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Modifying Stickman, part 1:
Rigging a head turn

In this video we will start modifying Stickman’s rig to add more than Duik can achieve by itself. While the Duik rig is invaluable, expanding on it through modifications can create a sophisticated and versatile puppet. We’ll start by rigging Stickman’s face using a 3D pivot layer which will help sell the illusion that Stickman’s head is spherical as he turns his head. I first learned of this idea from a Daniel Gies’s video where he was sharing how he achieved some of his fantastic puppet work in After Effects. If you are unfamiliar with Daniel Gies’s work, I have some links on my Off-Site Resources page that you can explore.

Important: If you completed the Stickman, part 2: Tweaking the Stickman rig, you can use that file instead of the work files offered below. Save a backup before proceeding with this tutorial, then save a copy of your finished work as it will be built upon in the following tutorials. Alternatively, you can download the work files available on each tutorial page. The After Effects files were created in version 16 (After Effects 2019).

Duik Bassel: Modifying Stickman Part 1

Modifying Stickman, part 1: Rigging a head turn

Downloadable work files: This 289 KB zip file contains the Adobe Illustrator file Stickman 3.0 and the Adobe After Effects (v. 16) File Stickman MS1. The After Effects file is rigged up to the point where I stopped in the last tutorial.

Modify Stickman 1 (352 KB zip) Project Files

Video content:
  • 00:00 Introduction
  • 00:51 Prepare head comp & matte
  • 03:58 Setting the matte
  • 05:10 Create the X,Y Sliders
  • 05:58 Create Face Pivot Comp & Pivot Null
  • 07:56 Connect X Slider to Y Rotation (expression)
  • 11:01 Connect Y Slider to X Rotation (expression)
  • 12:00 Closing
  • 12:23 Credits

Code from the video

The code below is provided as a reference, and was copied directly from the video After Effects file. Expression fields that contained only a pick whip connection are not included.

Y Rotation Property (3D)

To pivot the Face Pivot layer we attached the X Movement Slider to the Y Rotation property. From the animator’s point of view, the movement runs along the X axis of the composition viewer.

If you are unfamiliar with the linear() expression and how it handles linear interpolation, you may want to view this short video: Linear interpolation & the linear( ) expression. Remember the last two values in the linear() expression below are determined by the rotation values that cause the face to turn out of sight. These values depend on the individual puppet and the Z position property (distance form the pivot null) applied to the face layer.

S=comp("Stickman-3.0").layer("C | Head").effect("X Head Movement")("Slider");
R=linear(S,-100,100,54,-54);
R

X Rotation Property (3D)

To pivot the Face Pivot layer we attached the Y Movement Slider to the X Rotation property. From the animator’s point of view, the movement runs along the Y axis of the composition viewer.

S=comp("Stickman-3.0").layer("C | Head").effect("Y Head Movement")("Slider");
R=linear(S,-100,100,27,-27);
R
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