Animate Photographs With Adobe Character Animator | David Miller | Skillshare

Animate Photographs With Adobe Character Animator

David Miller, Multimedia Artist For Primordial Creative studio

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7 Lessons (29m)
    • 1. Intro To Photographic Puppets

    • 2. Pt. 1 Lightroom

    • 3. Pt. 2 Photoshop

    • 4. Pt. 3 Details

    • 5. Pt. 4 Bodies

    • 6. Pt. 5 Head Turns

    • 7. Wrap Up


About This Class

Learn to make motion capture puppets from photographs of people in this fun course exploring advanced Adobe Character Animator skills!  We cover the entire process, from shooting to Photoshop work to rigging and creating head turns.



1. Intro To Photographic Puppets: hello out there. I'm David Miller in Phoenix, Arizona. Multimedia artist, educator, animator. I want to welcome you to this course on a doobie character animator. This time we're concentrating on creating puppets from photographs and character. Animator utilizes motion capture puppets that you can control with your webcam with keyboard triggers with mouse clicks as opposed to creating frame by frame animations, which is the traditional way of doing animation or using key frame animation like you would in after effects. I create a lot of my puppets out of photographs, a shoot of models, actors and actresses, as well as solid objects such as items of clothing. And the reason why I do this is Number one. I've always been known as a photographer. Creative photography and creative portraiture is a large part of my aesthetic, More so than actual drawing is and number two, I really enjoy seeing photographs, animated and presented in sort of a motion form. It's not too far off from the kind of animation that somebody like Terry Gilliam did in The Monty Python days. I really find that satisfying and fun toe look at, so I'm going to show you my personal approach for animating photographs and do that. I photographed a model. Her name is Anika White. I shot her in New York in 2018 and I'm going to take you start to finish on how I built my Annika puppet. Your project for this class, of course, is to create your own photographic puppet. It does not have to be of a model in New York. It can be of objects of existing hand puppets or stuffed animals that you already have lying around the house. It could be of your pets. It could be some sort of assemblage that you create in photo shop of a creature that's not even really like some mythical Medusa chime era creature. But that is your project for this class. Go ahead and check out the lessons of the class. Do your own photographic puppet. Post the results to the skills your product page. Let us know what you thought of the process. Let's begin 2. Pt. 1 Lightroom: in this lesson. I want to show you how I go about and make puppets from photographs. And I have started with a model. This is Aniko White in New York City. As you can see, I shot her in the same lighting in the same pose. She is making the different mouth shapes here, So this is her neutral pose. I start in adobe Light Room when I do my photo work, because there's always gonna be some fixes you need to do with photographs like brightening things up, correcting skin tones and in light room. You can synchronize your edits between all of your photos, so there's a filmstrip on the bottom. I have all the photos I want to be affected, highlighted, and I'm going Teoh first brighten her up a little bit. Everything that I shot here was on the manual settings on my camera. So manual focus and manual exposure. If you have exposure or focus that jumps around in the middle of this process where you photograph every single mouth shape on the person, then you're gonna have some problems when you try to cut these out and make it look consistent After I add exposure. I am going into the loo minutes. I'm frightening any area that is orange, and then I'm gonna suck out some of that orange color to because I want her ultimately to be kind of like a really ghostly, pale looking character. This particular bit you see here is a head shot, and since I'm going to cut every head out individually so I can have those be her individual mouths, it's OK if I crop in riel tight here. As long as I have all my photos highlighted and the Auto Sync turned on in the lower right corner, it's going to affect all the photos the same way. Cutting out the heads to make your faces is a lot tougher task than cutting out a single body. And so, as you'll see in a upcoming lesson, I did shoot her arms, legs and torso separately. I also shot her at a 3/4 angle, facing to the right and a 3/4 angle facing to the left. The ultimate goal is to create a puppet that can face the audience and talk to them, and that can also turn to either side and walk. So we'll get into that a little bit later. This particular brush that I'm using in light room is a soften skin brush. Light room comes with a soften skin brush. The brushes are in the upper right corner in the develop module, but I created my own soften skin brush because I felt like the one that comes with light room is little plasticky. The reason why you see red is because I have the mask turned on and that is right above the filmstrip. There is a box with a check mark next to it that shows you that the masking is turned on just so I can see what I'm doing and make sure that I'm covering the same areas on each of our faces. You saw a neutral smile. Surprise. There was a blink in there. This is Ah, this is D. Now if you'll notice her head shifts a little bit in between every photo. That's because I didn't have a tripod when I shot this and Annika was not sitting down. If I had something she could sit on and I had a tripod, she probably would have stayed consistently in the same place. But I'll show you a trick in photo shop in a moment on how you can align all of these layers so they're pretty close together. If you don't do this brushwork in light room, it's gonna be incredibly difficult to do it in photo shop if you need Teoh sort of knockout skin flaws. Starting with something that is a good