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Precomp ruins my Duik and Puppet-Null expressions?!

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Gerald HapemanPrecomp ruins my Duik and Puppet-Null expressions?!
by on Jul 25, 2013 at 3:52:59 am

Have dozens of layers for a walk cycle - most of the appendages secured with Duik and Puppet tools. I want to be able to save this large file as a precomp but when I do, about half of the expressions are disabled and then layers moved and re-adjusted. Any reason why? I am using a combination of the Duik Script and The Puppet Tool to Null (different layers, not on the same) and wondering could this be causing a conflict? If so... how can I move all these layers, this walk cycle, into another project to use...


Sorry been asking so many questions lately, but this walk cycle has driven me to the brink of insanity...!

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Cassius MarquesRe: Precomp ruins my Duik and Puppet-Null expressions?!
by on Jul 25, 2013 at 5:06:46 pm

well, can you at least tell us why/what is causing the expression errors? Do the layers resume correct position after you fix them?

Do the expressions link layers to the absolute or relative path? Can that be set? I've never used the plugin.

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Stephen NorringtonRe: Precomp ruins my Duik and Puppet-Null expressions?!
by on Jul 25, 2013 at 6:39:12 pm

Hi Gerald,

I don't have any suggestions for your particular problem but I've been doing a lot of 2.5D puppet animation in AE CS5 recently and I've found that precomping puppets in general is a bad idea.

This is because animation done in the precomp does not update in real time in the main comp - each adjustment to the animation only updates in the main comp when you release the mouse - making it next to impossible to artfully animate the character relative to objects in the main scene and from the camera's POV.

I've had much better luck placing all the component layers of the puppet directly in the main comp. The main comp sometimes gets a bit heavy but, so long as all layers are turned off except the minimum needed to effectively animate the shot, it's eminently doable.

Another reason for avoiding precomps with puppets is that the precomp math sometimes causes the layers of the puppet to appear behind objects when they should be in front.

Another gotcha-avoiding trick is making sure that, if you do elect to precomp your puppet and animate it from within the precomp, the precomp's dimensions are large enough that the puppet's appendages don't stray outside the precomp's boundaries when you animate ie: if the precomp is not wide enough for the puppet to extend its arms fully when leaning fully from one side to the other the arms will be cut off in the main comp. Resizing the precomp after-the-fact is painful because all the puppet layers in the precomp take their anchor points from the precomp's dimensions so changing it after you have built your puppet will cause all the layers to jump to the wrong positions relative to each other.

Summary: in a dedicated build project create a puppet in a comp that has the exact same dimensions as the main comp, import that project into the main project and copy the layers from the build project's comp directly to the main comp.

One other thing: I've not been able to find a way to safely delete the imported build project described above from the main project after I've copied layers from the imported build project's comp to the main project's comp. Even after doing a CollectFiles and a ReduceProject deleting the imported build project from the main project tends to delete the puppet's layers in the main project's comp.


Stephen Norrington

Artproject Independent Production

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Andrew McNallyRe: Precomp ruins my Duik and Puppet-Null expressions?!
by on Dec 12, 2013 at 9:21:59 am

Hi Gerald!

I read your response and you seem to be very knowledgeable on the topic.

I'd like to ask for your assistance please.

I have a precomp character rigged using the puppet tool and DUIK.
Unfortunately I stupidly made the precomp too small for 3 of the 12 characters I'm animating. I'd like to change the dimensions of the precomp, but as you've mentioned the puppet pins change in relation to each other as soon as I do this and I end up with an unusable rig.

Is there a way to change the dimensions of the precomp and maintain the rig, save for re-applying all the puppet pins and associated scripting?

Thanks for your time!

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Gerald HapemanRe: Precomp ruins my Duik and Puppet-Null expressions?!
by on Dec 12, 2013 at 4:37:48 pm

Hey Andrew... Yea, there is a way. I answered it this way in this same post. Just a bit of self discovery from trial and error:

As well... you can later, crop the image size later if anything is too large by clicking on the region of interest box and then go to Crop Comp to Region of Interest if need be, but I did that so it just wasn't so large, but be careful you again don't cut off your animation. But my above link seemed to do the trick...

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Tudor "Ted" JelescuRe: Precomp ruins my Duik and Puppet-Null expressions?!
by on Jul 25, 2013 at 8:53:21 pm

Like Stephen I like having all my elements in my main comp, with the minimum control layers visible. If Adobe would listen to the layer folder/grouping request this may be easier, but I guess we work with shy layers for now.

Tudor "Ted" Jelescu
Senior VFX Artist

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Stephen NorringtonRe: Precomp ruins my Duik and Puppet-Null expressions?!
by on Jul 25, 2013 at 9:46:34 pm

Yeah, folder grouping a la Photoshop would be fantastic - my visual workaround is to separate layer groups by inserting turned-off nulls between them and naming the nulls with hyphen-strings ie: "- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -".

The color labels are handy too but I find they get mixed up when moving a project from one machine to another - is there some arcane way of copying label preferences (and composition presets) from one instance of AE to another?

