Search form

AE Character Animation

25 posts / 0 new
Last post
AE Character Animation

Here's a recent piece of character animation I did with animated masks in Adobe AfterEffects. I've discovered a few things since then, and want to do something with rotations next, but this is a fun piece that uses one of Criswell's speaches from Plan 9.

Great work,doc. I'm dabbling with AE now but have miles to go to do something that well. Like your thugs too. If there is a way you may want to keep the ship hovering (one second cycle slight up and down) when it "stops".
God help us in the future! ;)

Yeah, it almost stops completely now, and I like it better. I was going to wait until I got sound on it from a friend's CD set, but I'm pretty much snowed in, and working on another project.

How about a push off? That may give it a nice look. squash it down then push off.
Another nice touch may be hack the car rotate all the way around so that we see the back end with smoke comin off the wheels and then whip its back end towards the building and push off.

Just something to expierement with.

Thanks, apscalmato. I was thinking of squashing it more front to back, putting a stagger on it, then taking off. Similar to the UFO in the Criswell piece. Is that a "push-off"? The car turning is just the first shot I'm attempting of a pretty ambitious, fast-paced short. Something like a full rotation would call undue attention to the shot. And yes, it'd be a lot of work for what is a minor part of a piece that's going to have lots of character animation.

I'm also working on a pitch for a show that's actually getting some traction at a pretty big cable channel, so this thing's on hiatus. I might tinker with it just a little more, and put some sound on it and repost. I do appreciate the notes, though.

Thanks all!

I had a hover cycle on it that I got rid of because I didn't like it. But a more subtle one would definitely be a nice keep-alive element for the whole thing, and relatively easy to do.

Right now, I'm working with AE puppets composed entirely of animated masks, and getting rid of the stiffness. This guy is still a little puppet-like, to me.

[Original version removed from You Tube-- See link on page 2 of thread]

Well, I'm in the midst of an animated short, but have to put it down while I help a friend get a pitch together for a pilot. Notes have been given on the script by a cable network, so the project has actually been yellow-lighted, and that needs to be the priority.

Anyway, I got this clown car turn done. As I said above, I'm working on doing rotations.

Z's picture

Even for an extremely cartoony car, don't you think the jump is a bit....weird? Maybe after the last jump, it would drift just on two wheels a tiny bit, then fall over (maybe with a bit of forward momentum, but not much at all), and after that drive away. The transition as it stands now, just doesn't look very good at all.


Actually, the hop is my favorite part, Zach. It's a very fast turn, and to me the car shouldn't to stop or loose momentum at all. The piece is about speed and the hop is a minor reaction to it turning too fast. Slowing it down would just kill it. Minor reactions like that should never derail the primary action, IMO. I toyed with the idea of making the car fishtail a little after the turn, but it's going so fast, it just wouldn't read.

Skimming though your posts, Zach, I'm struck by a lack of any links to actual posted animation or drawings of any kind. There's a lot of criticism of others' work, but none of your own to compare it with. That can be very helpful when fielding critiques. Am I just not going back far enough?

There are several things not working right with the clown car. You fixed the end of the skid turn, and that is working better than the first version. What are off is the arc of the turn, the arc of the hops, volume consistancy, and spacing on the acceleration out.

First the arc in the turn. I'll do it by the number of drawings from when the car first appears. I might say frames, but I mean drawings.

Oh I just caught something. The third drawing is spaced too close to the second drawing, making the car slow down before it starts it's turn. You could probably delete that one.

Drawings five and six are starting to come towards the camera which feels right. Drawing seven goes straight up, which feels weird. It should move towards the right and down to follow the trajectory of the arc. Drawings eight and nine is where things really get wonky. Both of these drawings move almost totally to the right. I think drawing nine is supposed to be the contact drawing but there is no squash. Also if you look at the car's front left tire and the shadow between drawings 6 and 9, it moves up and to the right. This makes the car move back and away from the camera rather than towards us as it should. I don't know After Effects but I'm sure you can make a new layer and draw an arc on it for the car to follow. Drawing the arc should help you.

The arc of the hops are very strange too. The contact at drawing nine is so slight it looks like a stutter in the middle of one big hop instead of there being two small hops. Again make a new layer and draw out the arc of the hops. The contact drawings should contact the over all arc for the car. Also the second arc should be smaller and shorter than the first one.

Watch the volume of the car and keep it consistant. The car gains mass between drawings six and seven, then loses mass between drawings seven and eight. There is an even bigger difference between drawings 11 and 12. Drawing 12 the car just gets short. I know this is supposed to be a squash pose, but the car needs to get wider if it's gong to get shorter. Think of the bouncing ball exercises. This volume incansistancy along with the weird hop arcs are making it all look jittery.

