Animated Backgrounds in Adobe Character Animator | David Miller | Skillshare

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Animated Backgrounds in Adobe Character Animator

teacher avatar David Miller, Multimedia Artist For Primordial Creative studio

Watch this class and thousands more

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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 (25m)
    • 1. Intro

    • 2. Desiging A Background In Illustrator

    • 3. Preparing The Background In Photoshop

    • 4. Backgrounds as Character Animator Puppets

    • 5. Cycling Background Details

    • 6. Moving Backgrounds and Foregrounds

    • 7. Cycling Video Layers

    • 8. Wrap Up + Project

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About This Class

Adobe Character Animator does a wonderful job with creating motion capture puppets, but did you know you could also have moveable background with their own animated characteristics?  This class focuses on techniques for getting motion in the background and creating environments that your character can travel through.  

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 Clou... See full profile

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1. Intro: Hello out there. I am David Miller. I'm in Phoenix. There wasn't a multimedia artist and educator. I want to welcome you to this skill short course about creating an animated background using a dhobi character animator. Adobe Character Animator is a motion capture animation software that's related to Adobe after effects. So if you have adobe aftereffects, you have Adobe character animator. I've been using it for a few years now. It is so much fun, but up until recently I'm or less used it to create animated characters. And then the backgrounds are things that I either photographed or just left to their own devices in after effects and premier. But there are ways to bring life to your background, and it will be character animator that are pretty much unique to Dobie character animator. So I thought it would be great to have a course that explored what you can do within the program. Another reason why people might want to use character animators to animate their backgrounds is that character animator is great for live streaming. So if you want to live, stream your characters and you want them to have a cool, interactive background, then character animator is the place to do it, not after effects, not premier. What you will need for this class is until the character animator and after effects I will be designing my backgrounds in Illustrator and then organizing them in photo shop. So if you have both of those programs, it will be beneficial to you as your project for this class is to create your own animated background export video hosted on YouTube video as a private link and then post that to the skill share product page, let's begin. 2. Desiging A Background In Illustrator: we're going to make a pretty simple background for our character animator project. I'm going to start an illustrator If you're not familiar with Adobe Illustrator, there's a lot of ways you can make backgrounds. You can use photographs. You can do your own drawings and scan them into the computer. I'm going to do a simple horizon and the backgrounds, and this is actually for a project. I'm collaborating with my daughter and she wanted, like, a candy land type of landscape. So I'm picking really girly colors and just using a simple paths going to illustrate some candy and some clouds. We'll put a son back there to keep it really simple. I'm going to do a lot of cloning in my background, so I've cloned the cloud. I did a few transformations to it. I'll draw some candy canes, and I'll just use a simple stroke. Fatten it up Everything I draw on illustrator, I draw on a new layer. Then I use a tool called Pathfinder to merge. Divide these pieces so you see this road structure have got going here. I used a tool called Pathfinder to divide the road by the hills and then I ungroomed them so I could delete out sections. Now we'll do some lollipops. These are really simple geometric shapes. And for the bottom part of the Lollipop Rapper, I'm going to use the pencil tool to draw it. When I do objects that have more than one section, I tend to color certain sections slightly different. So in the case of this lollipop rapper, you have the front part one version of Red. You have the bottom of the rapper a few different versions of red, but I'm going to clone a bunch of these lollipops, reposition them, change this scale a little bit. In some cases, I'm going to put them behind the hill so it looks like they're scattered throughout. And then I think I'm gonna change the color of few of these lollipops because it's too much of the same thing. Whenever you design a background, even if it's not going to be a background, you see Ah whole bunch in your show. Ah, you should have some variety to create visual interest. If everything is cloned and looks exactly the same in the same position, the same color, then it might as well just be one item. In my opinion, it's not that interesting to look at. Let's make a son. I'll add distortion to get a spiky edge. I had a stylized glow to it. This will probably change later when I move this composition into photo shop. Now I'm going to change the colors of a lot of these lollipops. I