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Creating Animated Characters in After Effects
Illustration by John Hersey

Working with absolute values


From:

Creating Animated Characters in After Effects

with George Maestri

Video: Working with absolute values

Now let's go ahead and finish off the expressions for our MOUTHS by adding in expressions for the Y position, as well as Scale. Let's go ahead and start with Scale, because it's a little more straightforward. So what we have with Scale is we want it to be at 90, here at 0, then at 100, and then back down to 90. Now, we already have something that's pretty close to this. If you look at the numbers for Rotation, you'll see that it goes from 8 to 0, and then to -8.
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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

Working with absolute values

Now let's go ahead and finish off the expressions for our MOUTHS by adding in expressions for the Y position, as well as Scale. Let's go ahead and start with Scale, because it's a little more straightforward. So what we have with Scale is we want it to be at 90, here at 0, then at 100, and then back down to 90. Now, we already have something that's pretty close to this. If you look at the numbers for Rotation, you'll see that it goes from 8 to 0, and then to -8.

Well, we can certainly adapt that by adding in what's called an absolute value. Now, what the absolute value does is it basically just forces whatever number you have to be positive. So we could use an equation very similar to this, and then just on the top end, if we're using absolute value, it'll just force it to be positive again. So let's go ahead and copy this, and then we're going to add in an expression for Scale. Animation > Add Expression, and then I'm just going to Paste.

Now, we've got a few things we need to fix, so let's go through this. The first lines are fine. We're just taking the value of the Time Remap slider of the HEAD, sticking it in a, and then we're converting that to frame numbers and sticking that in b. Now we have this equation here. Now I'm actually going to create one more variable; we're going to create c Equals 10 Minus b. Okay, so remember, when the Time Remap is at 0, 10 Minus 0 is 10.

When it's at 10, it's 0; when it's at 20, 10 Minus 20 is -10. So all we have to do to make it positive the whole way through is do what's called an absolute value. So we type in capital M, Math.abs, for absolute value, 10 Minus b. So what that does is it spits out 10, 0, and 10. So what we really want is 90, 100, and 90.

So we can do that by saying c Equals 100 Minus that. So now once we have that, we need to stick those values into Scale. Here is a little tidbit here: everything we've worked with so far has been single numbers. Here we have what's called an array; we have two numbers. We have 100% and 100%, so we have 100% in X, 100% in Y. The expression needs to come up with a final result that is an array, but that's pretty easy. All we have to do is just hit a bracket, the number c, which is, again, going from 90 to 100, back to 90, and then c, because we're having equal scale on both sides.

So when we do that, we should have 90, and 90, and 100 in the middle. We've got that, and then we have a very similar situation for the Y position. The numbers I had for Y -- in fact, let's go ahead and just bring this up here so we can see that calculated -- In the middle, it was 58, and then on either side, it was 46. So I'm going to minus that from 46; so it moves 12 units down, and then 12 units back up over the course of 10 frames.

Remember, it's 10 frames down, 10 frames up. So it's going to be 12 over 10, which is, of course, 1.2. So that's going to be my multiplier. So let's go ahead and add in that expression. So I'm going to go Animation > Add Expression. Now, this expression is going to be very similar to the expression that I have here. So I'm going to go ahead and select just the top three lines, copy, and paste. Now, this last line is the one I need to work with.

Now, first thing I'm going to do is going to get rid of this c Equals, because that's not what I want. I'm also going to get rid of the 100. And actually what I want is I just want the absolute value of this number, 10 Minus b. This is going to be going from 10, to 0, to 10, and then we're just going to go ahead and multiply that times 1.2. And that should snap that into place. So now it goes there, and it goes there. But if you notice what's happening is it's actually going up.

So actually, I'm going to change this. I'm going to make this a negative Math absolute of that, but it's in slightly the wrong position, but we can fix that by just altering our Null 3 position here. I'm just going to go ahead and drop that down, and that should work; pretty close. Okay, so now I'm going to go over to my HEAD composition, turn off Mouth 01, and now we should have everything in place.

Now that goes down, up, looks pretty good. In fact, I'm going to go ahead and hide my Null 3, and we should have a pretty close automatic head turn. So now I've got everything pretty much in position here. Let's go ahead and take off the keyframes here. So now I've got a HEAD slider that can go left and right, and I can change the NOUTHS to whatever I want, and they will all move with my sliders.

So that was a little bit intense, a little bit complex, but hopefully, if you followed through, you kind of get the idea of what we're doing here. So what we're doing here is we're basically creating an animation, and replacing them with expressions that use those same numbers that we created in the animation. And this is kind of a hard-coded way of animating this sort of thing, but it does work. So it is going to be specific to each character. So you need to kind of know how to figure out the numbers, but once you get it, it should work pretty flawlessly.

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