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Free (mostly) tutorials & resources

Updated: 9 June 2018

Below are some locations on the internet which offer some valuable information if you are interested in character animation. Currently, the emphasis is on After Effects because that is what I’m working with the most at this time. Eventually, I’ll add more for other programs as well.

First, a few words about subscription tutorial services
or just skip down to the next section for the free stuff

If you have the cash, some of the paid tutorial services are very good. Lynda.comoffers tutorials on many subjects including After Effects, Illustrator, Photoshop, Animate CC (Flash), and Blender.

I took the plunge awhile back and paid for a month to sharpen my Illustrator skills. The cost for a month was about what you would pay for a good technical book ($34.99 which included the work files). When your subscription expires all of your playlists and history are kept in case you want to resubscribe at a later date. I can highly recommend Deke McClelland’s Illustrator tutorials, which are great. He has dozens of hours of instruction in which you can submerse yourself. Also, Dermot O’Connor offers a different way to approach animation with Animate CC, which doesn’t use bones. He likes to get away from that “flashy look.”

I mention this avenue of learning as I found the expense worthwhile, especially since I chose a 30 day period when I knew I would have plenty of time to binge on tutorials. However, I realize not everyone can, or wants to, go that route. Luckily, there are may resources on the internet to help you learn more about animation and animation software without spending any, or a least very little, money. Below are some resources I’ve found helpful.

General media production

For questions and tutorials on a wide variety of media software and subjects, Creative Cow is a good first stop. It’s very friendly place where professional and serious media producers will answer questions when your production goals elude you. There is a list of subjects and software they will help you with here: Creative Cow forums. I have gone to Creative Cow forums with questions dozens of times and never had to create a post because someone else had already had the same issue. So, use the search function first because you’ll most-likely find your answer already posted.

Also, pardon me for stating the obvious, but don’t forget to check out the online manuals and forums for your particular software as well. Many offer their own set of tutorials to get you up and running. Free After Effects tutorials by, or approved by, Adobe can be found here.

Character animation with After Effects

As I’m sure you are aware, many people have donated their time and talent to providing free tutorials on the internet. Here are just a few that helped and inspired me.

Official Duik tutorials. Some are free and well worth the look. You can watch them in French or dubbed English (which is great, as I find trying to read subtitles while paying attention to the details on the screen difficult when it comes to tutorials). The whole course costs $25.00 as of the last update of this page.

Daniel Gies Vimeo page | E. D. Films (has tutorial section, both free and paid) | YouTube page (make sure you check out his tutorials there on lighting). Daniel Gies has done some great work with After Effects and offers some detailed tutorials.

David Legion offers a nice set of puppet tutorials. Although part of his puppet rig requires Mettle’s Free Form plugin and Mamo World’s Auto Lip Sync, you can still learn a lot from his tutorial series even if you don’t have those plugins.

After Effects scripting & expressions

Adobe provides a great resource for learning the JavaScript expression elements that are not part of the standard JavaScript language. This page is a must read, even if you’re a JavaScript Jedi Master because it identifies and explains the dozens of elements that are only found in After Effects code.

After Effects scripting help (direct link to that forum) at Creative Cow (describe in “General media production” above) is a good source of information.

Dan Ebberts’ Motion Script website offers a scripting resource for writing After Effects expressions. A side note: Dan Ebberts developed the original inverse kinematic (IK) and Bezier IK expressions used in Duik. He also contributes a lot to Creative Cow where his answers have solved my After Effects problems many times.

jjgifford.com offers scripting instruction and covers a lot of information about writing expressions.

Moho

For those brand new to Moho, don’t overlook the most obvious instruction tools for the software. Going to the Help menu at the top of your screen gives you access to both an extensive manual that comes with the software as well as a tutorial manual (both pdfs).  When you install Moho, it also installs a set of work files for the tutorial manual. Walking through the entire tutorial series will get you off to a good start.

If you haven’t run across these people on YouTube yet, they are definitely worth checking out:

LDN SYNS Digital Media, where you’ll find some amazing 2.5D rigging examples along with some tutorials.

McCoy Buck, where you’ll find many tutorials by a skilled animator and Moho user. Check out his video on point lighting, it can add depth and subtle shading to your environment and characters..

1I am not associated with lynda.com in any way, other than being an occasional customer, and receive no benefits from lynda.com if you decide to purchase a subscription.

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