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Pose to Pose Character Animation in After Effects

By Morgan Williams
After Effects

Discover the power of the Pose-to-Pose method of character animation in After Effects.

Whoo boy, is character animation hard. And to make matters worse, most After Effects animators try to move their characters the same way they move logos and type: Straight ahead. The secret to getting the hang of character animation is actually to use the same method Disney animators used in the heyday of cel animation: Pose-to-Pose.
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Moses he knowses his poses aren't roses.
In this tutorial, character animation encyclopedia Morgan Williams (who also teaches Character Animation Bootcamp) will teach you the magic of the pose-to-pose method and how to use it in After Effects.
This is some inside baseball stuff, so pay attention.

Intro to Pose-to-Pose Animation in After Effects

​​Download the Character Rig & Project Files

Wanna follow along with Morgan? Download the Squash character rig along with the finished animation by clicking the enticing button below. This is just one of the many rigs that we built special for Character Animation Bootcamp. Practice makes permanent.

Download the free Squash rig and project files here!

Download Now

​​What are you going to learn in this tutorial?

Character animation is, to put it very mildly, a ridiculously deep topic. In this lesson Morgan will show you the basics of the Pose-to-Pose method which will literally crack your skull open if you've never tried it. Character animation becomes much easier when you learn to work this way.

Why Straight Ahead is so difficult

Most Motion Design projects are animated in a straight-ahead manner, which doesn't work very well for complex character rigs.

The power of hold keyframes

The Pose-to-pose process begins by stacking groups of hold keyframes in your timeline, creating a series of discrete poses.
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The importance of exaggeration

Every animator knows (or should know) the importance of exaggeration... but in character animation this principle is paramount. Exaggerate thy poses!

How to flip book your animation

Luckily, we don't have to hold sheets of tracing paper between our fingers anymore to flipbook animations. However, learning the After Effects equivalent of this technique is super helpful.
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Why you need a well-designed rig

Character animation is hard enough without having to fight with a rig. Having built in controls for squash and stretch, heel-roll and other parameters is a huge advantage.

How to play with timing

Once you've established your poses, you're ready to work on timing. Pose-to-pose is made for this fun step.

What happens next?

You create your poses and timing, yada yada yada, you're done! Actually, there's more to it... but we'll get there.
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Bend Characters to Your Will

If you had a blast learning the first stage of Pose-to-Pose animation, you are going to love Character Animation Bootcamp. This 12-week interactive course is filled with amazing rigs, tricks of the trade, and challenging scenarios for you to tackle with the help of your teaching-assistant and classmates.
If you struggle to animate characters, or want to add this amazing skill to your arsenal, check out the information page and please let us know if you have any questions. Thanks for watching!