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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.
Let's go ahead and use the Puppet tool now to animate the girl. So, let's go ahead and take a look at the scene here. We've got Frank. Scene Version 3 and he is running her through the scene. Now, she kind of looks like this cardboard cutout, so let's go ahead and add some puppet pins and start animating her. I'm going to go over into her composition and I'm going to select her layer here. Bride Torso One, let's make sure that's the right layer. OK. And then I'm just going go to Distort, Puppet, just add in that Puppet tool effect and let's start laying in some puppet pins. So I'm going to go up here to the Puppet Pin tool and we've got some options here. For one I can show the mesh as I start to draw it. So go ahead and click one here at the back, one at the ankle, you can see this mesh now, this is what it's actually using to distort. And let's set one right here at his hands where his hand hits the knee, one at the hips, and then one at the shoulders, one at the neck and then one here at the chest. So I've got like 7 of these puppet pins.
I'm going to open up, expand my Puppet effect and expand the Deform effect. Now, when you animate a puppet pin, each puppet pin has just one variable and that's for Position. So I'm just going to expand all of these. You'll notice that when I put this in, it actually already put a keyframe in here. So, what I need to do is, I'm actually going to expand this just little bit so we can see this a little more here. I'm going to go ahead and select all 7 of these keys and I'm going to move them to zero.
And now, I want to- in fact let's go ahead and undock this. So I can actually see this in real time. So now what I want do is take this and make sure that her composition syncs up with this composition. So, what I want is I want to start playing with how she bounces. So, when he is at his high point, she is kind of like the opposite, so as he is moving up, she's moving down. So, all I have to do here is just start selecting and moving these puppet pins. So I'm going to go ahead and just start selecting these. So as he goes up, I want her to go down and I also want this to go down as well, the dress. And we can also probably do her hips a little bit, make her hips bounce just a bit, but I want to make sure that his hand doesn't go too far behind there.
So, these are the three points. 1, 2, 3. Maybe a little bit of ankle here, so let's do 4. So, I'm going to actually try and animate all of those points. You can see here, I've got keyframes for all of them and so now when he goes down here, she is going to go up, OK. And her hips are going to go up, this is going to go up, this may go back just a little bit, so you can see now, we are getting a really nice secondary motion and this is something you really can't get, with just swapping out bitmaps.
So, again, we're just going to continue and I kind of like just doing this a little bit free form because it gives a little bit more of a natural look to it. If I just copied and pasted keyframes it would be a little bit static looking or a lot like we are doing cycles. So, again I'm just going to move this up, move her hips up a little bit, move this up. So when this is here I can move these back down.
And so again, we are getting a nice bounce effect there. When it comes down again, her parts go up and so on. That's basically how it works. Very simple. And if we want to, we can take a look at this in real time here. So she has got a lot more bounce to her and it gives a lot more sense of motion.
So that's the basics of how to animate with the Puppet tool and let's go into this and take a look at it. So basically all we were doing is we're creating keyframes for each of these puppet pins and each puppet pin has its own position, it has its own curve, you can use whatever animation tools you want on each of these pins. Now, remember the pins actually are moving relative to the layer. So if I actually took this layer itself and moved it, these effects still work relative to the center anchor point of that layer.
OK. So, that makes it so everything is relative to the center point here. So, those are the basics of animating with the Puppet tool. So let's take a look at the final version of the scene as I animated it. I'm going to go ahead and open a project and that is Shot07_03 which is actually is my final. And you can see I have got- in fact let's turn on Frank here.
You can see we've got all the parts moving. So, let's go ahead and use the Puppet tool for some other things and we will move on from here.
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