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Using parenting to create hierarchical animation

From: 2D Character Animation with After Effects

Video: Using parenting to create hierarchical animation

After Effects often provides more than one way to do a job, and sometimes it's difficult to know which is the best way. So what I like to do is show you all the methods, and then you can choose which one you prefer. There's no right way or wrong way to work when you're a creative person. Sometimes the best work is created by the weirdest, most contrived techniques. So don't let anyone bully you into thinking that you have to work a particular way in After Effects or you're basically wrong. Just work the way the you want to work, but there are things that will trip you up if you work particular ways, and the reason that I'm showing you as many techniques as I can is so that you can make an educated choice about which technique you want to use. So here we're going to have a look at parenting, and I've got the parenting project open which you can find in the grouping folder. And what we're going to do here is use parenting to join these body parts together.

Using parenting to create hierarchical animation

After Effects often provides more than one way to do a job, and sometimes it's difficult to know which is the best way. So what I like to do is show you all the methods, and then you can choose which one you prefer. There's no right way or wrong way to work when you're a creative person. Sometimes the best work is created by the weirdest, most contrived techniques. So don't let anyone bully you into thinking that you have to work a particular way in After Effects or you're basically wrong. Just work the way the you want to work, but there are things that will trip you up if you work particular ways, and the reason that I'm showing you as many techniques as I can is so that you can make an educated choice about which technique you want to use. So here we're going to have a look at parenting, and I've got the parenting project open which you can find in the grouping folder. And what we're going to do here is use parenting to join these body parts together.

Now, if I select the left upper arm layer here and I'm just going to zoom in so we can see that a bit better. So I'm going to hit the period key on the keyboard, which will zoom in to the composition panel. The comma key next to it will zoom out. So let's zoom in to 200% and then I'm going to hold down spacebar to toggle to the hand tool, and just move down a little bit so that I can see his arm more clearly. Okay. Now I don't have a separate layer for the hand, I just have the left upper arm which is that one and the left lower arm which is that one. Now, what I want to do is, I want to animate the upper arm and what I'm going to do before I animate is just move the anchor point by using the pan behind tool.

Up to here so that when I choose the rotate tool to rotate it, it rotates around the correct point. But you'll notice as I rotate it this other part of the arm doesn't move with it and it should do. As I move this, this should move so what I'm going to do is I'm going to use parenting to join the lower arm to the upper arm and this is how easy it is. You can either choose. The upper arm as the parent from this menu. Or a much more fun way of doing this same thing is to use the pick whip on that layer.

Now I'm a bit pick whip crazy. I love using it. Now if you click on it nothing happens. What you need to do is you click and drag. And then you select the layer that you want to be the parent. So I'm clicking and dragging it onto the left upper arm. You have to make your own sound effects here, so my sound effect is (sound playing) And you'll see that the left upper arm is now selected as the parent for the left lower arm. So now if I select my left upper arm and hit r on the keyboard to open up rotation, and rotate it, you'll notice that the lower arm moves with it. Not only that, if I select the lower arm and again I'm going to use the pan behind tool to move the anchor point up to here and then select the rotation value of the lower arm.

You'll notice that now I can animate the lower arm as well. And that's quite in the right place so I'm going to just adjust the pan behind tool a little bit more. Let's move it up to there. Okay, so I've now got a real hierarchical animation. I'm going to zoom out a little bit by hitting the comma key, and we'll create a little bit of animation using this parenting structure. Now, before we do I'm going to also parent the arm to the body. So we'll do the left upper arm will be joined to the body. The right lower arm will be joined to the right upper arm.

The right upper arm will be joined to the body. Now if you've got trouble knowing how to do this, just think about that song. The hand bone's connected to the arm bone. The arm bone's connected to the body bone. The body bone's connected to the head bone, and you just think about which part follows which. So when the body moves, the head and the arms will follow, so that's what you need to think. So we need to make the head and the arms follow the body so let's make the head follow the body as well. And then the body will follow the legs so wherever the legs go the body will follow so let's follow the right leg with the body.

Okay so what we can do now is if I select the body and hit the rotation tool I can rotate the body. Okay. Now at the moment, it's rotating around its center point, which is in the middle of the layer, so we'll just move that down a little bit to here. And I'm going to rotate the body from side to side a little bit, so we'll just key frame that going from one side to the other. Okay. I'm going to easy ease them, so Animation > Key Frame Assistant > Easy Ease. I'm also going to just do some very quick animation on the upper arm. So let's rotate that down and then up, and then down again. And we'll also do the lower arm.

Now if I select all my layers and hit u on the keyboard it will show me all of the keyframes and that makes easy for me to jump between keyframes hitting the j and the k keys. So now I need to deselect all the other layers. So hold down the Cmd key or the Ctrl key and click to deselect and then click again to select. And I'm going to open out the rotation value. And move that a little bit too so we're getting a little bit of rotation movement in there. Okay, remembering to keyframe it of course. Okay, so we're starting to get this kind of puppet style animation going, and of course it doesn't have to be rotation that you animate, it can be position.

So if I get the head, for example, and do a little bit of keyframing with that. Hit p for position and we can move that up and down. Okay, maybe not up because we can see the neck starting to show so I'll move it down a little bit and then up a little bit and we can add some scale to that. So hold down Shift and hit s to open up scale. And as it moves down it kind of moves back so it makes it look smaller and then up again. Now I'm just doing this arbitrarily and I'm going to trim the work area by hitting the n key and just preview that, that not the best animation in the world but you get the idea of how you can start to create. This hierarchical animation by linking the body parts together.

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2D Character Animation with After Effects

27 video lessons · 2784 viewers

Angie Taylor
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