Join George Maestri for an in-depth discussion in this video Creating a head turn: Head shape, part of Creating Animated Characters in After Effects.
One of the ways you can add more life to your character is to create a more realistic head turn. So in this chapter, I am going to show you how to create a dimensional head turn where the features of the character's face actually move across the face and give you the impression that the character has more volume. Let me show you this head turn that we are going to do in this chapter, so that way we have a little bit of reference. So I've just basically added this head turn. So now you can see the eyes, the nose, the mouth all move across the face, and the face itself actually changes shape.
So now that we understand where we're going, let's go ahead and get started. So I am going to go ahead and just open a project, and in this case we are going to open the first one in this chapter, which is 06_01. And this is basically the same character we had before with a few changes; I deleted the blinks and the mouths, and we are going to add those in just a little bit later, because when you do a head turn like this, the standard replacement mouths don't quite work, so we are going to have to do another method if we are going to use this sort of head turn.
But let's go ahead and start. Now the easiest way to do it is to use time remapping, and we can use time remapping for things other than replacement animation. So in this case, we can use it to smoothly animate between a left, a center, and a right head turn. So let's go through and select everything that we have on the head. So here, I have Mouth 01, and I scroll down, and basically the head goes all the way down to Left and Right Ear.
So basically all of these top layers, from Left and Right Ear, through Head, all the way up to the Mouth, and this selects everything on the head. Now, just like when we do replacement animation, we're going to create a precomp. I am going to go into Layer > Precompose, and let's just call this HEAD; hit OK. So now I have a composition called HEAD. We can double-click on i, and you can see if I Fit to this, we've got a lot of extra space around it.
So let's go ahead and trim this down. We are going to use Region of Interest, and just draw a box around the character, and maybe zoom in here, and let's go ahead and fine tune this box. I want to make sure I have enough room, not just for the character, but also for the head turn. So maybe give him a little bit of room on the sides, but not too much; just enough. So that should be good, and once I have that all blocked out, all I have to do is Composition > Crop Comp to Region of Interest.
So now I am going to create the head turn within this. Now, the first thing we need to do is decide how many frames are we going to create this head turn over. In other words, how many steps are we going to give the animator in this head turn. I think a good value is somewhere around 20, and so let's go ahead and do that. So I am going to go into my Composition Settings, and I am going to make my Duration not 20, but 21, and let me show you why: because what that does is it makes that last frame that we can scroll to 20, then we have 21 at the end there.
So now that I have the proper number of frames, let's go ahead and just animate the shape of the head. So the first thing I want to do is select all of my parts, and hide them. So I am just going to go and hide all of these layers, and I also want to hide the Left and Right Ear. So I just want to keep the Head, and we're just going to animate the shape of the head. So we can do that by just using a simple distortion. We can actually put an effect on the head; we are going to go Effect > Distort, and I think Bezier Warp is actually a really good one to use for this, because all it does is just put a little box around it that we can reshape and kind of morph the head.
So the first thing I want to do is make sure that I have a position for the center. So I am going to go to Frame 10, which is the center of my animation, and under Bezier Warp, I am going to select all of the controls here, and then just set a keyframe for everything. So now I've got this locked down in a center position. Now all I need to do is create my left and right head shape. So I am going to go all the way down to Frame 0, and let's go ahead into our Bezier Warp, and we are just going to alter the shape.
So I am going to take this corner here, and if you think about it, when the head turns, the chin kind of moves from one side to the other. So I am going to bring the chin out a little bit here, and again, this is just the shape of the head. We're going to worry about facial features later. So when you take a look at this, you can see how now it's going from the jaw straight at you, to maybe the jaw over here. And let's do the same for the other side. I am going to select that Bezier Warp again, and again I am going to push it in here to kind of round out where that jaw was, and then just pull out the jaw a little bit on this side here.
And again, I want to make this pretty symmetrical. So now I've got this. Now this is just a very smooth shape transition, but if I go into my master composition -- let's go ahead and fit this here -- you'll see that my head shape is already there, and I can take this, and just like with replacement animation, I can do right-click over it, Time > Enable Time Remapping. And when I do that, all I have to do, again, is just delete that last key, and now what I can do is I can go from Frame 0 to Frame 20, and you can see how it changes shape.
So I am getting a smooth in-between. Now one of the things I am noticing here is that when I get to the very last frame, it disappears. And we can fix that, because what happens here is when we shrink it down to 21 frames, this is the 21st frame, and there's no bitmap over it. So all I have to do is right-click and drag this over, and we go here; now that last frame won't disappear. In fact, I need to do this for everything in the composition, so in fact, I should probably select everything and then just make sure that it's one frame over that end, and that way we won't run into this problem later.
So now we have the basic head shape, but now let's go ahead and go through the rest of the head, and start adding in the other components of the head turn.
- 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