Adam Ant Animation Workflow

For the lyric video that I created for my Adam and the Ants music video for “A.N.T.S.” I used Adobe Illustrator to create my puppet before rigging it up in Adobe Character Animator. The pieces were assembled in Adobe Premiere Pro where I added in transition effects to complete the animation.

I thought I would document and share some of my workflow for this project. 

sidenote: how I color

I didn’t film any of my coloring in this piece, but from my Zitkála-Šá & the Sun Dance Opera piece, I have that to demostrate my coloring technique in Illustrator.

step one: Finding References

To begin any project, I would need reference photos; because my puppet is facing forward, I needed to get references that would be pretty close — none were directly looking forward that I could find, but that was ok. I worked with what I could get.

step two: creating the face in adobe illustrator

Once the references were decided upon, in Adobe Illustrator, I only needed to create and adjust half of his face and body before copying-pasting and reversing to create the other side of his face. I start by creating the outlines of his face, then a base skin layer and the shading on top of that layer. His features (eyes, eyebrows, lips) were then built on top of the skin layers.

step two point one: re-doing the eyelids

After I finished his face intially, I realized I wanted to give him different functioning eyelids that would open and close from the tops and bottom.

So I had to redo parts of his face to make that work — otherwise, he would only have upper eyelids that would cover his eyes from the top… I found it was more expressive to have both the tops and bottoms! So I had to go back and start removing his previous eyelashes to redo them. On the right is the lineart without the eyelids.

step three: reversing the face layers

To accomplish my goal of the top and bottom eyelids, first I created new eyelids above the eyes. Then I had to move his eyes underneath the skin and “cut holes” in the skin layers above it that would cover those eyelids unless they were blinking/squinting. 

step four: Creating Mouths

Adobe Character Animator will auto lipsync the puppet to any audio. To accomplish that, first I had to create different sets of lips and correctly label them with the sound. The program syncs to my face via the webcam and can automatically smile when I do. But I created an addition “frown” mouth that I manually set up as a trigger swap set for the mouth, so I could make him sad for a bit since that’s not an automatic feature (yet?)

step five: Finishing the body

With the head all set up for Adobe Character Animator, I finished the body. I also gave him extra sets of hands (open palm and holding a mic) that can be seen in the finished video. Those were triggers that switched out his other hands.

step six: animating in Character Animator

 When I load these puppets in Adobe Character Animator it uses the 14 different sets of mouths to mimic human speech — the visemes of the song can be seen here at the bottom of the screen; some sounds get the same lip set like S-Ch-J-Z-Sh since if you were reading lips, those would look similar, I suppose is how the program looks at it. It’s set up to follow my facial movements via the webcam. I have the audio record turned off my webcam so that the program knows to use the audio I provided via mp3.

The controls on the right lets me fine tune the puppet more, including how bouncy the dangles will be (things like his hair — whatever moves when I move my head). You can see the top and bottom eyelids in action. I don’t usually record head and eye movements at the same time like in this recording since it’s just too much to keep track of when I watching the screen as well. It lets me delete and redo portions if I’m not happy with it.

step six point one: dangles

In Adobe Illustrator, I can program ahead of time which layers I wanted to be “dangles” and have movements based on the physics of the scene (wind, gravity) that I set up.  Below is the setup in Adobe Illustrator and the video shows how those move in Adobe Character Animator. 

step seven: record SCenes in Character Animator

In Adobe Character Animator, I recorded the scene a few times (full body, medium close up and super closeup). The 2020 version came with a great update that makes it easier to do this on one scene, but I started this animation just before that release so I had to do it the old fashion way. Took 3 times as long to export all the videos so I could then add the lyrics and transitions in Adobe Premiere Pro

step eight: add lyrics and effects in premiere pro

I haven’t used Adobe Premiere Pro too much in the past but I don’t think it’s a very difficult program to learn in comparison to Adobe After Effects. So I watched a few tutorials about transitions and graphic effects to add in the final touches after I cut up the scenes based on the beat of the song. This was the final step before exporting and publishing on YouTube. 🙂

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