The acceleration out is a little wonky. Drawing 15 moves backwards to the right for no apparent reason. You can delete that frame. If the car is accelerating off screen, it's starting to slow down between drawings 18 and 19. The space between these two drawing is less that the space between drawings 17 and 18. The gap between 18 and 19 should be more than the one between 17 and 18. I'm measuring this space by the leading head light. For this type of movement, always use the leading edge to measure your spacing because everything behind the leading edge is going to drag behind and not be consistant.

An over all note. I don't think skewing the car symbol, or what ever it's called in After Effects, is helping. By doing this, it's making the car do strange things. You would probably be better off drawing a new car for a few of the frames to get what you want.

Oh and about the hops. It's probably better to have three hops or more. Once it looks like a mistake. Twice we're not too sure. Three or more, and we know that's what it's doing. This goes for anything like this.

the Ape

...we must all face a choice, between what is right... and what is easy."

I like it. I can imagine sound with it would make it perfect. Liked the alien as well; that voice is brilliant.

Thanks, Ape! Very serious and considered critique. I'm saving it and at least looking at everything you mentioned before it goes on the reel. I'll be able to fix most of it. But AE's a program where you set key frames and everything else is automatically in-betweened on ones. Everything you said makes sense in general, I'll just look at the frame numbers and see if they correspond with the drawings you mention.

If worse comes to worse, I can render the car element as an image sequence and just drop frames out of it. I'm thinking the hops should be higher, and the squash and stretch more pronounced in general. And yes, there should be three of them. There was a third one that was so minor that it looked like a glitch.

I'm generally very happy with what AE will do, but I don't use it with much finesse, yet. I also don't see inconsistencies if they go by fast enough. My eye isn't that trained, yet.

I also notice some bad in-betweens when I freeze frame classic Warners stuff, so I tend to cut myself some slack and try to concentrate on keys and holds. I admit that I will also sometimes deal with problems by just making them go by faster. But you're right-- this is for the reel, and it's all fixable.

But thanks a hell of a lot. This is why I post. Your critique is like getting real direction! As I said, I'm in the middle of another project, and this short is going to have to sit for a while. But I'll save the comments and try to address all of them before I burn anything to DVD.

If this is for your reel, don't cut yourself any slack. If I saw this on your reel, I wouldn't hire you. It shows that you don't have any understanding of arcs, timing and squash and stretch. These are some of the basics of animation. If you can't handle this with a box of a car, how will you be able to handle these things when I give you an organic character with arms and legs and hair and eye, where they not only have to move around in a believable way but also act and have emotion?

Sorry, to be blunt but this is the truth and this is what people are thinking if not saying when they review demo reels. This is why nailing down the basics are so important. When you are at Warner Bros. then you can cut yourself some slack. That is if your director cuts you any slack.

the Ape

...we must all face a choice, between what is right... and what is easy."

Z's picture

Skimming though your posts, Zach, I'm struck by a lack of any links to actual posted animation or drawings of any kind. There's a lot of criticism of others' work, but none of your own to compare it with. That can be very helpful when fielding critiques. Am I just not going back far enough?

To be honest, I'm only just getting the hold of basic animation principles and life drawing. I'm getting better all the time, but, I don't think I'm that great. I'm a bit afraid to post my stuff so far.

I do stand by the fact that when I make a criticism, I think I know what I'm talking about. (most of the time, that is. Sometimes I can be quite impulsive, and have made several posts that haven't been exactly helpful. I apologize for those posts)

I do admit that it's probably my arrogant persona which drives me to make harsh criticisms to people who are equal to my level or better. If it makes anyone feel better, I'm equally critical on myself (in a weirdly encouraging kinda way). :p

Anyway, I could post some of my very amateurish work, if you guys want to see it. (all I have on here is a post from the daily sketch that's buried deep within the forums. Old sketches though)

EDIT: By the way, I still stand by my criticism of your car animation. Yes, I like the fast hop, but...even with an extremely cartoony car...when a vehicle makes a fast turn, the car drifts and slows down just a tiny bit. And I don't think it would interfere with the pacing too much.


A car does not slow down unless the drive takes his or her foot off of the accelerator or they hit something. When the film is done, the latter will happen. The fact that drunken clowns make reckless drivers is a huge story point.

I don't take offense at the criticism, because it was essentially constructive. I completely disagree with the idea of it slowing and drifting. But I am reconsidering making it fish-tail-- swerving the tail end left and right-- as it leaves the screen. This would read funny, and to be honest it does seem to snap into a track or something. Cartoon physics are always a tricky thing, and I usually second-guess myself at least once.

Thanks, Blacky!

I like the skipping...

...then into a nifty fish-tail as it drifts right, THEN it gains traction and zips to the left and off screen.

