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Creating Animated Characters in After Effects
Illustration by John Hersey
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Designing joints


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Creating Animated Characters in After Effects

with George Maestri

Video: Designing joints

As you start layering your characters, you want to make sure that your joints have the proper overlap so that they animate well. Now, this is most important in the elbows, and the knees, but also the shoulders and hips can be important as well. But let's take a look at this character's elbows, and let's make sure that we have the right overlap so that this animates well. So I'm going to go ahead and zoom in a little bit here to his arm so that we can see it.
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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

Designing joints

As you start layering your characters, you want to make sure that your joints have the proper overlap so that they animate well. Now, this is most important in the elbows, and the knees, but also the shoulders and hips can be important as well. But let's take a look at this character's elbows, and let's make sure that we have the right overlap so that this animates well. So I'm going to go ahead and zoom in a little bit here to his arm so that we can see it.

Right now, it's all in one piece, but we want to cut out this forearm so that we can bend it at the elbow. Now imagine what an elbow does: it rotates, so a rotation is basically a movement around a circle. So we want these joints to overlap with a circular outline. So the easiest way to do this is to select our Elliptical Marquee tool, and if want, we can do a fixed ratio of 1:1, and that will force it to be a circle. So then what we can do is just draw a circle that's the width of the arm, and make sure that we position it right where we want the elbow to be.

Now once we do that, we have the overlap; we have the outline, so all we need to do is just select the rest of the arm and go from there. So I'm just going to select my Polygonal Lasso tool, or Lasso tool, hold down the Shift key, and I just want to make sure I intersect right there at the tangent, and then just select the rest of my arm, and there we go. Now once I have this, all I have to do now is just do a Cut and a Paste, and now I've got this arm in the right place.

Now notice how I've got kind of a divot here, but we can fix that later. So all I want to do is make sure that this fits, basically, into that little divot. And the reason we have a circular outline is because when we start to animate this, you want to make sure that that is rotating around that circular outline, and if we have that right, you'll see how it makes a much better animation. So once I have this, I can now basically fill in the difference there.

So I'm just going to zoom in a little bit more so I can see, and again, just create a circular outline here. I use my Elliptical Marquee; make sure that fits. Let's do this, draw this one more time. There we go. And I'm just going to use my arrow keys to kind of fill in there. And once I have that, then all I have to do is make sure I'm on the proper layer, select my Paintbrush, and then -- or my Fill tool -- and I can just fill that in. Okay.

So now that I have both of these, I can move this into place here, and I should have pretty good joint action. So now let's go ahead and just hit Transform, move my pivot point to the center of that elbow, and now when I rotate you'll see how I have a pretty good animation. So we can do this for all joints in the character, and again, this is very similar to what we did with the head and the neck.

You want some pixels behind what you are animating so that we don't get any holes in the character. Now, this works the same for Illustrator. All you have to do is make sure that your shapes have a circular overlap as well.

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