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For those of you using After Effects, there's a really great tool that allows you to puppet a character and that's called the Puppet Pin tool. It's available in After Effects CS3 and above. We're using After Effects CS4, but they work identically. What it does is it allows you to take a piece of art and it allows you to deform it using what are called Puppet Pins. So let me show you how this works. I have a special project here called Bear_Puppet and it's just a little bit different from the one that we've been working with, in that I've merged all of the arm layers.
So, for example, this left arm here is all one piece. So there is no separate form and there is no separate hand. It's all one piece of art. But I can still deform it and animate it using the Puppet Pin tool. Let me show you how this works. So all I have to do is go here. This is where the Puppet Pin tool is, select it, and our cursor changes to a pushpin, and all I have to do is lay down the points where I want this object to deform.
So, for example, I'm going to go ahead and lay down one at the shoulder, one at the elbow, and one somewhere around the wrist. Then that's all I have to do. Now let's take a look at what happens in After Effects. When you go to your Timeline, you'll notice here, the Puppet effect has been added to this particular layer. Get this all in one window so we can see it. So in my left arm layer, under the Effects, I have a Puppet Pin, and if you expand this, you can see here each pin has its own track.
In fact, as I select these, you can see how they highlight. I can also highlight them using my Selection tool. Now all I have to do is just grab one of these points and move it. You can see how it very nicely deforms its mesh. So this can be a very nice way to do character animation and get something that's a little bit more fluid than you would get with just standard joints. Now the other thing about the Puppet Pin tool is that the object still can be affected. So, for example, I can take this arm and I can still rotate it, and then if I wanted to, I could go into my Puppet Pins and move them.
Then as I move them, I still have the master layer controls that I can use. So when you animate, you really need to decide where you're going to place your animation. Are you going to animate the layer or are you going to animate the Puppet Pins or are you going to animate both? In this particular case, something like the shoulder you'll probably animate by affecting the entire layer. Then anything underneath it, such as the elbow or the wrist, you would affect by using the Puppet Pins.
So what I like to do is I like to keep this top Puppet Pin stationary, so I can lock it down to its point of rotation for the master layer. Then the ones underneath, I can then use those for animation. So those are some tips and tricks for using the Puppet Pin tool and you can certainly use that tool as you start to work with characters and get them ready to animate.
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