think I'll alternates blue and red ones. 3. Preparing The Background In Photoshop: At this point, I'm exporting it as a Photoshopped file. We'll go ahead and open photo shop. Now when you export out of illustrator, you're going to have to do some layer cleanup. So that's essentially what I'm doing. If I had anything that was a group in Illustrator, it gets its own folder and Photoshopped. But I don't want my layers toe look like that. So I'm renaming everything, moving them around where they need to be. I'm going to find a texture for the roadway. Simple bricks will do the trick that I'm going to use the Transform Tool and Photoshopped to get things scaled perspective and skewed in the way that I think would be appropriate for my road. If I spent a little more time on this, I might consider putting a blur on the back half of the road to, because what ultimately will happen is anything that receives towards the horizon should have a little bit of a ah blurry, less defined quality to it. Change the A pass ity on these bricks and I'm going to merge it down. Now I'm going Teoh Blair the sun a bit more. I feel like it doesn't need to be a super well defined ball of fire, and this guy just doesn't make sense to me. It needs to have more of a glow, more energy to it. I'm going to put all of my layers in a character file that's plus character, just like you would do on your regular character animator puppets. That's because I want this toe. Have some effects. I don't want it to just be a boring, static background. I want to have things that move around in it. I wanna have the clouds go up and down, and I want to be able to move the sun. So I'm going to give those layers the plus symbol next to them. And now I'm copying a few foreground elements because I realized Candy Cane real close to the camera, should actually be in front of my character. If it's right behind her, it looks a little bit odd, and I want my character feel like they're actually part of the environment, not just a sticker that goes on top of the environment, so I'll take one lollipop, one candy cane. I'm going to blur both of these cause they're intended to be closer to the camera. I use lens blur To do this one final step, I am going to use blending options to given inner shadow to the objects in my scene, the clouds and the lollipops in the candy canes. There's no point in giving it to the actual road or the sun, because those shouldn't have a shadow inside them. But I'm going to manipulate the angle of the shadow to be from the sun so the sun is in the upper right than the shadow should be. In the lower left, you can create shadows on the ground. If you so desire. All you need to do is use the paint brush tool and the blur tool. I'm not going to do that for time's sake. It would make sense in the case of having a son in the background that there should be shadows on the ground. But I'm going to forgo that just for the sake of time. 4. Backgrounds as Character Animator Puppets: Now let's hop over to character animator, and this is a puppet that I co created with my daughter. It is meant for her own YouTube channel, and I'm going to create a composition that's roughly ah, regular HD sized 10 80 by 1920 pixels going to shrink her puppet down into it. Now import my foreground and background, drop the background behind her, and I'm going to change the scale slightly so it fits with seen a lot better. If you need to pan your background, you definitely conduce that with the ah X and Y positions. If you had a background that you wanted to have travel behind your character, there are ways to do it. Character animator. But the simpler way would be to use Adobe after effects, so I will have something like that in my advanced character animator course. But for our sakes, we're going to focus on just having an interesting background for our character. Walk across now, when I use the walk function, she's not going anywhere. That's because I need to actually give her body speed. Speed is set to zero by default, but if you want your character to actually move side to side. You need to alter the body speed and something that looks normal be around 50% 75%. Character who moves at 100% moves pretty quickly. I dropped my foreground layer on top of my character, so if she walks in front of or behind these objects, they're going to stay and she's not gonna cover them up. Now I want to add behaviors to the elements of my background, so I head over to rig mode. I highlights the three things that I want to have some motion, and I think I'm going to add breathe to them because breathe makes things grow and shrink. And, ah, I've done this before in the background elements. It kind of reminds me of a 19 thirties cartoon. In this case, I'm adding the same breathing to all three elements. So after I have tagged the two clouds and the sun breathe, I'm adding the behavior of breathing, and I'm going to set it to be, um, not a huge scale difference. The defaults in breathe is 150%. I usually cut that done something like 110 in the case of human beings more like 102% difference. But as you can see, the clouds are inhaling and exhaling, very similar to how inanimate objects in the old 19 thirties cartoons puffed in and out have widened my composition a little bit wider than 1920. This is to give my character more space toe walk. And I think if I wanted Teoh present a video on YouTube that was a standard 1920 by 10 80. That's no problem. I just throw this into after effects and set the composition to be 1920 by 10 80 or Adobe Premiere. You can alter the sequence settings, and it'll trim the edges of your final composition. 