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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.
As you start adding more and more expressions, and more and more controls to your character, you are going to need to consolidate those to make it easy to animate. So in this case, for example, if I wanted to animate the head, I have to dig through a lot of layers, find the head, open that up, find the time remap, and then that just animates the head turn. If I want to go to blink, I may have to go some place else. So let's go ahead and create something that we can position, say at the top of the layers stack, that contains all of that.
So in fact, let's go up to the top of our layer stack, and add in a null object that we can use. So I am going to go into Layer, create a Null Object, make sure that it's at the top of the stack, and then let's go ahead and right-click that, and type Rename. I am going to rename it HEAD CONTROL, and in this I am going to put a lot of different controls. So into this, we are going to put a lot of different controls. The first one we are going to put is a control for head turn. So if we go all the way down to HEAD, you'll see that we have Time Remap here.
First off, let's go ahead and make some shy layers here. I am going to take everything between that Head Control and HEAD, I am going to make those shy, and just hit my Shy layer so that they collapse, and they are right next to each other. It will make it easier to see what I am doing. So the first thing that I am going to do is to put what's called a slider into my HEAD CONTROL layer. Now this is actually an effect. So if I select my HEAD CONTROL layer, go up to Effect, you'll notice we have these things called Expression Controls, and these are just different types of controls we can add so that we can tie expressions to them.
So we have one that will give you an angle, one that will give you checkbox, color RGB, layers, point control: that's X, Y. We just want one dimension, because we are just dealing with one number, the time remap number, so we are going to put in what's called Slider Control. Now when you put that in, if you open up your Effects panel, you'll see we have something called slider Control, and under that is actually what's called a slider. And that slider is just an empty container; it just contains a number, and we can tie something to that to have it control something.
So the first thing we want to do is let's give this a more descriptive name. So I am going to go ahead and select Slider Control, right-click over it, hit Rename, and let's just call this HEAD TURN. So now I have HEAD TURN with a slider underneath it. Now the first thing you would think logically is, let's go ahead and just tie Time Remap to this slider, and that way this number will go into here. Well, that actually won't work. Let me just show you what it'll do. Let's go ahead and Add Expression, and if I use my Pick Whip and just drag it over to that slider, his head immediately turns all the way to zero.
If I start moving this, though, you'll see that it's just snapping. It's not going from 1 through 20; it's just snapping left and right. I don't have any discrete control over his head turn, and that's because of a little known secret to the way the time remap works. Even though this number is a frame number, it is actually measured internally in After Effects as time; in other words, it's measured in seconds.
So we have to do frames to seconds in order to get this to work. In other words, we need to do a number conversion, and we can do this by just adding a little bit to our expression. So if I click on this line right below the expression here, you can see I can drag that up so we have a little more room to type, and we are going to actually type a little more into this expression. First thing I am going to do is I am going to create a variable. I am just going to type the letter a, and then the Equals sign. And what this does is it creates a variable called a, and it's equal to HEAD CONTROL, HEAD TURN, Slider.
So, a= the value of that slider, and then we are just going to do a framesToTime(a), and that's all I need to do. Just click outside of this, and it should work. So now if I take my slider and I slide it, you'll see that pretty much a 1:1 ratio here. So it goes from 0 to 20, and there we go. So now all I have to do is set that slider to the number I want of my time remap, and I am all set.
So now I have this HEAD CONTROL, and I am going to start adding more and more sliders to it. But I want it in a place where I can get to it fairly easily. So the next thing I am going to do is take that HEAD CONTROL and just drag it underneath the chin of the character, so that way I can also use it to move the character's head. So in other words, I am going to select the HEAD layer here, and I am going to link it to HEAD CONTROL. So now when I select HEAD CONTROL, I can move that head up and down, and so on.
So now I have got not only positional control of the head, but also character's head turn. Now I just have to take this and then link it to my character's neck, so that way it's linked into the character's body as well. So let's go ahead and refresh what we've done here. We've created a null object, added a slider to it, and then tied the head control's time remap to that slider, but we had to use a little bit of a time conversion in order to make it work. And now that we have this, we have a great container into which to put additional sliders.
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