Stephen Norrington

Artproject Independent Production

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Gerald HapemanRe: Precomp ruins my Duik and Puppet-Null expressions?!
by on Jul 26, 2013 at 6:04:38 pm

Very appreciative everyone. So, what I resolved from your replies is that I have this 'puppet' walk cycle created in a project of it's own, as it was largely experimental, but in the end, I really liked the way it turned out. So, I opened up my other main project I've been working on and then just File - Import my walk cycle project into my that main project. It does open of course with all the layers, but as well, creates it's own comp, which by my main question, wouldn't allow me without creating those expression problems in the original walk cycle composition. Go figure. So after all that, there's my precomp of the walk cycle neatly placed into my other project... all original layers shyed and color coded and intact. BUT... since this 'puppet' walk cycle is one heady work of puppetry (many layers moving), I can barely move it in my new project without AE flipping out (not responding - flickering screen) and or just drags it's snail heels before I can move it barely one frame. I believe I have more than enough power:

Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64
AMD Phenom(tm) II X6 1045T Processor, 2700 Mhz, 6 Core(s), 6 Logical Processor(s)
Available Physical Memory 9.74 GB
Total Virtual Memory 32.0 GB
Available Virtual Memory 25.2 GB
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460

Is it just a fact of life with AE with a very heavy load of animation?

Many many thanks for the helpful responses!

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Stephen NorringtonRe: Precomp ruins my Duik and Puppet-Null expressions?!
by on Jul 26, 2013 at 6:58:08 pm

Hi Gerald,

Your system is approximately comparable to mine. I've experienced the slow-mo crash-type situation you're describing and it has almost always been due to source layers in my comp being too large for AE+MySystem to handle.

From your description your problem sounds like your puppet's source layers are very large and/or the DUIK aspect is computationally onerous.

I have no experience with DUIK so can't offer thoughts there. However, no matter how many expressions, keyframes and layers you have, AE generally has no problem dealing with a torrent of that kind of "infra-structure" data stuff.

The problem I used to run into was making my source images way too large (for max resolution and detail) - by "too large" I mean 6k x 6k, 8k x 8k, 15k x 15k etc. - and then having loads of those layers stacked to make a puppet. I had to rethink my approach after a particularly gnarly 85 hour render :-0

My solution has been to do some tests to determine the minimum size source image I can get away with for a particular project and make the puppet just a bit bigger than that.

Example: I had a puppet built from fifty 6k x 6k layers being used in a 4.5K (4500px x 2148px) comp. AE+MySystem kept crashing, I finally managed to render something but it took the aforementioned 85 hrs. After doing some tests I determined that the puppet only needed to be 2k x 2k (the visual result in the 4.5K frame was identical) - I rebuilt the puppet at that size and the problem went away, to the extent that I was able to work on subsequent shots on my cheap Lenovo laptop.

I hate to say it, but if you've got your puppet made from huge layers, retaining the build whilst downsizing the layers will be tricky because the anchor points may go screwy if you change the source layer sizes - you might be able to sidestep this by downsizing the layers by an exact multiple (200%, 300% etc.) then scaling them back up in AE the same amount.

If your source layers are huge a workaround could be to create a set of proxy source layers from the full-size layers (at the minimum size you can live with re: resolution and detail) and use the proxies all the time, both for working on the comp and rendering.

If your layers are not huge I'm not sure what the problem might be. Perhaps something to do computational load caused by DUIK or perhaps you have motion blur turned on - that's often a "show-killer".

As far as the expressions go, if you copy>paste your layers from your imported build project to your main comp (one by one, I'd suggest, so you don't bamboozle AE) there may be no way around brute-force rewriting them to suit the new layer configuration. It's a bit of a chore but pays off in the end.

If I have understood your setup correctly, your keyframed walk-cycle animation should copy>paste no problem along with the layers you copy>paste.

Summary: if your puppet's layers are huge consider creating small proxies so AE+YourSystem can cope - copy your puppet's layers and their attendant walk-cycle animations and expressions from the imported build project to your main comp one by one using copy>paste - rewrite the expressions on the copied layers to suit their new arrangement in the main comp.

Hope this helps. Sorry I can't opine re: DUIK. I do know that DUIK creates complex hierarchies of layers (via expressions and parenting I believe) which may get screwed up if any of them are rearranged after the fact. But the slowdown and screen flashes you describe sound very much like AE+YourSystem struggling to deal with huge source files.

Stephen Norrington

Artproject Independent Production

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Gerald HapemanRe: Precomp ruins my Duik and Puppet-Null expressions?!
by on Jul 27, 2013 at 3:08:25 am

Thank you, Stephen... very much! Appreciate the very thorough walk-thru...! Well... I did discover one stupid headache with your notes - I still had Motion Blur on... helped a little to turn that off. I also did as you suggested and only solo'd the layers I need for right now to get past this walk cycle part of the animation - and incredibly, even at Full Resolution, I was able to move things as they should with no wait time. THANKS! I do believe that my character (for this walk cycle) was quite large, as I was really going for some close up detail as well, and panning away - which I know now the size isn't really all that necessary. Still don't understand why in the original walk cycle project when I tried to make those layers a comp - the expressions fell apart, but when I simply just opened that project to add to an existing project - it automatically of course put it nice and neatly into a comp. Again, go figure. Either way... I got thru it! Now... the utter madness of the render. Guess it's a good time to go on vacation! 85 hours, Stephen!? Wow! Maybe the same for me... Who knows... Maybe the render Gods have something quite else in store... Thanks again Stephen... and everyone else.

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