Walking (Adobe Character Animator Tutorial)

Many example Adobe Character Animator puppets
you see out there tend to stay in one place, but what happens when you want them to move
around their scene? Well, you use the Walk behavior. There are several ways to set up
a moving character, and in this tutorial we’ll explore them all. Let’s start by going to the Okay Samurai
puppets page and finding and downloading the free example puppet Eliza. There should be
two puppets in here – ElizaSimple and Eliza3View. We’ll start with ElizaSimple. If you double
click on this file, it should open up Character Animator and give you a new scene with Eliza
walking in place. If I twirl open the Walk behavior on the right,
I’ll see I have a few different choices on how to control her walk with the Mode parameter.
This one, Immediate, is the default. This is probably the best one to work with while
rigging because you can see your walk cycle looping over and over again and not worry
about your character walking off of the side of the screen. The second choice is left and right arrow
keys. Selecting this means your character won’t walk until you press either the left
or right arrows on the keyboard, which causes them to walk in place. If you want the character
to move, just turn up the body speed parameter to 100%, and the character will walk forwards
and backwards, including the ability to walk directly off the screen. If you ever accidentally
lose your character, just press the refresh button to get them back to their starting
position. The last choice is position based, and this
is personally the one I use the most. With this mode, you simply click the stopwatch
icon next to Position to create a Walk Position keyframe in the timeline. Then you move the
playhead down a little bit and adjust the blue numbers by either dragging over it or
clicking and typing in a new value to set an additional position. When you do this,
the character walks between the two keyframe positions automatically. So if you want the
character to go faster, move the keyframes closer together. If you want the character
to go slower, move them farther apart. And if you want the character to pause in a position,
copy and paste the same keyframe for your desired duration. There are some limitations with this simple
version of Eliza though. For one, if she’s not walking, her body will just kind of float
in space – this is because her legs need to be able to move freely and independently to
walk correctly, so we can’t pin them to the ground with fixed handles like we normally
would for a stationary puppet. Second, she can’t turn to walk to the right, so if I
make her go right with the arrow keys or keyframes, she just walks backwards instead. But you do have another option for more control.
Let’s go back to our original example folder and double-click on Eliza3View instead to
bring her into a new scene.You can immediately see a few differences. First off, notice how
she’s standing still and not floating in place. And number two, look what happens when
you press the left and right arrow keys – she will start walking, and turn if needed. In
this version, she never walks backwards. We’ll dig deeper in the next section, but what’s
happening behind the scenes is that this version has three views: standing, left profile and
right profile. When you press the arrow keys or set position keyframes, the Walk behavior
serves up the correct view. This setup is a little more complicated as it requires you
to essentially rig 3 views instead of 1, but it does make the character more versatile. So which walking setup should you pick for
your character? Well, it really depends on the type of project. The simple rig is great
if you know your character is always going to be walking, or you’re fine with your
character only being able to walk in one direction. This is exactly how I rigged the guitar playing
character Linden in the video Extraneous Lyrics 2019 – I had walking and stationary versions
of him and swapped between them depending on the scene. If this is your first walking
character, I would definitely recommend starting with this simpler approach. But if you want
everything controlled inside one puppet and don’t mind a little extra rigging work,
the three view approach is a great choice as well. Let’s go through the process of rigging
Eliza’s simple view from scratch so we can learn the basics of the Walk behavior. In
Character Animator, go to File>Import, and in the example download file, let’s go into
the “Unrigged” folder and choose ElizaSimpleUnrigged.psd. This will import the puppet into our project
panel, which we can double-click to enter Rig mode. Let’s see how Eliza’s artwork is set up.
First, she has each limb in its own group inside the body, and each of these has a crown
icon next to them, making them independent so they’ll move on their own. Second, there
is a central non-independent torso layer that all of these limbs overlap with so they have
a clear place to connect. The naming isn’t important here, just the structure. Third,
Eliza is in a three quarters view. Character Animator’s walk behavior works best with
characters in ¾ view or side profile views, like Walkbot from the Home screen. The Walk
behavior doesn’t work with front facing characters yet, so in those cases you would
need to add your own frame by frame cycle layers animations to make a walk cycle – Wonder
Boy from the official Character Animator examples page is a good template to follow if you want
to do this. The first thing I’ll do is add the Walk
behavior to give Eliza the power to walk. I’ll select the top level Puppet where all
my other behaviors like Face and Eye Gaze live, click the + button that appears, and
select Walk from the list below. Next, I’ll select a limb and drag its origin
handle, the dotted line circle, to where it would connect to the body. When I drag over
a valid attach point, the artwork turns green. This ensures that each limb will pivot and
rotate from where you’d expect – the shoulder or hip joints. I’ll do this for each of
the arms and legs. When I select the Body group now, I should see four little green
dots appear, indicating the limb attachment points. I’ll select the Head group and do the same
– drag the origin handle to where it connects to the body, around the neck area. While I’m
here and have the head origin selected, I’ll go over to my tags panel and also tag this
as the neck, the dot directly under the head in the figure diagram. This will help the
whole head to bob up and down while the character walks. Let’s add one more handle and tag and see
what happens. I’ll select my Body group, select the handle tool below, and click around
the belly button area to add a new handle. Then I’ll tag this as the middle circle
in the diagram on the right, the waist. With my ElizaSimpleUnrigged puppet selected,
I’ll click the clapboard icon below to add her to a new scene. And immediately I can
see that she’s bouncing up and down. The Walk behavior is looking for up to 18 possible
tags I can put on my character. With just these two, neck and waist, it’s already
got the natural bounce of a walk cycle working. Now we just have to fill in the other possible
tags. Back in Rig mode, with the Body group still
selected on the left and the handle tool still selected down below, we’ll add and tag four
more handles, directly over where the green dots are. So I’ll do left shoulder, right
shoulder, left hip, and right hip. Then I’ll select each limb and add the remaining