exposure and has all the right colors is so the benefit of working in light room is you can keep this consistency between each photo. I have tried doing adjustments in Photoshop after the fact and is a complete pain going between each layer. This is far quicker, far easier. Okay, now that I have my head's, I am going to export them. This is in the library module. It's the lower left corner, the export button. I tend Teoh, assemble my puppets very large and then scale them down after I've made them, just so I can get a good idea of what they look like fully assembled. So I probably would export her as full HD size 9 20 the long way 3. Pt. 2 Photoshop: Once I export these files, there's a function in photo shop called file scripts. Load files into stack, and you can either select the files off of your hard drive. Or you can add open files because it's a little easier to add open files than to go hunting for other files on your hard drive. I just export out of light room with the command open images in photo shop. So as soon as that exports them, they're all there. I can go file scripts, load files into stack, and I'm gonna try and have Photoshopped aligned them. Hopefully, it'll align by her two eyes. I'm glad that Annika didn't move around a whole lot because sometimes if somebody does move around a lot or they reposition their head a little bit, um, then this is gonna warp their face. But I don't think that's gonna happen on her images. Now, our head photos are loaded into a file stack so the approaching gonna get used for this is first, I will cut out the neutral face using any combination of the selection tools. Could be magnetic lasso could be political last. So could be the quick selection tool whichever one works best for you actually find making political lassos and then going select smooth by 10 pixels actually introduces curves into my selection, and I don't have those super sharp, harsh corners that you get like you cut the person out with scissors, even though this is a look, I use a lot in the past. Now that I have been smoothing out my selections, I'm a little bit happier with my photo puppets. Once I have the neutral face cut out, I'm going to duplicate this, and I'm going to use a very feathered eraser tool to knock out the area around her mouth. And the reason for this is I actually want to create a face that doesn't change a whole lot but allows space for the other viz Eames to show through. Now, some mouth shapes have a really open jaw to them, so it doesn't make sense. Toe have this really wide open mouth shape on Annika but not have her jaw lower, so I'll also create a mask that has that jaw space for her. So it only is her nose and her eyes and her hair and her ears, but the point is, I want to have it where her face doesn't radically change between each letter, she says. And in the past, I have just simply cut out every single head, shape, every single of eczema and whatever the person says that changes to that Visine, but again and kind of got into a little bit of a smoothing of the process. Cutting out people's hair is one of the most annoying things you can imagine. Cutting out hair 14 times or more and trying to have that hair have some consistency to it . It's just incredibly difficult. The other option, of course, is to, um, have the hair be its own independent layer on top of your character's face. But I want to show you this method because I found that creating the upper mask and mixing it with each Visine face has created characters that are incredibly believable. As for the details on her face that I cut out, I'm going to cut out the earrings now because I want to have those earrings be their own independent layer and just be things that dangle and sway on her. Uh, I won't leave any part of her neck and when I do my erasing, I want to make sure I get every remaining pixel around the edge of each frame. When you have one single pixel that isn't erased out and is sort of far away from what you think your character's face your characters body is, it actually becomes part of the mesh and throws off all the behaviors you apply to it all the walking, all the talking, all the independence and dangles. So you got to make sure that your pixels are tight to your character. When I cut out her hair, there's some parts of her hair where you could see the background through it. You could see this little bit of blue stuff there. I'm going to use a cloning tool and a healing brush to fill in that space. I want to make sure that her hair looks pretty solid. Now she has a very tight hairstyle. I requested this of the hairstylist because I knew that I was gonna cut her out as a puppet , and past experience has taught me anybody who has really loose hair hair that covers their jaws. That is a total pain, and it just means I'm gonna have to recreate those elements. But when I create my final Annika puppet, I'll probably give her a cool pony. Taylor, too, and that'll have a dangle. Two. It'll sway. In the meantime, though, the hair that's on her head, I don't want to be able to see through and see some sort of like funky color that ultimately won't be in the scene that I place you in and character animator Now her I position's changed between every single shot. Not so much the positions but the expressions she was giving. And part of that was because she was laughing, making the mouth shapes. Most of the people who do this the first time. I think it's a pretty wacky process, and they can't envision how it's going to turn out. I'm gonna make use of these variety of I shapes she made, so I am going to create triggers that activate these I shapes when you're working in photographs. It's unlikely that you'll be able to get all of those sections that you get in a drawn puppet where you condemn raw the upper eyelid, the lower eyelid, the people, and have all of those pieces move independently. When you're working with photographs, you just have to tell the person to be wide eyed, squinty, angry and you'll get their expressions with their eyebrows. And there I shapes. You can cut those out, make sure they have feathering to them, so the skin blends on top of the rest of the face. Place those on their own layers, and once you're in character animator in the rig mode, you can activate those with various triggers. 