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Learn to create and animate highly controllable characters using After Effects. In this course, author George Maestri covers every step on the way, from designing the characters in Photoshop or Illustrator, or drawing them straight from After Effects; assembling characters with hierarchies; making realistic deformations with the Puppet tool; automating rigs with expressions; creating realistic head turns; and showing advanced techniques such as using null objects as bones. Finally, the course shows how to perform a basic animation with the character and ensure the rig works correctly.
So now let's go ahead and assemble our character into a hierarchy. We're going to do that using the parenting feature of After Effects. Now before we do this, we want to make sure that all of our joints have the right pivot points. If I select, for example, the upper arm here, the bicep goes ahead and rotates around the shoulder, and the forearm rotates around the elbow, and so on. Once we have those pivot points in place, we can stitch together the character into a hierarchy. Now this is done using the parenting feature, which is right along here.
Now let's go ahead and start with the upper body. I'm going to go ahead and just zoom in to this left arm. And let's go ahead and pick the Left Bicep; in fact, I'm going to go ahead and scroll down, so we can see that layer. There it is. So now, once I have the Left Bicep selected, I want to make sure that I connect it to its parent, and in this case, that would be the Torso. So let's go ahead and connect those two together. We can do that in two ways. One is to use what's called a Pick Whip, and that just allows you to left-click, and drag to the layer that you want.
So, for example, in this case we're going to do Torso, and when I do that you notice how it shows up in this pulldown menu. The other way to do it is just to use the pulldown menu. I can just select by name, and just select Torso, and there we go. Now notice how when I select the Torso, the Left Bicep actually moves along with it. So we can do the same for the other sides, so I can select the Right Bicep, and again, I can just click and drag it to the Torso.
We can do the same for other parts of the character. So, for example, we have this Tie, we have the Neck, so let's go ahead and select both of those. I'm just going to Shift+Select those. And you can see we have Tie, and Neck selected, and I can just use this pulldown menu here, again, to select Torso. Once I've done that, now I've got all of this part of the character moving together. Now, of course, we have other parts of the character, and we don't want to connect everything to the Torso, because, for example, if I want to move this arm, I want the forearm to move along with it.
So let's go ahead down to that Left Forearm and select it, and we want that connected to the bicep. So all we have to do, again, is just select this, connect it to the bicep, and it should work. So, for example, if I rotate this, now the forearm moves along with it. But we still have to do the Cuff, and the Hand. So let's go ahead and select the Hand, and we're going to link that to the Cuff, and I'm going to select the Cuff, and we're going to link that to the Forearm. So hopefully now everything should rotate together.
So when I rotate the shoulder, the whole arm moves along. If I rotate it at the elbow, the hand, and the cuff move along. So let's go ahead and use that for the other side as well. Let's go ahead and select this forearm here; so Right Forearm to Right Bicep, Right Cuff to Right Forearm, Right Hand to Right Cuff. Now if I select this, it should pretty much move in unison, and if I select the Torso, all of that moves together.
So let's go ahead and move up to the head. I'm going to go ahead and select the Head node here, and the Head really needs to be connected to the Neck. So I'm going to go ahead and select the Neck. Now the Head is going to move with everything, but again, we still need that face to move along with it. So everything on the Face up to the Hair: we can just select all of that and, again, just drag those to the Head. So now all of those are connected to the Head. So when I move the Head, everything should move with it.
Okay, I missed the mouth here. Let's go ahead and select the Mouth, and get that to the Head, so now everything should move with the Head. And the only thing left are the ears, so let's go ahead and get Left Ear and Right Ear, and connect those to the Head, and we should have everything working. Great! So now all of the facial features are connected to the Head, the Head is connected to the Neck, the Neck is connected to the Torso, and we should pretty much have our upper body in place. So now I should be able to move that upper body.
Now, I'm going to skip the legs at this point, and we're going to do that in the next lesson, because there's different strategies we can use to help the character do things such as walk, and run, and those sorts of things, and those require different types of parenting. So let's get to that in the next lesson.
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