After Effects Puppet Pin for Bendy Animation

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Chew, Johnny. "After Effects Puppet Pin for Bendy Animation." ThoughtCo, Jan. 30, 2016, Chew, Johnny. (2016, January 30). After Effects Puppet Pin for Bendy Animation. Retrieved from Chew, Johnny. "After Effects Puppet Pin for Bendy Animation." ThoughtCo. (accessed September 20, 2017).

 If you use After Effects enough you'll start to notice there's an "After Effects Look" that can develop. The best use and integration of it I think is in Run Wrake's short film Rabbit, but what if you want your work to move differently than that? We've talked about keyframe interpolation before, and using the graph editor, but let's take a look at the puppet pin tool this time.

Once you've opened up After Effects let's make a new composition and a new solid that's 100 wide and 400 tall so we get a nice rectangle.

Now we'll move the anchor point on it, so that we can pretend it's an arm. In our toolbar at the top of our screen is the Pan Behind (Anchor Point) tool, it's the sixth one in from the left, or you can hit Y.

Once we have that selected we can click and drag the little crosshair in the center of our solid up to the top. This allows us to rotate our solid from this position rather than from the center, so it's kind of the make shift shoulder of our make shift arm.

We can see when we rotate it that we get the After Effects look of stiff animation, our "arm" isn't responding to being rotated at all really. Let's change that and give it some bend.

In our toolbar, the very last icon that looks like a pushpin is our Puppet Pin tool, or you can hit command P. This allows us to add points to an object that allow for bending between those points.

Once we have that selected, click towards the top of our solid.

It will add a yellow dot to it, this is the first puppet pin. If we click and drag that puppet pin around you'll notice all it does is move our entire solid shape, not bend it like we want. We need to add a second puppet pin so the computer will know where to bend our shape. So click towards the bottom of your arm and add a second yellow dot.

Now if we click the bottom puppet pin and move that around you'll notice we can kind of stretch our arm up and down. But if we want a bend in it we need yet a third puppet pin, so place it in the center of these two puppet pins.

Now that we have 3 points we can click the bottom one and drag it around and see that the shape is bending now! Imagine it as joints in your own arm, you need an elbow to bend but you also need a shoulder and a wrist to be on either end of that bend.

You'll see that if we push the puppet pin to an extreme it will start to break the geometry of our shape, so the puppet pin does have limitations. The benefit of it though is that we can now animate the arm rotating and animate the puppet pins reacting independently. This way we can create some nice fluid animations and settling actions for our arm.

The puppet pin is a great tool, although it can certainly be finicky, it's best to use it in more subtle instances in combination with the object's rotation rather than relying on it entirely.