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How to Add Free Animations to Live-Action Video in 30 Minutes With After Effects

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Read Time: 7 min
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Create your own animations with this quick tutorial: you'll learn how to combine free characters from Reallusion with live-action stock video from Envato Elements using Adobe After Effects. We'll show step-by-step how to download and add the free 2D cartoon animations to a live action video, in about 30 minutes start to finish.

To celebrate the launch of Cartoon Animator 4.5, Reallusion is offering a 50%-off Cartoon Animator coupon code for Envato Tuts+ readers, plus 12 free characters, and more free resources. Cartoon Animator is not required for this tutorial. 

50%-off Cartoon Animator 4.5: discount code 2022CTAxEnvato, valid until May 31st, 2022.

What You'll Learn in This Tutorial

You will learn:

  • How to import a 2D cartoon character into Adobe After Effects
  • How to add the cartoon character into your scene
  • How to combine 2D cartoon characters with live action footage

What You'll Need

To follow along with this tutorial you will need your own version of Adobe After Effects and an online account with Reallusion. To become a member simply head over to the Reallusion website and create an account.

You will also need a live action video for the background footage of your animation. For this tutorial we will be using the footage below from Envato Elements, the creative stock subscription service, and disco lights from Pixabay. Click on the links below to download:

music band videomusic band videomusic band video

1. Download Free Animations From Reallusion

Step 1

To download your free animations, first head over to the Cartoon Animator free assets page on the Reallusion website and follow the instructions to create an account. You will not need Cartoon Animator to follow this tutorial, but see see our recent free tutorial series about character animation with Cartoon Animator if you want to learn more:

Step 2

Click on the Sign up to Download button on the Reallusion website to access the free, transparent animated videos.

12 cartoon characters in advertisement for Reallusion12 cartoon characters in advertisement for Reallusion12 cartoon characters in advertisement for Reallusion

Step 3

Choose from the free animations available and download the ones that you want to use for the project. For this example we will be using the singing character. Make sure to also use the 50%-off coupon code to purchase the software and content resources if you want to try out Cartoon Animator 4! 

To claim the 50%-off discount for Cartoon Animator 4.5, use the coupon code 2022CTAxEnvato.

2. How to Import Animations Into After Effects

Step 1

Now that you have downloaded your new animations, take a moment to look through each of the different characters, effects and backgrounds that are available for you to use.

Once you have chosen which characters you would like to use for your scene, it is time to take it into Adobe After Effects where we can merge our cartoon characters with a live action video.

In Adobe After Effects, import the character videos by going to File > Import > File and selecting the .MOV video file. 

import fileimport fileimport file

Step 2

When importing the file this will prompt a new window where you must decide how you wish to interpret the alpha channel. Select Straight - Unmatted and click OK.

select straight unmattedselect straight unmattedselect straight unmatted

Step 3

Once you have imported the cartoon character video, you will find it located in the Project Panel which is usually located on the left side of the screen. Repeat this process for any other character animations you would like to use. For this tutorial we have included the following free animations:

  • 06_Aaron
  • 07_Nerd
import your charactersimport your charactersimport your characters

Step 4

Import the live action video files you downloaded from Envato Elements by going to File > Import > File and selecting the video files. These will include the live band video and the disco lights.

You will also find both video files in the Project Panel.

import videosimport videosimport videos

3. Compose the Scene

Step 1

Create a new composition by going to Composition > New Composition (Control - N). 

create a new compositioncreate a new compositioncreate a new composition

Step 2

In the composition settings, use the following:

  • Composition Name: Rock Band
  • Width:1920 px
  • Height:1080 px
  • Frame Rate: 30

For the Duration, this can be changed to suit the length of your cartoon animation and live action video file.

composition settingscomposition settingscomposition settings

Step 3

Use the mouse to drag and drop the video listed below into the composition. This will act as the background for the animation.

add background videoadd background videoadd background video

Step 4

Now drag and drop the characters that you wish to use for your animation into the scene. Make sure that you layer the videos correctly. In order to make the characters appear in the video it needs to be layered on top of the live action video.

add the charactersadd the charactersadd the characters


Step 5

Select the cartoon characters and use the Transform options to resize and reposition them so that they are scaled appropriately compared to the rest of the scene in the live action footage.

You may also need to re-scale the band footage as well so that it fits the size of the composition.

reposition charactersreposition charactersreposition characters

Step 6

To ground the singer into the scene we need to place a shadow underneath her. To do this select the Ellipse Tool (Q) and use it to create a shape layer by clicking and dragging in the scene (make sure that you have not selected any layers whilst doing this).

add shadowadd shadowadd shadow

Step 7

Make the color of the ellipse black and remove any outlines if necessary. 

shape layer optionsshape layer optionsshape layer options

Step 8

Open up the Transform options and reduce the Opacity to 50% and then make sure to place the shape layer below the character layer. You will also need to reposition the ellipse so that it appears under her feet.

adjust opacityadjust opacityadjust opacity

Step 9

Give your scene a sense of depth by adding some effects to your foreground characters. Add the following effects to your foreground characters:

  • Brightness & Contrast: Brightness - 138
  • Gaussian Blur: Blurriness 17
add foreground effectsadd foreground effectsadd foreground effects

4. How to Add Disco Lights

Step 1

Use the mouse to drag and drop the disco lights video into the composition and make sure that it is placed above the rest of the layers.


Step 2

Under Mode, click on the dropdown menu and select Screen.

screen modescreen modescreen mode

Step 3

Use the transform options to scale the lights so that they fit the scene better. In this example we have scaled them up to 140% and repositioned them slightly higher. Also lower the opacity to 85% to make it blend into the scene.

transform optionstransform optionstransform options

5. Final Adjustment Layers

There area a couple of last changes to make to get everything looking just right.

Colour and Contrast Correction Curve

To add a colour correction curve, select Effects > Colour Correction > Curves and plot an S-shaped curve on the graph to increase contrast. You can also use individual red, green, and blue channels to control colour.


Separation Layer

To give the animation a little bit of emphasis, the last thing we'll do is dim the live-action video slightly by adding a black solid layer. Head up to Layer > New > Solid with black selected, and then set the opacity of the solid black later to 20%. Place the layer below the animation and above the live-action video.

separation layerseparation layerseparation layer

Awesome! You're Finished!

Congratulations! And that's how you can download free Animations and add them into live action video using Adobe After Effects. Feel free to use multiple characters or your own designs and footage to create your own video combinations.

In the meantime, I hope you've found this tutorial useful and I'll see you next time, on Envato Tuts+!

final imagefinal imagefinal image
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