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Creating Animated Characters in After Effects
Illustration by John Hersey

Creating a head turn: Ears


From:

Creating Animated Characters in After Effects

with George Maestri

Video: Creating a head turn: Ears

At this point in the process we have the shape of the head animating, but nothing else. So let's go ahead and move on to some other parts of the head. In this case, we're going to do the ears. So I'm going to go over to my Head composition, and make sure I select my Left Ear and Right Ear, and make sure I turn them on; okay. So now, when I have this, you'll see how the head is changing in terms of shape, but the ears aren't following along. Now when the head turns, what's going to happen is one ear is going to come in front of the head, in other words, towards the viewer, and the other one is going to go behind.
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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

Creating a head turn: Ears

At this point in the process we have the shape of the head animating, but nothing else. So let's go ahead and move on to some other parts of the head. In this case, we're going to do the ears. So I'm going to go over to my Head composition, and make sure I select my Left Ear and Right Ear, and make sure I turn them on; okay. So now, when I have this, you'll see how the head is changing in terms of shape, but the ears aren't following along. Now when the head turns, what's going to happen is one ear is going to come in front of the head, in other words, towards the viewer, and the other one is going to go behind.

So what we need to do is animate these, so that they basically look like they're coming in front of and behind the head. Now right now I have these on layers that are behind the head, and that's because when I drew this, it was just face forward, but let's go ahead and actually move these layers up. So I'm going to move these above Head, so now that they're on top. And then we'll use masking to make them appear like they're moving in front of and behind the head.

So the first thing I want to do is go to Frame 10, which is my center position. And let's go ahead and start with the Left Ear, and I want to make sure that I have keyframes for that on Frame 10. So I want to select Position, Scale, Rotation, and make sure I have a keyframe for that. Now I need to animate, going in front of and behind the head. So let's go ahead and start right here at the middle, because at this point it's supposed to be slightly behind the head.

So I'm going to zoom in a little bit here, and in this case in order to do this I want to select the ear, and then select my Pen tool, and we're going to draw a mask. So I'm just going to click once here, and that sets a corner, click and drag to set a Bezier handle, click again just once to set a corner, corner, corner, and then I'm going to close that mask. Now, when I drew this mask, it's actually in the opposite position that I want, so I'm going to go ahead and go into this mask, and instead of Add, I'm going to make it a Subtract mask.

And when I do that, you can see how now it makes the ear look like it's behind the head. In fact, let's compare this to the other ear. Now with the mask, it looks like, you know, basically the head is in front of that, and that's simply because we've masked it out. So let's go back in and let's adjust that mask a little bit. I'm going to go ahead and adjust my Mask Shape. In fact, right now the best thing to do is to add a keyframe at this point, because we do want to animate the shape of this mask, but I want to make sure I get it right, so I'm just going to go ahead and adjust it just a little bit here.

And now I need to animate this mask. So the first thing we want to do is probably animate it as the ear comes in front of the head. Now when that happens, the ear itself is going to move, but right now let's just worry about the mask. So I'm going to select my Mask and I'm just going to move it away from the ear. So right now it's just revealing the ear. So right now it looks like it's doing this; okay. But if we look at the whole head -- I'm going to hit Fit here -- you'll see that well, this ear actually needs to be somewhere around here.

It needs to kind of move a little bit more to the left. So we can do that just by basically selecting that ear and moving it, and we can also rotate it maybe a little bit, and because it's coming towards the viewer, we could scale up a little bit. I'm going to scale it up to about 108, maybe 110; somewhere in that range. Now it looks like it's going behind the head. So as the head turns, the ear looks like it's going behind the head. Now the next thing we need to do is to make it kind of rotate back the other way; in other words, we need to make it kind of disappear.

So the first thing I want to do is let's just worry about the position of this ear. So I'm going to select the ear and let's just move this back so it's just behind that cheek, or whatever that's supposed to be, and then shrink it down just a little bit, maybe shrink it down to about 90; somewhere around there. So now what's happening is the ear is coming around, and then it's going the other way, but when it does that, again, it's in front of the head, so we need to mask this out. So that's easy.

We can just go to our Mask Path, zoom in here a little bit, and let's go ahead and just tweak this path. So I'm going to select these Bezier handles, and just set that so it's right on the edge of the face. So now as he moves around, okay, we may have to tweak this just a little bit here. Go ahead and bring this a little bit back. There we go. Okay, so now I've got it looking like the ear is moving behind the head.

So let's go ahead and take a look at this. So now this ear looks like it makes the head actually turn, if you look at just that one side. So let's go ahead and do the same thing for the other ear. I'm going to go to the Right Ear, select it. Let's go to the middle frame, Frame 10. Position, Scale, Rotation; we just want to lock down some keyframes here. And in this case, it's going the opposite direction, so it will be closest to the viewer at Frame 20.

So again, I'm going to scale it up to about 108. I think that's what I did before. So now, you can even see how this is giving more of the illusion of his head turning, and now what we need to do is add in that mask. So let's go -- keep this selected, zoom in. Select the Pen tool, and again, I'm just going to set a corner here, a Bezier handle here. Another corner, corner, corner, and I'm going to close the path.

And again, just like we had before, this just defaults to Add, so we're going to change it to Subtract, and then I need to tweak these handles here. So let's go ahead and get this aligned with the side of his face. It should be pretty close. There we go. And now let's do some animation. So the first thing I want to do is make sure I set a key for the Mask Path, and then as it goes to Frame 20, this is going to move away. So I'll move this away. So now the first part is done, and now what we need to do again is shrink down that ear a little bit.

I'm going to shrink it down to 90, and then move it over so it's just behind the head. Now we need to adjust the mask to fit. So I'm going to back up to the Mask, select it, and move it so it's right at the edge of the face there. We need to expand this a little bit, make it a little bit bigger, and that looks pretty good. Okay, this is close enough.

We could tweak this a little bit more, but let's just, for the sake of time, just see what we've got here. So now we've got this. So that looks pretty good. That looks like his head is turning. Those ears really do add in a lot, and if we go to our main composition, this just flows through naturally. So I've got my composition going through just like that. So now, anything I add to this will just naturally flow through to my main character. So now we've got the ears, and let's go ahead and move on to the other facial features in the next lesson.

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