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February 05
2019

ISSUE

Web Exclusive

How Adobe Lives in a Creative Cloud

By TREVOR HOGG

Characterizer in Character Animator allows users to capture and apply an artistic style to faces.

Sirr Less, Adobe Sr. Product Manager of Animation

As Adobe has shifted towards selling applications and services via an Internet-based subscription service known as Creative Cloud, the U.S.-based computer software company has decided to revamp its presence in the animation industry by developing new tools and workflows, as well as improving the interconnectivity of well-established and beta products.

Leading the way is Adobe Senior Product Manager of Animation Sirr Less, who has spent over two decades in film and video games production, and was involved in bringing Character Animator out of the Beta development stage. “I spent three weeks on the road in four countries on three continents and met with 30 studios that ranged from big ones to two or three-person shops. As you can imagine, I ran into almost as many workflows as I did studios.”

Depth passes being composited in After Effects.

Animation is core to the brand legacy of Adobe. “If you’re an animator, you’re using Photoshop somewhere in your process,” notes Less. “There are some great tools out there, but most animators don’t get to determine which ones they’re working in. We can offer several different animation tools that support three primary workflows: cel (frame by frame), key frames and performance-based/live animation, though Adobe does support stop motion and other animation types through those primary workflows. There are people who will animate a frame at a time in Photoshop, which has a timeline. Animate (formerly Flash) has drawing tools and a good frame-by-frame process, but you can do some keyframe in there as well. After Effects has this great compositing ability where it can bring all kinds of different things together.

Mesh sculpting a grasshopper in After Effects. 

“I spent three weeks on the road in four countries on three continents and met with 30 studios that ranged from big ones to two or three-person shops. As you can imagine, I ran into almost as many workflows as I did studios.”

—Sirr Less, Senior Product Manager of Animation, Adobe

“Our strategy is to make sure that our product groups are thinking about how their product is being used in animation and how it works with the other tools in Creative Cloud,” explains Less. “The second part is interoperability. Can I move an asset from one to the other? Can I rig in this one or that one? Can I deliver in different formats and to various content destinations in an assortment of ways?  Can I have a live link with my editing software so that my editing, compositing and animation software will work together? The answer to those should be ‘yes.’  The third thing is extensibility. There are a lot of apps and plug-ins out there for specialized things that people need to be able to build and do. The only way we gain on our competition is to acknowledge their existence and be able to make sure that our overall platform is the one that people return to over and over again.”

A motion-graphic template with fonts in After Effects. 

“We are now able to open an Animate FLA in After Effects with all of the layers, naming and organization preserved, and the audio sync intact. Meanwhile, we took the Lip Sync engine from Character Animator and popped that into Animate. You can compute the lip sync from the scene audio. Talk about a time saver! Additionally, Animate exports SVG files and Character Animator can import them and make use of those layers. We didn’t stop there, as designers and illustrators get paid more if they can make something that moves. In the file menu of our design tool XD, one of the options is to export to After Effects. Then you can take those After Effects layers and export and convert them to WebCode or Xcode. You can imagine a situation where somebody designs something in XD, animates it in After Effects, and publishes it as code that can be used in a real interface.”

Character Animator can compute scene audio, courtesy of Automatic Lip Sync.

Our Cartoon President is a full, 30-minutes-long episodic show on Showtime produced in Character Animator with some After Effects. What started out as a sight gag on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert evolved into a means of production where that company was able to produce their episodes in half the time with zero offshoring because of some of the efficiencies in Character Animator.”

—Sirr Less, Senior Product Manager of Animation, Adobe

Adobe has delved into the world of machine learning. “Sensei is perpetually improving the Lip Sync and is training on different vocal styles and voices,” explains Less. “We want to see it train on more accents and languages to get greater precision in each release of Lip Sync. Another area that makes use of Sensei is Characterizer, which is a tool in Character Animator that lets you do a capture of your own or a model’s face and then apply an artistic style to that or make your own style. Then it will combine the two to create a fully rigged face puppet that can be performed in Character Animator and that uses Sensei to identify the things it’s going to track, like the contour of the jaw and placement of the eyes and nose. Sensei also identifies which parts of the image are the face, background, clothing and hair. Machine learning has a place in everything digital. At Adobe we’re trying to figure out the places where it helps in the creative process and gives users the flexibility to reduce some of the more tedious elements of their work.”

The Magnet tool in Character Animator allows for the dynamic attachment of objects to a character.  

An announcement was made at Adobe MAX 2018 that Photoshop will be going to the tablet in the future. “If you look at how many Wacom Cintiqs are out there being used in the animation processes, people are still drawing digitally,” notes Less. “When we met with groups in China their focus was on cost efficiency. One of the largest game streamers in China was using Adobe Sketch to work from a tablet in their animation process. We definitely have to think about the surface as much more than the PC, and that would include mobile and tablet. A new flavor of Premiere called Rush has made its debut on IOS devices. It has been popular there and people ask, ‘Is anybody going to edit on mobile and tablet?’ The answer is ‘yes.’ People are producing so much more content in so many different ways that it doesn’t make any sense to ignore these other surfaces.”

Character Animator listens for over 60 specific sounds and translates them into visemes.

“Machine learning has a place in everything digital. At Adobe we’re trying to figure out the places where it helps in the creative process and gives users the flexibility to reduce some of the more tedious elements of their work.”

—Sirr Less, Senior Product Manager of Animation, Adobe

Trying new things is a key part of the ongoing research and development process for Adobe. “Our Cartoon President is a full, 30-minute-long episodic show on Showtime produced in Character Animator with some After Effects,” states Less.  “What started out as a sight gag on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert evolved into a means of production where they were able to produce their episodes in half the time with zero offshoring because of some of the efficiencies in Character Animator. By working closely with the show, we built the app in a lot of new directions to be robust enough to be taken seriously as a production tool and to make sure that they were able to deliver on what they said they could do. Huge cases like that are starting to give us some legs.”


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