4. Pt. 3 Details: I'll go ahead and show you how I created the earrings on Annika. If I was doing this again, I definitely would have taken a close up shot of her ear rings individually, unfortunately, didn't do that in the middle of the shoot. I could take pictures of other earrings, but I thought the ones that she had were pretty cool, inappropriate for her outfit. So I'm gonna go ahead and work with those because they're so small in the frame. If I use a color selecting magic wand tool and then go select similar, it'll pick out all the color that matches that particular color I picked on. Then Aiken just expand or contract the pixels as needed. Once I have those earrings, I set each one on their own layer. So the right eerily so the right hearing it will need to be an independent layer. It's going to be plus right hearing. The plus is what makes it independent. And then the left tearing same thing, plus left hearing. After I get all these regimes sorted out, some of them I'm going Teoh have as a two piece cycle layer. So if I have more than one mouth shape. Safer. Ah, then make sure those are in a folder of their own. The cycle layers behavior will be applied in character Animator, and it'll freeze on the second layer. That will give a little more life to her mouth transitions. But I'm going to assemble all the mounts into the mouth folder. We're going to assemble the rest of the parts into a head group, and then I'm going to call this frontal head because ultimately I'm going to have three heads for her, one that faces forward, the ones that face to the right and the ones that face to the left when you have these three head groups under a single head folder than you can more easily assign behavior like an auto blink to all of them at once. 5. Pt. 4 Bodies: in these lessons and these lessons, I'm going to work on the body and the body is actually a simpler process than cutting out all of those heads and assembling those because you really only need to get one torso, one left leg, one right leg, one arm for each side. And if you want any hand swaps, a bunch of hand positions in the outfit she's wearing. Her sleeves were so long that her hands were insider sleeves, so I'm not gonna bother putting any hands in right now. I think in the future I might want tohave it where she has interchangeable hands that are always hidden behind objects like she would carry a coffee cup or she would carry a spoon or something. But it would stick out of the sleeve, this particular pose that I am working on here. She had her hands behind her back, and when you photograph your person to get all these parts, you'll probably have to shoot each part individually. You'll have to shoot it as a profile and as a 3/4 view as well as the straight on view, and you'll have to shoot where their hands are obscured somehow, like have their arms above their head have their arms behind their back. Just make sure that you get as much clean imagery of each section while you're photographing this stuff. The main challenge one doing in the upper torso and arms, is that there needs to be some sort of overlap between where the arms meet the body. So I typically just use a cloning tool and a very feathered clone to get that to match. If I have somebody whose outfit is a little more in sections like, let's say, a leather jacket, then it's really easy to find the seams on a leather jacket and have that separation be the dividing line between the arms. But in this case, I'm just gonna have to ah, fake or the arm comes off of the body and using political lasso to match the arm the best I can. I smoothed my plugging a lasso, and then I'm going to cut it, not just delete it, but cut it so I can paste it on its own layer, the arms being behind her back. Ultimately, these arms will have to stay behind the torso or underneath the torso in the photo shop hierarchy. Now, when I get to the point where I use arms that should wave around in front of her in the photo shop hierarchy, they will have to be a layer above the torso. So I'm going to end up with an unusual situation where I have a swap set of arms. But one set is above the torso, and that's the default set that I'll use to wave around. And then I'll have a swap. Where the arms Congar Oh, behind her back. Of course, you don't have to do this in your own photographic puppet, but I thought having her arms 300 back was a cool pose. It made a lot of sense for a face that is facing the audience and explaining things. The area I typically have to do the most rebuilding on is the neck, because in real life the head covers up the neck and it's, ah, something you kind of forget about when you're photographing people to have them turn their head up and photographed a clean neck, so repositioning the head, making sure it looks good. The neck that you rebuild will have to go pretty far up into the area where the head is, and the reason is when you are doing your motion capture animation and you have just the head moving side to side. It's really easy and really obvious when you see where the neck ends. So this needs to go up a lot higher than it would in real life. When this model showed up, she was already wearing a turtleneck, and experience has taught me that the best photographing of thing for character animator puppets are the ones where there's just like an obvious seem. I've photographed people who wore a sort of choker jewelry piece, and that worked really well. I photographed people who had more of an open blouse and nothing on their neck, and it was such a pain to reconstruct around that. At this point, I'm going to do a little bit of puppet warping now. Her outfit looks fine as it would in real life, except I want to make appealing character animator puppet and have clothes that are wrinkled or just sort of flop about. Uh, doesn't necessarily mean that the puppet is on appealing figure, so