In Character Design today we are taking the pinning lesson from last week and furthering it by adding more free movement to a rig in After Effects. We’re using a robot design which Peter has made and we’re going to be animating it, ideally using each part of the body to create a fully moving animation. Since there’s a lot of work to do in this project, its being split across two lessons – this week we’re setting up the rig and next week we’ll be animating it.


To begin we began by parenting all of the individual sections together. The left arm claw got paired to the left arm wrist, which got paired to the first left arm section, which got paired to the second section and so forth until the entire arm had been completed. The same process was done for the right arm before finally attaching both arms to the body and the body sections to each other. The head was attached to the neck which was attached to the body and so forth until everything was made one so to speak. The plunger wasn’t attached to anything since that would be its base and centre of gravity.

To help link the sections together we also attached the individual components in the robot too. We moved the pivot points to the edges of the arms (towards the body) but gave a little leeway either side so allow for the parts’ rotation. Using the snapping tool made this  easier for the body as those parts would be rooted together with very little to no movement at all, however this could only be done with the body as we needed to move outside the control box for the arms – like in the picture below.


Next we added a new Adjustment Layer from the right control panel I searched for ‘Angle Control‘ before adding it to the layer. ‘R’ was pressed on the keyboard to open up the rotation menu where I alt-clicked the clock icon and paired this to the Angle Control. Next I selected the Arm_7 layer, highlighted the Rotation layer (the one with the clock next to it) then copied this layer – Control & C. Then shift selected layers 6-1, hit R again and pasted. This copied the angle data to each layer. Moving the dial around the control circle (below) allowed the arm of the robot to move from the shoulder. I then added another Angle Control and repeated the above steps on the other arm for its movement.

NB. Highlight the Angle Control and hit enter to rename it.

Another four Angle Controls were added next, one at each elbow and wrist, and the same process was followed, bar selecting less arm points, to allow more flexibility in the arms.

Robot Rig

We then added in video footage for the robots head, (this is sparks, explosions and smoke to simulate machine failure) a light for the heart. The explosion layer  was duplicated to increase the effect of the blast. A backplate was added too for the background and a curve was added to that to darken it down slightly.


And it was here that the lesson ended. We’ve rigged the robot so next week we’ll animate it.


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