Is Adobe Character Animator useful for animators

Adobe Character Animator 2020 (Basic Course for Beginners) German

Bring your character to life and animate it in the form of live videos or normal videos with the Adobe Character Animator. In this article I will explain to you exactly how this works and what you can do with it.

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First, let's look at how you can purchase and install the Character Animator. Then we go through the first steps together, how to create a project and also take apart the surface in detail to get a better understanding of the program. Then we go through step by step how you can import a puppet or character, set up a scene and finally animate this character in the form of a video or live stream. Finally, let's take a look at how you can export everything. During the course there are always exercises and examples in order to be able to intensify what has been learned even better.

This basic course is part of the Adobe Basic Courses 2020, where we take a close look at the Creative Cloud programs.
Here you can find an overview of all free courses

1. Installation & price

Like every program from Adobe, you can now only purchase and use this with a monthly or annual subscription to Creative Cloud. This link takes you directly to the official price page, where you can always find the best price. You can only subscribe to the Character Animator in combination with all programs in the Creative Cloud, which also includes Photoshop, After Effects, Premiere Pro, Illustrator and Co. You get this as standard from € 59.49 per month with an annual subscription. Schoolchildren, teachers, students and lecturers only pay just under € 20 per month for this subscription in the first year. In principle, you can also test the programs for free. Simply select your subscription via this link, then create a free account with Adobe, or log in with an existing one and then you can download the Creative Cloud as a program on your computer. You need this because you can use it to select and install the character animator. You can also manage all functions of the offer in the Creative Cloud program. If you want to know exactly what the Creative Cloud is and what you get with it, take a look at our detailed Creative Cloud Basic Course here.

2. First steps (create project)

If we have installed and opened the character animator, we are directly on the start page. On the right side you can see some helpful tutorials from Adobe on how to use the program. You also have a selection of free character templates from Adobe. The practical thing here is that they are all perfectly adapted to the program and you can animate them straight away. This is useful if you are new to the program and just want to try out how well it works in the program. On the left-hand side, we can now also see our most recently used projects and can also open a new creation or an existing one. At the bottom we can also access the latest features, help and forums, as well as give feedback. If we click on “new project”, our computer dialog opens, where we have to specify a storage location and name for our project. If we have clicked on Save, we are directly in the recording area of ​​our animation and can start.

3. Surface

Before we go into detail on how we can import and animate a puppet or character, let's take a closer look at the structure of the program so that you can get a better feel for it. As with all the other Adobe programs, the program basically consists of individual windows, which you can simply move and rearrange using the name, drag-and-drop. You can also use the three dashes next to the name to specify whether the window should be displayed at all or other specific settings. Under Windows, in the top menu, you can see all available windows and the check mark in front of them shows you which windows are currently open. Here you also have the option of saving your window arrangement under workspaces and thus being able to easily switch between several. We use the standard Adobe workspaces in this basic course. Under the menu bar on the left, we can also switch between the different work areas. Here we come back to the home page via the house symbol and next to it we can switch through the three main areas. More on this in the following chapters. In the middle we see our project name and on the right edge we can find everything to export via the arrow. But we can now make many more options via the menu. Under file we can manage and save our project, export it, create a new one or open an existing one. Here we can also set everything for the project window, where we have to import our character, more on that later. Under Edit we have the standard edits like copy, paste, cut, undo or redo. Here we can also browse our files, manage all keyboard commands and open the preferences. In the settings we can manage our microphone settings, as well as our camera, which we can use to animate. Here we can also make settings for the synchronization of lip movements, i.e. the intensity of the recognition and volume. Even if we want to make our animation live, you can specify here on which screen and something, more on that later. Under scene, puppet and timeline we find all the important settings, in the individual chapters more about them and finally we have the help window. All information about the program is available here and you can manage your connected Adobe account.

