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Creating Animated Characters in After Effects
Illustration by John Hersey

Using expressions to control pupils


From:

Creating Animated Characters in After Effects

with George Maestri

Video: Using expressions to control pupils

Now let's take a look at how to use expressions to animate things like the pupils of a character. Now, in this case, I have this character here, and we set him up in the previous chapter with a head turn. In fact, let me go ahead and zoom in, so we can see his head. And let's go ahead and select his head, and you'll see there's a layer here in the Gus_All composition. And if we open up that layer, you will see we have a time remap. So if we dial this left and right, you will see we have a very nice head turn.
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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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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
Subjects:
3D + Animation Character Animation
Software:
After Effects
Author:
George Maestri

Using expressions to control pupils

Now let's take a look at how to use expressions to animate things like the pupils of a character. Now, in this case, I have this character here, and we set him up in the previous chapter with a head turn. In fact, let me go ahead and zoom in, so we can see his head. And let's go ahead and select his head, and you'll see there's a layer here in the Gus_All composition. And if we open up that layer, you will see we have a time remap. So if we dial this left and right, you will see we have a very nice head turn.

But let's say we wanted to change his eye direction and move his pupils. Well, we can't do that, because there are no pupils in this composition. The pupils we have here are actually in the other composition; the head composition. And this is what we used with the time remap to create the head turn. So if I select this pupil, you will see that it's already animated. It's animating along that arc, and it's moving along with the head, and that's all fine and dandy, but because it's already animated, we can't really do much with it.

So let me show you a way to take that pupil, and actually bring it into composition so that we can move it around. So first thing we want to do is we want to take this composition called HEAD, and just do Edit > Copy, Edit > Paste, and that should give me a HEAD 2 composition. So I am going to double-click on that, and go into it. You'll see that, well, it's exactly the same as the other composition, because we copied it. But what we can do is we can actually lift out this pupil, and use it in our master composition.

The way we do it is just by deleting everything else. So we're going to start with the Left Pupil, and I am going to select everything above it, hit the Delete key, select everything below it, and again, hit the Delete key. So all I have in here is the Left Pupil, and if I move my Timeline, you'll see that it's still animating along with the head turn. It's animating exactly the same that this pupil is animating, except there's nothing else behind it. So let's go to our HEAD composition here, and let's go ahead and turn off this pupil; let's take that out of the equation. And then go into our master composition, Gus All, and you'll see that he is now missing his eye, but we can bring that back in, because we have it here in the HEAD 2 composition.

In fact, let's go head and rename that to something more descriptive. I am going to right-click over here, hit Rename, and let's just call this LEFT PUPIL, and now left-click and drag that in to the layer right above HEAD. So now that we have that -- we have to zoom out here to see where it is. There it is. So I am going to go ahead and bring this up, and you can see that right now it's animating. But what we want to do is to time remap it, just the same way we did with the head. So all we have to do is select LEFT PUPIL, right-click, Time > Enable Time Remapping, and now this gives me a little slider that I can use to animate this.

But -- hang on just a second. There we go! But what I really want to do is take this Time Remap of the LEFT PUPIL, and tie it to the HEAD Time Remap, so that way I only have to animate one thing. For example, when this HEAD Time Remap is 10, I want to make sure that my PUPIL Time Remap is also at 10 -- Let me go ahead and just center this -- and the way that we do that is by using an expression. So I am going to go ahead and select Time Remap, go into Animation > Add Expression, and then go ahead and click on here so we can see what we're doing, and you'll see that now we have an expression in the Time Remap of the LEFT PUPIL.

So all we have to do is select the Pick Whip, drag it to the HEAD Time Remap, and you can see it lays it in right here, and now they should just sync up. So now I've got a left and right head turn. So this is really great. So let's go through this again for the Right Pupil, and just go through the process one more time. I am going to select my HEAD composition and do the same thing; Copy, Paste, double-click on the second composition, and in this case, we're going to delete everything, but the Right Pupil. So there it is.

Let's go into the HEAD composition, take out the Right Pupil, go into Gus All, which is our master composition, and again, let's go ahead and rename HEAD 2; make it more descriptive. So let's just call it RIGHT PUPIL, and then again, just drag that in above the HEAD, and again right-click, Time > Time Remapping, select the Time Remap, Animation > Add Expression, Pick Whip, and there we go.

So now I still need to move this into place. So let's go ahead and find that RIGHT PUPIL. You can see that it's all working; it's just that the pupil is in the wrong place. So let's go ahead and move that into place, and there we go. So now I've got a head turn with pupils that I can select and move. So if I wanted to, I could select, for example, LEFT and RIGHT PUPIL, and then I can move them to give myself some eye direction.

So I am going to go ahead and center this, put this to 10, and let's make sure I've got both of these eye; I am going to use my arrow keys a little bit here, and let's just make sure that we have the left and right pupil centered. Now, one of the things that may be problematic is going into the HEAD and selecting these, so one of the things I like to do is create an external control to select those pupils. It makes it easier when you actually go to animate, and you can do this for a number of different variables.

Now, I already have part of this set up in my composition. So if we go to the very top of our layers, you'll see I have four layers here; Eye Control, Left and Right, Pupil Control, again, Left and Right. So let's go ahead and just turn those on, and what they are is really just a symbolic representation of the eyes. And so all we have to do is basically just do some parenting. So I am going to select my LEFT PUPIL, the one I just created, and then just parent that to the Left Pupil Control. I am going to do the same for my RIGHT PUPIL; select the Pick Whip, drag to the Right Pupil Control.

Now, if I zoom in, all you have to do to animate these is just select these and move them. So now I have control over my eyes in an external way, and if I go down to my head here, I can also Time Remap, and that eye direction will stay the same. So this is a very nice way to animate character's eyes. You start setting up these external controls, and that way you don't have to really go into the HEAD composition.

You can also start to lock off, and make shy, all of these layers that we're not using, and that will clean up the actual composition and what we're seeing on the screen. So let's just refresh what we've done here. We've created separate compositions for both the left and right pupil that have animation in them, and using time remapping and an expression, we've timed these to the master control on the head. Then we used an external eye control just to control the positioning of those pupils.

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