawn in paint in 5 minutes.
    - If you’re drawing a highly detailed background for a simple loop with no camera movement or a short 2D test, draw it in paint and load the background in pivot. Don’t waste time with the much slower model builder..
    - Although I don’t encourage this, if you’re in need of a specific model, use one made by someone else and credit them for it.
    - Draw stuff in real life whenever you get a chance. I’ve been drawing random pictures at school or at home whenever I got a chance all my life, so it helped my drawing ability a lot. The sooner you start practicing drawing, the faster you can apply it to animation.

    Patience is the key to drawing semi-appealing things in Pivot. Spend a lot of time on setting up your scene and it will look good.


    Forest Scenery:


    Run Down Building:



    Intermediates will find this section most helpful. There may be some things in the beginner area of this guide that you’re not too hot on, so make sure you check those out. I can’t promise as much detail as the beginner’s hall though.


    Warning: lots of reading! Now that you have all the basics down and your animations are more or less pleasing to the eye, you can really focus on how entertaining your animation is. Smooth animations with perfect physics and such are ok, but boring as hell. Right now, you have to start generating ideas. As a beginner, you’ll probably have developed an inclination to animate fights all the time. As an intermediate, you have to stop the fights and try something else. Chases, games of giant Tetris, space invasions, humour sketches and war animations are some of the ideas you could consider. Inspiration for an idea can be found anywhere. Some people find that watching movies and cut-scenes from video games and imitating them in pivot gives them great ideas. Whenever people ask me how I find ideas, I usually say “look out your window”. It’s possible to find ideas in the simplest of things. Outside my window, I see a lot of trees. That’s how I got the inspiration for the forest battle and last sunrise animations. By looking up at the sky I got inspiration for pandemonium. This comes from taking one thing, and using your imagination to visualise things happening around it, like so:

    - You see an empty glass next to your pc.
    - Glasses are associated with alcohol.
    - Alcohol is associated with alcoholics.
    - Alcoholics are depressing characters, which is something you want to change.
    - Place a stranger in your animation, next to an intoxicated man at a bar counter.
    - The stranger spikes the man’s drink with some mysterious substance.
    - The alcoholic wakes up in a strange room. The first type of building that comes to mind is “military facility”.
    - He is being pressed by an officer-like character to undertake a mission. However, the man takes this request in his stride.
    - The viewer is entertained by the sudden change of events, and their curiosity about the main character grows, making them want to watch more.
    - Now the main character is seen in a new light. Instead of being seen as an alcoholic, he is now seen as a highly skilled mercenary as the viewer watches him undertake stealth/infiltration missions.

    I just noticed that this idea is identical to the famous Metal Gear Solid. This proves that great ideas can be pulled out of anything as simple as an empty glass. Here are three more similar examples of how ideas come from simple objects:

    1.) Books

    - You look at a book, and wonder how it could be animated.
    - Books are related to students and studying, which is something people of all ages can relate to.
    - No one likes schoolbooks, which is again something everyone can relate to.
    - Everyone likes comics, or magazines or something like that.
    - Now you pit a popular magazine against a maths book in a fight. The two books should have legs and arms to show that they are indeed fighting. Your creative side will show when you animate fighting moves unique to books, like “paper cut” and “French-only instructions”.
    - This idea is obviously too ridiculous to be taken seriously, so make it humorous with a guest appearance from a Harry Potter book. The two books that were previously fighting each other team up to destroy the Harry Potter book. Not only is it a happy ending, but also a lot of people will find it funny, hopefully. How funny it is depends on your ability to animate.

    2.) Vacuum

    - You’re using the vacuum cleaner (or neglecting to help your mother while she uses it), and your mind strays to Pivot land.
    - In your animation, a malfunction occurs at the electricity company and they overload all the transformers, giving the country a 500% power increase.
    - The vacuum grows to ten times its original size and triples in power, resembling a giant version of the suck gun from Ratchet & Clank. It sucks up the main character.
    - The main character is now trapped inside the dark tube with random objects like chairs and pots passing by him.
    - He meets a group of other people who have also been trapped inside the vacuum. They have a conversation and decide to change the settings of the vacuum to “blow” from the inside.
    - They journey to the heart of the vacuum and mess around with the circuit boards. The objects flying past suddenly change direction and the group get blasted out.
    - The group go to the transformer fields to cut the power to the area. It turns out that the electricity company are evil and want to take over the world. There is then a struggle between the group and some electricians, and the main character shuts down the main computer.