5. Cycling Background Details: the last element I'm going to do before I head back to character Animator is go to illustrator. I'm going to grab these little grass bits that I drew. What I'm going to do is copy the path that I drew the grass. I'm going to paste it on its own layer and make some slight alterations using the curvature tool. So my goal with this is to have a little looping animation of grass that blows in the breeze. And I'm going to make three layers. But you're welcome to cycle as many layers as you want. If you want your animation to look more fluid and realistic than you would have more than three layers, you might have five or 10 layers with smaller increments than what I'm doing with the curvature tool. So now that I have three layers that are slightly different, I am going to export these individually as a ping file. And to do that, you go file export export as PNG ping. I'm going to create a new folder. I'm gonna call it Purple Grass loop. One layer is saved. His layer one. Make sure you have transparent set as your background export layer to and export layer three. Okay, we have a bunch more cam. All right, let's head back to character animator and see how we can spice up our backgrounds. I'm going to import the cycle to do that import cycle, find your purple grass loop. You only need to pick one of those ping files you need to drag and drop it over the layer that you want it to appear. So if I just threw the cycle layer onto my character and it put it in the wrong place. Character animator currently doesn't let me reposition those layers, so it needs to be right above where you want it to be. In this case, it's right above the ground layer character Amit are already has cycle layers as a behavior applied to it. You just need to change the attributes of whatever it is. In my case, I want this thing toe loop continuously. I'm going to see what it looks like when it loops every two frames. I might stretch that out. Now I'm going to drop more cycle layers on. I'm going to drop more layer cycles on. I want that grass to appear at least three times reposition it, and I'm going to change the scale of it's just to make it look a little bit different than the previous time I dropped the grass on, so that one was a little larger and I changed rotation on it. Drop one more loop of cycling grass once again changed the scale on both E X and Y coordinates. Let's see how it looks. 6. Moving Backgrounds and Foregrounds: Now I have a scene here where my character can walk, and she's currently walking in place. If I go over to the walk cycle and gave her some body speed, she'll walk right off of the set. But what if I wanted her to remain in place and have the setting move instead of having her abandon it? Well, there's a couple things you can do. Number one is you need to build a very long set. So when I view my candy background, you can see it's very long horizontally. If I were to look at it in Photoshop, it's actually about 5100 pixels wide and 1600 tall. So this gives my character quite a bit of space to walk across. What I need to do if I want this to be the element that pans instead of the character is I need to apply a walk cycle to it, and to get that walk cycle to work, I need to apply a hip behavior, so I'm going to select the uppermost level that character level. I'll go ahead and give that a hip, and I will apply a walk cycle because it's going to go the opposite direction. The character walks. I'm going to give it a body speed of negative eight, and I want that walk cycle to start with the left and right arrow keys. Okay with the background arm for recording. Now it pans, but my character is standing still. The reason for this is I don't have both elements armed for recording at the same time, with both elements selected. No, my character walks forward and the background travel's going to slow the body speed down on my character to 16% and I get a pretty cool scene of her travelling against the background . You can applies to four round elements as well, and having foreground elements really helps create sense of depth, this sense that there is an actual space that our character is traveling within. Just remember when you have things that are supposed to be closer to the camera and there's an effect called Parallax, which in the real world is why things that appear closer to us on the road seem to move faster than things that are far away when we're driving. So if you have an element that is closer to the camera, you need to have its speed increased as your character passes by it. Background elements should move slower 7. Cycling Video Layers: I want to show you how you can incorporate video cycles into your character animator compositions in this example, I went outside on a perfectly clear day, and I filmed a little bit of a tree against the blue background. I'm essentially using this sky as a blue screen the same way that you could film somebody in a studio against a green screen. I did this midday because there isn't as much radiation to the sky as there would be if I had filmed this in dawn or around sunset, and