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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.
So now let's take this basic Photoshop file and set it up for lip-sync animation. Now the setup for this is a little bit different than typical After Effects setup. So let me show you what we have got here. I'm going to go ahead into After Effects and we are going to open a project. It's going to be on the Desktop\Exercise\ Files\Monsterpiece\AfterEffects. It's called Shot01_00A and this is essentially just a blank file set to the proper length and I've gone ahead and turned off the curtain layers because we need to see what's underneath.
So what we are going to focus on right now are layers 5 to 13. Now these are the mouth layers. Now if we wanted to we could just animate these like we animated the blinks for example. We could just turn Opacity on and off for each of these layers to make the mouths turn on and off and do the lip-sync but that would get really complicated because you have got about 10 layers here that you need to worry about. There is a much easier way using sub-compositions and time remapping so let me show you how to do that.
Well the first thing we need to do is actually just select all these layers as I have done so I have just Shift-selected layers 5 to 13 and we are going to create what's called a pre-comp. So I'm going to go into Layer and here we are going to do Precompose and there is a shortcut called Ctrl+Shift+C if you want to use that and once I hit that it's going to bring up this menu. It's going to ask for a name. Let's just call it Mouths. That seems logical enough and then do we want to move all the attributes into a new composition? Yes. And do we want to open the New Composition? Yes, we do.
Let's go ahead and hit OK and so it opens a new composition and so let's show you what happens here. In the original one it's taken all those layers and basically collapsed them into one composition called Mouths and now we can go into this composition here and just animate. Now we are not going to actually animate the lip-sync in this layer, we are just going to set up a short animation where we have one mouth per frame. Then once we go back into the main composition, we are going to use time remapping to actually select our mouths.
So let me show you how this works. And the first thing we need to do is we need to get all these layers to one frame long. Well the easiest way to do that is to set your time slider to 0, Shift-select all of the layers and then hit Alt and the Right Bracket, which is the key just above the Enter key on your keyboard. Now what it does is it actually shortens the layers to wherever this time slider is plus 1. So if the time slider was at 6, these would all go to Frame 7 and stop so basically it would just make it 6 frames long.
So let's go ahead and start setting up our mouths. Before I do that, I really want to be able to see what my mouths looks like. So I'm actually going to go into my composition settings, go to my Background Color and let's just go ahead and make that kind of a light grey so that I can see what's in there. So now all I have to do is start setting up 1 per frame of each of these mouths. So what I can do is, the first frame is this A mouth with teeth. If I slide this out one frame, this layer 2, we have A mouth without teeth and then if I want to, I can do the same here for the teeth and the U mouth at frame 2.
At Frame 3, mouth would be U without teeth, Frame 4 would be M, W at Frame 5, Frame 6 would be O. But the one thing about this O mouth is that it's almost exactly the same size as that U mouth. So what I want to do is just go ahead and shrink that a little bit, shrink it by about half, and then make sure that it's...
this mouth is basically over the other mouth. So that when I slide them that they are all in the same position. There we go. And now let's go ahead with the teeth and E and then an E without the teeth. So I have got 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. 9 mouths, but my composition is way longer than that. Well we can certainly change that. All we have to do is I know it's 9 frames long so all I have to do is go in the Composition, Composition Settings and just change that to 9.
So now I have a 9 frame long movie with one mouth per frame. Great. Now let me show you how to set this up for lip-sync. We are going to go back into our original scene where we have mouths and let's go ahead and select this layer 5, Mouths, and expand it and in fact I'm going to zoom in just a little bit here so I can see what I'm doing. Now all I have to do is do a Time Remap on this so I'm going to go ahead and right click over this, go into Time, Enable Time Mapping.
You can also hit this hot key here, Ctrl+Alt+T, and what that does is notice how it makes the movie longer and what it does is it puts in two keyframes here and the real key to this Time Remap trick here is this field right here and this gives me the actual frame number of each mouth. So Frame 0 is this mouth. Frame 1 is this mouth, Frame 2, 3, 4, 5.
Now all I have to do is just dial in the number and I can dial in the mouth. Pretty cool, huh? In fact let's go ahead and delete these keyframes and let's go back here and you can see that if we go back to Frame 0, you can see that all you have to do is left-click on this and just slide it and it basically works almost like a slider and each one is just a different mouth. Now there is also one other thing. It's when we actually animate this, we do need to hold between keyframes.
So let's actually move the slider out here and just move it up to like 8 or 9. If you notice here, as I go through this, actually this was two but let's say let's bring it up to like 8 here. So as I scrub through this, you can see it actually scrubs through all the mouths. That's because it's not holding this particular keyframe. So let's go back to 0 and I'm going to select that keyframe and again right-click over it and just say Toggle Hold Keyframe. When I do that, now it's going to hold that keyframe no matter what, until it hits the next one. So it's almost like an On/Off switch.
So for example we are going to start with this one and then at this frame we go to this one, and then at a different frame we go to this one. So now when you have that Toggle Hold Keyframe on, you can just go between all of these. Isn't that pretty cool? OK. I'm going to delete these first two keyframes and I'm going to go ahead and save that out and so now in the next lesson, we are actually going to do the actual lip-sync.
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