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Character Design and Animation for Educators A Robert Bourgeois Learning Journal

Final Course Reflection

Alas, I have reached the end of the assignments for this course. But, I am nowhere near finished with learning about what I can do in Character Animator. I have taken several EdEx courses at this point but this one has been the most difficult for me to date by a landslide!

I still have problems to solve and questions to answer about using CA but this course did exactly what I was hoping it would for me. For starters, it got me familiar with the basics of CA and how to solve some of the problems that might arise in teaching it to others. Second, and probably even more important to me at the moment, it helped me come up with a set of lessons for a new unit on animation that was just added to our pilot curriculum of Digital Design & Animation. I know what you are probably thinking: what do you mean new unit on animation when animation is in the course title? Beats me...somehow 2D animation got overlooked for teaching 3D animation. Anyway, between this course and the Explanimations one, here is what I came up with for a short set of lessons:

  1. Discuss the basics of animation along with several examples as well as discuss historical development of animation
  2. Create a short stop motion animation with clay, Lego blocks, action figures, etc. or perhaps frame-by-frame animation using Spark Video
  3. Create a short tweening animation using After Effects
  4. Rig and animate an original character for animation using Character Animator

By exploring animation in this order, I feel it will give the students a good overview of the more common animation techniques without being too much of an overload compared to earlier and later required activities throughout the year. Anyway, I can't wait to get started with the upcoming school year!

Class 5 - Eggs-traordinary Animation!

Now that I have using triggers and basic animation down, it was time to start working on the final animation. I started by doing some additional research on rigging in Character Animator. While the head moves, I hadn't explored moving other parts of the body yet, specifically the arms. I found a great tutorial online by Graphic Mama Blog that walked me through the process, although it's not 100% up-to-date with the latest changes in CA. By following her instructions, I managed to get the arms working the way I would like them to. Granted, they still misbehave a little when I drag them around the scene, but they aren't rubber and definitely move now!

I decided to create my character animation introducing viewers to my chicken flock! Chickens make great pets that show their gratitude to you for taking of them by giving you breakfast every single day! Anyway, we love our girls and can't imagine not having fresh eggs, so it made for an easy decision on what to share with everyone!

I began by writing a short script. You may notice I trip over my tongue at times, but it came out alright. Once I knew what I was going to say, I went outside with my phone and snapped a couple of pictures of the flock. While I was going to show individual images of each and introduce them, I decided to stick with just two image to use in my animation as backgrounds. However, I did bring one of the pictures into Photoshop to remove everything but the chicken so I could animate her walking around the yard.

Once all my graphics were ready, I opened up After Effects. Right off the bat, I found myself troubleshooting a series of problems in here. For starters, I had to re-record my animation in CA as I never set the background to transparent. Also, when I hit playback, the program slowed to a crawl! So, after a little Googling I realized that I had made a noob error - I had a series of other applications (Photoshop, Character Animator, Media Exporter, Photo Viewer, and my browser) open simultaneously. I'm guessing the combination was eating up my RAM. So, I closed everything except AE and my browser and things began working as expected.

Next, I imported my CA file and brought in my images. I scaled them as needed and moved things around a little until I was happy with the placement. I put a title in the upper corner, placed the rooster and eggs into my initial scene and used frame animation to make all of them disappear at relevant moments. After the background image changes, I animated one of the chickens moving across the scene using frame animation as well.

There are still a few issues such as how I bent over in the second scene. I need to work on why that happened and find a solution. This animation took a ton of work but I am pretty pleased with how the overall animation came out. Here is my final product:

Class 4 - Feeling a Little Triggered

After the previous problems, I figured I had this licked but it seems every time I get one problem fixed, a new one appears. At first, I was thinking I bit off more than I can chew at the moment with Character Animator but I have since decided that the problem comes from rushing as the deadline is this week! So, I know I will get a better grasp of CA over time, but for now, I am making sure I get my work done in a manner that meets the objectives for any given moment.

