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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.
Once we have the composition set up, it's time to start animating and the animation on this is going to happen in a couple of different steps. First thing we are going to do is we are going to make the monster run or we are going to make Frank run and then we are going to make the girl scream and wave her arms and then we are going to join them together and animate them going through the scene. In fact let me show you the first step here. We are going to actually animate Frank running. So basically all this means is that his legs are going to move underneath him and this is essentially just a run cycle and when he actually comes into the scene here we are actually going to make him start here and just run through the scene.
So in this cycle all that's really moving is the legs and the head. So let's go ahead to our project here. In fact let's go ahead all the way up to the top here. Go to our Desktop/Exercise Files/Monsterpiece/After Effects/Shot07_00A and this is just the blank scene. So it's basically a monster in the scene with the girl with no animation. Pretty much how we set it up in the last lesson.
So the first thing for animating a run is figure out how long is that cycle. In this case we have 16 frames per step or 32 frames for the cycle so right and left together equal 32 frames and 16 per foot so with a run let's choose some of the basics of how to animate that. We can start with one leg or the other. Now I have done a very nice thing for you in this. I have actually set up all the hierarchies and all the pivot points for this character.
We did that in the last lesson. We didn't really need to go over that again here so everything is pretty much ready to go, all the hierarchies and pivot points are set up so now it's just a matter of animating the feet and now here you can see I have broken the feet up into 3 parts. We have leg, shin and foot. Now I could animate these using the Puppet tool but one thing I can't animate is this motion here. That you really can't do.
The Puppet tool really can't make that legs slide underneath him like that. So I'm actually going to do this via just individual layers set up as a hierarchy because I think it's actually going to go faster for this particular animation so let's go ahead and start with the left foot or the left leg so what I'm going to do is just select those three layers and I'm going to expand them so I have a little bit more space and then first thing I'm going to do is just hit keys for Position and Rotation on all of these.
So that way I kind of just have that initial pose locked down but this really isn't going to be my initial pose. I want to actually extend it a little bit more so I'm going to go ahead and select the left leg, move it back a little bit and then I want to get that last push off. Basically what's the furthest that leg is going to go and that's going to be my extreme and that's where I'm going to start this animation. And I'm going to move up to the shin and I'm going to move up to the foot and just kind of get a nice extreme pose there.
Now I'm going to go through this to the right leg as well so I'm going to select all of these, expand them and while they are selected you can also just set keys for Position and Rotation and that will set them for everything. And now for this leg, again, I usually like working from the thigh down in this particular type of setup. So I'm going to go ahead and move this leg, rotate it maybe up a little bit more, then move down to the shin and just get a nice pose out of that.
That looks pretty good. So now this is a 16 frame cycle. So we can set another key at frame 16 which essentially just swaps these two, but instead of doing that I'm actually going to go to Frame 8, which is halfway through the cycle, and I'm going to do let's call the passing position. Now what the passing position is essentially where one leg passes the other. So let's go ahead and start with the left leg. I'm going to go ahead and move that forward just a little bit, rotate it down.
Now think about it. This leg is the leg that's moving forward so this is the leg that's actually off the ground. The right leg is moving back which means it's pushing the character forward so that one is going to be like what's planted on the ground. So the left leg, the free leg, is actually going to be off the ground so that means I need to bend that shin and position that and as this leg comes forward this foot is going to drag back almost like kind of it's along for the ride there and then we need to go back down to the right leg and make its position.
Now this is the planted leg. This is a leg that is planted on the ground so let's go ahead and make sure we have got a nice firm contact with the ground there and that looks pretty good. Now one of the things I'm doing here is I'm just doing Rotation keys. There maybe an occasion to do a Position key somewhere down the road so first thing I'm also going to just go through and copy and paste these Position keys to make sure that I have a key there in case I set a key later on and it's in between the wrong thing.
Alright let's go ahead and zoom that in a little bit. So there is my passing position but one of the things I'm noticing here is that I do need a position key here on the shin, the right shin, because there is a little bit of a gap there so let's just go ahead and push that up. There we go. So there is the beginning of that first step. Now let's go ahead and move over to the end of the step, so Frame 16. Now in Frame16 what's going to happen? This right leg is going to go back so let's go ahead and just start with the right leg.
That rotates back and it actually will move back up because his hip is actually going to rotate back. And go ahead and move that shin a little bit and let's go ahead and move that leg out. Again I'm trying to make the exact opposite. So what does that look like? Let's make that right leg look pretty close. I might have that bent a little too much there, go ahead and there we go. Kinda bring that leg down just a little bit. And now let's go to the left leg and that's going to be forward . In fact it's going to move forward because that right hip is going to come forward a little bit. And that foot is going to be- that's where the foot plants down so again I need to front of this left leg here. There we go.
OK so that's essentially that first step. Now there is a little bit of a problem here. If we look, this is just fine. But right there he's kind of off balance a little bit, right there on Frame 12. It looks like this right leg, that foot doesn't really look planted, so I'm going to go ahead and straighten out this leg as much as I can and I'm going to push that back so that way I have got a little bit more time where his foot is planted on the ground.
Now this is just rough. There is a little bit of problems here but we will tweak that as we go and then this left leg as it comes forward again this knee is going to be bent a little bit more so I'm going to add in another key here. Again we are at Frame 12. We are halfway between the passing position and that other extreme and also here, that foot is going to be dragging back as well. So now there we go. So it kind of pops out right there.
So that's the first step so let's go ahead from here and I'm going to break it here and then I'm going to show you how to make the second step and also how to cycle the animation.
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