Your performance of a scene’s puppets can be captured during recording. Each recording of a specific armed behavior parameter for a puppet is called a take.
A scene’s timeline (shown in the Timeline panel) represents each puppet instance as a selectable track item. When selected, the Properties panel shows the behaviors for the source (master definition) of the puppet, plus any overridden behavior parameter values for this specific instance. For example, the same puppet can be added multiple times to a scene, with each puppet’s track item having a different Position transform for placement within the scene.
A scene has three modes:
- Stop: Scenes open in this mode. Behaviors (except for Breathe, Cycle Layers, Physics, Handle Fixer, Transform, and Wiggler) do not affect the puppet unless armed for
record. When not armed, the latest recorded take for a behavior at the current time indicator ( playhead) is used. While stopped, no imported audio, including audio in takes, play back. You can rehearse behaviors in this mode — nothing is recorded.
- Play: This mode plays back takes and audio. The current time indicator moves in time. Changes to behavior parameter values do not affect the results if a take of the same parameter exists at a given time; if no take data exists, the parameter’s value is used but not recorded.
- Record: While recording, values for armed behavior parameters are captured as a
takefor each parameter, and any existing takes are played back. You can also record at a slower speed for finercapture of a performance. Playback is always at normal speed.
There are transport controls for these modes. Using these modes, you can perform basic recording of a performance, playback, and reviewing of recorded takes, and re-recording of a performance to correct mistakes. This lets you do a multi-track recording of different inputs and layer several takes.
The Go to Start button moves the current time back to the start of the scene (if stopped) or the start of playback (if in Play). The Go to Previous Frame and Go to Next Frame buttons move one frame backward or forward in time (when stopped).
When you open the Rig or the Stream workspaces, transport controls don’t appear as part of the default panel controls. To view transport controls, select Always Show Play and Record Controls option in the
Your audio input and output hardware must share sample rate.
The movement of your head to control a puppet’s face, the dragging of a character’s hand to make it wave, and other actions to capture a performance is done by recording a take. You can perform these tasks in the Record workspace.
A 3-second countdown starts by default before recording starts. Use this time to prepare for recording or capture of a specific pose for your puppet. To enable or disable countdown, follow this step:
- Open Timeline and enable the Countdown Before Recording option.
- To control puppets via webcam, make sure the Camera Input button in the Camera & Microphone panel is enabled (blue icon). Also, to improve face tracking results, set your rest pose using the Set Rest Pose button.
- To record audio during the performance, make sure that the Microphone Input button Camera & Microphone panel is enabled (the default setting). When enabled, the Audio Level meter monitors audio input levels from –48 dB to 0 dB. The meter turns red at 0 dB. If the meter displays “Audio Level Too Low”, try boosting your microphone levels in the operating system’s Sound control panel or move closer to the microphone.
To arm the track for recording, select the puppet (either its track item or puppet name in the track header on the left side of the panel).
A selected/armed puppet allows you to isolate recording to ajust its track. By default, clicking a puppet track item or header, or adding a puppet to a scene, deselects/disarms other puppets in the scene. To select multiple puppets to arm for record, press Command/Ctrl-click. An armed puppet track appears with a red background in the track header.
In the Properties panel, enable the Arm for Record button (small circle next to the behavior’s name) for all behaviors you want to record for the puppet.
Alsoenable the Arm for Record buttons for individual behavior parameters you want to capture in the take.
Armed behaviors appear with a filled red circle (like a small record button). For an armed behavior, its armed parameter also appears with a filled red circle next to the parameter’s name. Values for the armed behavior parameters on the armed tracks are captured. You can switch between different puppets to capture by selecting (arming) a puppet’s track item or header without needing to disarm behaviors on other puppets.
When a behavior's Arm for Record button is a dim red, it means that none of its parameters are armed. Disarmed behaviors are not included in the next recording.
Set the start time for the recording.
You can start at the beginning of the scene by clicking the Go to Start button, play, and then stop at a specific time. You can also click or scrub along the time ruler at the top of the Timeline panel.
To “punch in” during playback, you can start recording (described next) without first pausing.
Do your performance using webcam, microphone, keyboard, and mouse inputs, and adjustments to armed behavior parameter values.
