Category Archives: Tutorials

Tutorials in Photoshop, After Effects and other animation and design software.

Keep your head on: Automating scaling in KinectToPin with Z-axis data

I’ve spent a lot of time recently creating the latest version of KinectToPin’s UI Panel for After Effects. It has a ton of great new features, and makes things a lot easier to use.

But now that that’s out, I’m working on something new that gets around one of the biggest remaining issues with rigging 2.5D Kinect characters: automating layer scaling based on Z-distance. It’s one of the most annoying things to deal with, and until now the best options were “stay in one depth plane” or “manually scale things up and down.” Ugh.

The guy on the left is what happened if you walked back and forth toward the camera and didn’t account for it:

KinectToPin - AutoZ 1

KinectToPin - AutoZ 2

The little expression I came up with this morning turns the same character with the same mocap data into the guy on the right.

Keep in mind this is an experimental feature and at the moment only works for camera-facing characters. It won’t be added to the UI Panel until I’ve worked out the necessary layer space transforms and a couple bugs. In the meantime, if you’d like to try it out, do the following: The new code will be added to the UI Panel shortly, but if you’re eager to try it out, here it is:

In the 3D template, set this as the “mocap” layer’s position expression:

mocap = thisLayer;
try{cam = thisComp.activeCamera;}catch(err){ cam = mocap};
torso = mocap.effect("torso")("3D Point");
tW = mocap.toWorld(torso);
fW = cam.fromWorld(tW);
[value[0],value[1],value[2]+(1500-fW[2])*2]

I swear, it seems like the main thing I’ve been doing for the last year and a half is finding ways to make people’s heads stop flying off. This is yet another.

KinectToPin FAQ and Installation Guide

 

This FAQ’s a bit out of date. Check out the new KinectToPin website for the latest version of the software and how to use it — it’s dramatically easier now.

 

It’s been pretty incredible seeing KinectToPin generate interest all over the world, but I’ve also had a lot of feedback about how difficult and frustrating it is to get it working. One of my big priorities right now is to find ways to make that easier. But in the meantime, here’s some additional helpful information:

FAQ

Is this 3D/can I use it with Maya etc.?
- No, it isn’t 3D (although the Z data is recorded to the XML, and it is open source, so, uh, you can go wild and make something 3D out of it); if you want to use your Kinect with a 3D app try BreckelKinect (Windows only).

What hardware can I use?
- KinectToPin works with the standard Xbox Kinect, as well as the Xtion (a generic Kinect by Asus), although I’ve not gotten that running successfully on my own machine. Has not been tested with Kinect for Windows as far as I know.

Help! I recorded a really long track and I can’t get it converted from XML!
- If you have an xml file that is more than a couple of minutes long, KinectToPin may crash when you try to turn it into AE keyframes. Nick has an older converter-only tool for Processing called FlaePin that may work where KinectToPin fails.

Help! After Effects is giving me grayed-out puppet pins!
- This is a known bug with the Puppet Tool. You need to create dummy pins for all fifteen points before you paste in your tracking data or you’ll get these weird unusable pins.

Help! Microsoft’s Kinect drivers keep installing themselves automatically and taking over for OpenNI!
- You can fix this in Device Manager. Follow David Menard’s instructions here.

 

INSTALLATION GUIDE

The folks behind SimpleOpenNI have created some handy software bundles that will help get you up and running a lot faster. Go to this site and find your relevant link(s) in the “Downloads” menu on the lefthand side of the page. You’ll still need to download Processing separately, as well as KinectToPin itself. Follow the instructions in Part 2 of my tutorial series to get those configured.

In hopes of simplifying things a bit more, I’m also compiling a list of the different configurations people have managed to get working. If you’d like to add your setup, post in the comments using this format:

OS:
Capture Hardware:
OpenNI/NITE version (or bundle source):
SensorKinect version:
OSCeleton version:
Recording with simpleopenNI v. OSCeleton?
After Effects version:
Comments:

 

Kinect MoCap Animation in After Effects

Tutorial links: Part 1: Getting Started | Part 2: Motion Capture with KinectToPin | Part 3: Building the Puppet Rigging Template | Part 4: Rigging a Digital Puppet

More info: A better way to control the puppet’s head | FAQ and Installation Guide

Project files: Click here to download the After Effects project (CS5+).

Quick note: the text is just transcripts of the videos, so you can read or watch as you prefer.

 

Faux 3D Stroke

Get the look of Trapcode’s 3D Stroke with no plugins!

So Trapcode’s 3D Stroke is a great After Effects plugin with a long history. And it’s only about a hundred bucks, so if you make a living animating just go buy the real thing. It’s a lot less hacky.

