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Motion-sketching an animation

From: After Effects Apprentice 13: Paint, Roto, and Puppet

Video: Motion-sketching an animation

Next, let's try our hand at creating more organic movements for our Puppet Pin animated character. If you have access to the Exercise Files, go to the Comps folder and in this is case open up the Comp 06-Puppet-sketch*starter. This a little bit out of order compared to the After Effects Apprentice book, but I figure as long as we are animating, let's keep the groove going. Double click it to open it. Make sure that Puppet Effect or Mesh 1 underneath Puppet are selected, so I can see my user interface in the Comp panel and I've that pins on his-- I guess you would call those his knees and his wrist where it connects to the pencil.

Motion-sketching an animation

Next, let's try our hand at creating more organic movements for our Puppet Pin animated character. If you have access to the Exercise Files, go to the Comps folder and in this is case open up the Comp 06-Puppet-sketch*starter. This a little bit out of order compared to the After Effects Apprentice book, but I figure as long as we are animating, let's keep the groove going. Double click it to open it. Make sure that Puppet Effect or Mesh 1 underneath Puppet are selected, so I can see my user interface in the Comp panel and I've that pins on his-- I guess you would call those his knees and his wrist where it connects to the pencil.

You already know when you see this four- direction arrow on the cursor that you can go ahead and drag and move it around. If you were point later in time then when you originally created the pins, you will get an additional animation keyframe. But in this case, I am going to undo to get rid of that keyframe, move my Current Time Indicator, back to the start of my composition, and explore using a motion sketch to create these animation paths. Now back in the After Effects Apprentice lesson on Advanced Animation, we showed you how to use Motion Sketch to draw a motion path for a layer using your mouse or a pen and tablet.

Well, you can do the same thing for Puppet Pins. Select your Puppet Pin tool to bring up its additional options and click on the text for Record Options. Here it will give you instructions to hold down the Command key on Mac or Ctrl key on Windows while dragging a pin to record the animation. The default Speed is 100% which says basically record in real-time just as fast as you're dragging and the Smoothing is set to 10. Now again if you've been through that Advanced Animation course, you know that Smoothing simplifies your motion path by removing keyframes and automatically bending out Bezier handles to approximate the path you drew, but we prefer to do our own smoothing.

So I will just set this down to either 0 or 1 so I have a lot of detail on my path and I can always smooth this later. Used Draft Deformation shows me what my character is doing while I am dragging. That's pretty good. But I am going to leave Show Mesh off, because I find that mesh can be a bit visually confusing when I want to focus on the pixels underneath that mesh. With these options selected, I'll click OK, hold Command on Mac or Ctrl on Windows. My cursor changes to a stopwatch as soon as I get it near a pin. Recording has not started yet until I actually click-and-drag.

So I wait until I've decided what I am going to do and click-and-drag and you will see the Time Indicator run through my Timeline and there are my Puppet Pin keyframes in the Timeline and in the Comp panel. I will drag the Current Time Indicator through and you can see the arm follow this path around and I will RAM preview it and there is animation. If I don't like the animation, I can just undo, make sure my Time Indicator is back at the start, maybe change my Record Options to say only record at 50% speed.

In other words, time will run slow, I don't need to draw as fast. Enter. Hold Command or Ctrl, stopwatch, click-and-drag. Now I can create a more leisurely detailed movement because time moved slower inside my Timeline. Now these are just normal keyframes. You can do everything with them that you could do with motion path keyframes. For example, if they're are all selected like this, I can hold Option on Mac or Alt on Windows, click on the first or last keyframe, and stretch them all out in time to maybe fill my entire composition.

If I find this path is too detailed, too many individual Bezier handles to edit, if I want to change the path, I will go up to Window, select Smoother, drag this panel close to my Timeline, just make it easier to see, and with my Puppet Pin Deform keyframes selected, set the Tolerance to say 5 and click Apply. Now I have a simplified path. If I wanted even more simplified, I will undo, put in a higher number like 8, then click Apply.

Now I have far fewer keyframes to manage. There is my animation path and if I decide that for example, this bend is too tight, I will Shift+click to deselect this keyframe, then click normally to select just it. Now I can move these keyframes around, bend the path to give it a truly one tolerance character, maybe pull this in here a little bit, smooth that out, or even just delete a keyframe, pull out a Bezier handle, and smooth out the path that way. RAM preview again and there is my new puppet animation.

Now in this case, I probably wanted to have some additional pins to anchor him so he is not going quite as crazy, but it gives you an idea of what to do. And by the way, the Puppet tool does indeed respond to Motion Blur. So I will turn on the Motion Blur switch for this layer, turn it on for the composition. You see this pencil already started to blur out a little bit. Q for RAM preview, it will take longer to calculate, because now After Effects has to calculate all these in-between frames. You can see the arm really stretching out and being blurred.

And there is the animation. Again that looks even smoother and more organic. So the nice thing about using this ability to record pin movements, is you're going to end up with complex or more organic or natural movements than you probably could creating individual keyframes at specific points in time.

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