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Behaviors: layer swapping

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Character Animator 22.5 (released June 2022) introduces Starter mode to get you started animating now without any prior experience. Update now to the latest version to try this out.

Cycle Layers: Display layers in order

This behavior displays each of the puppet's layers in order, which can be useful to repeat a pattern like a splash animation or blinking lights. Used with Triggers, the cycle of layers can be triggered by pressing a key.


Apply this behavior to the puppet containing the sequence of layers to cycle.

If you want the cycle to be controlled by pressing a key, select the puppet layer in the Puppet panel, and then enter the key in the Trigger section of the Properties panel.

See Dojo Joe in the Character Animator examples download for a working example that you can modify.


This behavior has the following parameters:

  • Start controls when to start displaying the layers — the available options are When Triggered and Immediately.
  • Layer Order controls how the layers are used — Top to Bottom (the topmost layer is the first one shown and the bottom layer is the last) or Bottom to Top. If you are assembling the cycle in Photoshop by pasting layers (which get added on top of existing layers), selecting Bottom to Top is easier than reversing the layer order in the artwork file. 
  • Advance Every controls the duration to display each layer before switching to the next one.
  • Cycle controls the number of times to repeat the layers, Continuously or Once.
  • Forward and Reverse controls whether the layers play in reverse after reaching the last layer.
  • Hold on Last Layer controls whether the last layer in the cycle stays visible while the trigger is active. It can be used with Forward and Reverse to , for example, hold on the last layer until the key is released, then play in reverse.
  • On Trigger End controls playback when the trigger key is released. Stop Immediately stops the cycle on key release, whereas Let Cycle Finish completes the cycle, including any reverse playback (if enabled). If the cycle was started by a trigger in a swap set, other triggers in the same swap set will be prevented from triggering until the cycle is finished.
  • Continue After Pause controls how the cycle is resumed from a Pause-layer ( layer that has the Cycle Pause tag applied). When Triggered is used if you unpause the layer with the trigger key. When Trigger Released is used if you unpause the layer by holding down and releasing the trigger key.

Display sequential layers synchronized to time

The layers in a cycle can be triggered in sequential order synchronized to the timeline, so subsequent layers in the cycle are chosen as you advance later in time. This can be useful when you want to use an image sequence (created via File > Import Cycle or Puppet > Add Cycle) as background video.

Display sequential layers synchronized to time, do the following:

Set the Start parameter to the new Synced to timeline option. Synced to timeline is like Immediately, except that the former doesn't advance through the group's layers during rehearsal (i.e., when stopped on a frame).

The cycle is synchronized to the original start of the puppet track, so if you shift the puppet track later in time, the cycle still starts at the first frame of the puppet track. If you extend the in-point (left edge) of the puppet track earlier in time, the first layer of the cycle is used for those extended frames.

The Immediately option now also shows the same layer during playback and recording. If you start playback or recording after rehearsing, you might see a discontinuity in the layer chosen. When using Immediately or Synced to timeline, the Hold on Last Layer parameter is now disabled when Forward and Reverse is checked or when Cycle is set to Continuously.

Layer Picker: Choose a layer to show or trigger

You can trigger a specific layer in a puppet or group using the Layer Picker behavior. Following are the various ways of choosing the layer ‐ by index number, percentage, microphone, keyboard, mouse, or touch-enabled display, or a combination of these. Each layer can even have Cycle Layers applied for more complex triggering of layers.

This behavior isn't applied by default to puppets. You can add the behavior to the specific group of a puppet whose layers you want to pick from. Only the layers and groups in that puppet are chosen, layers within groups are ignored.

The layer to pick is a combination of multiple input controls. The controls that are available are index number, the percentage of the number of layers available, via loudness captured by the microphone, via arrow keypress, and via dragging via mouse or touch-enabled display. The sum of all layer numbers chosen by these controls determines the actual layer to trigger. You can use one or more controls that are best suited for your needs.

Layer Picker parameters:

  • Audio Input: controls the layer picked based on how loud you talk into the microphone. Use the Audio Sensitivity parameter to adjust the value (defined below).
  • Camera Input: Camera Input parameter, when armed, allows you to use head movements to pick the layer to use. When using the camera, the new Camera Mode parameter selects the type of head movement ‐ the turn of your head, the width of your mouth, the vertical movement of your eyebrows, etc. ‐ as the controller, and the new Camera Strength parameter controls the influence of that head movement on layer picked. Because the camera input is being used for layer selection, be sure to click the Calibrate button while your face is in a resting pose.

Note: Some camera modes might require adjustments to Camera Strength, Index Offset, and Percentage Offset values to get the results you want.

  • Keyboard Input: controls the layer picked by pressing the arrow keys. Use Left or Up Arrow to decrease the layer number and Right or Down Arrow to increase the number.
  • Mouse & Touch Input: controls the layer picked by dragging horizontally in the Scene panel with your mouse or using touch-enabled display. You can adjust this parameter with the Mouse & Touch Strength parameter (described below).
  • Index Offset: controls the layer picked by selecting its layer number (position within the group or puppet). This parameter has a minimum value of 1 (first layer).
  • Percentage Offset: controls the layer picked by selecting a percentage of the range of layers. This parameter has a minimum value of -100% and a maximum of 100% so that you can, for example, select a higher-numbered layer with Index Offset, but reduce it with a negative Percentage Offset.
  • Audio Sensitivity: controls how much influence the audio volume has on the layer picked. This is used when Audio Input is armed.
  • Mouse & Touch Strength: controls how far you need to drag horizontally to change the layer picked. This is used when Mouse & Touch Input is armed.
  • Keyboard Advance: controls how you press an arrow key to advance the layer number. On Hold (set by default), allows you to hold down the arrow key to repeated increase or decrease the layer number. On Tap, requires pressing the arrow key for each change in layer number.
  • Out of Range: controls how to handle layer numbers that are outside the range of available layers. Limit to First/Last (set by default) restrict to the first and last layer, showing the first layer if the number is negative or the last layer if the number is larger than the last layer's index. The loop repeats the range of layers.

Motion Trigger: Show artwork based on directional movement

The Motion Trigger behavior switches between groups based on the direction the parent puppet is moving. For example, as a character moves to the right, switch to a profile view of the character running with motion trails behind it. The movement of the character can either be direct (you dragging it across the scene) or indirect (the puppet is attached to a hand on an arm that is swinging because the torso is moving).


To specify the motion views, attach any of the following tags:

  • At Rest
  • Moving Left
  • Moving Right
  • Moving Up
  • Moving Down
  • In Transition


  • These directions are based on your view of the scene in the Scene panel (i.e., a puppet moving to the left side of the scene would trigger the Moving Left layer, if present). Diagonal movement chooses the dominant direction, but falls back to the other direction if a layer for the dominant one does not exist.
  • This behavior is not applied by default to puppets, so add it first to see its effect on a puppet.


Move the parent puppet whose group has this behavior applied. Movement can come from any other behavior (Face, Dangle, Dragger, Transform, etc.).

This behavior has the following parameters:

Speed Threshold controls the threshold that the parent puppet must move in pixels per frame before a layer is triggered. Speeds below this threshold triggers the At Rest layer.

Minimum Duration controls the minimum number of frames to trigger a layer before triggering a different layer, which can reduce flicker/jittery switches between layers when moving at a slower speed.


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