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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 start animating this Dig cycle here. Now I'm just going to start with a blank project here, which has all the characters in it ready to go. We are on our Desktop/Exercise Files/ Monsterpiece/AFX/Shot 03_00A. And this is essentially a blank version of the file that we had, which is just no animation and it's pretty much all set up. I did leave the puppet points in. We know how to put those in and I will show you where I put them in the character.
Let's start with Dr. Frankenstein. So I've got two characters here. We've got Dr. Frankenstein and Fritz, so let's go ahead and turn off all those layers that are not Dr. Frankenstein. I'm going to go ahead and scroll down here and Shift-select everything above Frank and just turn them off, so we don't have to see them. Now we are going to animate him digging. Let's go ahead and show you how I set up some of the layers here. We have a torso layer, we have a left arm, we have a shovel and then I have hands. I have a separate hand for right hand and left hand and I also have a separate arm.
Now the one thing is I did make this hierarchical. I kind of linked everything together. So the shovel actually has the hands attached to it, so I have these little hand layers and those are attached to the shovel. And so what I can do with that is I can animate the shovel itself and the hands will go along with it and then all I have to do is kind of match up the arms and the torso to make it all come together. So it's going to go make the animation a lot easier. The main object, the thing that's actually has to be stable in this is the shovel, that's the thing that's moving the most.
So it's better to animate that first rather than try and animate his hands and match the shovel to his hand. It's much easier to animate just the shovel, so let's go ahead and do that. This is animated on a 20-frame cycle, so I'm going to zoom out a little bit, so I can see Frame 20 here. There we go. So let's start with adding in some blank keyframes to start. Now what happens when you dig is basically you anticipate. You dig the head of the shovel into the ground and you lift up and toss it over your shoulder and then repeat. So I'm going to go ahead and go about 4 frames up and I'm going to anticipate, which means he's going to rear back on that shovel to give him a little bit of momentum.
So what I'm going to do is just select the shovel layer and I'm just going to pull that shovel back just a little bit, something like that. Not too much, you don't really have to. So basically he pulls back. In fact I might want to rotate this down or maybe rotate it up just a little bit. Again I'm trying to think of how his hands are going to move this. So he comes back. OK, so that's at Frame 4.
Now we go forward a few frames, let's say to Frame 9 and now he is going to dig that shovel in, so I'm going to go ahead and rotate this down just a little bit. In fact when he rotates down, it's going to be more like that and I'm just going to push that down and I was going to dig where? Right below his feet, because that's where the ground is. So he is going to go just below the ground, so something like that. So he goes down and then it's going to come up and he is going to toss that over his shoulder.
So that's going to take a little bit longer, so let's say I'm going to go to Frame 14 or so, 14 or 15 and first thing we are going to rotate it up, so he throws the dirt over his shoulder and then I'm going to put it forward just a little bit. So let's see if that works. Let's see. Maybe bring in a little bit back here. Again I'm just kind of roughing this out. We can always tweak it as we kind of finalize this. So there he's kind of throwing it over his shoulder. OK. And then we have to come back to the original position.
So I'm going to go ahead and select those keys at Frame 0 and copy and paste them. So now what do we have? We have a kind of a cycle, so if we want to we can continue the cycle just by copying and pasting keyframes. OK so it's a 20-frame cycle, so now he digs, dig and so on. Great. Now the next step is to animate the hands and in the next lesson, we will animate, using the Puppet tool, his hands and his body.
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