Creating Animated Characters in After Effects
Illustration by John Hersey

Using the Puppet tool with hierarchies


From:

Creating Animated Characters in After Effects

with George Maestri

Video: Using the Puppet tool with hierarchies

Now there may come a time when you'll want to mix and match animation methods. You'll want some parts of the character to be animated using the Puppet tool, and other parts to be animated using hierarchies, and separate objects; that sort of thing. So let's go ahead and take a look at how to mix and match hierarchies with the Puppet tool. In this case, I've got this character, and I'm going to replace his left leg with a puppeted leg. So I'm going to go ahead and zoom in so we can get little bit of a closer look here, and let's just take a look at what we have.
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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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Watch the Online Video Course Creating Animated Characters in After Effects
3h 53m Intermediate Sep 08, 2011

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

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.

Topics include:
  • Importing Illustrator or Photoshop files into After Effects
  • Animating shapes
  • Organizing scenes with null layers
  • Working with the Puppet tool
  • Creating replacement animation using time remapping
  • Automating head turns
  • Creating a master control node with Expression Controls effects
  • Setting up a scene for animation
  • Animating dialogue
Subject:
3D + Animation
Software:
After Effects
Author:
George Maestri

Using the Puppet tool with hierarchies

Now there may come a time when you'll want to mix and match animation methods. You'll want some parts of the character to be animated using the Puppet tool, and other parts to be animated using hierarchies, and separate objects; that sort of thing. So let's go ahead and take a look at how to mix and match hierarchies with the Puppet tool. In this case, I've got this character, and I'm going to replace his left leg with a puppeted leg. So I'm going to go ahead and zoom in so we can get little bit of a closer look here, and let's just take a look at what we have.

I am going to scroll down to the bottom of my layers here, and you'll see that I have a Left Thigh, a Left Shin, and a Left Shoe. So those are the three objects that I normally have, but I'm going to replace the shin and the thigh with this one object, which is called Leg. First thing I want to do is just go ahead and move that leg into place, so kind of just match it up to where the old leg is, and then I'm going to take this Left Shin and Thigh, and let's just go ahead and hide those, so we don't see them.

Now the only thing there is my Left Leg. Now this doesn't have any sort of hierarchy on it right now, but as you can see with the other leg, the right leg, I've got the shoe as the master. This is so that the feet can stay in place. So I'm going to do the same thing here. I'm going to select my Left Leg, and make the Left Shoe its parent. Now I can move the leg, but I can't bend the knee at all, because there is really no deformation.

I'm going to actually have to add the Puppet tool to create that deformation. I'm going to select the Leg, hit the Puppet tool, place one pin at the hip, one pin at the knee, and then that last pin somewhere around the ankle. And once I do that, now I have the ability to puppet it. So all I have to do is go into my Puppet Effects, select the Puppet tool, and I can move that.

This is kind of cool, because now I can move my foot all the way over here, and just using my Puppet pins, I can connect it in that way. One of the things, though, you have to be aware of is that when you start moving the character like this -- and actually let's go ahead and zoom out here, so you can kind of see this -- so you can actually get kind of some nice posing by doing this sort of method. You get a nice squashy, stretchy type of animation. But when you start doing this, what happens is that you're actually starting to move the actual leg outside of the bounding box that creates the character, so you have to be very careful to kind of keep one point kind of anchored to the rest of the character.

So, for example, if I were to move this, then I'm actually moving all of these Puppet points here, and so I could easily get this moved off of the original positioning that it was at. So this is just something that you need to be aware of: that these Puppet pins can actually move things off of the hierarchy. Another way you can do it is by using what's called a precomposition. So we're going to do this other leg very quickly using what's called a precomposition. I am going to select my Right Leg and Right Shin, and I want to do the same thing for this leg that I have for the other one.

On this other one, I took a whole separate layer, and replaced the original shin and thigh. In this case, I'm just going to use what I have. I'm going to use the Right Thigh, and the Right Shin, and I'm just going to combine them into what's called the precomposition, and use that for the Puppet tool. I'm going to select both of them, go into Layer, and we're going to do what's called a Precompose. Now when I do that, what happens is it creates a separate composition. And in this case I'm just going to call that RIGHT LEG, and I use all caps just so that I mentally know that it's a precomposition.

And what it does is it takes both of those layers, shuttles them off into another composition called RIGHT LEG, and so I have these two parts here, but in the main composition I've got just this one RIGHT LEG. Now I can still use the Puppet tool on that. I am going to just go ahead and select my Puppet Pin tool, and let's go ahead and put one at the hip, one at the knee, and another one at the ankle.

And when I do that, I've got the exact same effect. And this is actually on two separate objects. When you are doing precompositions like this, it actually has this one leg, but notice how it precomps to the size of the original composition. So sometimes this can make selecting more difficult. So, for example, I want to select the torso, or the arm, or the leg, that's easy, but once I get into selecting down here, I'm selecting that whole composition.

Now one way to get around this is by shrinking down the size of that original precomposition. If I want to -- you can see, when I Fit this, you've got all this white space -- if I want to, I can scale down my composition, so that it just fits that. Or the other way is to just draw a new leg, which I think is a little bit more efficient. But in any event, this is a great way to use the Puppet tool along with a parented type of character.

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