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Creating Animated Characters in After Effects
Illustration by John Hersey

Attaching puppet pins to bones


From:

Creating Animated Characters in After Effects

with George Maestri

Video: Attaching puppet pins to bones

Now let's go ahead and finish up the process. We are going to attach the puppet pins to the null objects. So as a quick refresh here, I've got several null objects here, and then I also have a layer called LEG, and that layer has puppet pins attached, and those match up with my null objects. So let's go ahead, and we'll start with the Toe and work our way up. So I am going to go ahead and zoom in, so we can see what we are doing here. So the toe is at Puppet Pin 4, and here is my TOE object here.
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  1. 1m 49s
    1. Welcome
      1m 17s
    2. Using the exercise files
      32s
  2. 27m 15s
    1. Creating characters in Illustrator
      5m 51s
    2. Creating characters in Photoshop
      7m 9s
    3. Designing joints
      3m 40s
    4. Drawing mouths
      2m 12s
    5. Drawing hands and eyelids
      2m 48s
    6. Importing Illustrator files into After Effects
      3m 26s
    7. Importing Photoshop files into After Effects
      2m 9s
  3. 7m 51s
    1. Drawing in After Effects
      3m 57s
    2. Copying paths from Illustrator
      2m 19s
    3. Animating shapes
      1m 35s
  4. 21m 9s
    1. Understanding how layer hierarchies work
      3m 58s
    2. Understanding the importance of the pivot point
      5m 42s
    3. Assembling the upper body
      4m 47s
    4. Creating leg hierarchies for efficient walks
      4m 27s
    5. Organizing scenes with null layers
      2m 15s
  5. 22m 26s
    1. Adding puppet pins to a character
      6m 51s
    2. Controlling mesh density
      2m 15s
    3. Creating overlap pins
      4m 43s
    4. Creating starch pins
      3m 1s
    5. Using the Puppet tool with hierarchies
      5m 36s
  6. 19m 7s
    1. Replacement animation using time remapping
      6m 47s
    2. Mouth replacement
      6m 6s
    3. Creating blinks
      6m 14s
  7. 27m 23s
    1. Creating a head turn: Head shape
      6m 45s
    2. Creating a head turn: Ears
      8m 7s
    3. Creating a head turn: Facial features
      6m 41s
    4. Creating a head turn: Hair shape
      5m 50s
  8. 1h 3m
    1. The basics of expressions: Controlling the wrist
      5m 20s
    2. Moving hands from front to back with expressions
      9m 2s
    3. Using expressions to control pupils
      7m 44s
    4. Creating a master control node with Expression Controls
      6m 30s
    5. Creating blinks that move with a head turn
      9m 28s
    6. Controlling blinks using opacity
      6m 34s
    7. Attaching mouth shapes to a slider
      3m 39s
    8. Creating mouths that move with a head turn
      8m 31s
    9. Working with absolute values
      6m 12s
  9. 14m 28s
    1. Setting up null objects as bones
      5m 39s
    2. Attaching puppet pins to bones
      4m 57s
    3. Strategies for parenting legs and feet
      3m 52s
  10. 28m 32s
    1. Setting up a scene for animation
      6m 3s
    2. Blocking out the shot
      11m 0s
    3. Animating dialogue
      5m 39s
    4. Animating blinks
      5m 50s
  11. 18s
    1. Goodbye
      18s

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Creating Animated Characters in After Effects
3h 53m Intermediate Sep 08, 2011

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

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.

Topics include:
  • Importing Illustrator or Photoshop files into After Effects
  • Animating shapes
  • Organizing scenes with null layers
  • Working with the Puppet tool
  • Creating replacement animation using time remapping
  • Automating head turns
  • Creating a master control node with Expression Controls effects
  • Setting up a scene for animation
  • Animating dialogue
Subjects:
3D + Animation Character Animation
Software:
After Effects
Author:
George Maestri

Attaching puppet pins to bones

Now let's go ahead and finish up the process. We are going to attach the puppet pins to the null objects. So as a quick refresh here, I've got several null objects here, and then I also have a layer called LEG, and that layer has puppet pins attached, and those match up with my null objects. So let's go ahead, and we'll start with the Toe and work our way up. So I am going to go ahead and zoom in, so we can see what we are doing here. So the toe is at Puppet Pin 4, and here is my TOE object here.

Let me go ahead and expand that. Now, the first thing you would think would be, oh! It would be very easy. All I have to do is create an expression that links the position of this puppet pin to the position of the null object. Well, it's not as simple as that. If you notice here, Puppet Pin 4 has a value of 41 Comma 922, and the right toe has a position of 841 Comma 2334. They're completely different numbers on completely different scales.

That's because the position of the puppet pins is determined relative to the layer. So if we look at that LEG layer, you'll see it's a lot smaller than our master composition, and that means that those numbers are going to be completely different. So the puppet pins are working in layer space, the nulls are working in what is called composition space, so it's relative to the entire composition. So, all that means is that we need to do a little bit of translation. First thing we do need to do is still add in an expression.

So I am going to go into my Mesh 1 Puppet Pin 4, and add in an expression. Now, this expression that we have here isn't going to work, so we need to replace that. The expression is a little complicated, so I just wrote it into Notepad, so we can see it a little bit larger, and I also saved this into the project file, so you'll have this. So basically, the generic expression is we have a variable called BONE, and this is where you insert the name of the bone layer. So in other words, that's where I will put RIGHT TOE. And then we will just create a variable called A, and basically it's just going to be equal to the layer of that -- name of that bone layer.

Now, this is where we do the conversion. We're going to do what's called a toComp and a fromComp. Now these are called layer Space transform methods, and Adobe has these fairly well documented if you want to go a little bit deeper. But just for the sake of this, basically what toComp does is it just converts from layer space to composition space, and fromComp converts from composition space to layer space. So this combination here gives us the translation that we need. So in this case, I'm just going to go ahead and copy this, go down to my Puppet Pin 4 expression, and paste.

Now, the only thing I need to do here is just change this to the name of that bone layer and we are working with the right toe, so I know it's called RIGHT TOE. Now once I do that, I should be able to click off of that, and it should work. So I select my RIGHT TOE, move it, and the puppet pin follows wonderfully. So now that I have this expression, I can just copy it and paste it to all the other puppet pins. So I am going to go to Puppet Pin 3, which is my ankle.

Again, Add Expression, paste, and then I just need to change the name from RIGHT TOE to RIGHT ANKLE. Let's see how that works; works wonderfully! Okay. Let's just work our way down. So once we know the magic expression, everything falls into place. Again, I am just going to go ahead and paste: RIGHT TOE, no, this is RIGHT KNEE. See if that works; here we go! And one more, so add in our expression, paste, and instead of RIGHT TOE, this is RIGHT HIP.

So now that we have all of our puppet pins constrained, we have a pretty good system here. So the first thing I am going to do is, actually, I am going to lock this LEG layer so I don't accidentally select it anymore. And then I can just move any one of these, and now I can manipulate my puppet pins without having to dig all the way down into my Effects of this LEG layer. The other cool thing is that we can use parenting to manipulate how these are connected together.

In fact, we are going to do that in our next lesson. So before we do that, I want you to go ahead and work down the left leg yourself. So go ahead and add in the null objects, and then use expressions to tie the puppet pins to those null objects.

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