Cyber Monday Sale 40% off unlimited courses & creative assets! 40% off unlimited assets! Save Now
Advertisement
  1. Photo & Video
  2. Animation

How to Mix Real Characters Into 2D Animation With Cartoon Animator and After Effects

This post is part of a series called Learn Character Animation With Cartoon Animator.
How to Create Smooth Head Turns in 2D With Cartoon Animator and After Effects
3 Ways to Colour Grade Cartoon Animation Using After Effects
Sponsored Content

This sponsored post features a product relevant to our readers while meeting our editorial guidelines for being objective and educational.

Combining real-world video with 2D animations and cartoon backgrounds is a blending of styles that can make your project stand out. With the help of Cartoon Animator, importing your video into 2D animated backgrounds couldn't be easier!

Cartoon Animator provides a simple way of exporting your 2D background footage with an alpha channel. This gives your exported video transparency, which you can then use with layered elements on top of each other to create your video. In this tutorial you'll learn how to combine live and animated alpha channel video using Adobe After Effects.

What You'll Learn in This Compositing Tutorial

In this tutorial we will show you step-by-step how to merge a live action character into a 2D cartoon background created using Cartoon Animator. It's almost Hallowe'en, so we're making a fun and spooky monsters' graveyard themed example.

Topics we cover will include:

  • How to export a 2D cartoon background with an alpha channel
  • How to import the video files and combine the different styles in Adobe After Effects
  • How to use adjustment layers to blend the live action footage with the 2D cartoon background
  • How to create a 2D scene with 3D depth in Cartoon Animator to create 3D parallax effects

What You'll Need

To follow along with this tutorial you will need your own version of Adobe After Effects and Cartoon Animator. You can download a free trial version for Cartoon Animator on the Reallusion Website.

You will also need a live action video, such as the ones linked below from Envato Elements. The person or object in the video needs to have have an alpha channel, or transparent background, which is usually filmed on green screen to make compositing easier. The 2D cartoon background can be purchased from Reallusion's content store for use in Cartoon Animator.

Follow Along With Our Stock Assets

Or you can click on the links below to download the sames file we've used in this tutorial:

A Note About DIY Greenscreen Video

Making alpha channel video is a bit tricky, requiring a special backdrop, lighting setup, and shot preparations. The footage will also need some finessing to remove the figure from the chroma-key background before you combine it with the animation. That said, here are a couple of helpful tutorials to help build up your green-screening skills if you want to go the DIY route.

1. How to Create a 2D Scene with 3D Depth

Step 1

Open up your 2D background scene in Cartoon Animator. To do this go to your Scene Manager and navigate through the different scenes available. For this tutorial, we'll be using the Halloween themed scene! Double-click on the scene to open it up.

scene managerscene managerscene manager

Step 2

You can also import your own custom scene if it has been created using layers in Adobe Photoshop. Simply click and drag your PSD file into Cartoon Animator and choose Scene.

import fileimport fileimport file

Step 3

Opening up your scene will show you the default camera view.

open the scene in cartoon animatoropen the scene in cartoon animatoropen the scene in cartoon animator

Step 4

In order to view the 3D view, click on the 3D View button on the top menu bar. To navigate within the 3D view use the following:

  • Camera Rotate: Click-and-Hold the Right Mouse Button
  • Camera Pan: Click-and-Hold the Left Mouse Button
3D view3D view3D view

Step 5

To move and edit the scene, simply click on one of the layers and a coloured widget will appear. From there you can choose one of the coloured arrows to move the layer in any of the directions that you choose.

Step 6

Once you are happy with the arrangement of your 3D scene, click on the 3D View button on the top menu bar again to return to the default camera view.

Here you can test out the 3D parallax effect by holding the ALT key on the keyboard and clicking and dragging the Left Mouse Button to move the camera around. You can also use the mouse wheel to zoom in and out to check how the scene will animate with different camera animations.

check parallax effectscheck parallax effectscheck parallax effects

2. How to Animate the 2D Background Movie in Cartoon Animator

For this example we've simply added a camera zoom animation, which is done by using the following steps. Our final animation is a live-action person running away from a horde of animated monsters, so to emphasize that action we'll first prepare the background to give a little bit of motion to the shot.

Step 1

Click on the Camera Record Mode button at the top of the screen.

click on the camera record buttonclick on the camera record buttonclick on the camera record button

Step 2

Open the timeline at the bottom of the screen by pressing the Show Timeline (F3) button.

click on show timelineclick on show timelineclick on show timeline

Step 3

Select the Camera from the timeline options to open the camera keyframes.

click the camera buttonclick the camera buttonclick the camera button

Step 4

Creating a Keyframe at the beginning of the timeline by zooming the camera in using the mouse wheel (if this doesn't create a keyframe, double-click on the timeline to create it).

zoom in with the camera and create keyframezoom in with the camera and create keyframezoom in with the camera and create keyframe

Step 5

Move the timeline forward a few seconds and then, using the mouse wheel to zoom out, create a second keyframe (if this doesn't create a keyframe, again double-click on the timeline to create it).

zoom outzoom outzoom out

Step 6

Select both keyframes and then right-click on them to choose Transition Curve. Select Smooth from the list.

select smooth transition curveselect smooth transition curveselect smooth transition curve

3. How to Export the Transparent 2D Background Movie From Cartoon Animator

Step 1

To export your project go to the top menu bar and select Render > Render Video.

render video buttonrender video buttonrender video button

Step 2

This will open up the Render Settings window where you can choose how to export your video or image.