If you armed Camera Input or Audio Input parameters for behaviors but the respective Camera Input and Microphone Input buttons (in the Camera & Microphone panel) are disabled, no takes are captured for those parameters. Similarly, if you armed Mouse Input and Keyboard Input parameters but don’t actually click in the Scene panel or press a key, takes are not captured.
The recorded take is saved to a Recordings folder on disk (in the Ch Media subfolder of the current project folder). The take is also imported into the Project panel in the Recordings folder and added into the scene. If microphone input was recorded, the WAV file for it appears as an audio track item.
The puppet’s track is collapsed by default. A lighter-colored take summary bar indicating the presence of recorded takes appears along the bottom of the puppet track item’s bar.
macOS only- to automatically switch to changes in the OS audio device settings, choose System Default in the Audio Hardware preferences. This can be configured separately for input and output devices.
To select a camera, choose it from the panel menu in the Camera & Microphone panel. The available camera sources are listed by name.
- If no compatible camera is available, the panel menu will show the message No Camera Detected.
- If there is a delay in receiving the first frame of video, the panel menu message will show Waiting for camera.
- If a camera needs to be selected from the panel menu, or if there is no camera available, the panel menu message will show No camera selected.
- If another application is using the camera when Character Animator launches, the message says Selected camera is unavailable.
- If the selected camera is no longer available, for example, if it was unplugged, the message shows Camera was disconnected.
If the Camera Input button gets disabled due to an issue, clicking (enabling) it will attempt to reacquire video from the selected camera.
When a puppet track is selected in the timeline, each behavior in the Properties panel includes a menu button with the following commands:
- Reveal in Puppet Panel opens the puppet that has this behavior applied in the Puppet panel. When a behavior is applied to a layer of a puppet, that layer is selected in the Puppet panel.
- Push Behavior Parameter changes to Source Puppet updates the source puppet to use the same values for this behavior. This command is like the Push Parameter Changes to Source Puppet button (which updates all behaviors) and the Push Value to Source Puppet command in the behavior parameter menu.
When a puppet track is selected in the timeline, and you hover over a behavior’s noninput parameters in the Properties panel, the parameter menu (“…”) button appears to the left of the parameter name. Various operations for a behavior parameter are available in the parameter menu. For more information about these commands, see Behavior parameter menu.
Each puppet track has its own Arm for Record button that can be controlled separately from the puppet track being selected.
Clicking puppet track items or track headers still switches arming to that puppet. Deselecting a puppet track by clicking away from it (for example, by editing a take or viseme bar on a different puppet track) does not disarm the previously armed puppet tracks.
You can arm multiple puppet tracks by Shift-clicking or Command/Ctrl-clicking the Arm for Record buttons for those tracks. To ensure that puppet tracks do not get disarmed, select only the takes or
To select a camera, choose it from the panel menu in the Camera & Microphone panel. The available camera sources are listed by name.
If no compatible camera is available, the panel menu will show No Camera Detected. If there are issues with the camera input, the panel will show one of the following errors:
- If there is a delay in receiving the first frame of video, the error message says Waiting for
- If a camera needs to be selected from the panel menu, or if there is no camera available, the message says No camera selected.
- If another application is using the camera when Character Animator launches, the message says
Selectedcamera is unavailable.
- If the selected camera is no longer available, such as if it was unplugged, the error message reads Camera was disconnected.
If the Camera Input button gets disabled due to an issue, clicking (enabling) it will attempt to reacquire video from the selected camera.
The accuracy of face tracking is affected by the quality of the image captured by the webcam. To enhance the image quality, enable automatic camera adjustment based on real-time analysis of lighting conditions, as follows:
- Select the Automatic Lighting Compensation option from the Camera & Microphone panel menu. This option is enabled by default.
This lighting adjustment is not used in Characterizer or on macOS.
To capture the finer movements, you can record and perform at a speed slower than the frame rate of the scene.
To change the recording speed for a scene, do the following:
- Open the scene in the Scene panel, then change the Recording Speed setting at the bottom of the panel.
These scene settings will be used for the next scene created.
Tracks (puppets, audio, scenes) in a scene’s timeline are named after their source item in the Project panel. You can give tracks custom names to help identify the purpose or use of a track. Custom track names aren’t affected by changes you might make to the source item’s name.