If you’re a cheap bastard, though, or if you enjoy using AE features in ways they’re not designed to be used, have I got the free preset for you!
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Pinned-01

Kinect MoCap Animation in After Effects — Part 4: Rigging a Digital Puppet

 

This tutorial is now obsolete. Check out the new KinectToPin website for the latest version of the software and how to use it — it’s dramatically easier now.

 

Kinect MoCap Animation in After Effects

Tutorial links: Part 1: Getting Started | Part 2: Motion Capture with KinectToPin | Part 3: Building the Puppet Rigging Template | Part 4: Rigging a Digital Puppet

More info: A better way to control the puppet’s head | FAQ and Installation Guide

Project files: Click here to download the After Effects project (CS5+).

Quick note: the text is just transcripts of the videos, so you can read or watch as you prefer.

 

Yes, it’s the part you’ve all been waiting for: it’s finally time to set up your character layers!

This was originally going to be in Part 3, but there are so many steps I realized I needed to break things down a bit more.

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3 - Add Source Pins

Kinect MoCap Animation in After Effects — Part 3: Building the Puppet Rigging Template

 

This tutorial is now obsolete. Check out the new KinectToPin website for the latest version of the software and how to use it — it’s dramatically easier now.

 

Kinect MoCap Animation in After Effects

Tutorial links: Part 1: Getting Started | Part 2: Motion Capture with KinectToPin | Part 3: Building the Puppet Rigging Template | Part 4: Rigging a Digital Puppet

More info: A better way to control the puppet’s head | FAQ and Installation Guide

Project files: Click here to download the After Effects project (CS5+).

Quick note: the text is just transcripts of the videos, so you can read or watch as you prefer.

 



Welcome back! So now that you have your tracking data recorded, it’s time to build a character to apply it to. This is where things get a bit complicated.

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KinectToAEPartII

Kinect MoCap Animation in After Effects — Part 2: Motion Capture with KinectToPin

 

This tutorial is now obsolete. Check out the new KinectToPin website for the latest version of the software and how to use it — it’s dramatically easier now.

 

Kinect MoCap Animation in After Effects

Tutorial links: Part 1: Getting Started | Part 2: Motion Capture with KinectToPin | Part 3: Building the Puppet Rigging Template | Part 4: Rigging a Digital Puppet

More info: A better way to control the puppet’s head | FAQ and Installation Guide

Project files: Click here to download the After Effects project (CS5+).

Quick note: the text is just transcripts of the videos, so you can read or watch as you prefer.

 

Welcome back. You have your USB adapter and you’ve installed all the software I linked in Part I, right? Now it’s time to get KinectToPin up and running. Continue reading

Kinect Part 1 - 1

Kinect MoCap Animation in After Effects — Part 1: Getting Started

 

This tutorial is now obsolete. Check out the new KinectToPin website for the latest version of the software and how to use it — it’s dramatically easier now.

 

Kinect MoCap Animation in After Effects (Original version)

Tutorial links: Part 1: Getting Started | Part 2: Motion Capture with KinectToPin | Part 3: Building the Puppet Rigging Template | Part 4: Rigging a Digital Puppet

More info: A better way to control the puppet’s head | FAQ and Installation Guide

Project files: Click here to download the After Effects project (CS5+).

Quick note: the text is just transcripts of the videos, so you can read or watch as you prefer.

 

Hello, I’m Victoria Nece. I’m a documentary animator, and today I’m going to show you how to use your Kinect to animate a digital puppet like this one in After Effects. Continue reading

Final Final

After Effects Tutorial: Edmonson Cartoon Effect

Requires After Effects CS4+. Use the Cartoon effect to turn a sequence of still photographs into animated line art. You can composite the result over a wide range of textured backgrounds.

Note:
Almost a year to the date I originally wrote this tutorial, I can finally make it public because the film has been released! You can watch it here: Jury Selection: Edmonson v. Leesville Concrete Company.

This is the trailer, which is almost entirely done with the effect I’m about to explain:

I’m currently working on a new Constitution Project film about Edmonson V. Leesville Concrete Company. In the past, we’ve used methods like digital puppetry to avoid filming reenactments. Edmonson is a much more recent court case than the others we’ve covered (1991), but the US Supreme Court only permits audio recordings of oral arguments, so there’s still no footage of the proceedings.

We were actually able to interview several of the people involved, however, resulting in tons of sharp, clear green screen footage (It’s also our first CP film in HD), as well as hundreds if not thousands of still images. So what to do with them?
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