Start learning with our library of video tutorials taught by experts. Get started
Viewed by members. in countries. members currently watching.
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.
Once you have your character set up and rigged the way that you want, it's always a good idea to do a simple animation, to test out the rig and to make sure that the character doesn't break. What I like to do is to take a line of dialog and just animate that. It will give me a way to test the mouths, blinks, some gestures, that sort of thing. So let's go ahead and bring in a line of dialog, and we will just do some simple animations against it, just to make sure that our rig is working properly. So you can do File > Import, and in the Chap09 folder we should have a file called AllWeek.wav.
And let's go ahead and bring that in, and let's just do a quick listen to it. You can see it's 134 frames long, and it's a very simple line of dialog. (Character: Oh boy! I've been waiting for this all week!) So it's got a lot of energy. It's pretty a good line, because we have got a lot of dialog, some energy, we can really do some work with the character. So first thing we need to do is to set our composition to that length. So first thing we want to do is drop this in, AllWeek.wav, and you will see it's 134 frames long, right about there, 134, 135.
So let's do our Composition Settings and set our Duration to 134. So now our composition is set to the same length as our dialog. And if we open that up, you can see, here is my waveform, and there it is. So I am going to close this down, and let's go ahead and just get things set up. So one of the first things I like to do is make sure that I just shy all the layers that I don't want to animate.
Now I have already done this, but let's un-shy them. You will see I have a lot of layers here that I don't need to touch. So, for example, the MOUTHS; the LIDS, some of these eye controls; the Head itself, because we're using this HEAD_CTL to manipulate it; all of those additional arms that we created, so that the hand can go behind the back; all of those I've locked and I've made shy. So I am just going to go ahead and hit Shy, and that way I only have a few layers to deal with, just the ones that are important.
Now the other thing I want to do is just set some keyframes to get the animation going. Now a lot of times you'll want to move something, and if you haven't set that initial keyframe, you won't get animation. At frame 0, just set keys for everything and that way it makes it much easier to animate. So I am going to go ahead and Shift+Select everything in here, expand, go down to Transform. And then because I have everything selected, all I have to do is just hit a key for Position, Scale, and Rotation, and that should flow through for everything.
So I am just going to go ahead and collapse that and deselect. So now I have keyframes for just about everything. So let's go into our HEAD_CTL. And you will see, I have them for the Motion keys, but for the Custom sliders, I do not have keys. So let's go ahead and set a basic key for my HEAD_TURN slider, the BLINK_slider, and the MOUTH_slider. Now one thing we should start doing right off is making sure that our key types are correct, that it's interpolating the correct way.
Now something like a head turn, you want it to have smooth interpolation, so you want it to be able to interpolate like this. But something like the mouth, you actually want that to jump from one shape to another. So anytime you're doing replacement animation, you don't want linear interpolation. So let's go ahead and select that key and right-click over it, and let's go into the Keyframe Interpolation for that mouth. So I am going to go ahead and select that. And right now it's Linear, but we want it to be set to Hold, because what we are going to do is set the value. It's going to hold that until we get the next value.
Once we do that, we will hit OK, and you'll see how the type of cursor has changed. And so what's really nice about this is that now when I change my mouth position, all I have to do is just set one key for that. So now if you look at the mouth here, you can see it just pops from one to the other. If these were set to, say, for example, Linear-- let's go in to Keyframe Interpolation and set it back to Linear--what would happen is that as I move this, it's interpolating, because while I had a keyframe at 0 and now I have a keyframe here at 9, so it's going to basically step between all those values between 0 and 9.
And that's kind of stepped through all the mouths, and that's not really what we want. So let's go ahead and select these again, right-click, Keyframe Interpolation, and let's make sure that they are on Hold. So once they are on Hold, you can see how it just pops from one to the other-- makes it much easier to animate. So I am going to go ahead and delete the additional keys I put in there, and let's make sure we leave the first key in. I am going to do same for the BLINK_slider. I am going to go ahead and just do Interpolation > Hold. Okay, now do we have any other replacement animation in here? Yes, we do.
We have the right and left hand. So let's go in to the left hand. On Time Remap, I already have a keyframe set, so I only want to do is select this, right-click, Interpolate, and again we are going to set it to Hold. And let's do the same for the right hand. We have our Time Remap. Select that, right-click, Interpolation > Hold. So now all of these will just step from hand to hand, from mouth to mouth, and from blink position to blink position.
So this makes it much easier to animate these things. So now that I have all of these set up and ready to go, I'm ready to start animating, and we are going to do that in the next lesson.
There are currently no FAQs about Creating Animated Characters in After Effects.
Access exercise files from a button right under the course name.
Search within course videos and transcripts, and jump right to the results.
Remove icons showing you already watched videos if you want to start over.
Make the video wide, narrow, full-screen, or pop the player out of the page into its own window.
Click on text in the transcript to jump to that spot in the video. As the video plays, the relevant spot in the transcript will be highlighted.