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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.
Now once we have the Leica reel or the Animatic, the timing, our shot list it's time to start animating. Now all of the original art that came to us was in Photoshop files. They weren't really standard Photoshop files. They had a lot of layers in them so that way we could animate them. In fact, let me bring up Photoshop here and I'll show you one of the files, kind of show you how we receive the art. So I'm going to go ahead and open a file. I'm going to go out to my Desktop/Exercise Files/Monsterpiece. Now this was one of the ones that came from the client and actually the first shot we are going to work with is scene 4, Dr. Frankenstein Scene 4, which is how he gave it.
Now this is exactly what we got from the client so I'm just going to go ahead and open that. And this was the original art. And as you can see we got it in layers and in fact we've got two arms here, one with the arm back and one with the arm forward. Some of these we used, some of these we didn't. We actually got a lot of these where it was almost like pre-animated but because of the Puppet tool and the way that we animate, we didn't use a lot of this stuff that we were given. We were given several different eyebrows and again, we kind of had different faces.
A lot of this is just separating the character out into layers and of course we have the nice background image there. Now the one thing I also want to say is that these files were a lot bigger than the final output. In fact let me go here to Image Size and show you that it's actually a 2K image and we are actually outputting Standard NTSC which is D1 res, is what? 720x480 or if you use square pixels it's 768x576. Something like that. But it's almost a third the size of this original art but that's actually a good thing. It's always easier to shrink things, you will still get a crisp image.
If you blow it up, you are going to get jaggies. So we kept all the images a little bit oversized and that way if we need to zoom in or reposition the camera or do some sort of tracking, we had enough room to do that. So those are some of the tips for creating Photoshop files for After Effects character animation. Try and keep them big and definitely keep things in layers because that's going to be really important when you actually get to animating these.
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