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animation design for a platform with little ram

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I'm developing a game to iphone using openglES.
However I guess the problem is general:
I have a 2D character who does things.
the sprite of the character is almost as big as the whole screen suppose 512x1024 pixels
I have to make an animation from (eg) 20 frames do not send out of memory in the phone.
I had thought of separating body and limbs inmodo that as the body moves a little (I can make 4 frames), arms (20 frames), legs (10 frames).
if I make a spritesheet, maybe I'm within the limits of ram ...
But after re-compose the image starting from spritesheet becomes a hell ...
is there any tool that makes the purpose?
something like: I have several frames of animation, cut-out pieces, meanwhile I made a header that tells me that the position they were ...
someone who has other ideas on how to tackle the problem?

thanks

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People have done this in the past; a sort of 2D skeletal-based animation. Basically yeah, say you want to animate a human character, you just have sprites of its limbs, head and torso, and you record the transformations of those pieces.

Take a look at this, not sure if this is exactly what you want:

http://www.lostmarble.com/

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this can be a solution, only one sprite, and skeletal animation.
but i have to implement it in programming language...or there is some source code to make a very basic skeletal animation?
thanks

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