How to Use Pre-Recorded Videos to Animate Your Puppets

Did you know you can control your puppets face not only with your own live behavior but also with pre-recorded videos? Follow this simple 6 step process and your puppets will be animated using video recordings.

Did you know you can control your puppet’s face not only with your live behavior but also with pre-recorded videos? Well, I just recently found about it and I am extremely excited about it. It opens up a door for so many new ideas and possibilities.

use prerecorded videos for puppet in ch

The Main Idea

Using pre-recorded videos for facial performance in Adobe Character Animator is a relatively simple process, but has to be done externally in Adobe After Effects. You will need to analyze facial behavior in your video by following a few simple steps and then copying it to your puppet. 

This process will require you to use both Adobe After Effects and Adobe Character Animator. However, no prior knowledge in Adobe After Effects is required. We will walk you through all the required steps.

What Will You Need?

after effects and character animator

Adobe After Effects and Character Animator

You will need After Effects * to track and copy facial performance from the video. If you don't have it installed, you can download it from the Adobe Creative Cloud Pack * which Adobe Character Animator * is also a part of.

Adobe puppets for you

A Puppet

If you don't have your puppet, you can download a puppet from the Puppets section on our website.

Follow the next 6 simple steps and your character will follow the facial behavior of the actor in your video.

Step 1: Find/Make Your Video

To apply video performance to your puppet’s faces you will first need to have a video. You can record yourself, record an actor, or download a video from one of the video stock websites.

Video Stock Websites:

pexels logo


Free videos for personal and commercial use.

videvo logo

Videvo *

Free and premium videos.

pond5 logo

Pond5 *

Large collection of easily searchable royalty free videos.

To have good results with copying facial performance from a video to a puppet it is best to work with a face closeup video in high resolution. Also, you will get better results if, in the first frame of your video, the face is facing straight forward and has a neutral expression.

Step 2: Open AE and Import Your Video

Step 3: Create a Mask Around the Face in the Video Layer

You can also use an ellipse tool to draw a mask around a face.

Step 4: Use Face Tracker

rest pose for face tracker in ae
copy face track info

Step 5: In Ch Create a New Scene that Matches the Frame Rate of Your After Effects Scene

match the framerates of ae and ch scenes

Step 6: Paste the Tracking Data Onto Your Puppet

paste tracking data onto your puppets


Your puppet is now following the facial behavior from your video.

You might want to adjust different parameters like head tit strength, head scale strength, head turner, etc. to better match the behavior in the video.

Now What?

Now when your puppet’s facial behavior is controlled by the pre-recorded video you might want  to use a pre-recorded audio for the lip sync. Follow these simple steps and make your puppet talk using a voice over.

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2 years ago

Thanks for the walk through. I have tried to copy my data and after effects just locks up. there must be a limit on what you can copy which is unfortunate. I wish there were another way to bring this data in.

2 years ago

I’ve tried to do this now about 5 times. If you lose your place in the directions there is no way back, you have to start again from the very beginning. Whenever I copy the face measurements and then try to paste them it doesn’t work, then when I get back to Ae, that option is gone and there is no way to get it back except to begin again from scratch. If you could just explain how to get the Tracker panel to give that option again it would really make a big difference in terms of whether it’s possible to follow the tutorial or not. I am grateful this is here but I guess I have to keep seeking for more help because I can never make it from beginning to end.

2 years ago
Reply to  Heidi

You have to click back on the mask you created to get the “set resting pose” and “copy..” option.

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