    3.) Dartboard

    - You’re watching a game of darts on TV, and you wonder how the players are so accurate. The announcer calls out “one hundred and eighty”.
    - In Pivot, you create a character a lot like “Bull’s-eye” from the superhero movie “Daredevil”. This character has the ability to throw projectiles with high skill and accuracy.
    - Change the setting to feudal China in the 17th century. Your character is a legendary ninja known for his deadly precision with throwing knives and shurikens.
    - You see him undertake several short-lived missions, where people die quickly from a dart to the neck or heart. He kills someone close to an authority figure, who swears revenge.
    - This authority figure is in charge of an elite group of soldiers called simply “The Hundred & Eighty”, in imitation of “The Thirty” in the David Gemmelle novels.
    - The ninja is overtaken on a wide open plain by a force of twenty cavalry. You can now have fun animating a small battle against the cavalry.
    - The remaining 160 men overtake the ninja however, and, seeing their dead comrades in heaps around him, they attack ferociously. The viewer knows that he is done for, when, out of thin air behind him comes a hundred similar ninjas. There is of course no need to animate them all at once. A row of twenty men decreasing in size behind the first man can simulate a thousand. The air is now thick with throwing knives and arrows. The ninjas win, of course.

    A book, a vacuum and a dart inspired those ideas. If you have a better way of generating ideas, feel free to post a paragraph or two on it and I’ll edit it in.


    With frequent use of backgrounds, you’ll eventually start losing interest in the monotony of a static drawing behind the action. By moving the background around though, you simulate camera movement. There are a couple of tricks you can use here.

    Let’s say you have a simple two-dimensional background like a cityscape behind a walk cycle:

    Now say you wanted to make the camera pan right as the stickman was walking. What you do is, move the cityscape model left by one pixel every frame, and do the same with the stickman. Your result will look like this:

    This is the simplest camera movement. Panning is most often used for a dynamic looking camera during fight scenes or when two characters are fighting in the air at speed.

    Another type of camera movement is zooming in. This just involves increasing the size of a model. Before you start increasing the size of a model however, it’s best that the origin is on the exact point of the model where you want to zoom in on. Pivot will move the model in such a way that it appears to zoom in on the origin. Of course, if you have a lot of patience, you can move the origin in sync with the resizing. Unfortunately, this takes an agonising amount of time to do properly.

    Easing applies to zooming in. The best way to do this is on the first frame, increase the size by one, then 2, then 5, then 10, 15, 20, 25, 35, 50 and so on. Just reverse those figures for when you’re finishing with the zoom movement. Here’s a small example:

    There are different purposes to zooming in too. If you’re trying to build suspense, it’s best to have the camera zooming in at one pixel at a time, so that the figures appear as 100, 101, 102, 103 and so on. If you’re trying to show how powerful or dramatic something is, you can stop the camera suddenly. The figures would appear as 100, 110, 130, 175, 250, 254, and 255. You’ll have to use your own common sense for when it comes to different situations.

    Those are the simplest two dimensional camera movements. Use your imagination for unique camera effects. Here’s one I did:


    You may be out of intermediates, but your movements and effects will still need a lot of work before you reach veteran standard. First of all, you have to work on your movements. You know all the basics, now you need to fine-tune them. There are a few techniques to improve movements.

    The first one I call “onionskin trailing”. It works on the same principles as the trail effect mentioned above, but it’s a lot easier. Watch this animation:

    You’ll notice that it moves very stiffly. When you apply onionskin trailing, this is what it should look like.