I'm just using a regular iPhone. A four second bit of video is all I need. The important thing is I have the cameras stabilized and any sort of ah phone stabilizer will run you maybe $10 or less. So there is no real reason not to shoot stabilize video on your phone. Once I have this video, I take it into after effects, and chances are I'm pretty sure if you have character animator than you're working with Adobe after effects because character animator comes with after effects. I dragged the footage to the new composition icon, and then I'm going to use an effect called king, where you are able to select a color in your footage and then drain it out. So this is something that requires a little bit of finessing and maybe more so that I'm going to do in this example. But essentially, I'm draining out the blue from the background. I'm going to mess around with the tolerance a little bit and use one of the other king tools called key Cleaner to help get rid of some of this excess. And once I've got that to a certain point, I'm going to use theme asking pen tool to draw around the tree. Best I can. I know there's parts where the leaves sway and it gets outside of the mask, so I'm gonna make the mask around. That leaves a little bit larger, and then when I get to the trunk of the tree, I'm going to get pretty close and flush to it. When I've drawn my mask, I'll give it a little bit of feathering, do some adjustments, and then after a certain point, I am left with a tree against nothing. This nothing is called the Alfa this checkerboard pattern you see here. So when I render a new it aeration of this clip. I'm going to render it with RGB plus Alfa, and that is in the render menu of after Effects. RGB plus Alfa makes a pretty large file, even something that's four seconds in length. This was a four K video, so this treaty cycle ended up being 249 megabytes in size for four seconds of video. Pretty large. If you don't need all those pixels, feel free to scale down your tree to what you need it to be. And I see in my render that there's a little bit of blue edge left in it. I'm OK with that. For now. This is just a sample for this tutorial. If you want to refine your king process a little better. Aftereffects has more tools available to you that you could key out that remaining blue edge. Now that I have my tree plus Alfa, I'm going to go to photo shop and I'm going to use a tool under import called video frames two layers, and this gives you a menu that allows you to choose how many frames you want. If you want to render every single frame of this four second video. Two layers. Let's see. This was shot at 24 frames a second. Four times 24 equals 96 frames. I don't think I need that from my background, and I think that might be a little ram intensive and character animator, so I'm going to limit it to every four frames. I think that's just enough animation to look pretty cool. As you can see, we have our looping tree video. All we need to do in this stage is make this something that character animator can understand as something that it can loop. So we're going to create a folder. We're going to call it plus Tree, and then we're going to dump all of our frames into it, save it as tree cycle. Then, once we're in character animator, we can import it, treat it like its own character, place it where it needs to go in our background, and then we're going to assign cycle layers to the folder that contains all of our tree layers. The's cycle layers I'm going to set to start immediately, cycle continuously every two frames and have it forward and reverse because it wasn't a super clean cycle. Ah, when I exported my frames and photo shop, you could definitely see the tree trunk sway a little bit. So if it forwards and reverse is, it essentially does what in instagram is called Boomerang. It goes forward, it goes back, a ghost forward goes back, and as it loops, it looks totally seamless. So in this particular background, everything else is a drawing, and having a photographic object in the background is a bit of an anomaly. But you can imagine an entire background populated by photographic things would look pretty cool. Plus another need. Side effect is you can imply some of the physics attributes that character animator has to this looping, video like dangle. So it makes sense for a tree tohave dangling things that are affected by the wind. You could assign breathe to make things grow and shrink. If you had, say, a bank of television sets, you could assign auto blink to them and they could turn on and off, or perhaps strobe lights from a dance club. You could have them blink on and off by tagging them blink and assigning an auto blink to them There's a lot of possibilities with photographic layers, and all it really takes is a little bit of stabilized video keying and after effects and utilizing this cool trick in Adobe Photo shop to pull apart your video into individual layers. 8. Wrap Up + Project: Hey, guys, Thanks for sticking with this class. Post your work to the scarcer product page. Let me know what you thought of the process and feel free to check out the rest of my classes on Skill share channel concerning Adobe Character, A meter after effects and animation. I have quite a few there, from animating photographs to working with superpowers and a whole lot more. Thanks for watching talk to you next time.