appropriate tags. For Eliza’s left arm I’ll add a left elbow and a left wrist. For her
left leg I’ll add a left knee, left ankle, left heel, and left toe. Let’s do the same
for the other side. For her right leg I’ll add the right knee, right ankle, right heel,
and right toe. Then I’ll finish with the right arm and add handles and tags for the
right elbow and right wrist. You can also choose to add sticks between some of handles
if you want a little more bone structure – I tend to do this most of the time with my walking
characters. And now if we return to Record mode, we should
see our character walking. Now, it’s rare that our walk is going to
look 100% perfect at this stage. The animation you see here is based off of traditional hand
drawn animated walk cycles, but because characters come in all shapes and sizes and personalities,
one size doesn’t fit all. So we can make some adjustments. First, handle placement plays a big role in
how the character reacts. The waist tag is the most important here. The Walk behavior
expects the waist handle to be centered, but if you move it closer to the front of your
character, they’ll hunch over and lean forward a little bit. If you move it towards the back,
they’ll stand up a little straighter. Minor adjustments to handle positions throughout
the character rig can have a big impact on the quality of walking, so feel free to experiment. The second area to play around with is in
the Walk behavior itself. All the parameters can be tweaked to give your character different
walk treatments. Like here, I think Eliza’s arms are a little too far forward, so I’m
going to lower the Elbow Bend parameter and make her hands drop to her side a little more.
I might bump up the hip sway and shoulder sway parameters as well to give her upper
and lower torso movement a little more depth. But this is all personal choice – you should
play around and see what works best for you and your style. For example, Tiffany La Belle is an Australian
based fashion designer, and she uses Character Animator to bring her fashion illustrations
to life. To achieve this runway style, she lowers the stride length and step speed, increases
the shoulder and hip sway, and plays around with the pose emphasis parameter. Style is another good area to play around
with, letting you change between several presets. These include the default walk, slump, strut,
prance, sneak, run, and one we threw in just for fun, head bang. If some styles seem to
pull the body away from the Head too much, try toggling the Face behavior’s visibility
off to disable head tracking and keep things moving together. If I wanted to try the three view approach
instead, I could import the Eliza3ViewUnrigged.psd file. Note that she looks a little different
in Rig mode – instead of just a head and body, she has three independent groups – Standing,
Left Profile, and Right Profile. Standing and Left Profile are essentially the same
– the only difference is that her legs in standing view aren’t independent – so no
crown icons – because we don’t need them to move on their own. Right Profile is just
the original artwork flipped around. In Photoshop, you would do this by duplicating the left
profile view and going to Edit>Transform>Flip Horizontal. And then you would probably
want to rename the left limbs to right ones and vice-versa. In order for this to work correctly, Character
Animator needs to know the left and right profile views. So whatever you want to show
up when the character moves left, tag that as left profile, and do the same for moving
right with the right profile. When the character isn’t walking in either direction, it will
default to whatever folder remains, which you don’t have to tag as anything. So then the rigging process is pretty straightforward.
Just like in the simple version, I would first add the Walk behavior to the top level puppet.
For the standing group, you would want to pin the body to the ground with fixed handles
so the character will stay still, and consider adding stuff like draggables into the hands.
Then in the two walking views, you would need to add the full walking rigging just like
we did for the simple single view version. So that means independent limbs with their
origins connected to the torso and all 18 tags, in both the left and right profile views.
Also make sure all three of these views have their visibility toggled on, or you might
see a disappearing character when a certain view gets triggered. If you do this correctly you will see a fully
responsive walking character. One thing to note is that there is only one standing view,
so because I made this character face left, if they walk right and stop, you’ll see
them flip back to that standing view. Some characters instead choose to face towards
the front in their standing view – the choice is up to you. Also note that this method only
works with three views – if you only have a left profile and standing view for example,
it won’t work – the Walk behavior needs both profile tags. If something is missing or not working right,
an excellent resource is the little alert icon in Rig mode, which brings up the Rigging
Issues Panel. When you’re tagging this many parts, it’s easy to accidentally forget
something – this panel can be a lifesaver instead of needing to hunt through the puppet
searching for that one missing tag. The Walk behavior is pretty versatile, and
in other videos, we’ve shown a lot of interesting ways to tweak it to do interesting things. Some users figured out if you add walk behaviors
to background and foreground elements and adjust their speed slightly, you can create
an entire moving system where the character stays in the middle, but the environment moves
around them to create the sensation of walking. There’s a link to a video explaining this
technique in the video description below. If you want your character to have head turns
and walking simultaneously, you have to be very careful with your organization and tagging
because both these behaviors share the left and right profile view tags, so you can run
into potential conflicts if not set up right. There’s an example puppet named Walker on
the Okay Samurai puppets page that is a great example of this in action if you’re interested
in this sort of thing. Worker Studio used the Walk Behavior in an
unusual way for their piece Jammy Man. Remember that seemingly useless walk style called Head
Bang that I showed earlier? Well, they added that to their two musician characters, slowed
the pace down to match the tempo of the music, and got puppets who automatically rocked back
and forth in time with the beat. Finally, while the Walk behavior is designed
for two-legged human characters, it’s possible to add it to additional limbs for quadrupeds
or other non-human creatures. So in this example I added extra Walk behaviors to each additional
leg to let them move as well. Admittedly, this is very much a hack right now and in
order for things to work you have to tweak the values to be just right, so I actually
don’t recommend doing it right now. We hope we will enable broader walk support in future
versions. So that’s how you set up a Character Animator
puppet for walking. If you make something cool with this, we’d love to see it – please
share it online with #CharacterAnimator so we can take a look. And if you’re running
into troubles rigging your character for walking, the best place to get help is the official
Character Animator forums. Thanks for watching, and have fun.