4. Create a puppet (import character)

Now let's look at how you can import your own character and how to set it up so that you can animate it. If this is too time-consuming for you at the beginning, no problem. Adobe offers you some ready-made characters on the start page, which you can use directly to animate. But if you have your own character, I'll show you now how you can set it up. To set up your character, we should switch to the “Customize” workspace, under the menu. Here we can now import our character in the project window by selecting our Photoshop or Illustrator file in the menu under File. JPEGs and PNGs are also supported. Basically you cannot design a character in the Character Animator, you have to do that beforehand in Photoshop, for example, which is very useful for this. Why? Simply because you have to break your character down into the individual limbs and body parts in order to be able to animate them. Here I have linked a page where you can download an empty Photoshop or Illustrator template, where you can easily see the structure according to which you should create your character so that you can then use it in the Character Animator. Here, a fundamental distinction must be made between head and body and the face is then, for example, also divided into individual elements. You should keep the English names here, as these will then be recognized by the character animator after importing. If you have now imported a character, you will see it in the project window on the left. You can tell from the circle and triangle symbol that it is a character. If you double-click on it, you will see it directly in the puppet window. Here you can now see the structure on the left, which is the same as the layer structure from your Photoshop or Illustrator file. Here you can hide individual groups or levels using the eye symbol. We can use the crown to determine whether the individual elements are aligned with the group. So whether, for example, with the head, i.e. the head, the eyes and mouth and Co. should align with the head, which makes physical sense. If we have selected an element, we see it highlighted in yellow in the main window. We can now edit the selected element on the right. Here we can set the position at the top based on values, as well as rotate, scale or make the element transparent. Here we can also define the dependency, to a character or to make it independent. Under tags we can also specify what kind of body element it is, which is useful later when animating, if you have set this correctly for each element here. Under this we can also define behavior, but this is not so relevant for us at the beginning. But now we have all the tools at the bottom, which are very useful for us. Here we have the option of defining a handle point, i.e. a fixed point that should be made, for example, at the point of joints on a character. So that when you move an arm, for example, it is firmly attached to the shoulder. These points usually overlap with several elements and you can always see from the green that it is more or less anchored with the element. Now we also have the option of using the stiffening tool, which is useful for recognizing bones or muscles. So for the arm we would do two, for the lower arm and the upper arm so that we don't have a hose for the animation, but a realistic arm. Now we can use the point tool, for example, to attach our feet to the ground, so that they are practically not floating in the air. With the dragger tool we can now define points which we can move later when animating. This is useful for hands and feet, for example. All the tools can be easily selected using keyboard shortcuts. To get helpful keyboard shortcuts for Character Animator and other Adobe programs, you are welcome to visit our Instagram account @simontutorial. On the left edge we can also open a geometric overview, which may make it easier for you to set the points correctly. In the Trigger window we also see all of the points we have added and can manage them here and delete them again with the delete key. In the overview on the right, we can also see the various tools that we have used on the individual elements. Via the menu under Marionette we can also group elements manually or swap left and right. In the project window, when we have selected our character, we can always open it in Photoshop or Illustrator in order to edit it afterwards from the design.

Now try to import a character like this and set the individual elements correctly with the tools. This can be very time-consuming at the beginning, but in the end you should take the time here so that you can animate your character cleanly later. You can also just look at a prefabricated character from Adobe for exercise and see how it is structured in order to understand everything and to be able to intensify it.

5. Create a scene

In order to be able to animate our character or to create a video, we need a scene in which our character is and which corresponds to the video dimensions. We can easily create a scene in the project window at the bottom when we have selected a character. This can also be done via the menu under Scene. Now we see our scene in the project window and with a right click we can rename it. If we double-click on the scene, it opens directly in our “Record” work area, where we now also have a timeline below. On the right side we can now set the essential things about the scene under properties. So how many FPS, i.e. frames per second, this should have. You shouldn't go below 24 here, otherwise it doesn't look smooth anymore. You can also enter the length of the scene and the resolution, i.e. pixel width and height. Here is a good standard resolution of 1920 pixels x 1080 pixels, which corresponds to the FULL HD format.

We now have the option of taking a screenshot of our current position on the plane and saving it as an image in the menu under Scene. But we can also create a camera here, which gives us more freedom when it comes to camera work in the scene. In the middle preview window, we can also play the current scene, fast-forward or rewind and record an animation. On the right, we can now switch between a colored or transparent background using the colored area. The latter is useful if you've recorded an animation and then later want to incorporate it into a complex scene in Premiere Pro or other programs. In addition, we can also set the resolution of the preview, switch to the live animation, and display the grid of the figure, if you need it.

