Originally posted on 30 October 2021. Scroll down for news of the Character Animator 22.5 update.
Adobe has updated its Character Animator, its real-time puppet animation software.
The Character Animator 22.0 update adds Body Tracker, a new system that tracks a performer’s arms, torso and legs, enabling them to perform full-body animations for a digital character in real time.
In addition, a new Smart Replays system simplifies the process of triggering pre-recorded animations.
Generate puppet-style animation from video footage of an actor, complete with facial expressions
First released in 2017, Character Animator generates real-time puppet-style animation from video footage of an actor, complete with lip sync and facial expressions.
Subsequent updates have added the option to trigger readymade character animations when streaming live, and keyframe and graph editing tools for refining animations offline.
As well as being widely used on YouTube, Character Animator has been used to produce US broadcast series like Our Cartoon President, and won a technical Emmy Award in 2020.
New in Character Animator 22.0: support for real-time full-body puppeteering
The major new feature in the Character Animator 22.0 is Body Tracker, which enables the software to track a puppeteer’s arms, torso and legs in real time, and apply the motion to the digital character.
The system, shown in the video above, turns Character Animator into more of a full-body animation tool.
While it was previously possible to animate a character’s body, users were largely confined to moving on the spot, or to triggering previously created animations.
In addition, the Head Turner behaviour, which switches a digital puppet between front, quarter and profile views, has now been updated to support full body views, and renamed Head & Body Turner.
Other changes include Smart Replays, intended to streamline the user interface used to trigger pre-recorded animations during performances.
But why is it version 22.0?
Despite the enormous hike in version number since the release of Character Animator 4.0 in May, you haven’t missed Character Animator 5.0 through 21.0: there haven’t been any major intervening releases.
Adobe says that the change is intended to simplify the deployment of multiple apps in a creative pipeline with “users with any 22.x version [able to] work with any other 22.x”.
Updated 16 December 2021: Adobe has released Character Animator 22.1.
The update adds Puppet Maker, a new toolset for generating 2D characters for use in the software from readymade body and facial parts, as shown in the video above.
Users also get the option to generate automatic lip-sync animation for a character from a text transcript of the dialogue, as well as from an audio recording of the speech itself.
Updated 22 June 2022: Adobe has released Character Animator 22.5.
Despite the hike in version number, it’s the first feature update to the software this year: according to the online changelog, there haven’t been any numbered releases since Character Animator 22.1.
The major change in the release is the introduction of Starter Mode: a new free-to-use introductory mode that lets non-paying users create animations.
The mode, which is available to anyone with an Adobe account, makes it possible to create animations using a simplified interface and the sample puppets provided, and export them as H.264 MP4 files.
Users have access to Character Animator’s full Controls panel, but only a single-track timeline. In addition, Starter mode doesn’t include Puppet Maker or other puppet-creation tools. See the restrictions here.
Starter mode projects can be converted to the paid Pro mode, but not vice versa.
Pro users get Auto-swap, a new system for automatically switching to the pose in layered artwork most closely matching a character’s movement for more accurate frame-by-frame animation.
Pricing and availability
Character Animator 22.5 is available for Windows 10 and macOS 10.15+. The software is rental-only, via Adobe’s All Apps subscriptions, the cost of which has now risen to $82.49/month or $599.88/year.
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