To rename a track, do either of the following:
- Select a track, then press Return (macOS) / Enter (Windows).
- Right-click above the header (left-side) part of a track, then choose Rename.
A scene’s timeline has a work area that you can enable to isolate operations to a range of frames in a scene. You can enable the work area when needed, and disable it when not needed.
To enable or disable the work area, follow these steps:
- Either click the work area bar at the top of the time ruler or toggle the Enable Work Area command in the Timeline menu or Context menu above the work area bar.
- Dragging any part of a disabled work area bar enables it.
When enabled, the work area is a lighter-gray bar and its range of time is highlighted in the track area. When disabled, the work area bar is a subtle darker-gray color.
To change the start or end time for the work area, do either of the following:
• Set Work Area Start to Playhead places the start of the work area at the beginning (left side) of the frame the playhead is in, if the playhead isn’t aligned to a frame boundary.
• Set Work Area End to Playhead places the end of the work area at the end (right side) of the frame the playhead is in, if the playhead isn’t aligned to a frame boundary.
• Place the
Note: You cannot set the start time after the end of the work
To set the work area to match the selected tracks or take bars:
Choose Set Work Area to Selection (Option/Alt+/) from either the Timeline menu or the context menu above the work area bar. The work area will span the earliest and latest times in the selection.
To shift the work area in time, do the following:
Drag the middle of the work area bar horizontally. Dragging the edges or middle of the work area bar will snap the start or end of the work area bar to the edges of puppet track bars, take bars, and markers. Similarly, dragging the edges of puppet track bars or take bars or markers, will snap them to the start or end of the work area bar.
Set Work Area Selection
Places the start and end of the work area at the nearest frame boundaries that enclose the selection.
Go to Work Area End
Places the playhead at the beginning of the last frame in the work area, instead of at the end of the last frame.
Trim Out to Playhead
Trims the track or take to the end of the frame the playhead is in. That way, the content of the track or take is still visible at the playhead.
Also, playback will start at the frame the playhead is in. So, if the playhead is at the right edge of the work area, playback won’t loop around to the start of the work area.
To jump to the start or end of the work area, do the following:
- Right-click above the work area bar, then choose Go to Work Area Start or Go to Work Area End from the context menu.
- Use the keyboard shortcut Option/Alt+Left Arrow and Option/Alt+Right Arrow.
When the work area is enabled, you can perform the following edits:
- To delete the segment of selected takes within the work area, either choose Timeline > Clear to leave a gap (no recordings in the work area) or Timeline > Ripple Delete to close the gap by shifting the selected takes originally after the work area to the start of the work area.
- To insert a gap in time the duration of the work area for the selected takes, choose Timeline > Insert Time.
The Clear, Ripple Delete, and Insert Time commands are also available in the context menu above the work area bar.
When the work area is enabled, playback of the scene will automatically loop within the work area. Playback starts at the current time
When the work area is enabled, the Timeline > Record Take for Work Area command (Command/Ctrl+3) creates a new take. The new take covers the duration of the work area for the armed behavior parameters.
When the work area is enabled, the scene export commands (File > Export > Video via Adobe Media Encoder and File > Export > PNG Sequence and WAV) only use the segment of time within the work area.
Note: Scenes with puppets that use Physics simulations (Dangle, Collide, Particles) will still require frames before the start of the work area to be rendered (that is, a run-up) to export the intended results for the frames in the work area.
When the work area is disabled, those commands export the full duration of the scene.
Note: The work area is ignored when dragging a scene into After Effects or Premiere Pro. The scene’s duration is used in these Dynamic Link workflows
When the work area is enabled, you can trim the scene to just the segment of time within the work area by choosing Timeline > Trim Scene to Work Area or the same command in the context menu above the work area bar.
Zooming and scrolling in the Timeline panel
To zoom time via gestures, do any of the following:
- With the mouse pointer above a specific time in the Timeline panel, do a pinch-to-zoom gesture on a trackpad. Alternatively, hold down Option (macOS) or Alt or Ctrl (Windows) as you spin the mouse wheel or swipe using two fingers vertically on a trackpad.
- Do a pinch-to-zoom gesture above a specific time in the Timeline panel on a touchscreen.