This week's main problem involved a new head view disappearing from the one I had last week. Because we needed to edit the puppet file, I tried creating a new puppet using the techniques that solved the issue last week - no luck! UGH! Anyway, I still managed to get my trigger animation in and make a decent looking video.

I decided for my trigger to make a flower grow. The animation works well but I wish it would stay on the screen after it is triggered. But, as I say in the video - that is a battle for another day! For now, the most important thing is that the trigger works, and it does!

One thing I tried to see if I could get the flower to stay was to import the flower as a separate file and trigger it in the scene independent of the character. That didn't work as I had to record the flower animation separate from the character speaking. Anyway, here is my short animation of the flower trigger:

Class 3 - It's a Real Head Turner!

This class's assignment has been very difficult for me. The goal was to add the ability for the character's head to turn. This meant drawing a couple more images of the head to represent a quarter turn and a profile view. This wasn't too difficult, but definitely took some time to accomplish. Luckily, I only had to create one side and use the flip command to accomplish both sides of the head. Isn't symmetry wonderful?

Next came what I expected to be the easy piece, which has caused nothing but a headache for me: bring the artwork into Character Animator, add tags for the turns, include a behavior and voila - finished! If only it was that easy!

Bringing everything in was a piece of cake. As was adding the tags. And, things were moving swimmingly as expected. Then, I tested the animation. To my surprise, one of my quarters turned invisible! The upper layers were present, it was just the background head that disappeared, so I would up with facial features floating above my body! I checked everything I could think of prior to asking for assistance on the Adobe Gen Pro Facebook page and posting a comment in the course:

  1. Did I forget to add one background image? Nope
  2. Is the group naming structure correct? Yep
  3. How about making sure the layer eyeballs are turned on? No change
  4. How about a type-o in my layer names? All looks good
  5. Is it tagged in rigging? It is
  6. How about assigned to the correct rig set up? Everything appears in rigging
  7. Maybe the eyeball is off in the rigging portion of CA? Nope
  8. Have you tried recreating the background face in Photoshop? That I have, no change.

I've been working on this problem all week and have yet to figure out what is causing it. I am at a complete and total loss as to what is happening. So, I finally reached the point where I took the route of desperation:

  1. I created a new project entirely using the Chloe template.
  2. I copied the subgroups for +Frontal, +Left Quarter, and +Left Profile from the Head group in my earlier project into the new project. I copied the Left groups alone as the problem occurred with the +Right Quarter.
  3. Next, I used Duplicate and Flip to make the opposing Right views for quarter and profile.
  4. I checked that everything was named correctly
  5. I checked the rigging in Character Animator and verified all eyeballs were enabled.
  6. And finally, I added a Head Turner behavior.

The hope was that I would get a working copy of my animation having replaced the problematic side and refreshed everything in the template with a new copy. What I ended up with was the same problem: one view disappearing. However, this time it moved to the +Right Profile instead of the quarter view! Interestingly though, the problem occurs on the same side of the head as the earlier issue. So, at this point, I am pushing forward so I can get through the remainder of the lessons prior to the course closing. I will revisit this problem once I have finished everything else. You can view both animations of the problem below. If you happen to have any solutions, I would love to hear them.

Initial +Right Quarter turn error:

New project +Right Profile turn error:

Update:

Thanks to the assistance of Karen Droms, my puppet is now working! Here was what she did once I sent her my original puppet:

"I deleted the nose handles on the left and right quarter views, and reordered the layers to left profile, left quarter, frontal, right quarter, right profile. I dragged the "name handle" (don't know what else to call it) for each head layer down onto the neck. I rerigged the arms, dragging the name handles to the shoulders, adding sticks for the upper and lower arms, and the dragger handle to the hand. I added the head turner behavior to the head group."

