Join George Maestri for an in-depth discussion in this video Rigging hierarchies in After Effects, part of 2D Character Animation.
Once you have created your character, you will need to set it up in an animation program and get it ready to animate. Now, there are a number of different animation programs but let's look at a few as an example. We are going to go ahead and look at After Effects in this lesson and we are going to take this bear that was created in Photoshop and go ahead and get him rigged and set up within After Effects. Let's go ahead and open up After Effects. So we are going to go File > Import File and then we are going to select Bear.
Now we can here select it as cropped layers, which is what we want to do, but in some versions of After Effects if you click through this menu, you can also do the same thing here. We want to import the composition as cropped layers and click off Live Photoshop 3D. Hit OK and what this does is it will bring in the file. You double-click on this one bear and this is basically what we had in our Photoshop file. It also brings all the layers of the Photoshop file into this sub-directory here where we have each individual part and then on top of that it's created this composition which has everything arranged exactly the way that it was arranged in the Photoshop file including all of these additional parts such as these little snouts and all that sort of stuff.
So, we can go ahead and take these and get rid of them because all we want to work with right now is just the main character, the bear. So I am going to go ahead and select all of these Lids and just delete them. Select the snouts, except for this one called Snout Closed, which is the one here in the center of his face, and then scroll down here and select these three hands here and then just go ahead and delete those. Now when I am deleting them, I am just deleting them out of the composition. I am not deleting them out of the entire project.
Now once we have this cleaned up, it's just a matter of linking everything together. We're going to link the hand to the forearm, to the upper arm and then link that to the chest and so on. So we are just going to tie everything together using After Effects' Hierarchy function. So I am going to start off with this hand. In fact, I am going to zoom in here so we can see this a little bit better. Before I start working with this I want to see this so I am going to clear out the belly and the chest.
I am just going to hide those and then we are just going to play with the hand and the arm. Now one thing about the hand is you will notice that it's defaulted to the pivot point at the center and we really want the hand to rotate around the wrist. So we can do that by using this Pan Behind tool and just taking this pivot point and setting it right around the center of where the wrist is and we can just do a little test here in order to make sure that it's rotating at about the right level. In fact it's a little bit high here. We can just tweak this.
This is just really a fine-tuning thing. Once you have got it, you are good to go. So that looks pretty good, okay and now that we have the pivot point in the right place, all we have to do is link the hand to the forearm using the Hierarchy function. So all I have to do is click on this little squiggle here and then just highlight the forearm and let go. I can also use the list here if I want to. I can just link it here using the forearm and now once I select the forearm, you will notice that now the hand moves with the forearm.
This is pretty cool. So we can just do the same thing for this other part here. We have just used the Pan Behind tool and again, just move that pivot point up so it's pretty much at the center of this circular joint area here and then once we have got that, we just do a little dry run test. Make sure that that arm is rotating at about the right level and that's fine and then once we have that, we can link this forearm to the upper arm. Now that I have the upper arm, again I can just position that pivot point right there at the shoulder.
Let's go ahead and see how that works. Looks pretty good and in fact at this point, I really do want to turn on the chest and the belly so we can see how this all works together. Looks pretty good and then all I have to do is take this right-upper arm and then link it to the chest. Then I can go up to the chest and link it to the belly. So, let's go ahead and fit this in the window and you can see now how when I have all of this together, his whole right side of his body is all linked together.
Now, I don't want to have to go through the whole thing but let's go ahead and just open up the one that we finished. So we are going to go ahead and open up the project called Bear. Now, once I have that you will see how everything is tied together. All I really have to do is select this Rotate tool and you can see how the arm is tied together and how we have got the head pretty much in place and we have got the body all working together. So as you can see when you have everything tied together in a hierarchy, you can animate it a lot more efficiently.
You can animate just one part and the rest will move with it and this is one of the benefits of animating in After Effects. But no matter what animation package you use, you can see how things like hierarchies can help animation significantly.
- Creating character joints that really work
- Building with the Puppet tool in After Effects
- Understanding internal versus external forces in movement
- Reading tracks and assigning mouth shapes for dialogue
- Setting up a scene in both After Effects and Flash
Skill Level Advanced
Q: In the chapter "Creating joints that work,” the author uses a circular point for the joints in the arm animation. Do circles need to be drawn in the joints while tracing the character, or there is another method that can be used?
A: It doesn't absolutely have to be a circle, as shown in the video. However, that method is show because it’s the easiest way to make sure the joints will rotate easily.
It’s a matter of personal preference, so use whatever method will work best for each character.