How to Create Video Game Characters with After Effects

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Whether you’re just curious about motion graphics or planning a long-term career in video game character design, we all have to start somewhere. For many, this journey begins with Adobe After Effects, and it has become something of a testing ground for budding artists.

However, you will need to familiarize yourself with some complicated terminology before you begin, and we’re here to help you with some tips for beginners.

What is Adobe After Effects?

Adobe After Effects is the industry’s best-known standard tool for animation, motion graphics design, and video composition. Capable of 2D and 3D animation, the platform has been a staple of creations since 1993, when it was launched. Apart from customizable visual effects generators and computer imaging tools, it is also compatible with a number of third-party design platforms.

You can access libraries filled with thousands of Side effects models that can really help your character stand out. Before you get carried away, you’ll need to learn the basics.

Step 1 – Design your character

When creating a video game character, most designers start the process using a digital art platform. Bring their creations to life by using modern technologies such as an iPad Pro or Microsoft Surface to draw and develop a concept. As this is a digital format, it can be easily downloaded into After Effects where you can start applying detailed animation tools.

But don’t panic if you are a traditionalist and prefer to sketch your creations with good old pencil and paper! You can still scan and upload your designs to After Effects and use the exact same tools to then apply animations.

Step 2 – Create Assets

Now that you’ve uploaded your design, we need to create some elements. It’s just a fancy way of saying which parts of your character you’re going to animate. So in a simple 2D animation you will want at least the arms, legs, and head to move. Just crop the body parts you want to use and save them as separate files. These are now your “assets”.

Step 3 – Rigging

The rig is where you start to add life to your character. It’s the process of connecting two points on your character and figuring out how it’s going to move. For example, you might want to place point A on your character’s shoulder and point B on your character’s hand, which means that you can now perform a simple up and down movement between these two points to give the impression that your creation is waving to the public. .

Editing can become an incredibly in-depth process, with edits set up to cover finger movements, knee and elbow joints, and even complex facial expressions. You can download third-party apps that automatically complete the rigging process for you, but to get really good you will need to spend many hours perfecting your craft!

Step 4 – Parenthood

This is where things get a bit tricky. Parenting is all about anchoring part of your character to different strengths. This is how they all move in the same direction when you want to make your character move. For example, you can parent the head and body of your creation to its legs; that way when the legs start moving they will take the rest of the animation with it. Most beginners will start with a simple walk from one side of the screen to the other.

Step 5 – Keyframe

Keyframes are where you can really start adding detail and nuance to your animation, and it takes a lot of time and skill to master. It’s basically a technique used to save a sequence of settings that will be applied when you give your character a command.

Going back to our walking example earlier, your first keyframe might involve a slight lift of your right leg. The next keyframe will then move the leg slightly forward before placing it back on the ground, similar to the stop motion animation.

Each keyframe will be made up of the resources, rigging, and parenting that you set out earlier, and you could end up with a dozen keyframes that make up a simple walking animation.

Animating video game characters is definitely not easy! It can take hundreds of hours to master even the basics, and your first few attempts are naturally going to seem pretty awkward. Remember, learn from the experts, read as much as you can, study the benefits, and most importantly, have patience and your ideas will soon come to life.


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