    All I did was edit the frames so that the ends of the model were bending slightly to where they were in the last frame. This is how it works:

    The second and better-known method is called “easing”. This idea comes from a car accelerating and gaining speed. It’s slow at first, but speeds up. It then slows down gradually to come to a stop. The same principle applies to Pivot.

    As you can see from that animation, it’s not very realistic the way that the object changes direction and moves off from the start. However, when you use easing, you can use the same number of frames to achieve a more realistic, visually appealing motion:

    Here’s how easing works:

    Easing becomes second nature after a while, so there’s no need to worry that much about it.

    Now that your movements can’t be improved by any method other than practice, time for you to start learning how to do new effects.

    1.) Beams

    Beams are the most popular effect. It’s one of the more creative processes and it gives your animation flair and breaks up the repetition of a fight scene. Beams are made up of a few different components, so I’ll show in diagram from how to draw, place and animate them.

    These diagrams have been drawn in Photoshop; so don’t worry if you can’t match the quality perfectly. To enhance the impact of a beam, use a constant tremor effect. Beams are mostly drawing skill, but the surge and particles parts need some animating skill. The surge simply moves along the end of the beam and degenerates. The particles float away from the main beam. The degeneration stage will show how lazy an animator you are. Don’t be tempted to delete everything when you’re finished the beam; let a large group of particles linger in the air, and shrink them over a space of 10-15 frames. Animating the stickman at the receiving end of the beam is pretty difficult. It’s best to move him off screen, or have him cut into parts from the force of the beam. There is also the alternative of deleting the stickman and replacing him by a hundred particles, which fly away as the beam hits. If it turns out that you enjoy animating beams, try adding your own additions to the beam. Something I would do is adding bolts of lightning breaking out from the sides, but it’s up to you. Here’s an example of an ice beam I did:

    2.) Explosions

    Explosions require all drawing skill and too much patience. The only “animation” in it is placing the models. You can’t get away from the fact that explosions are meant for programs like Flash and EZtoon, and have to be drawn frame for frame. Here’s how you animate an explosion:

    Let’s say this is your object to explode, a simple grenade:

    In the second frame, the light fades as a build-up to the main explosion, the grenade separates and the ground shakes:

    In the third frame, the explosion swells to its full size. The lighting now goes back to white to emphasise the brightness of the explosion. The colours should be dominantly red, orange and dark grey, but you’ll only need about 3-4 different models. How you draw and edit them is important. Draw the models as clouds, the darkest on the inside and contrasting hard against its surroundings and the brightest on the outside, blending in with the background as best as you can manage. Normally I’d recommend animating about 30 particles to account for the shattered ground, but you’ll need a lot of time for editing the cloud models later. This is the kind of thing you’re aiming for:

    Let these clouds expand for 9-18 frames, depending on the power of the explosion. Make the explosion bend to the right, as if to suggest wind affecting its movement. For the first 8 frames, you have to re-draw the single cloud models bending in a certain direction. This suggests movement in the cloud so that it doesn’t look like a series of static models. As time wears on in the explosion, the distortion increases accordingly. Finally, to account for wind variance, you make two or three “series” of distortion paths. Put simply, imagine that the first shape in this diagram is one of the clouds in your explosion:

    This is how you distort a cloud over a series of 27 frames. The line represents the two visible ends of the cloud. In the first series, the wind is blowing through the middle of the cloud, pushing it through the centre to the right. In the second series, the wind moves higher and pushes the top half to the right. The same thing happens in the third series.

    As the cloud expands, a rip enters through it and parts the cloud into sections. When the sections are free of each other, they float away in the same direction that the main mass bent in, following on from the wind idea:

    Finally, as the sections float away, replace them with particles in mass and degenerate them:

    You’re probably wondering who in God’s name would actually go to so much bother to animate an explosion. You don’t have to animate all of the parts I mentioned. You could animate one orange blob and “pass it off” as an explosion, but like I said before, you’d be the only one to know that it’s an explosion. Everyone else would “pass it off” as a basketball. So, the more techniques I mentioned that you use in an explosion, the better it looks. Here’s an example of a simpler explosion. It doesn’t have the rip or distortion techniques, but still looks like an explosion:

    3.) Debris Physics

    Particles from blood and beams can float away and degenerate in the air, but you can hardly expect a brick wall to float away. Here’s an animation where a heavy object hits a wall:

    Even with the tremor effect, it lacks impact. So you make the ball go through the wall. To animate this, you need two types of particles. Firstly, the standard sphere particle that you already know how to animate. The other is a top-heavy splinter particle. Here’s how to draw and animate one:

    When the object crashes through the wall, parts of the wall remain hanging to suggest realistic wood qualities. The part of the wall that gets destroyed and creates a hole is replaced by splinter and sphere particles. The majority of particles will appear on the right side of the wall, where the object is facing, but there are still a few particles moving on the left side. The splinters are constantly rotating in the same direction to suggest movement even from the particle. The sphere particles can simply be moved as static models. When they hit the ground, they bounce and you apply physics according to what direction and speed they hit the ground yourself. Your result should look something like this:

    http://pivothost.org/upload/v2/nevcalia ... _203de.piv

    If this kind of animation appeals to you, watch animations by SA. His physics are regarded as the best out of the elites, and you may find inspiration to find patience to animate so many particles.

    4.) Ground Distortion

    A trait I often see in intermediates is their tendency to get sick of the static black line and animate it distorting. This is one I’ve done, but again there’s a limitless number of different ways to animate it.

    Frame 1: The black line is at a standstill.
    Frame 2: The centre caves in slightly.
    Frame 3: The centre caves in a small amount more.
    Frame 4: The entire line sags but the two ends rise slightly to exaggerate the drop in the centre.
    Frame 5: The centre drops sharply and two peaks jut out from the line.
    Frame 6: A third peak juts out and the first two peaks move slightly.
    Frame 7: The entire line breaks into its individual segments, which makes the line appear as though it’s reached it’s most tense point and is about to break.
    Frame 8-15: The segments rise into the air, spinning, and slow to a halt a small distance above their original position.
    Frame 16-19: The segments fade.

    Here’s what it should look like:

    5.) Light Sources

    You can suggest light sources with this, which makes it useful for suns, muzzle flashes, beams, lasers, fire, lightning... flashy stuff, basically. If you combine shadows with light effects, it looks even better. To actually do this technique, you first draw a simple shape, like a square. Make each segment 100 in length, and 10 in thickness. You’ll get this:

    Add this model to your animation. Click “edit”, and reduce the thickness of each segment on the square by 2. Add this model to your animation, and place it on the screen. Repeat this process until you have five squares, one with thickness at 10, one at 8, one at 6, one at 4 and one at 2. Place the five squares around the screen. You should now be looking at this:

    Make the 2 square white, the 4 square grey (luminosity 120), the 6 square dark grey (luminosity 90), the 8 square darker grey (luminosity 60) and the 10 square darkest grey (luminosity 30). Click “front” on the 10, 8, 6, 4, 2 squares, in that order. Now center all of them. Finally, place a random figure and increase it to 10,000. Place it in the back and colour it black.You should be looking at this:

    This technique can be applied to any model, colour and light intensity. The first test animation below shows how to variate the light intensity. The second shows how to make light move, and how it casts shadows:



    For your storylines to be original, you need to implement backgrounds. Your scope of originality is severely limited when you have only a black line to animate on. The setting is very important, as it can advance the story. For example, if you drew a dark alley and added it to your animation, that in itself is a story. You could then animate three stickmen mugging another one.

    To draw a filled background, draw the outline first, and then edit the outline so that everything inside the outline is filled with static segments. In most cases, this eliminates use of onionskin. To animate without onionskin, you have to animate away with the outlines only. Then, every time the first unfilled frame comes to the end of the timeline on the left, go back and edit in the fills. This saves you time later instead of having to scroll back through all the frames and edit them individually. Pivot automatically and annoyingly drags the scrollbar all the way to the right when you finish editing a frame before the end of the timeline to the left, which is why you have to edit them as you animate.

