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Understanding how layer hierarchies work

From: Creating Animated Characters in After Effects

Video: Understanding how layer hierarchies work

Once you've imported your character in from Photoshop, or Illustrator, you need to tie all the parts together, and this is called hierarchies. Now, you may be familiar with them from your previous work in After Effects, but let's go over some of the basics as they apply to characters. Now, I have two compositions in this file: one is called Gus_00; the other one is Gus_01. So I am going to double-click on Gus_ 00, and this is pretty much how it would come in from Photoshop, or whatever.

Understanding how layer hierarchies work

Once you've imported your character in from Photoshop, or Illustrator, you need to tie all the parts together, and this is called hierarchies. Now, you may be familiar with them from your previous work in After Effects, but let's go over some of the basics as they apply to characters. Now, I have two compositions in this file: one is called Gus_00; the other one is Gus_01. So I am going to double-click on Gus_ 00, and this is pretty much how it would come in from Photoshop, or whatever.

It comes in kind of as a flat file; nothing is connected together. So, for example, if I were to select the Torso and move it, nothing else would move with it. Or I could do the same for any other part. For example, the hair, or maybe more importantly, something like the face. You'd want all of the facial features to move along with that part. Now, we can do that by creating what are called hierarchies. If we double-click on Gus_01, that will bring up a composition that is tied together.

So let's just take a look at how this works. If I select the Torso, and move it, everything moves along with it. If I were to select, for example, the Bicep of this character, and move it, you can see that just the arm moves together. Now, if I select the Rotate tool, and rotate that upper arm, you can see how the hand moves, and this actually gives more of a realistic look. You could even do the same for the head. Now, the way this works is by tying these together using hierarchies or parenting.

So in the Composition window, each one of these parts is connected to another part. Let me show you how this works in Gus_00. So I am going to go ahead and double- click on this again, and you can see that if we scroll down, all of these Parents are listed as None. In other words, nothing is connected to anything else. There are no parents and children. So if we wanted to create something like this, we could do that very easily using some simple After Effects tools.

So what I am going to do is select my Zoom tool, and let's just go ahead and connect up his arm, and see how that works. So I am going to go ahead and drag, and just kind of zoom in so we can take a closer look at it, and then I'm going to select the different parts. So, for example, let's say I wanted the forearm to move with the bicep. This is the left side of the character. So I scroll down until I find Left Forearm and Left Bicep. I want the Bicep to be the master, so I want the Forearm to be connected.

So I can do this in one of two ways. I can select this little Pick Whip, and just go ahead and drag that to Bicep, and notice how this changes in this little pulldown menu. The other way is to simply just select it from the pulldown menu, which it already is. Now, once I have that selected, when I go ahead and rotate that Bicep, the Forearm is now connected to it. It's parented to the Bicep, and it all works together.

We can do this for the rest of the parts. So, for example, if I select the Cuff, I could link the Cuff to the Forearm, and if I select the Hand, I can also link the Hand to the Cuff. And again, I'm just doing this using the pulldown menu; you can do it either way. Once I have this all together, I can move that part of the character all at once. So as you can see, parenting and hierarchies are very important. So let's go ahead and take a step back, and actually set this up from scratch starting in the next lesson.

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This video is part of

Image for Creating Animated Characters in After Effects
Creating Animated Characters in After Effects

46 video lessons · 16644 viewers

George Maestri
Author

 
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  1. 1m 49s
    1. Welcome
      1m 17s
    2. Using the exercise files
      32s
  2. 27m 15s
    1. Creating characters in Illustrator
      5m 51s
    2. Creating characters in Photoshop
      7m 9s
    3. Designing joints
      3m 40s
    4. Drawing mouths
      2m 12s
    5. Drawing hands and eyelids
      2m 48s
    6. Importing Illustrator files into After Effects
      3m 26s
    7. Importing Photoshop files into After Effects
      2m 9s
  3. 7m 51s
    1. Drawing in After Effects
      3m 57s
    2. Copying paths from Illustrator
      2m 19s
    3. Animating shapes
      1m 35s
  4. 21m 9s
    1. Understanding how layer hierarchies work
      3m 58s
    2. Understanding the importance of the pivot point
      5m 42s
    3. Assembling the upper body
      4m 47s
    4. Creating leg hierarchies for efficient walks
      4m 27s
    5. Organizing scenes with null layers
      2m 15s
  5. 22m 26s
    1. Adding puppet pins to a character
      6m 51s
    2. Controlling mesh density
      2m 15s
    3. Creating overlap pins
      4m 43s
    4. Creating starch pins
      3m 1s
    5. Using the Puppet tool with hierarchies
      5m 36s
  6. 19m 7s
    1. Replacement animation using time remapping
      6m 47s
    2. Mouth replacement
      6m 6s
    3. Creating blinks
      6m 14s
  7. 27m 23s
    1. Creating a head turn: Head shape
      6m 45s
    2. Creating a head turn: Ears
      8m 7s
    3. Creating a head turn: Facial features
      6m 41s
    4. Creating a head turn: Hair shape
      5m 50s
  8. 1h 3m
    1. The basics of expressions: Controlling the wrist
      5m 20s
    2. Moving hands from front to back with expressions
      9m 2s
    3. Using expressions to control pupils
      7m 44s
    4. Creating a master control node with Expression Controls
      6m 30s
    5. Creating blinks that move with a head turn
      9m 28s
    6. Controlling blinks using opacity
      6m 34s
    7. Attaching mouth shapes to a slider
      3m 39s
    8. Creating mouths that move with a head turn
      8m 31s
    9. Working with absolute values
      6m 12s
  9. 14m 28s
    1. Setting up null objects as bones
      5m 39s
    2. Attaching puppet pins to bones
      4m 57s
    3. Strategies for parenting legs and feet
      3m 52s
  10. 28m 32s
    1. Setting up a scene for animation
      6m 3s
    2. Blocking out the shot
      11m 0s
    3. Animating dialogue
      5m 39s
    4. Animating blinks
      5m 50s
  11. 18s
    1. Goodbye
      18s

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