Just my $0.02 ;)


As I said when I posted it, the clown car is part of a piece that isn't finished. Honestly, the hops were added as an afterthought. I hadn't really looked at them critically, or thought much about the physics. The squash and stretch was added pretty willy-nilly. It was naive to post it on You Tube, and particularly to link it here. I do know the principals better than this piece shows. It's curious, Ape, that you devoted so much time to critiquing a piece you obviously find pretty worthless.

It was after seeing this as a work in progress that a friend who does computer animation enlisted my aid in putting together a pitch for a show. Based on that, I thought I'd just throw it up on You Tube as a work in progress-- hence the lack of sound, utter plotlessness, etc. I'm honestly more concerned with how the story's told in the over-all piece.

But I know all too well that there are those who basically tear other people's work apart. Having it done here was relatively painless. Point well taken. I won't post anything else until I've gone over it frame by frame. But now that it's up, I don't want to yank it. I'll get to the fixes as soon as I can, all things considered.

If I find something "pretty worthless." I'm not going to waste my time doing a video capture of your animation, import it into Flash, map out the arcs and the spacing, then type up a page long critique of what isn't working in your shot. What exact drawings aren't working, and what you need to do to fix these problems.

My critique wouldn't be of much help if I lied and said, "yeah it looks GREAT!! Awesome work!" I don't believe in sugar coating things. If I like it I'll say so. If there are things that need work, I'll say so. I don't think any one wins from having smoke blown up their ass.

If you can't handle this nice of a critique, then you are going into the wrong field. I've gotten studio retake notes like, "this looks like shit, fix it."

I would think it's much better and helpful, to hear these things here where you have a chance to learn from professionals and get feed back so you can improve. Instead of sending your demo reel in and wondering why you aren't getting hired by a studio. You are sending your demo reel out to sell your talents, so you want to present your best work. Critiques are to help you do that.

Congratulations on getting a job based on this shot. Honestly, that is great to hear.

You can take my my suggestions or not. It's no skin off my back. Don't worry, I learn from my mistakes as well and I won't waste my time critiquing your work again.

the Ape

...we must all face a choice, between what is right... and what is easy."

I am taking your suggestions, and said so to begin with. I also thanked you for your time and energy, and meant it. In your response to my thanks, you said that the piece shows that I don't understand the basics of animation. That sounds personal, but I realize that I just wasn't demonstrating the knowledge I have. I had just gotten the shot to where it got the job done in terms of story-telling (which is what really concerns me) and then posted it. As I say, that was probably not the thing to do. I realize the scrutiny that a reel will come under, and will try and do the fixes pretty soon. Right now, I'm just doing some backgrounds for this other thing, so I should have some time. Thank you again for your time and energy. I had animation teachers that didn't go through that much trouble.

Coming in on the last act here.
I like the car now; like the chaplinesque's not a real car with real physics.
If the smoke effect were actually a symbol clip of smoke disappating and then being alphaed out then it would look less Flash-y or AE-y.
Years ago Ken Davis told me I draw "popcorn" smoke :). I don't know for me. I Start with the puff shape and animate straight ahead as if it's cell division; each puff dividing, getting smaller and higher.
Still admire what you're doing, Spectre. Education doesn'r end with school.
My AE training has been on the rails these past couple weeks but I got A good book call Flash & After Effects by Jackson.

The puff of smoke in the middle does a kind of hard banking maneuver that doesn't read right. Otherwise, I always felt like computer animation tends to drift in a way that works for smoke and not much else. I think I'm going to have it break up into smaller pieces of popcorn as it fades. That always looks neat. I like the fact that it leads the eye back to the middle of the screen-- which is where it'll have to be for the next shot. Similarly, after I fixed the turn, the car ends up too low in the screen when it zips off. It would be clipping TV safe. That's what bothers me most when I watch it. The whole composition's going to have to be moved up. Fortunately, it extends pretty far out in all directions.

Thanks for the input, G-man. I'm astounded at how much four seconds of animation has generated.

If some thing's looking wonky when I watch it, I do this in Flash to look at the arcs and spacing. The first image I'm plotting the spacing and arcs from the top center of the car's grill. The second image is what the car's main arc should be. This one I again plotted from the tops center of the grill as well as the bottom of the car's front left tire.

I didn't get around to posting them the first time. This might help to clear up what I was saying.

the Ape

...we must all face a choice, between what is right... and what is easy."

Man, you got a lot out of AE on that one!

Nice job...

Steve Ogden's Moon Town
New Animated Sci-Fi Series currently in development

This is certainly a fun piece that made me smile. Thanks! You matched animated characterization perfectly to the vocal characterization.:)

This is certainly a fun piece that made me smile. Thanks! You matched animated characterization perfectly to the vocal characterization.:)

Pretty much exactly what I wanted to say. Thanks for sharing!