Talking Heads In Adobe Character Animator | David Miller | Skillshare

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

8 Lessons (23m)
    • 1. Intro

    • 2. Head Structure

    • 3. Creating Face Parts

    • 4. Head Rigging and Behavoirs 1

    • 5. Head Rigging and Behaviors 2

    • 6. Mouth Shapes

    • 7. Creating A Head From Scratch

    • 8. Wrap Up

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About This Class

Animate characters you create with your web cam and automated lip sync in Adobe's Character Animator!  

In Part 1 of our Character Animator series, we will focus on creating a puppet's head.

Motion capture puppets are great for:

  • explainer video animations
  • short films + cartoons
  • commercials
  • creative live interactive characters
  • motion comics
  • anything needing reusable characters - no need to redraw frames or set keyframes anytime a character moves!

We'll cover mouth shapes, layer placement, syncing an audio track to lips or creating your own audio for your puppet to voice, adding physics for more life-like movement, creating custom puppets and even walk cycles. 

This course utilizes Adobe Photoshop to build our puppets and files are exported to Adobe After Effects, so both programs are essential to using Character Animator effectively.

This is a highly effective way to create reusable characters for explainer videos, short film, music videos and other media.  

Meet Your Teacher

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David Miller

Multimedia Artist For Primordial Creative studio


I'm David, a multimedia artist in Phoenix, and my studio is Primordial Creative.  


I have always been interested in the visual arts from an early age- drawing, painting, and clay- but around my high school years I became interested in photography for the social aspect of involving other people, the adventure inherent in seeking out pictures, and the presentation of reality that wasn't limited by my drawing skills.


One thing in my work that has stayed consistent over the decades since then is I have an equal interest in the reality of the lens next to the fictions we can create in drawing, painting, animation, graphic design, and sound design.  As cameras have incorporated video and audio features, and as Adobe's Creative Cloud all... See full profile

