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Character Design for Educators Tariq Butt's Learning Journal

Workshop 1 - Explore Character Animator

I am starting this course after having learned the basics of Character Animator in another Adobe Education Exchange course. It has definitely turned into one of my favorite Adobe apps. Having already acquired some comfort with the basics, I figured I would take encouragement from the instructors in this course to explore character design using Character Animator. For my first assignment I figured I would use an existing character as a talk show host to introduce a training session. I had a lot of fun with this assignment and I hope you enjoy watching it.

Workshop 2 - Adapt an Existing Character

I have to admit... I struggled with this one... I selected the Ninja character because it offered a number of options in terms of movement, as well as a frontal, profile and three-quarter perspective. All great and easy to work with when I was using the original character in Character Animator. However, I ran into problems when I started editing the puppet in Illustrator. Of course the range of options in terms of movement, behavior and perspective translated into a number of layers that had to be edited. I struggled through the small adaptations in the color of the Ninja costume by only editing the Frontal layers and eliminating all the other layers. This meant that I could only show the Ninja in frontal view in my animation. I could live with that, but more work was required. I learned that because I had eliminated a number of layers in my puppet, when I imported the modified puppet in Character Animator I now had to rig the elements all over again. Even though the elements were showing up more or less in place, their movement was unpredictable. The mask on the bottom half of the face proved especially problematic because Character Animator was reading it as the jaw and it was moving like the jaw when the character spoke. I think I managed to rig up most of the elements the way I wanted, but some of the shadows are still not behaving the way I would like. The end result was something I could live with. Overall, this was a fun exercise and I learned a lot about modifying puppets.

Workshop 3 - Create Your Own Character

For my original character I wanted to create a historical figure - Niccolo Machiavelli. The most popular portrait of Machiavelli (the one you see most often on the cover for his most famous work, The Prince) shows a three-quarter view of Machiavelli (figure 1). This wouldn't have worked for the character I wanted to create. Luckily, I was able to find an audiobook cover that shows Machiavelli in frontal view (figure 2). I used this picture to create my character in Adobe Illustrator (figure 3).

figure 1: three-quarter view
figure 2: frontal view
figure 3: my rendition of Niccolo Machiavelli

In my previous projects in Adobe Character Animator I have always worked with characters in close-up or medium shot. I find that this view allows me to better demonstrate the facial movements and the enunciation of the character's speech through the shape of the mouth and the eyes.

For my background I found a stock vector of the Piazza della Signoria where Machiavelli served the Florentine city-state and the republic until 1512.

figure 5: Piazza della Signoria

I ended up showing my character in medium shot because otherwise the facial movements were not visible. The finished video is below:

Workshop 4 - Triggers & Embellishments

For embellishing my character I decided to keep it simple - a wave and a hand pointing out features of a familiar Florentine landmark. I had to tweak the arms of my original character so that the right hand was hanging by his side ready to wave and the left hand had the index finger pointing outward (figure 6).

figure 6: Niccolo modified

I rigged the hands and arms, by making the wrist draggable, adding sticks from shoulder to elbow and elbow to wrist, as well as adding the Arms IK behavior to both arms, as advised in the tutorial video (figure 7). However, I found that since the arms were close to the body, the body was moving in an unpredictable and undesirable way whenever I moved the arms. I ended up adding pins to make parts of the body fixed. I found that this allowed me to move the arms in the way I wanted without unintentionally moving the body.

figure 7: Niccolo rigged

For the background, I chose a sketch of the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore aka the Duomo (figure 8).

figure 8: Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore aka the Duomo

To demonstrate the movements of my character I wanted the right arm to wave and the left arm pointing at features of the Duomo. The finished video is below:

Workshop 5 - Interview Your Character!

Not much to say here. I used a puppet of myself and the puppet I had created of Niccolo to create a short interview. I ended up not using any gestures and embellishments because I found they distracted from the conversation. I hope you enjoy the interview.

Credits:

Created with an image by Andrew Seaman - "untitled image"

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