    Not only do filled backgrounds give your animation a massive graphical boost, but they also serve to slightly mask sloppy movements.
    Last edited by Nice Pants; 22 Jun 2013 at 05:32 PM.
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  2. #2
    Devoted Veteran Darren's Avatar

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    Your Pivot skills are now a joy to watch, your movements are near perfect and people aspire to your level, but you still lack that extra something to get you into the elite zone. This section should help you achieve that goal.


    From now on, before you go animating an idea you’ve thought of, get an A4 refill pad and draw the storyboard for your animation, and how each scene will appear. A storyboard is like a comic that shows in basic detail how a story is displayed in movies. In each square of the storyboard there is a caption describing sounds heard, dialogue spoken etc., but as you’re only doing Pivot, this caption should only describe what’s happening and how the camera is moving. There’s no need to do this for every small loop and test you do of course, but if you really believe in an animation, this is what you should do first. If you don’t, and you plunge straight into it, you may come out with some of the best animation you’ve ever done, but it’ll make no sense if it’s any more complicated than a fight scene.

    Here’s the general layout of a storyboard:

    Only when you feel you have the story laid out perfectly, and you can’t fault it, start animating it.

    Coherence is a problem that occurs with every animator. Coherence is how everything links together and makes sense. An animation with no coherence would have faults like a sword appearing in a stickman’s hand with no knowledge of where it came from, a wall changing it’s shade of grey in the same lighting or a sandwich being eaten without anything disappearing from it. The only way to stop this is to watch your animation several times from a faultfinder’s point of view, and edit the animation to fix it. Or let one of your asshole friends watch it.

    Originality is sometimes a problem with veteran animators. Some still do nothing but fighting animations, which keeps them from being elites. Be original, because no one beyond the age of 12 will want to watch stickmen hitting each other. I'm aware that I talk a lot about fighting animations in this tutorial but fighting should only be seen as a starting point, something to get you used to frame-by-frame before you move on to real animation.

    3b. EFFECTS

    Some effects are fiddly as hell and require more explanation than others. Some effects are actually much easier to pull off than they appear. Here's a few popular ones.

    1.) Lightning/Electricity

    Lightning is definitely my favourite effect. It makes use of light sources, tremors and particles to enhance the power of weapons, fighting or any other damaging manoeuvre. There is also the fact that it looks epic and epic is chill.

    There are two types of electricity/lightning effects: bolt and floating static. Here’s how to draw and animate them.

    Bolt Lightning:

    The beauty of bolt lightning is that you can just place it for a massive boost to your animation graphically, and there’s no need to animate it degenerating.

    As you can see, blue is the best out of the three, and is suitable everywhere. Red bolts look much better against red backgrounds. Yellow bolts can be used against dark blue backgrounds better than blue or red.

    To animate a bolt strike:

    Frame 1: The area is empty. Select your target(s).
    Frame 2: Place the first bolt on the target and apply a tremor effect. The bolt has destroyed the ground around where it hit, so clear the space around where the bolt hit and replace it with debris particles.
    Frame 3: Flip the bolt and move it again so that it’s still on the target. Animate the particles flying away.
    Frame 4-12: Delete the bolt and finish animating the particles.

    Floating Static Electricity:

    For the situations where electricity is present, but it’s in small doses and can’t be shown in giant bolts, floating static electricity comes in handy. Drawing it is the exact same as the lightning bolt design above, but the way it’s animated is slightly different. The bolt grows over the space of 2 frames, and then, when it’s fully formed it floats away and fades slowly. Here’s a section of an animation with static electricity in it:

    2.) Smoke

    Smoke, like explosions, depends on your drawing ability and your skill with Flash or EZToon. The distortion path idea is used again, like so:

    As you can see, parts of the smoke move in the one defined direction. This can be done in pivot by making a model like this one:

    The dynamic segments move 15 separate parts of the cloud model. This is how you animate it:

    Frame 1: The smoke appears wherever you place it.
    Frame 2: The first segment goes up 2 pixels, the second goes up by 1, the third stays where it is, the fourth goes down 1, the fifth goes down 2, the sixth goes down 3, the seventh also goes down 3, the eighth goes down 2, the ninth goes down 1, the tenth stays where it is, the eleventh goes up by 1, the twelfth goes up by 2, the thirteenth goes up by 3, the fourteenth goes up by 4 and the fifteenth goes up by 5. The origin moves away from its source. This makes the cloud look as if it’s slowly bending in the wind.
    Frame 3-30: Repeat frame 3 and start fading it out slowly from frame 14.

