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Working with obscuring objects

From: After Effects: Rigging a Character Arm for Animation

Video: Working with obscuring objects

In this movie we're going to solve the dilemma of getting this arm to come out from behind the wall, over the wall, and then go back behind it again. And this is a little bit more tricky than it seems because of a number of things. And oftentimes when you work in the real world, you have the little challenges like this that you have to overcome that you can't really prepare for, so here's what I did, just for the sake of completion. Basically what I need is I need everything to be behind the wall up until this point. Up until the hand is above the wall and it's cleared here, I need everything to be behind the wall.

Working with obscuring objects

In this movie we're going to solve the dilemma of getting this arm to come out from behind the wall, over the wall, and then go back behind it again. And this is a little bit more tricky than it seems because of a number of things. And oftentimes when you work in the real world, you have the little challenges like this that you have to overcome that you can't really prepare for, so here's what I did, just for the sake of completion. Basically what I need is I need everything to be behind the wall up until this point. Up until the hand is above the wall and it's cleared here, I need everything to be behind the wall.

So what I'm going to do is I'm going to select all these layers. Now you might think well, why don't you just precompose it and then you can just trim the precomposed layer? And that's my first instinct as well, but here's the problem. We have this expression controller that controls many of these layers, and so that would have to be part of the precomposed, the precomposition as well. And we also have to have this wall and this upper arm because these are connected and need to stay connected because this upper arm needs to stay behind the wall, and then we also have a forearm that--it goes in front of the wall.

So all of these things we have to see in our composition anyway, so we really don't safe too much by precomposing in this instance. So what I'm going to do is I'm going to click the first layer, that's the Pinky 2, Shift+click the forearm layer so they're all connected here. And then what I'm going to do is press Command+D or Ctrl+D to duplicate those. That's a lot, I realize. And I'm going to hit the Page Down key to advance one frame, and I'm going to press Option+Left Bracket to chop all of the layers right there. It then trims them so the animation stays the same from the previous layers.

And then just select the ones, the original layers. So I'm going to Command+click all the layers with one and two in them. And the duplicates have three and four, so it's a little bit easier. If you want to do it like that, you could also do it visually over here, but I already start doing this way, so why stop now? I'm going to hit Page Up to back up one frame and I'm going to press Option+Right Bracket to trim that. Again, we don't want just push the Left Bracket or the Right Bracket without the Option key or the Alt key on the PC, because just pressing the Left Bracket or Right Bracket key by itself will actually move the layer.

We don't want to move it; we just want to trim it. So with these little stubs selected, I'm going to drag these below the precomp wall. So now what we have is we have the arm and things going--and actually, let me press F2 to deselect that. We have the arm coming up from behind the wall and then we do a quick presto- change-o behind the scenes, and now we quickly switch to the other layers, and now the arm could go in front of the wall. So there it goes. It come from behind the wall and then once it goes over, then it'll go in front.

Now we have to do the same thing to the back side of this, because we have to--and we have to do the same thing with the camera and the tripod as well-- we have to split that up so everything can go back behind the wall. Now one of the things I did in the final version is that I created a mask. If we go over to the final version here, I created a mask so that way when the upper arm goes back down, it's masked off, and it looks like it's kind of just sinking into nothingness.

So now that we're done, let's go ahead and play this back and see this arm in action. (video playing) Well that is the tutorial series. I thank you so much for watching this. I hope that you've learned a little bit about how to, first of all, play with shape layers. That's kind of fun. And then just with these simple shapes in After Effects, without using any extra file, we're able to create this arm and rig it up so it's live and controllable-- simple to control with these expression controls--and then also make this arm do some cool tricks.

And again, I'm Chad Perkins. Thank you so much for watching, and we'll see you next time.

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