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Master Motion Design: Dynamic Character Animation in After Effects

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Read Time: 7 min

Learn how to create a fun, animated video introduction using some advanced techniques in this After Effects motion design course.

Watch the Full Master Motion Design: Dynamic Character Animation in After Effects Course

What You'll Learn

  • How to take your work from Adobe Illustrator into Adobe After Effects using a plugin
  • How to time out your scenes in After Effects, to hit the beat of the music
  • Animating trim paths in After Effects
  • After Effects character animation including rigging
  • How to use track mattes in After Efects
  • How to use expression controls in After Effects

1. Introduction

1.1 Welcome to the Course 

Watch video lesson (1 min) ↗

In this quick introduction video, I'll let you know what we'll be covering on this motion design After Effects course, including timing, animating, and rigging. This is an intermediate to advanced look at After Effects, so you'll need to know the basics before you try this course out. Below you'll find the perfect course to get you started if you're not quite there yet: After Effects for Beginners.

4.4 Hours

After Effects for Beginners | FREE Mega Course

Learn how to use After Effects in this free course. From the After Effects basics up to more advanced topics like spatial interpolation, you'll learn it all. With expert instruction from Dave Bode, you'll start at the absolute beginning and work quickly through these free After Effects tutorials into more exciting techniques. 

    2. Overviews

    2.1 Overview of the Design

    Watch video lesson (1 min) ↗

    I'll show you some designs I've pre-made in Illustrator ready to move into After Effects, and we'll quickly go through the various layers that make up the scene so that you can apply that knowledge to bringing in your own shapes or illustrations.

    overview of the designoverview of the designoverview of the design

    2.2 Overview of the After Effects project

    Watch video lesson (1 min) ↗

    In After Effects, I'll give you a look at a breakdown project so you can see how yours should be laid out. I've got four scenes that are four different precomps, all set to the same size (1920x1080) and then I used the Overlord plugin to transfer everything I'd made in Illustrator over to After Effects. 

    The Overlord plugin is $55 but you don't need this to import files into AE from AI but it can be faster and easier.

    "Remember to always name your layers before importing them so that it's easier to find where things are and where they should be."

    3. Timing, Animating, and Rigging

    3.1 Timing Out Your Scenes

    Watch video lesson (4 mins) ↗

    In this video I'll walk you through how I figure out my timing. In this case, it's going to be to the music as that's what really drives the whole video. There's a big punch at the end (a kind of 'BAMP!') so if we know that our timing ends there, then we know how long we have to fit the rest of the scene. 

    timing out scenestiming out scenestiming out scenes

    3.2 Animating Trim Paths

    Watch video lesson (2 mins) ↗

    If we're using a shape then we can add something called a trim path, and there are two main properties when it comes to trim paths: the start, and the end! Once those are in place, we can then animate that shape along those two points.

    trim pathstrim pathstrim paths

    3.3 Easing Those Keyframes!

    Watch video lesson (5 mins) ↗

    Easing in animation is basically the transition from one movement to another so it doesn't jar. In this video I'll show you how we can adjust the keyframes in our video to change the speed of certain parts of the animation from one keyframe to the next, while keeping it smooth and looking good.

    easing keyframeseasing keyframeseasing keyframes

    3.4 Character Rigging

    Watch video lesson (3 mins) ↗

    In this video, we'll look at some Adobe After Effects character animation. The main animation will be the body, and then everything else will follow that. Each part is worked on separately: left hand, right hand, eyeball, head and so on, and then we parent that to the body, as it's the thing everything else is moving around.

    character riggingcharacter riggingcharacter rigging

    Some Quick Tips From Chapter 3


    Visualise Your Audio Track

    You might want to change the colour of your audio track, particularly if you're fitting the timings to the beat. This way you can see at a glance which part of the timeline you're working on.


    Adding Trim Paths

    Each shape layer will have a quick way to add trim paths, by clicking Add next to the layer.


    Ease Keyframes

    Hitting F9 is a quick way to ease keyframes!


    When Parenting

    You can select multiple layers by holding command / control.

    4. Track Mattes, Expression Controls, and Texture

    4.1 The Magic of Track Mattes

    Watch video lesson (17 mins) ↗

    This is one of two quite long videos in this course, so you're going to learn a lot here. I'll show you how to make a master track matte using a shape layer and then everything that we want to move will use that master track matte. I'll also demonstrate some of my preferences that might make things a little easier for you, like working with a value graph rather than speed graph, and separating the dimensions of a layer.

    • The Speed Graph demonstrates the movement speed out of 100.
    • The Value Graph is the actual value being adjusted 

    You can learn more about graphs in Adobe After Effects and how to control speed between keyframes in the Graph Editor, from Adobe.

    track mattestrack mattestrack mattes

    4.2 Using Expression Controls

    Watch video lesson (22 mins) ↗

    I'll take you through some expression controls in this video. As an example, to make something 'wiggle' we'd need to give it two properties: frequency - how often something happens - and amplitude, how much. If we did that once for part of our animation, we can copy it over to anything else that we want to animate in the same way, and the great thing is that because we're applying it individually, it won't animate in a uniform way, it's all going to look subtly different.

    Link your expressions to Expression Controls so you can control and keyframe their values just like you do with effects. - Adobe

    expression controlsexpression controlsexpression controls
    1.2 Hours

    Collage Animation After Effects Tutorial | FREE COURSE

    Check out this in-depth tutorial on how to make a collage animation in After Effects. Follow this step-by-step guide to learn how to create scrolling null layers, bring all of your video, photo, animation and graphics assets into the program, and then pull it all together into one really cool collage effect! 

      5. Finishing Up

      5.1 Adding Texture

      Watch video lesson (2 mins) ↗

      I'm a huge texture fanatic and things don't feel complete without a little texture, so in this lesson I'll show you how to add a nice background texture to your video project which is going to make the whole video feel a little more authentic.


      5.2 The Final Product

      Watch video lesson (1 min) ↗

      I hope you got something out of this free After Effects course and learned a few little tricks along the way. By now, you've made a nice little animated character video and have the skills to carry across into your own productions.

      More Great Free After Effects Courses and Tutorials

      If you'd like to learn more about After Effects and particularly animation in After Effects, then here are some of our best free tutorials and courses to help you get started.

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