Character Animation in After Effects

Today, Cartoon Chris covers character animation in After Effects (or whatever program you use for video or graphic effects). Does anyone remember when artists had to keep drawing characters over and over again to create animation? Thankfully, technology has progressed to a point where computer programs do much of the heavy lifting.

We’re All Just Puppets

The method Chris discusses is largely used for 3d animation but looks great adapted to 2d, as well. Much of the animation process we’re covering today centers on puppet manipulation. While we no longer have to draw the same character for every frame of animation, we will need something to manipulate. This is where our character comes into play.

While drawing up a character you’d like to animate, keep in mind exactly what you will animate. For instance, if you would like your character to wave in your animation, you need to break down what parts of your character will allow this action. To do this, you’ll want to draw out individual hands, forearms, and shoulders if they’re each going to be moving distinctly from each other.

Anchor Points and Parenting

When your character design matches your plans, it’s time to animate your characters in After Effects. One major part of this process is including anchor points. These act as points around which your designs move. For example, if your character has independent arms and a torso, you will probably assign an anchor point to your character’s shoulder.
Now, let’s take our shoulder anchor point and move down the arm. We’ll make our elbows and wrists anchor points, as well. When animating these all together, we need to heed the popular children’s song. The forearm bone is connected to the upper arm bone. And the upper arm bone is connecter to the shoulder bone. They’re all connected! Animators handle this by Parenting. In short, as your anchor points radiate out from a  parent, they act in accordance with one another.
Using these simple techniques for character animation in After Effects, you can start moving your character around your landscape. Having trouble making your character move exactly the way you want? Experiment with your parenting and anchor points. Also, play around with your keyframes to add some life to your character and its environment.


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