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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 start animating this shot where the monster is born. These shots of special effects shots usually have a lot of layers into a lot of little things and they are all kind of combined to create one of these more complex effects. And in this particular shot, there is actually 3 major points here. There is the point where the monster spins in or actually the skeleton spins in and there is a yellow burst and then we have kind of this chat or electric shock effect as the monster is kind of slowly revealed.
And then we have another yellow burst and then the monster appears. So let's go ahead and work on this first part. If you notice here there is a couple of elements here, there is it fades in from white and then it actually fades in into almost like a Lens Flare Effect and then the monster spins in and then we have a yellow burst with some of these lightning balls which we will do later and then we come into this. So let's go ahead and just go through this first part of the shot.
I have got a blank project setup here on the Desktop under Exercise Files/Monsterpiece/After Effects/Shot06_00A. Let's go ahead and open that and this is essentially all the layers in that Photoshop file that we are playing with. And the most important layers for this first part are the skeleton, now we don't need the monster, so I'm going to go ahead and turn off these layers here at this Monster Glow and all of these and then this white burst we don't need that, the yellow burst we don't need that right now, although we will use it later.
Now the Giant Glow is used basically to bring it in from white, so let's go ahead and just start with that. This is actually very easy thing to do, all we have to do is essentially just play with the Opacity of this, but we also need to make it pure white. And actually before I do that I'm going to go up here and turn off this skeleton layer, so we just play with this one layer. I'm going to go to Giant Glow which is Layer 15 and first thing we need to do is make it pure white. We would also have a little bit of blue around the edges here, so I'm going to go into Effect and into a Color Correction.
Now we can use any number of effects to get it to white, we use saturation or any of those. Brightness contrast seems to work just fine, so let's go ahead and use that and essentially just turn up the brightness until it's white somewhere on there, set a key. Now for some of these I'm actually going to be using numbers that I cleaned from the animation, from the final animation. Now sometimes you are not going to know exactly what these numbers are until you do some back and forth tests.
So sometimes for experience, I'm just going to give you the numbers that we came to through trial and error, OK. So for this brightness, it actually figured about 10 frames to actually go from full brightness all the way down to 0, in fact I can just type in that number. So for Opacity we start a frame 8 at a 100% and then by frame 20, it actually fades to 0. So there we go, now you can see that's kind of a nice way to get into that background layer.
Now in the background layer, we actually started with a Lens Flare to kind of give it that burst of light from creation kind of effect, so for this I actually chose the background layer and I added an effect which is under Generate I believe, it's called Lens Flare. We have all used those and you can see how that works. For Lens Flare, it's very similar to the one in Photoshop and we have different types of flares. Now this is the Zoom lens, we also have a Prime lens, the one we relevantly use is the 105 mm Prime, which gives more of kind of that burst of light.
You can see the difference here, this is more concentrated on the rings around it, this is again with the Zoom, it's even more concentrated on the rings. The 105 Prime is more concerned with the burst of light, so I am going to go ahead and take that and just kind of bring it down towards the middle there, actually if I center it all these rings go inside which gives me a much better effect and kind of more of what I want. And then all I need to do is deal with the brightness of this effect, I want a really bright lens flare to start with, in fact I wanted to be almost white.
So in fact I'm actually going to pump that way up and pump it up to over 200% and I'm going to do that at frame effective, I'm going to actually have a need to bring this back a little bit. These start at frame 10 as the white of that giant glow fades out, I'm going to have that lens flare come in and then fade out to 0, by about Frame 30, so actually I'm really taking almost a second to fade in, so I'm actually going to fade it to 0.
So now I have got this and that comes down to 0 and then in that as it comes to 0, we are going to actually bring in our skeletons. So let's move up to that skeleton layer, go ahead all the way up here to skeleton and let's turn that on. Now you can see when I turn him on, he is above all of these other layers, so I need to bring him back in terms of, he needs to start smaller and he also needs to start with an Opacity of 0.
So he actually starts coming in right around Frame 15, so let me start there and on Frame 15, let's go ahead and make his Opacity to 0. Now he actually starts spinning up as we come up here, you can see this lens flare kind of reduces and it starts to get at the point where we can actually see what's behind it right around frame 19. So that's we are going to start animating up the monster or at least the skeleton of the monster.
Now if I animate him all the way up to a 100%, we pretty much give away the creation of the monster, but we don't want to do that, we want to kind of leave this in mystery a little bit as it comes in. We kind of want to gradually reveal the monster. So one of the things I do is, I just bring the Opacity down, so you can't quite see him. That also kind of embeds him a little bit into that lens flare kind of makes that to coincide, but also I want a little bit more mystery.
So one of the things we did was we blurred him. I like using Fast Blur, because well for one thing, it's fast and it's an easy enough blur effect to use. So adding a Fast Blur and then I'm going to blur him a lot, I'm going to blur him somewhere around 50 or so. So you can almost not see him, OK, but we can still make out some of this. And also he seems to be fading in just a little bit, in fact I'm going to go ahead and set a key here for the blurriness. So one of the things, we also did was we added another brightness contrast to the monster or to the skeleton and if you notice here, if we go brightness contrast, look at how that effects kind of almost exenterate that blur effect.
So we actually brought up brightness contrast a lot at the beginning here and if we bring down the contrast again, that's the effect we want almost kind of like you can tell it's a skeleton but not really, so that's really the effect that we want to get. Now we have to spin him up, so I'm going to go down here to my Transform tools here and let's just go ahead and play with them this is all happening on Frame 19 by the way. So first thing I want to do is just rotate him, so he rotates almost a full 180 degrees or so and then we need to shrink him, OK.
And I think we started right around 45% or so. One of the things I'm looking at here is this lens flare, looking at that ring right around there just to kind of see where he is coming from. And so you can see there that as he spins up and he spins up really over the course of maybe about 10 frames to Frame 28 is where it kind of comes to his maximum point and then I'm going to zoom him up. In fact, I zoomed him up just a little bit over 100% here, so let's see. There we go, OK.
So now you can see how all of these effects layered on top of each other kind of bring that monster in, OK. So now once he is in, we still need to have that yellow burst which brings us into the next part of it. So the yellow burst actually starts pretty quickly, it actually starts almost as a lens flare. We really don't want to have this background there for that long, so one of the things as we have got lot of things happening here and then it kind of goes to just background with skeleton, we really don't want that to happen.
So I'm actually almost starting this burst almost right as the monster comes on. So I'm actually going to start this yellow burst here at Frame 16, I believe. So I'm going to turn that on and see here it is. And one of the things is you can see this burst really isn't quite centered on him, so one of the things I'm going to do is I'm going to scale up just a little bit and then that will give me the room to position it a little bit, position it up so that it's kind of centered right there.
So I'm just scaling up just enough, so that I can get it centered. In fact, I can probably keep it at a 100% right here, so now I am going to actually set keys for Position, Scale and Opacity. And at this point, I'm actually going to bring the Opacity down to 0 and then as we bring the Opacity up at Frame 30 right there, you can see now this burst is going to come up right around here, I need to scale this up a little bit. So I'm actually going to play a little bit with Scale and copy as it's kind of comes in we are going to copy and paste this 100% Scale keyframe and then I'm going to scale it really big, so that it pretty much fills the screen.
And then from here I can just fade it out. So here is going to still be at a 100%, so you can just jog that keyframe and then I'm going to bring it down. But we are going to go ahead and do that in the next lesson, because we have got a lot of stuff going on here, so let's go ahead and move on to that in the next lesson.
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