There are many talented designers and animators who create inspiring work through After Effects, but it’s rare that an artist can completely defy what most think is possible with the platform.
After Effects has tools for animating characters and many plugins like RubberHose exist to help make character animation easier. But the work that Daniel Gies has done with his studio e.d.Films is far and away beyond what most anyone else has achieved in the realm of character animation in After Effects.
Daniel operates on a different level to create stunning illustrated, fully animated characters that rival Hollywood style animation. And he’s made a point of sharing his secrets through a series of tutorials online.
Let’s explore some Gies’ beautiful character animation and dive into a little bit of how he pulls it off.
Daniel works out of his studio, e.d.Films, in Montreal Canada where he classifies himself as a “digital puppeteer.” This is an apt title for the work he creates which is filled with life and natural movement.
He began his creative endeavors as a child working on flipbooks and using Autodesk Animator on his dad’s computer. He cites his parents as his best teachers. When it came time for schooling, he started in film, television, and post-production before moving into animation, a combination that probably gave him the large set of tools he needs to pull off his creations.
Here Gies excels in his ability to be both a creative force with a wild imagination and a master of his tools on a technical level. Whereas many people are fortunate to have either skill set, Gies seamlessly melds both.
So, let’s take a look at one of his creations. Below is a skillfully animated piece created by e.d.Films for the Alberta Science Foundation. It combines hand-drawn illustration techniques, beautiful paint effects, and clever paper cut out elements along with Gies’ wonderfully rigged and animated After Effects characters.
The piece is amazing and inspiring to watch. But what’s better is that Gies shares in detail how he rigged his main character in a series of tutorials available for free online.
Even more amazing is that this animation was done way back in 2011, decades in terms of software innovation. Even with all of the new tools available, this piece still stands out as original and fresh.
Another shining example of Daniel Gies’ signature look can be seen in the “Pipelines: Here, There, Everywhere?” video also created for the Alberta Science Foundation. Again Gies uses hand-drawn illustration techniques and paper cut out effects, along with some interesting paper textures, for a unique look and feel, that works well against his animated characters.
And again, Gies followed up with a tutorial series on how he created this video. This series is called “From Paper To After Effects” and can be found for free on Gies’ YouTube channel.
The success of the above tutorial series led Gies to revisit the subject matter with another tutorial series titled “From Paper to After Effects: Revisited” which is totally free as well. The second series has even more advanced techniques that Gies explored with his multi-angled character.
The completed animations created by Gies and the team at e.d.Films are often jaw-dropping, but it’s just as inspiring to watch some of the many text animations that Gies posts regularly on his Vimeo channel. Like this polar bear “talk test” created in After Effects with a layered painting, the puppet tool, and some liquify distortion.
Then there is this beautifully designed and animated elephant walk cycle, also built-in After Effects.
In recent years, Daniel Gies has started working in Maya as well to build fully 3D characters for some of his work, but that hasn’t stopped him from using After Effects to push the envelope on 2D character animation. And it hasn’t stopped him from exploring ways to use After Effects uniquely where many artists might opt for 3D simulations.
Take this example of the recently released short created for the National Geographic Museum called “Monster Fish – In Search of the Last River Giants”. This beautiful piece mixes a combination of 3D elements with 2D elements to build a deep and rich environment for exploration.
But in a tutorial series released by Gies, he shows artists that he opted to create the flowing river and lake reflections in After Effects as opposed to using 3D simulation. This is just another example of the creative approach to his work and the understanding of his medium on a deep level.
For artists looking to gain an even deeper understanding of the technique Gies has developed and mastered, he offers a series of paid tutorials though the online education portal Digital Tutors.
It’s worth taking a look if you are interested in developing characters within After Effects. But it’s also worth following Gies and his company e.d.Films through all of their online channels, just to keep up with what their future holds and to be inspired and amazed on a regular basis.