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After Effects Apprentice 13: Paint, Roto, and Puppet
Illustration by John Hersey

Teaching a puppet to write


From:

After Effects Apprentice 13: Paint, Roto, and Puppet

with Chris Meyer and Trish Meyer

Video: Teaching a puppet to write

Quite often, the Comps_finished folders supplied with our Exercise Files contains versions of these comps that go a little bit further than it was covered in the book or in these movies. For example, I will open up 06-Puppet-sketch _final and I will play back a RAM preview. In this case, not only are we animating the pencil or pen that our MiroMan is holding, it is drawing on characters to reflect the path that it drew. Let's see how we did that. I am going to turn off this effect for now and recreate it.

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After Effects Apprentice 13: Paint, Roto, and Puppet
3h 11m Intermediate Dec 21, 2011 Updated Dec 12, 2012

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

In this course, Trish and Chris Meyer introduce a series of creative tools inside Adobe After Effects. The centerpiece is Paint, where Trish demonstrates how to use the Brush, Eraser, and Clone Stamp tools to draw on a layer, remove portions of it, or repeat elements around a composition. These tools can be used for artistic purposes as well as to repair problem areas in footage. Chris shows off the Puppet tools for distorting layers, and the incredible Roto Brush, introduced in After Effects CS6, which allows you to separately define foreground and background elements so that you can replace backgrounds and selectively add special effects.

The After Effects Apprentice videos on lynda.com were created by Trish and Chris Meyer and are designed to be used on their own and as a companion to their book After Effects Apprentice. We are honored to host these tutorials in the lynda.com library.

Topics include:
  • Creating, erasing, and animating brush and clone strokes
  • Using Paint to reveal a layer over time
  • Creating animated distortions to flat artwork with the Puppet tools
  • Replacing backgrounds with the Roto Brush
Subjects:
Video Motion Graphics Visual Effects
Software:
After Effects
Authors:
Chris Meyer Trish Meyer

Teaching a puppet to write

Quite often, the Comps_finished folders supplied with our Exercise Files contains versions of these comps that go a little bit further than it was covered in the book or in these movies. For example, I will open up 06-Puppet-sketch _final and I will play back a RAM preview. In this case, not only are we animating the pencil or pen that our MiroMan is holding, it is drawing on characters to reflect the path that it drew. Let's see how we did that. I am going to turn off this effect for now and recreate it.

That effect is on something called the Write On solid. I will turn off its visibility. Now you may remember from an earlier movie in this lesson that you can motion sketch any of your Puppet Pins. I will select Puppet for the MiroMan, temporarily select the Puppet Pin tool, hold down Command on Mac, Ctrl on Windows and position my cursor over one of the pins until this little stopwatch appears. That indicates that now I can motion sketch and After Effects will capture my movements in real-time. For this particular example, we selected both the end of the pen, and Shift+selected the base of the pen and sketched both of them together to keep the pencil together and then did one sketch movement which basically kept these two aligned with each other.

The result was a path for the pen that resembled our handwriting of the letters ae. Once we have that path, we can copy and paste that path to another path like parameter. So I will select the position keyframes in the Timeline panel and Command+C or Ctrl+C to copy them. The next trick is using these position keyframes for something that will stroke this path. Now, there is a stroke effect, but there's something even better called the Write-on effect. Rather than apply Write-on, on top of the puppet, we're going to give it his own layer.

Now, these Puppet Pin positions are relative to the layer itself. Therefore, we need to create a solid that's as same size as our MiroMan here to then use for the Write-on effect, that keeps their coordinate systems lined up. I am going to return to my Selection tool, I am going to right click on MiroMan, and say Reveal layer Source in Project. It's selected down here. I can see at the very top it's 310x450 pixels and they have an aspect ratio of 1 which means they're square pixels.

So I'll come back to my composition, do layer>New>Solid, change the size to 310 wide, 450 tall, Square Pixels, Color doesn't matter for now since we will make that transparent and click OK. Now that we have our solid, I will drag my Write-on effect onto that solid and make sure my Current Time Indicator is back at the start of my composition because when I paste keyframes, they start at the location of the Current Time Indicator. My effect point parameter is called Brush Position.

I can see it has a little cross hair and X and Y parameters. I need to select it and paste my value into this. The easiest way to do that is to enable keyframing for it, then type U which reveals animating properties down in the Timeline. With that properties selected, I will Command+V or Ctrl+V to paste and now I have my keyframes. However, it's kind of hard to see what's going on because I have a white solid and a white color. I will change the Paint Style to On Transparent and that way I will see just the drawing of this path.

Now we have another problem to solve. I used Puppet to drag that pen beyond the original boundaries of the MiroMan's layer. However, Write-on is currently restricted to layer's dimensions. To get around that, there's this wonderful utility plug-in called Grow Bounds. Grow Bounds will make the layer an effect is applied to appear bigger than it really is. So I'll apply Grow Bounds, drag him before Write-on and expand the number of pixels of this layer until I can see my entire character like so.

Now, I have got my a and e. Beyond that it's a matter of working with Write-on's parameters to get a nicer hand drawing. For example, I'll play with Brush Spacing to go ahead and make this a much more solid line and then I animated the other properties to give myself some color and varying stroke thickness of this layer. Rather than go through the time recreating those now, I am going to just turn this layer off, go back to my original Write On solid, turn it on, type U to reveal its keyframes and you'll see that I keyframed the color of the stroke to go between yellow and white as well as the brush size to make it go thinner and thicker and we'll RAM preview again. And there's our final animation.

Now, we did further tweaking like after we worked with Write-on, we realized the path needed a little bit more refinement. Unlike the puppet path which you can edit in the Comp panel, any effect paths must be edited in the Layer panel. So you double click that layer, change the View pop-up to Write-on and now you will see its path and there you can go ahead and play with the Bezier handles as necessary to get a smoother path. Once you're happy with those position keyframes, you can copy them, go back to the Puppet Pin, I will bring my Comp panel forward again and re-paste your modified brush position path to make sure you keep the pen in sync with what you're drawing.

In this case I also see the path is offset a couple of pixels from what I did with Write-on, that's okay. I will select all of keyframes, carefully drag it back to where it appear to be more centered up, such as that. You know, you've become a good After Effects artist and you've learned to start combining different skills that you've learned. For example, we're combining Puppet tool animation with effects, with the ability to edit, copy and paste position keyframes between different parameters. At the end of the day, After Effects is just a giant toolbox where you get to assemble the parts the way that you want towards your or your client's creative vision.

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