Depending on your project you might also try using the Export to After Effects option, which we covered in previous tutorials. We'll stick with the basic alpha channel method for this tutorial, which will work with any program that supports alpha channel video (most non-linear editing programs).

Make sure to select the Transparent Video checkbox to keep the transparency. You will also need to select the .MOV option under Format.

render settingsrender settingsrender settings

Step 3

Also look through the other options here that you would like to edit, such as the output size and output range. Once you are happy with your selection, click on the Export button to choose the location to save your video file. Once it has finished rendering, you will have a video file that you can use to import into your Adobe After Effects project. 

output size and output rangeoutput size and output rangeoutput size and output range

4. Import Transparent .MOV Files in Adobe After Effects for Animation

Step 1

Now that we have all our exported video file ready, it is time to take it into Adobe After Effects where we can merge our cartoon background with live action video footage.

In Adobe After Effects, import the character video by going to File > Import > File and selecting the MOV video file you just exported from Cartoon Animator.

import movie fileimport movie fileimport movie file

Step 2

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

unmattedunmattedunmatted

Step 3

Once you have imported the cartoon background video you will find it located in the Project Panel, which is usually located on the left side of the screen.

movie file is located in the project panelmovie file is located in the project panelmovie file is located in the project panel

Step 4

Import the live action video files you downloaded from Envato Elements by going to File > Import > File and selecting the video files.

Once imported, you will also find the video files in the Project Panel.

import the rest of the video filesimport the rest of the video filesimport the rest of the video files

5. How to Compose the Scene in After Effects

Step 1

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

create new compositioncreate new compositioncreate new composition

Step 2

In the composition settings, use the following:

  • Composition Name: Render Comp
  • Width:1920 px
  • Height:1080 px
  • Frame Rate: 30 frames per second

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

create new compcreate new compcreate new comp

Step 3

Use the mouse to drag and drop each movie file into the composition, making sure that you layer the videos correctly. In order to make the live action character appear in the video it needs to be layered on top of the 2D background. Here is the list of layers in order:

  • Fog
  • Halloween Curtain
  • Man Running
  • Wendigo Monster 1
  • Wendigo Monster 2
  • Wendigo Monster 3
  • Background Mov
layer orderlayer orderlayer order

Step 4

Make any adjustments to the layers by going into the Transform options of each layer to resize and reposition if necessary so that they are all scaled appropriately compared to the rest of the scene in the 2D animated background.

resize the charactersresize the charactersresize the characters

Step 5

Create position keyframes for each live action character so that they follow the movement of the 2D animated background.

A tip here is to create a keyframe for the character before the camera movement starts, and a second keyframe for when the camera movement finishes.

This will need a little trial and error to get right, so keep adjusting the animations and use the Play Preview button until it looks correct.

play with the keyframesplay with the keyframesplay with the keyframes

6. Use Adjustment Layers to Blend Animation Components and Scene

Now we'll adjust each element so that the characters look like they belong together in the same scene. We've given things a bit more contrast and cool blue look, but adjust to your tastes.

Step 1

Create an adjustment layer by going to Layer > New > Adjustment Layer, and then make sure that the layer is placed at the very top of all the other layers.

create adjustment layercreate adjustment layercreate adjustment layer

Step 2

In the Effects & Presets panel, search for Photo Filter and add it to the adjustment layer by double-clicking on it (or clicking and dragging it on to the layer).

effects and presetseffects and presetseffects and presets

Step 3

Go to the Effect Controls panel and select the following:

  • Filter: Cooling Filter (82)
  • Density: 25%
effect controls for photo filtereffect controls for photo filtereffect controls for photo filter

Step 4

In the Effects & Presets panel, search for Levels and add it to the adjustment layer by double-clicking on it (or clicking and dragging it on to the layer).effects and presets levelseffects and presets levelseffects and presets levels

Step 5

Go to the Effect Controls panel and play about with slider controls on the Histogram to get better contrast.

effect controls for levelseffect controls for levelseffect controls for levels

Step 6

Create a Black Solid by going to Layer > New > Solid.

add a new solid layeradd a new solid layeradd a new solid layer

Step 7

Double click on the Ellipse Tool to create a black ellipse shape.

create a black ellipsecreate a black ellipsecreate a black ellipse

Step 8

Change the mask mode to Subtract and then adjust the Feather value to blur out the edges. For this example we have used the value 663.

create a vignettecreate a vignettecreate a vignette

Awesome! You're Finished!

Congratulations! And that's how you can merge live action video with 2D animated backgrounds using Adobe After Effects and Cartoon Animator. Feel free to use multiple characters or your own designs and footage to create your own video combinations.

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

More Cartoon Animator and After Effects Animation Tutorials

Advertisement
Advertisement
Looking for something to help kick start your next project?
Envato Market has a range of items for sale to help get you started.