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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.
Another way to further organize your character is to use null objects. Now a null object is basically just an empty layer. It doesn't render, but you can use it as connect points; in other words, a way to parent different parts of your character together to an object that doesn't render, but you can still move around. So let's go ahead and use that on this character. Now, if you do the type of layer hierarchy where you have the legs separate, you're going to run into a problem. So, for example, if I move this foot, it doesn't move the entire character.
If I move the upper body, again, the legs don't follow. Now, this is handy for when you're animating a walk, but it might not be well organized for when you want to move the entire character around, because you have to select three objects, but we can fix that by using a null. We can go into a layer > New > Null Object, and when you do, it creates a layer called Null, and also notice how you have an object in the scene. So I'm going to go ahead and zoom in here a little bit so we can see it.
Now a null object has a number of points along the outside, but the most important point is the top left corner, and that is where the pivot point of that null is. And what we can do is we can actually move that null down between the feet, and we can use this as the master control node of the character. So all I have to do is select the Torso, and I can parent that to the Null. So now the Null will move the Torso. So when I move this Null around, the top of the body moves with it, and I can do the same for Left and Right Shoe.
Now remember, these are the top of the hierarchy, not the hips. So when I do that, I can just select Null as the top of the hierarchy, and then when I select that object and move it, I'm moving my entire character. This acts great as a placement device for your character. Now you can use nulls and other places as well. Later in the course, we'll see how we can use nulls as a bone system for the Puppet tool, for example. So just be aware that nulls can be used as a way to organize your character a little bit more efficiently.
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