Although most of the characters we work with are human-like or at least move like humans, eventually we will need to animate a 4 legged character. In this post, we will cover the process of turning a static dog illustration into an animated and able to walk dog puppet in Adobe Character Animator *.
The process discussed here can be applied to many other quadruped animals: cats, lions, cows or even dinosaurs.
The Main Idea
The main difference between rigging a dog puppet to a standard puppet would be in the way we apply a walking behavior. Adobe Character Animator is not optimized for 4 leg characters and therefore we will need to apply several walk behaviors on the dog puppet’s different body parts to make it walk properly.
Follow these steps and you will have a fully working dog puppet:
We will need illustrations for: front static pose, left profile/right profile for walking.
All the parts that will need to move in Character Animator should have a separated art and placed on its sub-layer.
We will want the head of our dog to be expressive and therefore we will have all the facial elements on their sub-layers just like we would have with any other character.
We will need artwork for the blinks, pupils, eyeballs, brows, ears, etc.
To make our dog talk we can either work with the jaw element or create different mouth shapes.
In this tutorial we will work with the mouth shapes and therefore those are the mouth shapes we will create: Neutral, Surprised, Smile, Ah, Oh, Uh, S, D, M, L, F, Ee, R, W-OO.
Just like creating a standard [2 arms+2 legs] puppet a dog puppet source art file should also follow a strict layer names rules and hierarchy.
Make sure all the created artworks are properly named and structured in the software you work with.
Turn on the “Left profile” and draw a leg bone structure for each of the four legs:
The process of rigging the back legs of the dog is very similar to rigging the front legs. The main difference is in the left/right hip tag. For the back legs, we will add this tag directly on the legs and not on the body.
If we switch to record scene now, and press arrow keys the walk will look like this.
We can see only two front legs are moving. Not exactly what we wanted, right?
That is because the walk behavior only recognizes the first right and left legs in the puppets hierarchy (in each profile view).
Character Animator is optimized for human-like puppets and therefore we need to find a workaround for a four-legged one.
To make the back legs move we need to add the walk behavior to them as well.
The dog should now be walking in place.
To make the dog walk around the scene instead of walking in place, just change the body speed at the main walk behavior (the walk behavior we added on the top-level puppet) to the desired value. For our dog Charlie that value is 80%.
You now have a fully working, walking, and talking cartoon dog puppet. We didn’t do anything for the talk rig because nothing is required. If you named and stacked the mouth shape layers correctly your dog should be ready for lip-syncing. You can read about how quickly lip-sync your dog puppet here.
Now you have a working basic dog puppet. A more advanced version of Charlie, with different accessories, facial expressions, and triggers can be downloaded for free, here.
Stay tuned for new tutorials.