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Live animation with After Effects

  • Published on May 23, 2016
Live animation with After Effects

Live television productions were once a mainstay for broadcast video, but for many decades fell out of favor and were replaced by recorded shows. Recently several musicals have been delivered as live television, with productions of shows such as the Sound of Music and also Grease. Yet animated shows haven’t been a part of the resurgence of live television. That’s changed with the development of Adobe Character Animator, a part of Adobe After Effects, the animation, 3D, and special effects tool that is part of the Creative Cloud. An updated version of After Effects including Character Animator will be available later this year and will be integrated into the After Effects training courses offered at American Graphics Institute.

Live animation on television

Live animation doesn’t involve watching the artists draw or animate characters in real-time. Traditional animation is dependent upon individual frames being drawn or designed. Modern animation allowed the creation of start and end points for an object, with software applications filling-in the action between these points. Live animation with After Effects and Character Animator is different, and doesn’t yet involve the full on-screen character.

Using After Effects’ Character Animator, the producers of the animated show The Simpson’s hosted a live event using the animated character Homer Simpson. Viewers of the show were able to call the show and ask questions, and they were answered by the character’s voice, Dan Castellaneta. Using After Effects Character Animator, the movement of Castellaneta’s lips were tracked using the application and synchronized onto the on-screen animated character. As he spoke, the character appeared to be talking with his lips moving in real-time.

Using a web camera to track the lip movement the Character Animator component of After Effects was able to translate it into movement within the animated character’s lips. This allows an After Effects lip sync to be created, which is further enhanced by animation sequences that are controlled via a computer keyboard. David Silverman who is the leader behind the Simpson’s animation posted a set of keys that were associated with different pre-created animations. These animations presets tied-in with After Effects and Character animator to create the live animated show.

About the author

Christopher Smith is president of American Graphics Institute in Boston, Massachusetts. He is the publisher and editor of the Digital Classroom book series, which have sold more than one million copies. At American Graphics Institute, he provides strategic technology consulting to marketing professionals, publishers and to large technology companies including Google, Apple, Microsoft, and HP. An expert on web analytics and digital marketing, he delivers Google Analytics training along with workshops on digital marketing topics. He is also the author of more than 10 books on electronic publishing tools and technologies, including the Adobe Creative Cloud for Dummies. Christopher did his undergraduate studies the at the University of Minnesota, and then worked for Quark, Inc. prior to joining American Graphics Institute where he has worked for 20 years.