Sorry for the delay, but I hope I’ve got a real treat for you today: v2.0 is finally here! My updated course comes turbocharged with over 1000 assets to be used in your explainer videos. We’re talking 3D models, backgrounds, character templates, music AND sound effects! But that’s not all. What I’m really excited to announce today is the new project I’ve been hunkered down with for the last couple of months. It’s a completely unique 2.5D/3D Character Rig for your explainer video projects, which comes pre-animated with expressions. That basically means it works out the box with ZERO keyframes! (Although keyframes can be used, but more on that shortly.)

New 2.5D/3D Character Rig Added to Members Area!

I invite you to log in to your account and head to the Template Library > Character Templates folder, you’ll see the new template waiting for you. So, I bet you’re wondering what it looks like, right? Well, if you have a moment, check out the new promo video for the course below, the new character rig is introduced at 01:25.

The project comes with one default character (Mike) but you are absolutely free to swap out the layers with your own characters. I’ve created some quick instructions in a Google Doc for those who want to go that route. Let’s now look into some of the benefits that I wanted to design into the rig from the start.

Animates With ZERO Keyframes

I knew from the start I wanted the character to animate as easily as possible, so rather than long-winded keyframes, the character animates with expressions, which are tied to a slider control panel all in one place within After Effects. (That’s where you can control eye movement, opening mouth, blinking etc.)

This is perfect for students who want to throw a character into an explainer video to compliment the scene, rather than react specifically to what’s going on. You’re getting a blinking, breathing, looking, living explainer sim on delivery, and without lifting a finger. If you need granular control, however, i.e. a smile at a specific point, you are free to remove expressions and revert back to keyframes.

Just one note here, the nature of expressions means volatility, and for something as subtle as a facial expression, things can go awry quite quickly. So keyframes can be used to keep behaviour in check. You’ll see the default keyframes I’ve set which gives you about 15 seconds of out-the-box animation, which can be reused throughout your explainer video, but you can play with the keyframes yourself if you need your character on screen for longer than that at a time.

One more thing to note here! For convenience there is a guide in the rig to show you where the anchor point should be for a head-only animation (default) and when/how to move it for a full body animation with the 3D head. (Full body rigs are in the pipeline!

10 Degrees of 3D Freedom

Have you seen that Will Smith movie, 6 Degrees of Separation? Well, this ups it by 4 degrees! It also has absolutely no relevance to this announcement. More to the point though, I can tell you that the 3D Character rig offers 10 degrees of freedom before it ‘breaks’.

Fortunately for us, 10 degrees is the ideal spectrum to create a very real 3D effect, yet not too much that it clashes with the 2D explainer video style we’ve all come to love. But let’s backtrack a little. What do I mean by ‘breaks’? Well, beyond having the artwork facing within 10 degrees to the camera, the 3D illusion is broken as it becomes clear that, for example, the ears which seemed to be on the side of the head in 3D space, are actually 2D layers carefully positioned behind the 2D head in 3D space. This method uses the existing 2D artwork (and a little pixie dust of course) to create a cool 3D effect. Check out the image next to this text to see what happens when the rig breaks!

FAQs

Do I Need Element 3D?

I made this with Element 3D in mind and it looks phenomenal with it, but if you don’t have that plugin don’t worry – I made two versions. One with a 3D head model, and one with a 2D head model. The 2D head model doesn’t require any plugins, other than what comes with After Effects. Best of all, it still looks awesome. 🙂

What Does it Cost? (How Do I Get it?)

NOTHING! Zip. There is one itsy bitsy thing I’d like you to do though if possible, and that’s to find just a few minutes in your busy day to write a review on Udemy. It’s the best way that I can get feedback from students, as well as helping out future students considering my course. Find out how to do that with this video. Take the steps in the video and you’ll get a members account where all the goodies are. (The member’s library is getting bigger every month!)

Can I Use it in my Version of After Effects?

I’ve saved the template in two formats – CC and CS6. That should be fine for most, but if you have any problems, let me know. One more thing here, the projects are saved as templates which means when you open them After Effects will automatically create a new composition from the original – so you can always revert back if you mess things up! 🙂

From Adobe’s website: “When you open a template project, After Effects creates a new, untitled project based on the template. Saving changes to this new project does not affect the template project.”

Expressions Give Me The Shivers. (I’m Not Kidding.) Can I Still Get Awesome Character Animations?

If expressions are as welcome to you as a fart in a phonebox, relax, Adobe has recently announced a really cool new update coming to After Effects called, simply enough, the Character Animator. As I write this in June 2015, it has been live since just yesterday. In a nutshell, it allows you to animate your character using your webcam(!). I haven’t tried it yet but it looks like a really beginner-friendly (and innovative) way to animate characters in your explainer videos. Check it out!

How Does it Work? (Check out this 20 Second Vine-Style Answer)

Ok, so it’s not exactly 6 seconds but, hey, 20 seconds isn’t bad, right? In this video see how to get to the control panel after loading, and how to edit facial behaviour with the expression slider. If you’re like me, you just want to basics as fast as possible, and then play around to figure stuff out. (Although, if I get enough requests for a more comprehensive tutorial I’ll create one.)

This All Sounds Exciting! So What’s Coming Down The Road?

I’m happy to say that this is just the beginning. Here are just a few things I’m actively working on throughout 2015:

Drag-and-Drop Animation

In the new promo video at 01:48 you’ll see a little Apple-inpired ‘one more thing’ which is coming along soon – drag-and-drop animation for After Effects. I have some big ideas for this with my team and I’ll try to integrate it more intuitively with the training, but we’ll leave it at that for the time being. 🙂

Full-Body Character Rigs

Expression-driven characters fully animated through one easy-to-use slider control panel. Plus, if there is demand, I’ll upload more character variations to the member’s area.

20 – 60 Minute Standalone Tutorials

I’m going to start creating standalone tutorials for After Effects which come in at between 20 – 60 minutes, formatted like the king of AE tuts, Andrew Kramer (though admittedly probably not as crazy-good). I’ll probably put these up for free on YouTube, and then add them to Udemy, broken down into 10 minute chunks.


The list goes on, but that’s a taste. The current plan is to offer this all for free to existing Udemy students. (Most updates will be free, but a few will be premium only items which are available separately on 3DMyBusiness.com.

Phew! Well, thanks for reading. If you’re a student, thanks for being on-board and I look forward to helping you achieve your goals in animation through 2015 and beyond. If you’re not a student, I hope to get your animation skills to the next level when you’re ready.

Oh, let’s finish up here with a couple of recent member updates before I forget. And if you’re a member and you see anything else in the library you think needs my attention, give me a shout and I’ll sort it. Have a super productive day!