I'm bringing it in, making a little more symmetrical, Not so blobby, Um. Then I'm reconstructing the arms in the back to make sure that they fill up all the space that I left open after I warped her shirt. Okay, I've skipped ahead a little bit to show you the rigging process. In character Animator, I've added a gangle to her independent earrings. I typically add auto, blink and breathe Teoh all of my characters. I placed the breathe tag on the body, and for most of my behaviors, I apply it. Teoh, the uppermost level of character animator. In this case, it's the plus character level, and I give those behaviors there because it's going to affect everything below in the hierarchy. If you're more specific about things that you want to breathe like let's say you have a brief tag on each arm and the body and part of her head or hair than I would place all of those Individually, I feel like she is really fluid and really realistic. I feel like having more than one blink is helpful. It's a cycle layers on the blink, so she has 1/2 blink and a full blink, and it's cycles forward and backwards. I think it looks really good. Course there's some distortion when I move around here, but all you have to do to fix that is get into the face behaviors and stop it from scaling and crank down. Maybe position and tilt reading the body is the same as any other piece of artwork you might have. You position the arm label as a joint where it belongs. You do the same with the legs where it should rotate. You place your elbow and your risk tags. I tend to make all of my wrists drag a ble by clicking the dragger behavior. I add bones where I believe they should go, although a character like this that has a long floppy sweater might look kind of cool without bones, it for sweater arms just drooped and had nothing solid to them. I might explore that further. The current default and character animator is Teoh. Have the dragger hold in place, so if you want these arms to return to rest when you let go of them with the mouse, you need to either change the behavior in the right panel or in the rig mode, apply a dragger behavior and have its return to rest parameters set there. I usually recommend applying all behavior modifications in rig mode like so, because that way, when you export the puppet and you use it in a variety of scenes, it keeps the same behaviors. If all you do is modify the behavior in the right panel of the record mode, that's only going to work in this one particular scene that you made that alteration in. And the next time you incorporate the puppet into a different scene, it's going to default back. Teoh whatever character animator normally has set up. So I have placed a neck tag on the plus character level. I have the head attached to the neck, and I think I'm pretty happy with how this lady is currently rigged. I know there's a little more alterations I need to make some clean up. I need to do in photo shop on the puppet, but this is a good frontal puppet 6. Pt. 5 Head Turns: Now I'm going to show you how I did a head turn on Annika. And when I photographed her, I basically did. Frontal poses had her face 3/4 to the right and 3/4 to the left. The number of head turns that you can do is a lot more than that. You can have 3/4 you can have a profile view, you can have an up view, you can have a down view. And the ultimate goal of this is when you're doing your motion capture work, you can have your character look in any direction that you need them to look. Creating a 3/4 view head is a lot more difficult than the frontal head. I can't really just take a large chunk of her face and then swap out the mouths underneath , especially since she has an hearing. What I needed to do when I created these 3/4 layers was once I found my neutral face position. I reduced the A pass iti a little bit, and then I matched every following the zem layer by the ear because the here is the thing that had the most consistent item, which was the hearing. If the ear jumped around whenever she talked and the hearing stayed in one place, that would be a huge problem, and it would look really bad. So it made sense to just have the ear in the same position each time, so the hearing could stay in the same position each time. It's not an ideal situation, but it's the one I had to work with. Once I did all my cutouts. I placed that head in a folder called Right Quarter, and both the frontal and the right quarter folders are within ahead group. When you take this back into character animator, all you need to do is apply the head Turner behavior in rig mode, and you can do this to the head group or you can do this toothy character group. It doesn't really make a difference. And just make sure that you have each head group tagged as the appropriate head group in the right panel. Now, if you labelled things the way I label them frontal head and right quarter than these things, air automatically tagged for you. But if you have things labelled as anything else, then you're going to have to take the five seconds it takes to tag these yourself. What I did to the head I can do to the body. And if I create bodies that face 3/4 or profile, I can also tag those with right quarter head left, quarter head and so forth. 7. Wrap Up: guys. Thank you so much for taking this course on creating a photographic puppets in Adobe Character animator. I would not be much of an animator today without this motion capture software. And I certainly could not animate photographs, uh, through any other means And I believe me, I have tried I have made a photographic puppets to use exclusively in key frame animation in after effects I have done frame by frame warping in photo shop and there is no approach quite like Adobe Character Animator for making these photographs come toe life, Check out the rest of my character animator and photography lessons on my skill Schaer teaching page. And I would love to see any work you created based on the techniques in this course. So post your work to the skill share product page. Let us know what you thought of the process. Talk to you next