  1. I made all of the robot in the ship part of this in Ch. It's not the greatest but I learned how to make triggers for the dancing and how to walk and move the room in the background. https://youtu.be/Bn8ITqSSfIQ

  2. Hi Dave, can you please make the assets also available for download in your puppet. In this case, is it possible to share your background of the scene?
    Let me know and keep up the great work!!

  3. These tuts are so good!! I have an after effects template with a walking figure I’d like to replace with another walking figure of my own.. can this be done? Could I replace ur aliza puppet with a made up puppet of my own

  4. That girl's got a bulge in her pants!! Some day I will do a walk cycle that works as well as this. All my walk cycles have the legs fly away from the hips, I don't know what's wrong with me, seriously.

  5. 12:56 BRILLIANT!! I've been looking for something like that to use in music videos that I had to put n the back burner because they just weren't working. I was thinking of animating them in 3D, but this trick should save those projects. THANK YOU.

  6. Fantastic tutorials! Any advice on how to animate a snake slithering across the screen in Character Animator? I've tried manipulating limb rigs from sample puppets on a snake's body but no dice.

  7. Brilliant as always Dave. Thank you! It's interesting what workerstudio did, I also used the walk cycle on my lady playing the piano and all my scooter and people on bikes too with very low settings… 🙂

  8. Thank you for the video! Could you rework the default walk cycle? Almost every client says it looks jagged and unnatural.

  9. Hi, I need your help. I need to do my background in 'CA' instead of 'AE'. But if I use a camera in 'CA' my background is not working. I mean background has different X positions but when the camera is open positions aren't working. I will really be happy if you can help me with this subject. Because as I say i need to use both of them at the same time in the 'CA'.

    Thanks for your tutorial videos, they are really helpful.

  10. i don't know what I'm forgetting but the head always gets deformed during the walk cycle. i tried a lot of things shown in the videos (here its shown that the head is alsp o tagged as neck) the only way to fix this is to turn the strength property down to something like 75% which affects the rest of the super- aesthetic body movement

  11. when i select the parts you are referring to, they do not turn anything green and I do not see the green dots either, am i missing a step? neither do i see a yellow outline around those areas

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