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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.
When you start animating a character in After Effects, you want the body parts to move realistically, and part of this means that you need the joints to rotate realistically. In order to do this, we need to adjust the pivot points of all the joints in the character. So let me show you how this works. I've got a basic character here, and it's completely flat. There are no hierarchies, and this is pretty much how it would come in from Photoshop, or Illustrator. So I am just going to go ahead and zoom into the arm so we can take a look at this.
If I select, say for example, the upper arm here, and rotate it, you will notice that, A. The hierarchies aren't there, but B. It's rotating around the wrong place. We really want it to rotate around the shoulder; not the middle of the arm. Now, we can change this pivot point just by using the Pan Behind tool; the keyboard shortcut is Y. So I am going to go ahead and select that, and you can see the pivot point here; We can just move that. So all I need to do is move that over to where the shoulder would be, and then that's basically it.
So all I have to do now is, once I rotate it, now you can see it rotates a lot more realistically. So now that we have done the shoulder, let's go ahead and work our way down the arm. Now I can select the Left Forearm, and again, you can see how the pivot point is in the middle. Now, one of the things I like to do is when I have this selected, sometimes I like to see what the shape of this is. So I am going to go ahead and turn off the Left Bicep here in the layers, and now you can see exactly where that is. In fact, I can zoom in even a little bit closer here.
You can see how this is kind of a semicircle. If I take this and position it in the center, or near the center, of that semicircle, I should get a good rotation. So I am going to go ahead and zoom out a little bit here, and turn on the Bicep, and then just select my Rotation tool here. And one of things we are looking for in this rotation is we want to make sure that this rotates evenly. So if this is off, for some reason, you'll see it will rotate kind of incorrectly.
In fact, let's go ahead and do something like that. So, for example, if this was way over on the side, here, when I rotate this, you will see that I get this kind of bump here. And so what you need to do is make sure that the pivot point is kind of at the center of that rotation. Now we can work our way through the rest of the arm. For example, if I select this Cuff, well, the Cuff really doesn't rotate too much, so I don't have to worry about that. I can keep that centered. If I select the hand, again, you don't want the hand to rotate around the palm; you want it to rotate around the wrist.
So I am going to go ahead, again, and select my Pan Behind tool, and then just move that over towards the bottom of the wrist here. So when we rotate this, we get a fairly smooth rotation. Now, we can do this for other parts of the body as well. So, for example, let's take a look at the head. If I select this, you'll see that, again, we don't want to rotate around the center of the eyes. The head usually rotates around the bottom where it connects to the neck. So I am going to go ahead and select this, and move that down.
Now the parts of the body that are on the face actually don't really rotate all that much, so we can keep those centered. For example, the brows; they move and they rotate, but it's not really an anatomical joint where we need that to be exactly at the right place. Now, let's go ahead and move a little bit further down here. I am going to go ahead and just drag this, and let's select the Torso. And again, the torso has its center of gravity somewhere around here, which is basically the center of the object.
But again, we want to move that pivot point lower. Remember, we can basically pivot around the hips is probably the best place to place a pivot point there. And then let's go ahead and just work our way through the legs and the shoes. So I am going to go ahead and take a look at this leg here. Now again, I want to see how this joint is shaped. So I am going to actually scroll down in my composition here, and I am going to find Torso layer, and I'm going to select that, and I am going to hide it, and so now you can see how the legs are shaped.
So I'm going to, again, position this pivot point somewhere in the center of that circular shape there. And we can do the same for the shin. So I am going to go ahead and select the Shin, but again, I am going to turn off the Left Thigh so I can see where it is, and again, try and position that in the center of that object. And let's go ahead to the shoe. And again, the pivot point of the shoe, or the foot, is around the ankle, so I want to go ahead and put that right about there.
So now, once I have those, I can go ahead and just turn on all the body parts, and let's do some test rotations here. So, for example, this rotates around the knee. Well actually, I could probably bring that down just a little bit. So let me go ahead and just nudge that down, and now let's see how that works. Okay, that works a little bit better. And we can do the leg around the hip. That looks pretty good. And let's take a look at the foot, and that works pretty good as well. So as you can see, I have worked on one side of the character.
I have done the left arm, and the left leg. You can use the same techniques for the right side of the character as well. And just remember to try and position that pivot point so that the joint moves smoothly.
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