She also simply tried adding the Head Turner behavior, but I had already tried that so I think the alterations she made above solve the problem. Like I constantly tell my students, sometimes all it takes is a fresh set of eyes on a problem as we often miss issues by being too close to them ourselves. I very much appreciate Karen taking the time to help me out! Here's my working puppet:

Class 2 - Customizing a Character Template

This week we were tasked with customizing one of the puppet templates that comes with Character Animator. At first, I was a little concerned about getting this done but then I realized I had done a lot of the work already in a previous Ed Ex course on graphics and illustrations. I took an avatar of myself that I created in Illustrator and went to work on moving it over, piece by piece, into Photoshop. I then replaced all the various parts of the Chloe puppet with my pieces (face, eyes, glasses, etc.) and changed the outfit on the template's puppet to more closely resemble something I might wear. I searched Vecteezy.com to find an old Atari game controller and colored it in Illustrator prior to bringing it into my newly altered puppet to provide the feel of a gamer.

I then found a background from Pexels.com again which I felt the puppet would stand out against, especially since I put a black shirt on it. I am unsure as to whether or not I like the "missing puzzle piece" on the right side, so I added the school's logo on the left to help balance it a little better. While it is still not perfect, it works better than it did before without the logo.

Once the puppet was ready, I wrote a quick script, plugged in my microphone and got to work on completing the animation. I'm pretty thrilled with how it came out and will likely put this new puppet to work during instructional videos in my classroom!

Below is the finished animation:

Class 1 - Getting Started with Character Animator

I signed up for the Character Design and Animation for Educators Ed Ex course solely to gain some information regarding animation that I could incorporate into a new unit on the topic that has been added to one of my curriculum. I am also taking the Explanimations in the Classroom course for the same purpose. I started working on the other course first, since it is shorter but realized this course closes first and very soon, so I jumped into Character Animator. And boy, am I glad I shifted gears!

Character Animator is AMAZING! I am not sure our students have access to it at the moment, but boy am I going to push for them to add it to our suite of Adobe apps at school! Making short explanatory animations narrated by themselves in such a simple manner will be awesome! And, I will certainly use this incredible tool in my sharing of information on my class website.

Being my first jump into the application, I entered with a little trepidation. However, once inside, I found the program exceptionally easy to use. I started by visiting the Heads of Curriculum site as recommended to find a puppet for my animation. While there were fewer puppets to choose from, I found one that I felt would be perfect: Dr. Jekyll. I'll explain why shortly.

Next, I hooked up my microphone and wrote a short script for this week's assignment: create an intro to a fictional course. Having recently completed the Train the Trainer course where I had to create a PD session and knowing that I will be presenting this PD in a couple of weeks at the statewide NC CTE Summer Conference, I used this assignment to create an intro to that course to welcome participants. I figured a short animation was a fun and creative way to do this, so why not take advantage of the opportunity while learning the application?

So, back to selecting Dr. Jekyll, who seems like an odd choice for a video introducing PD participants to using Adobe Spark to boost student creativity. As noted in my intro below, Dr. Jekyll has the ability to change forms. I am hoping my PD session has the same affect on its participants - though I hope it will change them for the better and not turn them into monsters!

Once I had a script, it was time to record. I brought my puppet into the project and hit record after setting my stationary rest pose. I was amazed at how accurate and simply creating this short animation was: Set - Talk - Export, you can't get much easier than that! I had set the background color to white since the character was wearing all black but when I tested my video, I found some errors. For starters, the background changed to black on me? No idea why, but I had a solution. I also noticed that by not wearing my headset and placing my script directly under my webcam, I never heard/saw the countdown to start. So, my welcome statement was cut off mid-word. Clearly, I had to record this over again.

So, how did I fix the problems? Well, the delay was easy - put on my headset and don't cover the entire center of the screen! The background took a little more thinking. I decided to find a light colored royalty free image on Pexels.com to use as a background. I then added the Spark logo and a small image of myself to the scene and positioned them using the transform values. I really like the finished product and I now have another creative resource I can use during my training to spark (pun intended) a conversation with participants! Check out my video below:

Created By
Robert Bourgeois
Appreciate

Credits:

Created with images by Ramdlon - "creative be creative write bulb idea paper"

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