Cartoon Animation in Adobe After Affects

Adobe After effects is the professional video effects tool of the video television and movie industry. After effects (AE) also has a lot of plugin softwares that even enhance its performance to another level. I discovered this ability of AE when I was trying to make simple cartoons animation videos to post them to YouTube.com. Now that I have AE 6.5 but was searching for another product that can make cartoon videos easily. The idea of cartoon movie making is that you draw consecutive pictures of specific motion 29 frames per second (FPS) or 25 fps or 15fps. which means for a 1second movie you need to draw 29 or 25 or 15 pictures. Then when those (29, 25 or 15 pictures) are shown per second basis you can see a moving picture.

The film industry has more advanced tools that help them make those 25 pictures of motion for a 1 second movie. Imagine the amount of pictures required to make 5 minutes of movie: 25x60x5 = 7500 pictures. It really is a very hard task drawing all those pictures taking care to make a smooth motion out of those pictures (pics). That is why a cartoon movie costs big money to produce. As we saw above, to make a cartoon movie consecutive drawings of motion are necessary. And to do that you need to see your previous picture as a reference so you may know what changes you can make on the current picture. There is a drawing pad used for such purpose where the 1st picture is visible when you are doing the 2nd. This way you can make the changes in drawing of the second picture. This way you can easily do your cartoon easily. The principle is that you need to have a reference of the previous picture when you are drawing the current picture.

Here is how you make your cartoon with after effects. Open AE and make a new composition (composition > new). Then make a solid (layer > new > solid). Apply vector paint from the effects and preset window by dragging and dropping the effect to the solid in the timeline. You can adjust the brush size by holding ctrl down left click and hold and moving it in any direction changes the size of brush. Make it appropriate size. In the vector paint menu under brush settings > playback mode choose onion skin from the drop down menu. And click on options. Change the numbers in the backward and forward box to 1 and 0 respectively. These numbers indicate the number of visible consecutive pictures above and below your current drawing.

Then start drawing your picture in the format you want 15 fps or above or below. Here note that AE will not allow more than one undo so take care when you make your drawing. After you do your first picture click on the next frame from the time controls menu which is found in the mid right section.

Then start doing your second picture. Here you Can notice that your first picture is seen as a Background. So use that as a reference to make the necessary changes in the 2nd picture. And when you make the 3rd picture the 2nd one becomes a background and so on. This way you can animate your cartoon and play it back to review. When you play back, change from onion skin to current frame in the playback mode of the vector paint menu.

Now that this is the basic idea and you can add your creativity by adding background images and other effects to make it even more attractive. Also you may check the current version of AE. There can be much more advanced tools that help you even more. Also Ulead’s Videographics lab has similar functions. may be even better.