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Continuous Rasterization and the Puppet Pin Tool? Possible? Questions and Problems.

Explorer ,
Oct 30, 2018 Oct 30, 2018

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Forgive me if this issue has been addressed here before. I've searched for an answer but haven't found exactly what I'm looking for and some of the answers I did find are from 2011 and 2013, so things may have potentially changed by then. I am new to the continuously rasterize tool and am having issues. It seems like a very powerful tool with major limitations.

Currently I am getting all sorts of issues when trying to continuously rasterize in After Effects, both in CC 2018 and CC 2019 and it's driving me crazy.

Here is what I am trying to do:

I imported an AI file that is vector. It's a simple icon image of a girl sitting at a desk. One of her arms is a separate layer.  I want to bend her arm and make her wave.  I also want to slowly zoom in on the girl as she waves. That's it. Here is what I did:

- I precomposed the woman's arm.
- Inside the pre comp I applied the puppet pin tool and the appropriate keyframes to maker her wrist and arm bend slightly back and forth so she's waving.
- In the main comp I slowly scaled up the woman.

-I then switch on the Continuous Rasterize switches for the arm layer and the precomp layer.

-Hell descends upon my project.

When I select the continuously rasterize tool on the woman's arm layer inside the precomp or if I select it on the precomp layer in the main comp window, or if both are selected, everything comes crashing to a halt. I have so many weird errors. Sometimes the arm layer just disappears and won't preview at all. Sometimes it just freezes in place and doesn't move no matter what I do. Sometimes I get a weird preview error that says "After Effects Error: Cached Preview Needs 2 or More Frames to Playback" even though the selected preview area is way more than 2 frames and I've purged my memory and cache.  And then sometimes the vector drawing just breaks up into a mess of parts in the comp window.

Bottom line, it just doesn't work at all. I'm guessing it's not designed to be used this way.

Should I just not use the puppet tool on vector layers when continuous rasterization is selected?

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Community Expert ,
Oct 30, 2018 Oct 30, 2018

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It's just a render order problem. Puppet creates a mesh based on the alpha channel of the layer when you apply the first pin and the pin position is based on the frame size of the composition. Animate a layer from left to right over two seconds, put the CTI at one second, create puppet pin and scrub through the timeline and you'll see that the pins don't move. The mesh stays right where it was when you applied the first pin. This means you cannot animate any transforms on a layer that has Puppet Pin applied to it you have to pre-compose, then transform the pre.comp. You can collapse transformations at that time but PPin generates pixels so there's not much point in doing that.

You end up with the same problem when you try and use puppet pin on a vector layer with CR turned on. The mesh is generated on the first frame, then you move the pin and it moves the pixels, then you turn on CR and after the movement, the unchanged vector shape is rasterized. It's never going to work because you cannot transform or move the vector shape and then turn it into pixels.

In the latest release of After Effects, you can't even apply puppet pin to a shape layer or a vector layer that is continuously rasterized. You also cannot animate the position, scale and rotation of a layer that has Puppet Pin applied because the mesh is generated on the first frame.

Did you follow all of that? If you want to animate a waving hand you have to do that before you do the transform. If you want to prevent jaggy edges when you push in you should turn on CR, push or zoom in making the layer is as big as it is ever going to be in the frame, pre-compose moving all attributes, collapse transformations on the nested comp, apply puppet pin and animate the waving hand, then pre-compose the animated layer moving all attributes, position the hand in it's close up position, set position and scale or camera keyframes, then pull back and place the layer in it's starting position. That's the proper workflow.

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Explorer ,
Oct 30, 2018 Oct 30, 2018

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Thank you for the detailed response. I understand each individual process that you listed but I'm still a little confused on the order.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but in your last paragraph, are these the steps you outlined?

1. New Comp set to largest resolution needed.

2. Place woman and hand layers into comp.

3. Turn on CR for woman and hand layers.

4. Scale woman and hand layers to as big as they will ever be in the frame (limited by the resolution set in the comp).
5. Precompose woman and hand layers.

6. Collapse transformation on woman and hand layers (seems to automatically do this when precomposing a layer with CR turned on)
7. Apply puppet pin to the precomposed hand layer.
8. Precompose the already precomposed puppet pinned hand layer.
9. Place keyframes on the scale (or camera is using camera) at the close up position and scale back.

