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Jim Krause | Classes | P354 Program Graphics & Animation

Week 13

Announcements/Reality Check:

  • Your final project proposals are due this week
  • We'll continue to cover AE for the next 2 weeks.
  • We'll have a final quiz, which is cummulative Tuesday, December 5th of Week 15. It will cover material from the first two quizzes (Use them to study) and the AE content we've covered since then.
  • The Final Project Review time (assigned by the Registrar) is 10:20 am - 12:20 pm Tuesday, December 12.


  • Review Homework
  • Puppet Tool - Part 1
  • Shape layers (Thursday)

Resources & Tutorials:

Puppet Tool - Introduction

The Puppet Tool can be found in Photoshop and After Effects. It's versatile with numerous uses, such as animating characters.

But it can also be used in other interesting ways. For instance it can be used to bring still pictures to life. Take another look at the Beauty animation, which uses the Puppet Tool to bring classic paintings to life. It can work in surprising ways, such as animating a particle stream. Here's a tutorial on How to use the puppet tool to animate a particle stream from Aharon Rabinowitz

Exploring the Puppet Tool (Meyer Chapter 35 - ZIP file of sources - 488 kB)

NOTE: There are two types of puppet tools, the older, Legacy Puppet Tool and the new, Puppet Tool. Some of the pin types (E.g. Starch) can only be found in one type. You can choose which type of Puppet Tool you use by first applying a pin and then twirling down the layer to reveal "Puppet Engine."

The puppet tool provides an easy to use way to animate layers, such as Illustrator or Photoshop documents. The layers must have non-changing alpha channels- so you need to use still objects. If you had a photo of a character you wanted to animate, you'd first have to separate the subject from the background. It could be saved as a PNG or TIFF with a transparent background, or simply as a cutout layer in a Photoshop document.

When you enable the puppet tool by placing a puppet pin on a layer, it creates an underlying mesh structure. It's good for getting organic-looking movement on layers.

The Puppet Tool has five kinds of controls. You can press Command-P to toggle through them.

  • Position Pin - Use this to set basic control points
  • Starch Pin - Use this to stiffen parts / add rigidity
  • Bend Pin
  • Advanced Pin - Newer version of the legacy Puppet Pin
  • Overlap Pin - Use this to specify if pixels are in front of or behind other pixels

The motion paths created by the puppet pins can be changed or adjusted just like any other spatial keyframes.

Motion Sketching is an easy and straightforward way to add keyframes. If you hold the Command button down over a puppet pin a stopwatch appears. Then when you click and drag, it will record the keyframes. You can set the speed and other variables with the "Record Options" button next to the puppet pin tool.

The Overlap Tool allow you to set a value to areas that specify how they overlap other areas. Larger values cover (are in front of) lower values. It's possible to have negative values. Use minimal pins and adjust the extent value. You can even animate/change the overlap pin positions over time.

The Starch Tool works a little like the overlap tool in that you can place a point and set the extent value. This will prevent the area from warping.

Bringing Still Pictures to Life

As exemplified by the Beauty piece, the Puppet Tool can be used to give life to still images.

Puppet Life Exercise (5 points)

Student examples: Whale by Bryan Walker & Kitten

Look at this tutorial by Rich Harrington. He demonstrates how to use the Puppet Tool with non-character footage- in this case a photograph of an ape. The first part requires cutting out the subject from the background in Photoshop. He covers how to refine edges and use the Smart Fill in Photoshop. The second part covers using the Puppet Tool to add subtle movement to the ape.

  • Find an appropriate image to work with. (Make sure it's large enough to work with in a 1920 x 1080 HD comp.)
  • Apply the techniques from the Rich Harrington tutorial and create a short (E.g. 10-second) animated sequence from your image. You will first have to use Photoshop to section off parts of the image into separate layers. Then you'll use AE to create subtle motion with the Puppet tool and a fake (or real) camera move.
  • Size the composition for HDTV (1920x1080).
  • When you are satisfied  output an Apple ProRes 422, mp4, or H.264 movie called "puppet_life" and upload it to the Puppet Life" Canvas assignment.

Thursday ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Shape Layers Review (Meyer, Chapter 32)


The same tools used to make masks can make shapes. If you have no layer selected, they will make shapes. Note that when this tool is selected, Fill and Stroke options become visible on the right. Pressing the Q key will cycle through the various shapes you can create.

As you are dragging the mouse to make a new shape, press the curser up/down & left/right keys to modify it (See p 532).

You can use the Pen tool to create interesting shapes. You can use the G key to toggle between the Pen tool's various vertex modes.

You can create open/transparent shapes by checking the "no fill" option.

Try this:

  • Making sure no layer is selected, choose the Polygon or Star tool
  • Click and drag to make a shape. Before releasing the mouse try toggling the up/down arrows and the left/right arrows. (The up/down arrows control the number of points/vertices, while the left/right arrows control the inner or outter bulge.)
  • Move the Anchor Point to somewhere that makes sense (E.g. the middle)
  • Click the tumbnail next to Fill to bring up the Color and Opacity stops
  • Use the Select Tool (V) to select your shape. You'll see that you can manually change the Stop and End points.

Reality check: Can you create a rectangle or shape with feathered opacity and color?

The Repeater

The Repeater allows you to duplicate and animate components within a Shape Layer.

Experiment with making shape layers for 10 minutes. Be sure to use the repeater function. Then carry out the Thursday in-class exercise:

Thursday In-class Shape Layer Exercise (5 points)

Student examples:

Watch these two tutorials:

1. Making Animated Paths for Maps - This lesson from Aharon Rabinowitz shows how to use Shape Layers to make animated paths for maps:

2. Repeater - Here's a good overview of How to use the repeater to make abstract eye candy by Evan Abrams.

  • Start out with a 1920x1080 Comp
  • Use Shape Layers to do either:
  • Upload an Apple ProRes 422, mp4, or H.264 version called "shapes" into the appropriate (Week 13) Canvas assignment


  • Create a Final Project Storyboard
  • Re-read Meyer Chapter 35 (The Puppet Tools) and bring in an object (E.g. a character) to animate with the Puppet Tool (or I'll give you one)
  • 15 second "Promote a Cause or Idea" animation - This project should promote a cause or idea. Examples: Give Blood for the Red Cross, Volunteer for WFHB, Read a Book, Be My Friend, Hire Me, Donate Money to MiddleWay House, etc. It can be serious, silly or whimsical, but should have GOOD DESIGN!
    • Requirements:
      • Good design & clear color scheme
      • Audio
      • Animated text
      • At least 3 animated shape layers
      • Use of the Repeater
      • Turn it in a square pixel Apple ProRes 422, mp4, or H.264 1920x1080.

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