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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.
Now let's take a look at how to set up a bone system where you can use objects in your scene to deform parts of your character. In this case, we're going to use puppet pins combined with null objects. We're working with the same character that we worked with before, just one little difference: I took the legs, and I just made a subcomposition of them. So I basically just took all of the leg parts, put it into a precomp, and we're going to use that to deform with the puppet pins. So I have just this separate set of legs here.
So the process starts with adding in some puppet pins. Now in this case, we're going to add puppet pins to the legs, and then we're going to add in some null objects. So let's go ahead and zoom in to the legs here. In fact, I'm going to go ahead and turn off the Torso so we can see a little bit easier. And then just select the LEGS, and we're going to go ahead and set up our puppet pins. So I'm going to go to my Puppet Pin tool here, and then just position those. So I want one here at the top of leg where the hips are, one at the knee, one at the ankle, and then another one down here at the tip of the toe.
Now when we do this, when I look at the Puppet Effect, you'll see that we already have Mesh 1, and if I open up Deform, I should have those four puppet pins. Now we've just done the right leg, but one of the key things about the Puppet Pin tool is that it only works for mesh areas that are connected. So we have a lot of white space between the two legs. So moving one puppet pin here does not affect this leg at all, and that's kind of the default mode of how the puppet pin works, but we can use this to our advantage.
So let's go ahead and select our LEGS, and set up the puppet pin for the left side, and notice now when I hover over this leg, it highlights, and that means I'm working on this separate mesh. So let's do the same thing again. I'm going to go ahead and do one for the hips, one for the knee, ankle, and tip of the toe. So now I should have puppet pins that work pretty much for the whole character. And if you go down here, notice how we've actually got two meshes here: we've got Mesh 1, which is our right leg, and if you select each of these puppet pins, you can see which ones they are, but we both also have Mesh 2, which is our left leg, and again, four puppet pins on that.
Even though it's a same Puppet Effect, these are kind of viewed slightly separately within After Effects, so just so that you are a little bit aware of that. So now what we need to do is find a way to control these legs, and the easiest thing to do is put some objects in the scene that we can grab easily. Now, you can use shape layers, or really anything you want, but I like to use null objects, because they are very easy to get to. They kind of stand out in the scene, they don't render, so let's go ahead and do those.
So I'm going to do Layer > New > Null Object. Now when you bring a null object into the scene -- let's go up here -- it usually comes in at the center. And also notice that the pivot point of a null object is the top left corner, so that's my pivot point right there. Now what I need to do is position the pivot point of this null object right where that puppet pin is. So I can kind of eyeball it here; it's kind of the center of that circle. Somewhere around there.
And I have one here; it's called Null 4. So before I do anything else, let me go ahead and rename this. This is going to be RIGHT HIP. And I'm going to re-layer this. I'm going to drag this down towards the bottom of the stack here, and position it just above the LEGS, so that way it's just easy for me to work with. So I'm going to go ahead and select the LEGS, and go down to Mesh 1, and just select Puppet Pin 1, and see how that RIGHT HIP control is oriented.
It's a little bit down, so I can just select that, and then just hit my arrow keys; move it up a few bumps here, and that looks pretty good. Now this doesn't have to be exactly accurate; we can do close enough for this. So I'm going to go ahead and select my RIGHT HIP, and then I'm just going to do a copy and paste. I'm going to use the menu here. And let's just go ahead and, again, right- click, rename this, and this one is going to be called RIGHT KNEE. So I'm going to go ahead and select that, and drag it down, and get it towards that knee. And again, let's see; Puppet Pin 2, yeah, pretty close.
Again, I'm a little low, so I can just bump that up just a bit; close enough. And again, just copy and paste the RIGHT KNEE, rename it RIGHT ANKLE, and again, I'm just going to drag that down to the ankle. And one more time; I'm going to copy and paste this, move it to the toe, and let's rename this RIGHT TOE.
Okay, let's go ahead and turn on my Torso here, and let's fit this. So what I have is I have one null per puppet pin, and right now I'm just focusing on the right leg. So the next step is to connect those puppet pins to the null objects, and for that we're going to need some expressions. We're going to do that in the next lesson.
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