    An easier method would be to take the same model, move it at the origin away from its source and fade it out. You lose realism without the bending, but it still looks credible. A good animation with smoke effects in it is “Deep Declaration” by SA, if you’re looking for examples.

    3.) Shadows

    Shadows are sometimes very difficult, depending on the backgrounds. However, they add a great visual enhancement to your animation. There are two types of shadows.

    Hover Shadow:

    There is little animating or drawing ability needed with this. Simply place a filled oval below a stickman and colour it a slightly darker shade of the ground below it. As the stickman’s position in the scene widens, the shadow gets bigger accordingly. Here’s an example:

    Full Shadow:

    This is a very difficult effect and needs a lot of patience. You place a copy of the stickman you’re using and colour it grey. Now you place it at an angle on the ground and animate it in such a way that it perfectly copies the original stickman in every frame. You may also need to make several other models to fill gaps in shadows. Here’s how you animate it:

    4.) Fire

    Draw about 15-20 different looking flame models, about the same size but with slightly different changes every time. Choose the object you're setting fire to first of all. On frame 1, have a small spiky flame erupt at the source of ignition.

    On frame 2, have the flame burst upward, and animate a few particles of the object breaking off. Also, animate small embers from the fire rising into the air.

    On frame 3, have the flame go upward slightly and move randomly. Animate about 5 particles per flame section.

    On frame 4 and onward, have the background colours flicker slightly. This gives the illusion of the fire's flickering quality. Repeat frame 3 and have the particles going up slightly and shrinking all the time.

    This one shows the basic mechanics of a single flame:

    This is an example of what 8 flames look like when animated. Notice that the flames curve upwards, because heat rises.



    This technique is more used to impress other animators instead of impartial viewers with no knowledge of how to use Pivot. Everyone knows that 3D is “impossible” in a 2D animation program. This is of course an utter lie. You just have to be able to re-draw lines around things. However, no matter how good you are at drawing, I’d still recommend that you stick to transforming simple things like boxes and other plain geometrical shapes. If you think you can animate a sphere or an oval in 3D in Pivot, good luck. 3D is all drawing skill again, with some elements of maths coming into it.

    When you intend to transform something in 3D, you’re best off to draw it so that it has very simple lengths, like 10, 50, 100 etc. This box has four sides 50 pixels in length with the back top line 15 pixels away from the front top line. The diagonal lines don’t need specific measurements, because the vertical and horizontal lines guide it into position themselves.

    To animate this rotating to the left, you drag the diagonal lines to the right and straighten the back vertical and horizontal line. Repeat this process over about 15 frames until the box reaches the other side. When you get halfway through, you can re-use the first set of models you drew by flipping them horizontally. This won’t work with more detailed objects of course, but it serves its purpose here. Your result will look something like this:

    Three-dimensional animation is as endless as two-dimensional, so I won’t go into too much detail. For a lot of great animations with 3D elements in them, check Jon’s gallery. If you find that this type of animation appeals to you, try animating with Endorphin or Maya.


    As a veteran, you’ve probably been animating for over a year. In my experience, every animator has a unique style in Pivot that makes their animations original and the variance makes the animations more enjoyable to watch. For example, Silo uses small stickmen with giant heads and cartoony bounce physics in brilliant high-paced chain fights. Gray uses near-perfect realism to make the simplest of fighting animations look amazing, often resembling motion capture. FrozenFire550 has two styles. One is of ninjas using short swords, but with a lot of attention to bandanas and the flowing ropes from the weapon handles. The other is a Madness rip. This originality makes these animators stand out from others, which is a great help in being moved up to the elite zone. This is why I always encourage animators never to imitate someone else’s style. For example, if someone posted an animation and said, “I was trying to copy Theories05’s style”, the first reply would be “it’s good, but nothing onto the original”.