To scroll across time or tracks via gestures, do either of the following:
- With the mouse pointer above the Timeline panel, swipe using two fingers either horizontally or vertically across a trackpad. Alternatively, to scroll across time, hold down Shift as you spin the mouse wheel or swipe using two fingers vertically on a trackpad.
- Swipe using two fingers either horizontally or vertically across the Timeline panel on a touchscreen.
Moving a track, take, trigger, or
To position these bars or markers off of a frame boundary, do the following:
- Hold down the Command (macOS) or Ctrl (Windows) key while dragging.
Note: Pressing the Up/Down Arrow keys for a selected trigger or viseme bar still offsets the bar in time by the duration of a frame.
The Playback Speed setting allows you to review finer movements or changes in a performance by playing back the scene at a slower speed. You can use this control with the controllable recording speed.
To change the playback speed for a scene, open the scene in the Scene panel, and change the Playback Speed setting from the Playback and Recording Speed control. This option is present at the bottom of the panel.
When playback and recording speeds are different, both values are indicated, with recording speed in red. When they’re the same, only that value is shown.
Unlike other scene properties but like recording speed, new scenes always default to normal (1.0x) playback speed, instead of the last-used playback speed.
To start at a specific time in the scene
Click or drag along the time ruler (at the top of the Timeline panel). Dragging also scrubs audio in the scene.
To start playback
Click Play or press Spacebar. Recorded takes play back, and the displayed time code updates accordingly.
To control playback speed for a scene
Open the scene in the Scene panel, then change the Playback Speed setting in the Playback and Recording Speed control at the bottom of the panel.
When playback and recording speeds are different, both the values are indicated, with recording speed in red. When both the speeds are the same, only that value is shown.
The playhead snaps to frame boundaries by default, and when zoomed in time in the Timeline panel you can see the duration of a frame shaded in a light blue (similar to the shading seen in After Effects and Photoshop).
The Scene panel shows the middle time within this frame duration, but audio can still play across the frame duration. Track and take operations, such as recording, split, and snapping, still happen at the red line (left edge).
To unsnap the playhead from frame boundaries for finer positioning or audio scrubbing, hold down Command (mac) or Ctrl (Windows) as you drag the playhead.
By default, stopping playback leaves the
To return the
- Select Timeline > Return to Start Position on Stop option.
To scroll through time in a scene, you can use the following keyboard shortcuts.
- Page Up or Page Down: Scrolls left or right one “page” at a time within visible range of time.
- Command/ Control+ Page Up or Command/ Control + Page Down: Scrolls left or right less than a page at a time.
In order to keep the
To prevent scrolling in time during playback and recording, follow this step:
- Deselect the Timeline > Scroll During Playback option.
Each audio track in a scene’s timeline has its own Volume setting. Fore more information, see Audio track volume control.
If you want to extend the pose of a character’s recorded performance (takes) at the current time, create hold takes. Hold takes
Each selected take has a new, one-second hold take above it. You can lengthen and move hold takes as needed, and even blend them into the takes below them for smoother transitions. The tick marks along the bottom edge of each hold take indicate that the value is constant, extending both earlier and later in time.
Hold takes for Lip Sync or Trigger takes can be lengthened from either end, but the start of the viseme or trigger bar doesn’t extend automatically. You can still drag it manually as needed.
To show or hide the puppet's recordings, click the disclosure triangle next to a puppet’s name in the track header in the Timeline panel. Each recorded behavior parameter appears as a separate projection bar that summarizes the takes within it. If you don’t see any projection bars under a puppet’s track item, check that you armed at least one behavior parameter for recording and that the track was selected/armed before recording.
You can modify all takes for a parameter from its projection bar, or make finer adjustments to specific takes by clicking the disclosure triangle for the projection bar.
If more than one take was recorded for a parameter, the topmost take bar at any given time is used, and any information from take bars below it is ignored (and shown without color as if in a shadow). Transition points between takes for a parameter are indicated by a vertical line on the parameter’s projection bar.
Replays let you trigger the recorded takes for a puppet, either live or for rerecording. Use it for making
You can capture the current pose of a character, specifically the behavior parameters armed for record, as one- or two-frame takes to animate “on ones” or “on twos.” For example, if you have the Dragger behavior’s After Move parameter set to Hold in Place, you can pose a character’s arms, record a one-frame take, change the pose, record another one-frame take, and so on. Like any recorded take, you can extend its duration afterwards to, for example, hold a pose longer.