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1. Intro: hello out there. My name is David Miller. I'm in Phoenix, Arizona, multimedia artist and educator. I want to welcome you to the first in a series of courses on Adobe Character Animator, which is adobes motion capture animation software that comes with adobe after effects. So if you have adobe after effects, you have Adobe character animator. I've hosted many classes on this topic on skill share in the past, but the software has changed a lot in the last year, and they've added so many new features that I felt like it was important to revise all of those lessons and come up with a new Siris of lessons that focus on individual parts of Adobe character. And so this 1st 1 is about the face, and the face is something that you create as a photo shop or illustrator puppet. Debbie character animator has a starter face for you to work with, and we're going to examine that and all the attributes and controls you have for this blank face. At the end of our class, we're going to create our own face with our own drawings, and then we're going to animate it, so you have a product for this class, and it is simply to create your own animate herbal face. As a photo shopper illustrator puppet, you can either post the JPEG of the face to our skills, our product page. Or, if you make a completed video using Adobe character Animator hosts that on YouTube or Vimeo and then post a link to the sculpture project page. I would love to see the work that you make. Let's begin. 2. Head Structure: when you first open Adobe character animator This is the workspace that you're likely to see. There's only four separate areas for your work space. You have the start menu rig mode, where your puppet will be and where you assign behaviors and sort of skeletal structure to your puppet record where I have my Webcam face showing here, and it's showing the microphone recording on, then stream. When you are ready to live, stream this in whatever way you see fit. We're gonna jump over to the start menu because this comes with a lot of great tutorials and also great templates to start. In case you don't know how to rig your own puppet, let's go ahead and click blank face and it opened up photo shop for me. The first thing I'm going to do on this is Toss Background Guide. We don't really need that, and I want you to understand the folder hierarchy when you are dealing with a head, Uh, essentially, you have character as your top folder. It hasn't plus symbol next to it. That means it's independent. The groups inside the character are generally the head, and even though he doesn't have a body, you're likely to see something like this, and then you can move that folder underneath the head in the character file hierarchy. Thes two folders are within the character, so when you rig anything in the character menu, it affects everything that's within these guys. And if you wanted to do things like have multiple arms, multiple hands, different head turns, you would create folders within these folders and so on and so forth for every limb extremity thing that you want to have either act independently or have swappable parts, we will get into that a little bit further down the road. When we talk specifically about swappable parts and reading the body. For now, I want to focus on what the head parts are in the face. We open this up. We have three folders and two parts that are independent of these three folders, and then we have a face background. The background literally is just the skin of your character. It might be skin and hair. Uh, the hair might be its own thing. If you want to have hair that swaps out or moves around with wind left eyebrow right eyebrow, you'll notice we're talking about left and right as they correspond to your character. So if your character is facing you, even though it looks like this is the right eyebrow, it's really the left eyebrow, because from the character's perspective, it's the left and the same with the left eye. The right I'm the components of the I are a blink of pupil in an eyeball. Now you don't see the blink currently, because the eyeball icon is turned off in our folder hierarchy. If the eyeball has turned on or off, it really doesn't matter. It is going to be activated and character animator and also in a rig mode and character animator. You can turn things on it off so you can see them. 3. Creating Face Parts: the left blink on this character is literally just a straight line. So it is the same exact thing as Theo Eyebrow. When you are creating your own faces, you might find yourself duplicating portions of the face and reassigning them as other things. For example, you might make eyebrows out of his mouth. I could go into the mouth parts. This is his neutral mouth. I could duplicate that. Transform its place it where this eyebrow is on. That is his right eyebrow. You race out the existing right eye brown, call this plus right eyebrow and then do the same for the left eyebrow. So I'm actually going to just throw away this layer and rename this left eyebrow moving over like mosey over to actual character animator. My guy still looks like he does in the template when I make changes in photo shop and I save them, so I'm going to go ahead and save that file Save already. Did it. Any changes you make become reflected in character Animator. Now my template has the eyebrows that I made out of part of his mouth. Pretty cool. It saves you a lot of work when you recycle parts that you've already used. Now, later on, I'm going to be working in photographs, so I really don't need to recycle parts. But when you start drawing and designing your own heads, you'll find when it comes to the mouth you need to make 123 456789 10 11 12 13 14 different mouth shapes. And that gets to be a lot, especially if you have characters who are doing head turns. If you're creating multiple characters to interact with each other, it's possible you might want to make one set of these mouths that you can fit on multiple characters. So this would be like I would call this guy a, um, young male, and you could make a set of young male mounts. You could have an old male mouth. You could have a young female. You could have old female. You could have robot mouths and then save them as their own files. But whatever your workflow is, at some point you're going to want to save time and do some kind of shortcuts. So I recommend making parts of your guy out of other parts, and it also keeps sort of a continuity of the drawing, like the way that his eyebrows currently are reflects something in his mouth. This character isn't particularly stylized. He's quite generic, as I could show you on this robot character, parts of his face and his body design becomes other parts of his body design, and that's really just to keep a general aesthetic to the entire character. 