    Another thing you should try to develop is one or two traits. By this I mean an outstanding or unique movement or effect that appears in most of your animations. My trait would be lightning, Bert’s would be fighting and Doddsy’s would be insane blood and particle effects. Traits make your name easier to remember too, so when the moderators are thinking of whom to move up to elites, the most unique one will be moved. A trait shouldn’t be copied or something you’ve seen before either. You should enjoy animating it too.


    You’re now one of the best Pivot animators ever. But don’t let it go to your head; you can never stop improving. In fact, now is the best time in your Pivot career to be extremely self-critical. Jealous rivals will find ways to criticise the tiniest of faults in your animations, and others will blow the mistakes mentioned by them out of proportion. For this section, I won’t insult the current elites by telling them how to animate specific things. This is intended for veterans willing to go above and beyond the call of duty to be ranked elite.


    To edit a frame, click it, make the changes you need and then click “next frame”. Funnily enough it took me a year to figure out how to do that.

    As you watch your animations over and over again, you may notice tiny fluctuations in the placement of joints whenever they stop following the easing or onionskin following movement rules. Click the offending frame and edit it. It’s as simple as that. The same thing can be applied to editing backgrounds or replacing models. You should make a habit of editing frames frequently until you can’t possibly improve the movements any further.


    One night I was talking to a veteran on MSN, and he told me that he could never do an animation unless it was all done in one day. I was amazed at this, and had no idea that it was possible to make animations of his quality in single days. However, every animation he made was extremely short, never going past the 200-frame mark. The point is that you have to have patience and spread the work out over a period of weeks. Doing just 50 frames every day is perfectly acceptable. In theory, you could come out with a 1,400-frame animation in a month. But never in one day.

    The human brain can only concentrate fully for 45 minutes, and then you start getting distracted easily and losing interest. My advice is to animate for 45 minutes, then take a 15-minute break. This restores your concentration for another 45 minutes. Another interesting fact is that the more intelligent you are, the longer you can concentrate. A person with an IQ of 100 (the world average) can only concentrate for half an hour. A person with an IQ of 150 however (a genius), can concentrate for an hour. So basically, if you're a nerd, you're going to be a good animator.


    By “become the nerd”, I mean those days where you do nothing but Pivot. If you can make yourself have these days frequently, you will have a very successful Pivot career. One day I got up at 9.20am and opened Pivot. I took a break 13 hours later, at 10.20pm, yet I only got 55 frames done. But I did it again the next day. To be able to do this, you need to ignore the passing of time completely. You can’t be thinking of anything else except the screen in front of you, otherwise you get distracted. Pivot is extremely demanding on time, and to produce at the highest quality, you literally have to eat, sleep and breathe the damn thing. The entire day has to be devoted to Pivot if you want to break boundaries. If your initial reaction to that is "wow, that's a lot of work", then you've already lost.


    This section will contain information I can’t fit anywhere above.


    Drawing with the model builder is very time consuming and difficult, but there are some techniques to help you out.

    1.) Spiking

    Long or curved lines that stay at the same thickness the whole way through look very bad, so “spiking” can help you here. This means decreasing the thickness of the ends in slopes to improve their visual quality. This is the original curved line:

    Using the spiking technique, this is what it should look like:

    Not much of an improvement, but it’s a lot easier on the eyes, and works wonders for making weapons look "pointy".

    2.) Flat Edges

    When a segment has a thickness of above 2, the edges curve automatically. To get rid of this effect, draw lines of thickness at 1 in a squared shape to form a box at each end of the segment. Now fill it in with other segments. This is what it should look like:

    3.) Transparency

    Credit to Jon for inventing this technique. This involves placing vertical and horizontal lines of thickness 1 within close proximity to form grids. When placed in the right order in an animation and saved as .gif, it creates a perfect fade, saving you from having to change the colour of models in order to fade them. First you place your objects:

    Now you place the first layer of vertical lines on the animation:

    Now you place the second layer of horizontal lines on the animation:

    Finally, you make a black frame. Your result should look like this:

    This is a very useful technique for quick fades. However, it only allows you to fade out in the space of 3 frames. The re-colouring method is still better for slower fades.


