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Filmmakers of all kinds are exploring new digital tools for creating animated content. After Effects CS3: Animating Characters follows the creation of a short animated film, from storyboard through final output, using After Effects CS3. George Maestri uses a one-minute monster movie to showcase the new Puppet tool, along with many other techniques for animating characters in After Effects. He covers lip syncing, creating segmented characters with movable joints, and employing special effects. George demonstrates in detail how to create individual scenes and shots, and offers insight into how to pull the pieces together to form a cohesive production. Familiarity with After Effects is recommended. Exercise files accompany the course.
I've showed you a little bit about how to setup the hierarchies and pivot points so let me show you the finished version of that. I'm going to go ahead and open a project and it's in that same After Effects directory. It's called 00, Shot04_00a. Now these names may change because I'm saving as I go along. This isn't really my production directory. I'm kind of saving out interim files so that you can kind of see the step-by-step. So here's basically all the layers and everything is setup with their proper pivot points.
Now notice how everything is pretty much turned on. Now when we go to animate, we actually do for example these blinks here. Obviously you want just the blink or the open eye or the closed eye; you don't want both. But I can't keep just hitting this visibility icon because you really can't animate that, what you can animate however is opacity. So what I need to do is go through this file and kind of set the opacity down for each one of these objects. So for example, left eye blink. I'm going to go ahead and turn down the blinker.
Same for right eye. Again, I'm just using this transform roll out. I go down to Opacity and I just set it to 0, OK? And what that does is it basically turns it off. One of the things I did do in this particular file, I moved the face up in the layering because I wanted the face actually to stay on top and if the arm went behind it, there is a point here where the arm may actually touch the face, I would rather have the arm go behind the face than on top of it just because I want to keep the face in the clear.
So I actually layered those down and let's go ahead down to his arms. I'm going to leave Arm 1 on and I'm going to turn off Arm 1A, Arm 2A and Arm 2. So notice all these are there. And then I think there is also an eyebrow and we're going to turnoff Eyebrow 1 because I like the way Eyebrow 2 looks. So now everything is pretty much turned off and now we can start animating the character.
And one of the things I'd like to do is at the beginning of our shot, if there is nothing to do, I usually like to at least put a blink in almost right upfront so that way the character comes to life almost as soon as you see the shot. Now typically with these shots I'm giving myself a little bit of cushion at the beginning. Try not to start animating until frame maybe five or six so that way I have a few frames to kind of cut on. So actually I think we are going to start this blink on Frame 8. And when a character blinks, another thing you want to do is actually move the head a little bit but before I do that let me show you quickly how to animate one of these blinks.
I'm actually going to zoom in. I'm going to hit this zoom thing here and kind of zoom in so we can see his face. So this is zoomed in 33%. And how we animate a blink is very, very simple. All we have to do is turn on and turn off the eyes that we need. So let's go ahead and use- actually it looks like I have two right eyes here. I'm actually going to turn- that eye, right eye works. So what I'm going to do is at Frame 8 I'm going to set a key for Opacity on Right Eye 2.
So right there is my key and then for right eye blink, I'm going to expand that, I'm going to set a key for Opacity at zero. So what I have here- this is a very tight screen so you are not going to see this very easily here. I have two keys, one that keeps the blink off and one that keeps the eye open. So what I do is I go one frame forward, I animate this up to 100% and this down to zero. It looks like I have got the wrong eye here.
So what I have to do here is I think it's actually this eye is the eye that needs to be animated. So let's go ahead. In fact it looks like this layer, it may be bogus, so let's go ahead and delete these keys here. And I'm going to go ahead and set a key for Opacity on right eye and then set it to 0. So now watch what happens, watch this eye here. Basically what happens is at this point right eye blink is off, it's at zero. Right eye is at 100 and then over the course of one frame I animate this down to zero and that up to 100.
Now I have the keys which means I can just copy and paste keys which is much easier. So all I have to do is move a few frames forward then I just copy. I'm using Ctrl+C or I believe it's Apple+C on the Mac keyboard and I just go copy, paste. So what I have done is I have copied and paste the 100% for this right eye blink and the 0% for this Opacity. And then I move forward and now I can copy and paste this in fact let's do it from here. We can do Copy and Paste.
And we can do the same. I'm going to use my keyboard shortcuts here and now we've got a blink. OK now we can do the same for the other eye. And let's make sure I've got two eyes here. I think I have got a left eye here. I can... OK, we're going to turn off left eye, actually right eye 2 is actually our left eye so let's go ahead and use that. I'm going to go back to Frame 8 and this is the travails of production. Sometimes things don't get named properly.
Set Opacity to 0 and 100, move forward and again we are going to do the exact same thing, turn that down and now I can just cut and paste. Now I have given myself 2 frames to play with here for the blink and that's about right. Typical blink should be a total of maybe 6 to 8 frames at 30 frames a second. So there we go, there is my blink. Now this is how we are going to do a lot of this animation. We are going to use these little opacity tricks to turn things on and off.
And the nice thing is that once you get this Opacity pretty much set, you can just copy and paste these. So if I wanted to put another blink down, all I have to do is just copy these keys and paste them further down so once I've animated one blink, I have basically animated all the blinks. So now the only other thing I would like to do is give the head a little bit of motion because when you blink it's nice to have that head also go along for the blink because it kind of just gives that little bit of emphasis.
So I'm going to go ahead and zoom out here a little bit so you can kind of see what I'm doing. So a few frames before that blink, I'm going to take that head and I'm going to start animating it. So I'm going to turn on Rotation and Position for this head and I'm going to move forward to Frame 8 and I'm going to just angle that up just a hair. Not too much. Just like that and then when he blinks I'm going to come all the way down and I'm going to come down by the end of that blink. So actually like that and then I'm going to come back up to my neutral position, which is this keyframe here, so it starts here and ends there.
So what I'm going to do is just select these two keyframes and I typically just paste and if I want to, I could actually just move these a little bit so it gives a much better sense of that blink. So if this wasn't animating, all that would happen would be just that little bit of motion here but by moving his head, you actually give a much stronger blink. In fact let me zoom out just a little bit so you can kind of see that in full. So there is my blink, great.
OK, so now in the next one, we are going to animate that arm coming up.
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