Character Animator (Preview 4) Makes Animation Easier
Do more in less time with new features and behaviors.
What a journey the team has been on developing preview after preview of Adobe Character Animator, available with Adobe After Effects CC. The past year we’ve focused on improving features and developing new features based on customer’s feedback. And with Preview 4, we’ve added several new features that make it even easier to bring your creations to life. Plus, we’ve added a more advanced feature that we didn’t expect to add into this release, but more on that later in this blog.
Easier Puppet Tagging
Up until now, users had to name a character’s Photoshop or Illustrator layers a certain way to work within Character Animator. By naming a layer “left pupil,” you could control the movement of that layer with your own left pupil in a webcam. But remembering all of these canonical names made artwork preparation a bit more tedious.
With Character Animator Preview 4, you don’t have to worry about naming your layers anymore. Within Character Animator, you can select any layer and tag it appropriately using the new visual or text-based tags panel. For example, if I want Layer 42 to be my right eyebrow, I can tag the right eyebrow using the example face in the new tagging panel. If I want to experiment with some different mouth shapes or head turn positions, I can quickly tag and untag layers to view the results.
For those of you still wanting to name your original artwork layers with the canonical names, that’s fine – they’ll come in with the appropriate tag automatically applied. You can easily switch between visual or text-based tags at any time.
Sometimes, I find it helpful to see use the original tagging procedure as validation, it is much easier to identify and fix untagged parts. I’ve also found that tags are a great reference tool, whether it’s comparing the 14 example mouth shapes or having a clear outline of what expressive features are available to my characters.
New Realistic Behaviors
Behaviors are extra functionality sets that can be applied to characters (such as head turning and breathing), and Preview 4 adds some useful options to add depth to your creations.
Motion Trigger allows you to switch between different views based on the direction a character or part is moving. For example, as a character moves to the right, you can switch to a profile view of the character running with motion trails behind it.
The movement of the character can either be direct (you dragging it across the scene) or indirect (a motion effect attached to a hand on an arm that swings because the torso is moving).
Auto Blink automatically triggers a layer, such as eyelids that blink or lights that you want to flicker. The blinking can occur at regular intervals or with some randomness. You can use this behavior to have a character blink randomly, but it can work in combination with the Face and Keyboard Triggers behaviors if you also want to control blinks with the webcam or key presses.
Both of these behaviors combine extremely well with other behaviors. For example, the existing Cycle Layers behavior allows for frame-by-frame animation– just put your sequential frames in a group. So dragging a character with Motion Trigger left or right might also trigger a 12-frame walk cycle animation. Or auto-blinking could randomly trigger a robot’s multi-frame blink animation, glowing buttons, or steam shooting from a gasket. It’s pretty impressive how much expressiveness and personality you can add to your characters with just a few clicks.
There are also dozens of performance optimizations and additional new features, including:
- Attach styles: Choose how parts connect to each other such as welded like metal, hinged like a door, or free to fly around on their own.
- Draggable take groups: Now every hand, foot, tail, or limb you drag will automatically get its own track in the timeline – making it significantly easier to get that perfect performance.
- Face smoothing: Crank up this new facial feature to reduce any jitter or jumping as you move your face around.
- Eyeball toggles: Every individual behavior and track can now be turned on or off.
- Playback speed: Adding to slow-motion recording, you can now play your performances back at slower speeds to make sure every frame looks great.
- Improved lip sync and new visemes: The automatic lip sync has been refined to give more mouth shape options and more accurate output.
- Staple tool: Staple separate parts of a puppet together to quickly connect them.
Export for Live Animation (and with Adobe Media Encoder)
I mentioned earlier that we added a feature to Character Animator we didn’t plan on during our Preview stages. That feature is support for live animation. But when the creators of The Simpsons calls, you take the phone call and you make it work. In case you missed the airing of Homer Simpson taking audience questions, you can watch a replay. To learn more how Character Animator was used The Simpsons, check out this blog post.
Realtime live animation enables a live feed to be fed over the air via any Syphon client. Character Animator now supports this on
Mac OS X. Just open the scene in the Scene panel, run your Syphon client (e.g., a live video application), and choose the Character Animator “Scene” as its frame source (Syphon server).
If you want to forego the live route and take some capture and edit your performance to a video, you can now render your scene and export it to any format using Adobe Media Encoder.
To export from Character Animator Preview 4, you’ll need to install the 2015.3 version of Adobe Media Encoder.
We’re really looking forward to seeing what people create with Preview 4 of Adobe Character Animator. Good luck!