4. Head Rigging and Behavoirs 1: Let's look at this face in rig mode, we go over to Adobe Character Animator. We click on Rig and you see nothing here because we haven't chosen this blank face yet. In the project panel, click on Blank Face. There's a guy this a little crown next to items say that these are independent, movable objects, meaning that they shift around regardless of what the face is doing. If I don't have independent eyebrows, weaken, See this reflected in the record mode. When I raise and lower my eye brows, it's changing the entire shape of his face. And that might be something you want. It might not be. The point is, this is something that you can actually work with. So let's put the eyebrows back to independent and see how it's reflected on my guy. Click the crown like the crown. Now you see the eyebrows move, and it does not affect the rest of the face. Uh, things that you commonly want to have independent are the arms and legs. If you have a character stretching their arm out, you might not want it to affect the entire body. Let's see what happens if we put independent on some of the features that don't have independent currently rigged on them. So let's independent the eyes and the mouths. Not much of an effect currently. But let's see what happens when I stretch the mouth off the face. As you can see, it's possible for things that are Mark is independent to actually float off of a structure that you don't want them to float off of. So the mouth now feels the looser. It's like it's floating in air rather than attached to his face. Ah, let's see what happens if we go back to rig mode, take independent off the mouth and try the same stretching this now that I've turned the mouth strength up really high, it also stretches his chin, and it looks a little too distorted for my taste. But you can see how it's adding on extra layer of animation. If you're curious how I turn the mouth strength up, we have a bunch of options on the right hand side. These are your puppet behaviors on, and they also are your physics options, transformation options and triggers. We're going to get into each one of these individually and future lessons but I really just want to show you the face. Currently we have percentages that reflect the movements of your character and head position strength. Currently, it's up to 100%. When I move my head, he moves his head. When I crank this down all the way are close to zero. I move my head. His position does not go up side to side. It only rotates. I still have head tilt strength up to 75% by turn, had tilt strength down. He won't even do that. Now you might say to yourself, Why would you not want your head to move? That's animation, right? Well, I have done projects where I only created heads and character Animator and I pasted these heads onto bodies that I had in after effects fired, animated with my webcam. Andi gone through the whole thing and had the head moving side to side. All of a sudden, it is really hard to get this head to stay on. My body's and after effects either need to use a motion tracker in after effects, or I need Teoh keep repositioning things and key frames, and that is a real pain So if I were just to create a head that is talking and then take its in after effects without the body, I probably want to turn down the head position and the head tilt and probably the head scale to head scale is when you get near and far from your webcam, it changes the size of your character. I would probably turn that down to 02 and just have a character who's completely static like this so I could put his head on a body and after effects. And then I can change the position and after effects if I need to. 5. Head Rigging and Behaviors 2: in this menu, you can also affect things like the expressiveness of the eyebrows. So a raised eyebrow tilt. If it's pretty high, your character can be very sympathetic. In fact, that's, Ah to a fault. Where interferes with the eyes? Let's take that down to something like 51% more natural. And if you have a character very sinister or sneaky, you might want to have the lower eyebrow till cranked down. So negative 74%. That's an incredibly mean guy. If you unchecked eyebrows move together, you could be even more expressive if you're going to create a series of characters. I recommend having them all have their own distinct personalities and characteristics as a sign through here. If I have a robotic character who is not going to move so fluidly and needs to move more in a robot like fashion, I might turn up pose to pose movements. This is something that freezes your poses and then has your character shift to the next pose after whatever duration you have set. So let's turn the strength back up. Let's turn to scale back up. Let's turn the tilt back up, and I'm going to do some poses for you, and you'll see how it keeps opposed for at least one second before moving to the next one. Without post opposed movement, my character will continuously move with whatever I do in the webcam. Let's head back to rig mode and we're going Teoh dig a little deeper into what is set up in rig mode. This guy has a trigger, and his trigger is blink Currently, if you push the letter B in record, it causes your character to blink. And that's exactly I'm doing