And thanks again for your help.

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Adobe Employee ,
Oct 30, 2018 Oct 30, 2018

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It difficult for me to advise because you appear to be describing a specific comp and result you're trying to achieve. The guidance on my previous post is more general. Trying to troubleshoot your specific comp without seeing it is difficult.

But, in general, the steps you have outlined above are reasonable. However, I don't understand step 8, why you are pre-composing the hand layer again. Possible that's related to your camera move? I don't know if that's necessary, and would have to see the project to advise, but if you're getting the results you want this way, then I say go with it.

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Community Expert ,
Oct 30, 2018 Oct 30, 2018

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Yes, that is the workflow. You cannot apply puppet p.m. to a layer that has CR enabled. You cannot animate position scale or rotation of any layer that has puppet pin allowed.

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Adobe Employee ,
Oct 30, 2018 Oct 30, 2018

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> Should I just not use the puppet tool on vector layers when continuous rasterization is selected?

Short version: No. Best practice is to either size your artwork in Illustrator to the largest size that you expect needing for the animation, or to make all adjustments with Continuously Rasterize enabled and then pre-compose that layer, and apply the Puppet effect to the pre-comp.

Long version: When you apply the Puppet effect (which happens the first time you click on the layer with any of the pin tools), the Puppet effect's first step is to create a mesh based on the raster outline (alpha channel) of the layer. The deformations you make by applying and manipulating pins work by modifying this mesh. The pins sit on intersections of the mesh, and it's those intersections that determine how the mesh is sculpted. On each frame, the Puppet effect renders the mesh deformation result. This render is rasterized pixels, not vectors, regardless of the layer type. i.e., Input pixels are warped to the mesh and output pixels are returned.

The conflict between Continuously Rasterize (CR) and the Puppet effect isn't necessarily the difference between vector and raster, but that the Puppet effect only calculates the mesh that one time, when the effect is first applied. CR can cause the layer's outline to change on every frame. Thus, CR can cause the layer's pixels to mismatch the mesh that was created, and parts of your layer start falling outside the original mesh and stuff gets weird real quick.

This problem is noted commonly by After Effects artists, so we've investigated what it would take to solve this problem. It's not easy, and not something I see us changing soon due to the complexity. The crux of the problem is that the mesh that the Puppet tool creates is adaptive and based on the unique raster outline of the layer. If the layer outline changes, the structure of the mesh needs to be recalculated. If the Puppet effect did that on the fly, the pins you place could move unexpectedly. For example, if you placed a pin on your character's elbow, and then the mesh was recalculated on a later frame, the mesh point where the pin sits may not longer exist. After Effects would need to either move the pin to the closest mesh intersection, which might be in the middle of the forearm or upper arm, or maybe no useful mesh intersection would exist and the pin would just get deleted. A related problem is performance: calculating the mesh is relatively quick, but it's not something you want to have happen on every frame, it would slow down rendering performance significantly.

I hope that helps clarify.

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New Here ,
Dec 21, 2022 Dec 21, 2022

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I'm having the exact same issue. I a complete beginner, and tried the precomp steps but the puppett markers wouldn't follow my objects. I decided to do try the sizing up of the design in Illustrator and then scale it down in After Effects. I had just one additional question, when scaling down an object in After Effects, do i lose quality? I tried rescaling the objcets back up to the 100% at the same zoom factor, and i didn't notice much of a change if any. Are my eyes deciving me?

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New Here ,
Dec 21, 2022 Dec 21, 2022

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*I am a. *I decided to try  (sorry probably should have re-read my question before posting!)

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Community Expert ,
Dec 21, 2022 Dec 21, 2022

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>>when scaling down an object in After Effects, do i lose quality?<<

No, in general only scaling a layer up causes a loss in quality.

It sound like the original poster's problam wasn't with the puppet warp tool, it may have been with the switch. 

Continously Rasterize is only what the switch does when it is applied to a vector layer. If you switch teh same switch on for a comp layer it is actually called Collapse Transformations and changes the order of transformation for the parent and precomp.

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New Here ,
Dec 21, 2022 Dec 21, 2022

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I see, thanks for the help!

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