To record one- or two-frame takes for armed parameters, choose either Timeline > Record 1-frame Take (Command/Ctrl+1) or Record 2-frame Take (Command/Ctrl+2).
You can blend performances at the beginning and the end of a take to smoothly transition between existing takes or the default appearance. You can also customize blend durations or quickly set a take to blend with the default duration. For more information, see Blend performances together.
You can change the timing and order of puppets, recorded takes, and audio to fine-tune your work. Puppets and audio appear as track items (larger bars), and recorded takes appear as shorter bars under puppet track items. You can also zoom in or out in time for easier access to track bars or a temporal overview of the scene.
When zoomed into the duration of a frame of time in the Timeline panel, the horizontal center of the frame is denoted with a dashed line to indicate the exact time that the track item or take is being sampled.
Drag the Zoom Timeline slider or click the Zoom Timeline In, Zoom Timeline Out, or Zoom Timeline to Fit Entire Scene buttons in the lower-right corner of the Timeline panel. The buttons have keyboard shortcuts (–, =, and \).
Use the horizontal scrollbar below the scrollable region of the Timeline panel or swipe horizontally on the trackpad.
- Click the track’s name (for a puppet) or the track item’s bar to select it.
Select a track item for a puppet to modify the behavior parameter values for the puppet’s instance in the scene, overriding the values in the source (master) definition of the puppet.
Selecting a puppet track automatically arm the puppet for recording.
- To toggle the selection of a puppet, Shift-click or Command/Ctrl-click the puppet’s track item or the track’s name (track header on the left side of the panel). Toggle selection allows you to select multiple puppets at the same time.
- To deselect all contents click away from any track item bar.
Selected track items appear solid blue in the Timeline panel. When a take or projection bar for a puppet is selected (either directly selected or after recording takes), the bar becomes solid blue. The puppet track gets outlined in blue to indicate that something in the puppet’s hierarchy is selected. This hierarchical selection also allows the puppet’s behavior parameters to be visible in the Properties panel and modified immediately after adjusting takes.
- Click a take to select it and other takes captured during the same recording pass. These takes are linked by
default,and can be dragged and trimmed in unison.
- Shift-click or Command/Ctrl-click a take to toggle the selection of linked takes.
Shorten a puppet or an audio track item or take by splitting it at the playhead (current time). This operation essentially duplicates the selection, and trims the original and the new bars.
To split track items or takes:
- Select the items and place the playhead at the split time.
- Choose Edit > Split (Shift+Command/Ctrl+D).
Create a copy of a track item or takes to use later.
To duplicate track item or takes:
- Select the items or takes.
- Choose Edit > Duplicate (Command/Ctrl+D).
- To shift it in time, drag the middle part of the bar horizontally.
- To trim its start or end time, drag the left or right end of the bar.
Extending a take bar from either end holds the take's recorded values before the original In point and after the original Out point of the take.
If you split a take, extending from the split point just reveals the trimmed part.
Shift the selected tracks, takes, trigger/viseme bars, or keyframes in time to align to the playhead, by using the Timeline > Move Selection In to Playhead ([) or Timeline > Move Selection Out to Playhead (]) commands.
To reorder a track, for example, to change the rendering order of puppet, select the track, then choose Timeline > Arrange > Move Up or Move Down, or press Command+Up/Down Arrow or Ctrl+Up/Down Arrow.
Select a track item, then choose Edit > Delete or press Delete or Backspace. Deleting an audio track item does not remove its track.
Move selected takes for the same parameter up or down via Timeline > Move Up or Move Down commands. The commands can still be used for selected tracks.
- To delete a puppet’s takes, select all the takes and press Delete.
- To delete the puppet track, press Delete after the takes are deleted and the selection is at the puppet track.
All types of takes can be cut, copied, and pasted between puppets and projects. To reuse takes, follow these steps:
The selected take is pasted relative to the
For more information about taking Character Animator
- Pasting a behavior that is hidden by default but isn’t hidden while being copied (Cycle Layers) pastes the new instance as hidden.
