If you’ve gone through my previous lesson on the 2.5D effect, you might ask “why should we bother using DUIK when we have Puppet Pin tool in Adobe After Effects?”
That’s because DUIK can build a bone structure for your character and emulate the natural movement of limbs. It’ll make more sense as we go through this lesson.
The first thing you need to do is create your character. I use Adobe Illustrator to design my characters because it can scale my illustrations without any loss in quality.
Make sure each of your character’s limbs and features — think hands and feet, eyes and noses — are in separate layers. Doing so will make them easier to manipulate in Adobe After Effects.
I downloaded this ready-made character from Shutterstock for this lesson. Let’s call him Joe.
Each of Joe’s features can be articulated individually in Adobe Illustrator. He's only going to walk in this lesson, so I’ve created layers for his upper body and each of his legs and feet.
Each of your layers should appear as separate Adobe Illustrator files when you import your character into Adobe After Effects. Drag these onto your timeline and arrange them.
Highlight those Puppet Pins and select Bones in the DUIK window. This should create three Null objects for each pin. Rename these objects to butt, knee and ankle.
4. CREATING A CONTROLLER FOR YOUR CHARACTER’S LIMB
The next step involves creating another Null object you can use to manipulate the leg without it contorting into weird, unnatural shapes.
You then need to highlight the ankle, knee and butt null objects and the controller and click IK, or Inverse Kinematics. Select 2-Layer IK & Goal and click Create. Now, if you move the controller, you’ll find that the rest of the leg moves along with it in a natural motion.
Repeat the last two steps for the other leg and the feet, creating points for the tip, base and heel instead. After you’re done, make sure to connect your legs and feet by parenting the left ankle null object to the left heel null object and the right ankle null object to the right heel null object.
Remember the Solo option I talked about earlier? Use that to make the controllers the only visible layers in your timeline.
It can be a bit confusing at first getting a walk cycle that looks natural. I recommend looking up “walk cycle” in any image search engine for reference.
Remember that it’s not as simple as moving your character’s foot from Point A to Point B. If you do that, your character will just be sliding their feet back and forth.
Take a look at Joe. Joe needs to lift his feet up before he can set it down in front of him. Animate your character with that in mind.
Once you render it out, your graphic should look something like this.
There you have it! It's nothing compared to what Laika's done with their films but, for the beginner animator, this is a good place to start.
I'll be back again in two weeks for another lesson. Until then, have fun animating!