him hitting be. He closes his eyes. I released Be his eyes open up back in rig mode. If I were to dig in here, I click on this. You'll notice that there is a set up for Admit E, which I don't have a midi keyboard, so I wouldn't be able to show you that. But I have latch and I have default. Let's click A latch last simply means that all I need to do is hit B and not hold it down for my character to blink when I hit be again. His eyes open up often times when I have arms that swamp I have other things I want to do with my fingers. So if a character like my clue bots, which is to a chain saw, I just hit the number that triggers that chainsaw to appear. And when I want the chainsaw disappear, I hit that number again. I don't wanna have to hold every button down in the case of is blinking for sure that it's something that I only really need to hit for a second to have it do its thing. One of our options in behaviors is on auto blink, so I'm going to show you how to assign that. In the Properties panel we go over to behaviors and out of behavior. On a blink is the very first choice. And when I assign this guy auto blink, he is going to blink at random, depending on the parameters that I said. That is a great way to just add a little bit of life. Teoh character who currently he has this floating jaw. He changes scale. He has very naturalistic movements. He has eyebrows, raising, closing all of these things. If you were doing traditional hand drawn animation, would be extra steps in between. But character animators taking care of all of that for you, and it's a great time saver, and it's a great way to have something that looks like it's got a lot of life to it. 6. Mouth Shapes: heading back to photo shop. I'm going to dig into the mouth. Now. The mouths are each a certain shape, and if you need to know what the shapes are, you can Google. The word phone name and character animator refers to these mouth shapes as viz Eames, phone aims and museums are the mouth shapes that we make when we do this. Sound letters ah, correspond to this. You can see the top teeth you can see down the throat. You don't see the bottom teeth de corresponds to the upper and lower teeth very close together. E is very similar amounts of stretched out, and it has a little opening in between the teeth. These are things that you will learn as you make your characters. If you need a chart that corresponds to the different mouth shapes, there's plenty available on Google. I'll go ahead and show you one here. I want to stress that you have 14 mouths here. It is very tempting in a certain point to say E and s are very similar. Why don't I just copy that over there? And I've done that plenty of times. I will tell you when you have the full set of mouth shape. Your character looks a lot better when they're being animated when they're talking, it is a variety of visual input that makes your character interesting toe look at. And if you cut that down to just five shapes repeated, it's not nearly as interesting to watch. 7. Creating A Head From Scratch: Now we're going to get into the process of making and rigging your own face instead of using this template. And of course, there's innumerable ways to do it, and it's going to depend on your own personal aesthetic and style. I am going to show you how I do it with drawings first, and then later I'm going to show you with photographs. So I am going to be using this app called paper by 53. It is on the iPad and I am just doing some quick mouth drawings. I'm not gonna draw them all. I just want to show you how I have separate mouths and then I'm going to do a background face. I'm going to do one I. And the reason why I'm only doing one is because once you're in Photoshopped, these things are very easy to duplicate, and this is a new area where you might have a shortcut. Unless you want to have characters who have significantly different eyes. Really, all you need to do is draw on I once and then copy and flip it in photo shop. I'm also going to give my character separate hair because I want to show you how you can position hairstyles and rigged them so they have their own physics when your character's head moves. Now that I have my pieces, I'm going to send them over to my computer. I'm going to cut them out in photo shop, and in the case of the mouth, I'm very quickly going to colorize it, because if I leave this empty space where it should be darkness in the mouth, you're just going to see skinned Ritz. I'm also going to colorize the areas of the teeth where it should be white. You'll notice that my character has a 3/4 angle to them. Most of the characters I create are like that because I prefer to use my characters for animation shorts rather than live streaming. If you're live streaming a character and you want them to be talking to your audience, then you might want to go ahead and have them looking straight forward. Just like the example head that we opened from character Animator did. So I didn't make all of the mounds. I'm just going to insert the mouths that I created Now if you wanted to do this from scratch, It's very easy process. Just remember that you're going to have to put plus next to anything you want to have independent. So things like eyebrows need the plus by them. And if you want to turn off the independence in the rig mode, you can do that. But it's not easy to assign independence to something that doesn't already have a plus by it in photo shop or is in a folder group. Those are the two ways that you can get independent layers. 8. Wrap Up: guys want to thank you so much for taking this class. This is the first in a series of classes on Debbie character animator. The next one will be about the body. Then we'll get into physics and triggers. There's gonna be a lot of fun had in these classes. I love talking about character animator. It's my favorite software to work with. For the last year, I would love to see your projects. So post me some J pegs of your work or a link to a video that you've made using facing created during this course. Talk to you next time.