- Pasted behaviors are always added at the top level of the puppet, even if the copied take was for a behavior lower in the puppet structure.
- Pasted behaviors do not retain any custom behavior names.
- Copied takes for multiple instances of the same behavior (two instances of Face at different places in the puppet structure) gets pasted into a single instance of the behavior.
Instead of copying the entire Audio Input take of
Visemes and triggers can be pasted on a different puppet track. However, to reuse triggers, be sure the target puppet has equivalent triggers in the Triggers panel for those being pasted. Copying a puppet’s triggers from the Triggers panel and pasting them into the target puppet’s Triggers panel ensures this compatibility.
You can blend performances at the beginning and the end of a take to smoothly transition between a puppet’s default appearance and its recorded performances. You can also customize blend durations or quickly set a default duration.
1. Expand the puppet and projection bar that contains a blendable take.
You can blend the following takes:
- Numeric parameters like Dangle’s Wind Strength or Transform’s Scale
- Angle parameters like Transform’s Rotation
- Face’s Camera Input parameter
- Dragger’s Mouse & Touch Input parameter
2. Do one of the following:
- To use a custom blend duration, drag the small square at either top corner of the take bar inward; the cursor changes to a finger with arrows on either side when above the square. The farther you drag from the edge of the bar, the more gradually you can ease into or out from the recorded performance.
- To use a default (half-second) blend duration, select the projection or take bar, then choose Timeline > Blend Take submenu. You can blend only the incoming (Blend In), outgoing (Blend Out), or both sides (Blend In and Out) of the take. You can further customize the duration by dragging the small squares.
- To cycle through available default blend durations, choose Timeline > Blend Take > Next Blend (Command/Ctrl+B) or Previous Blend (Shift+Command/Ctrl+B).
When you trim a take, in (left side) and out (right side) blend durations do not change unless the take bar duration becomes shorter than the blend durations.
The Timeline > Blend Take commands set a default duration for the incoming and outgoing blends, but don’t set the ease to a specific type of curve. The default is Ease In & Out.
To set the blend easing curve:
1. Right-click above the incoming blend and then choose Blend In Curve, above the outgoing blend and then choose Blend Out Curve, or in the middle of the take bar and then choose Blend.
2. Choose an easing type from the submenu: No Easing (linear curve), Ease In (ease into the blend), Ease Out (ease out from the blend), or Ease In & Out (ease both ends of the blend).
Do one of the following:
- Choose Timeline > Blend Take > Remove Blend.
- Drag the small square toward the edges of the take bar.
Markers let you mark up specific changes (for example, when a character is looking to the left) in a scene’s timeline. Stop markers allow playback to stop when they are reached. You can switch between a regular informational marker and a stop marker at any time.
To create a marker, move the playhead to the intended time, then do either of the following:
- For a regular marker, choose Timeline > Add Marker (Ctrl+8 on Mac, Numpad * on Windows).
- For a stop marker, choose Timeline > Add Stop Marker (Ctrl+Shift+8 on Mac, Shift+Numpad * on Windows). The icon for a stop marker shows a small square sign.
Note: You can switch a regular marker to a stop marker, or conversely. To switch, right-click the marker, and enable or disable the Stop Playback at Marker option.
- To move a marker to a different time, drag it horizontally. Markers can snap to other items in the timeline, and conversely.
Markers in a Character Animator scene appear in other applications using Dynamic Link. For example, when you drag a scene from Character Animator's Project panel into After Effects's Project panel, those scene's markers appear as composition markers in After Effects.
Tip: If you make changes to the scene's markers in Character Animator, refresh the markers in After Effects by right-clicking above a composition marker and then choosing Update Markers From Source.
The audio track shows the waveform of the audio file helping you adjust the timing of puppets, takes, and
When you record a scene, each audio track in a scene’s timeline has its own Volume setting (specified in decibels, dB) to control that track’s volume level independently. Use the slider to adjust the values.
By default, multiple recordings for a parameter creates take bars on separate rows in the Timeline panel, but you can collapse them into a single lane to reduce vertical scrolling and still have access to them individually.
Click the twirl arrow to collapse or expand a parameter’s takes. The twirl arrow only appears if a parameter has multiple takes.