    When you join a forum, you’ll be asked to present your work in .gif format. To do this, do the following steps.

    1.) Make your animation.
    2.) Click “file” and then “save animation”.
    3.) You’ll see this screen:

    Click the arrow to the right of “save as type”, to the left of the cancel button. Click “Gif”.
    4.) Name your animation and click “Save”. This screen will appear:

    5.) Click “yes”. This screen will appear, offering saving options:

    The settings I have it on are the best ones to use in general. Here’s a small explanation of how each setting affects your .gif animation:

    Merge: when the .gif is playing and you have merge enabled, it takes all the frames that are the exact same and makes them into one frame. This is obviously a bad thing for when it comes to animations with a lot of text in them, so it’s best to leave it off.
    Crop: this has no effect on any animation I’ve ever seen, but you may as well leave it on anyway.
    Palette: this changes the normal colours used in your animation. It increases the quality of your animation when it has a lot of colour information, so leave it enabled.

    Frame Delay: this number, divided into 100, gives you your frame delay. For example, 6 into 100 gives 16.66, or 17 when rounded off. This means that a frame delay of 6 gives a frame rate of 17 frames per second.

    Shrink Frames: the higher this number, the higher the resolution of your .gif animation, but its size will be smaller. Two is the best for the default dimensions (506x415). If you have an animation with small text, it’s better to have this setting at 1.

    6.) When you’ve selected your settings, click “OK” and wait for the animation to finish saving. Now go to http://www.imageshack.ws and click “browse”. Find your .gif animation, click “OK” and then click “upload”. Wait for a new screen with several links to appear. Find the direct link and copy and paste it wherever you’re presenting your animation.

    If you want, you can make the animation show without people having to click links by typing the link like so:

    This isn’t recommended if your animation has large dimensions and a file size of over 10MB though.

    6. THANKS
    Nev - for saving the tutorial
    Ash - for saving the .pivs

    The end.
    Last edited by Nice Pants; 22 Jun 2013 at 05:35 PM.
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  3. #3
    Nev is offline
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    Lol.. your welcome for the restoration of your tutorial Baha, but really, you are the one to thank... for making the entire thing in the first place.

  4. #4
    Fanatic Enthusiast

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    Józefów, Poland GMT +1
    Hey, good job on saving most the the best pivs, Nev. Kudos. The beginners should love you.

    And Baha of course for making the whole thing in the first place.
    Quote Originally Posted by Matt

  5. #5
    Fanatic Enthusiast The Inzuki's Avatar

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    I love him already
    What will we do without Nev? You saved the world from diaster.

  6. #6
    Roy is offline

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  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Now we will know who took .stks without crediting.

    but who wouldnt credit THE Baha?
    I loved this tutorial. It helped me become a low-med inter
    R.I.P. Mom n Dad

    I break obstacles...
    I break stereotypes...
    I break prejudice...
    I break assumptions...
    I break all opponents...
    ...who stand before me.
    I'm a bboy, and i break to any beat.

  8. #8
    Fanatic Enthusiast Gray's Avatar

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    Merry Ol' England
    I love this tutorial +1 cause I am mentioned!

    [center:1galr654]SOCIALLY AWKWARD ALAN[/center:1galr654]

  9. #9
    Junior Member
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    May 2007
    Procrastination ends tomorow!
    I was wondering where it went because i was doin some tutorials then BAM vanished.lol.

    Courtesy in sig!

    Check It Out!

    Credz to xenomorph for sig

  10. #10
    Junior Member
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    May 2007
    Suomi Finland
    OMG This is fucking exellent tuto.... but im new here cn u update u fire tuto? and make next water tuto...... but my friend el-lobo say: bahamuth dont make pivot animation's never....... Are that true?
    My Thread in picture.... Click* Courtsey?

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