6. Animate the character

Now we come to the most elaborate and complex part of the character animator, namely the core, the animation of our puppets. This, as well as the scene settings, takes place entirely in the “Record” workspace. There are now different ways to animate your character. In order to animate a face, the webcam animation is most suitable. If you have a webcam connected, you will see it at the top right edge, where you will also see a microphone level, as audio can also be recorded. If you now place your face in the middle circle, you can immediately see that your character takes over your facial features. So if you raise your eyebrows, for example, so does your character. To get the most out of this, you have to click on Rest Pose once and look straight into the camera. So your facial features are then taken over exactly in order to be able to create an exact imitation. You can now simply go to the beginning in the timeline and then press the red button in the preview and then make the movements in the webcam that your character should also make. So you can easily animate faces and record audio and use it to create lip syncronizations for your character. After the recording you will see the new audio in the timeline and if you click on the arrow next to the character, you will see all areas that you have recorded. Here you can hide individual elements with the eye or delete them again. The cool thing is, in a second step, you can now record the other things, such as the body animations. So you can make your animation step by step and element by element so that you can concentrate on everything independently. If you have added points to the puppet dragger, you can now simply click in the preview to create movements based on the points. Once you have selected the person, you will also see the various areas that you can animate in the properties window. Here you can use the red point to specify what will not be taken into account when recording. So now we can deactivate the things from here right now. Here we now also have the opportunity to set more details for the individual points. For example, with our points, i.e. dragger, that if we move, it remains that way after the movement, or it returns to the initial situation. Under physics we can also make gravity settings and Co. so that our character moves more realistically. Finally, we can also animate under transformation, the position and scaling, as well as rotation and opacity of our character. Simply click on the red point again and then move the points. Finally, we can move several characters into our timeline and use the red point in front of them to specify which ones we want to animate. At the bottom of the timeline we can also enlarge or reduce it.

Now try to animate your character in such a way that he strokes his stomach with his right hand while rolling his eyes and raising his eyebrows. Pause the basic course in order to implement it yourself with the knowledge you have learned. I'll show you now how I did it. In order to be able to understand everything even better, you can also download the project files I used at the top of the article. The first thing I do is set my resting pose in the webcam, go to the beginning in the timeline and record the eyebrows and eye movements by pressing the red button and doing it myself in the webcam. As a second step, I then display the animation area that has just been recorded in the properties and go back to the beginning in the timeline. Now I record again and click with the mouse on the dragger of the hand to do the belly animation. It was that easy for me to create my desired animation.

7. Live animation

We can now also do live animations with the Character Animator, i.e. in real time. To do this, we switch to the last work area at the top, called “Stream”. We no longer have a timeline here, since everything should happen live. Here we now have a control window, with which we can simply save certain positions and gestures in order to be able to play them back at the push of a button.This is particularly useful when broadcasting live, as we now have to do all the animations at the same time. In order to be able to see our result now, we have to activate Mercury Transmit in the menu under Edit, in the preferences and select a connected screen. As soon as we have clicked on the live stream option in the preview window, we see our character in full screen mode, with the live animations that we are doing in the program at the same time, on the selected screen, unless it is the same as where the program is open . It's that easy to make live animations with Adobe Character Animator. If you want to know exactly how you can use the character, for example with the OBS streaming program, and how you can also record transparent live videos, I have linked a detailed article with videos to you here, where everything is explained to you step by step.

This basic course is part of the Adobe Basic Courses 2020, where we take a close look at the Creative Cloud programs.
Here you can find an overview of all free courses

8. Export

Once we have finished creating our animation, we can now export it in various ways. The simplest is via the menu under File> Export. Here we can now simply export our animation as normal or transparent video using the Adobe Media Encoder. A detailed tutorial on this is available here. Here we can also export our animation in individual images and with an audio track. Via Adobe Dynamic Link you also have the option of simply opening your animation, for example in Adobe After Effects, and continuing to use it there. We can also export the current still image as a frame or as an image or our puppet as a single file so that we can share it on other devices or with other people. Finally, we come here to the live function, which we looked at in the previous chapter. In the program at the top right, using the arrow, we can also use all of these export options.

Try your animation now, export it as a normal video. To do this, pause the basic course and try it out yourself. To do this, I just click the arrow in the top right corner and select Export Video in Media Encoder. Once this has opened, I set the storage location and the video format under the queue and then I click on the green arrow so that the video is rendered. Once that's done, I can see and play the video right on my computer.

Now you know how to bring your characters to life with the Adobe Character Animator. You can get the program directly from this link and get started. I'm always happy to share the basic course. For more such basic courses you can also subscribe to my YouTube channel for free, for more knowledge about other programs. Respect for making it through to the end. If you have any questions or feedback, please write them in the comments.