Cartoon Donald Trump and Mr Bean Brought To Life with Adobe Character Animator

Industrial Light & Magic has been at the cutting edge of movie CGI for years and recently they showed off their latest facial capture system to Spencer Kelly, presenter of the BBC's CLICK.

ILM has been using video capture of an actor's facial expressions to help them turn live facial capture into a fully rendered character on screen. The system aids the director, enabling him/her to immediately see the results of the actors work, while the actor can hone his/her performance by getting into the virtual skin of the character.

Naturally, ILM's technology is bigger and better than anything you can do at home. But creative technology has a habit of quickly being democratized and made available to anyone who cares to use it. So what can a small company or individual do with facial recognition on an ordinary PC or Mac?

In June 2015 Adobe revealed it's first preview of Character Animator, a software package that can take Photoshop and Illustrator layered character designs and turn them into puppets and apply behaviors to them. These behaviors can be controlled live via webcam for facial expressions, upper body movement and lip sync. Further behaviors can be triggered by keyboard input.

The body layers of the character can be appear to move through warping.

With the release of Beta 6 in the spring of 2017 Adobe added automatic walk liberated the characters from being fixed to one spot by adding automatic walk cycles, plus a live streaming.

Scenes can be exported from Character Animator in various video formats or as a PNG image sequence and wav file for the sound. However, the scenes can be imported into After Effects and Premiere Pro without the need for rendering by utilizing Adobe's Dynamic Link. 

Because characters are controlled live by the actors facial expressions, body movement and speech, the technology has been picked by broadcasters to interact in real time with TV presenters. An example being Cartoon Donald Trump on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
Cartoon Donald Trump was created by the show's Lead Animator Tim Luecke and Senior Digital Producer and Writer Rob Dubbin. In this interview they explain how they have been able to break new ground on the show, as well as showing some great examples of Cartoon Donald Trump.

Another clever use of Character Animator was how the team behind the animated Mr Bean brought the bumbling character to Facebook, where he was able to interact live with his adoring fans.

Read more on the Adobe Create Cloud blog or click below to watch how the team brought Mr Bean to Facebook Live.

In September 2017 Adobe finally released Character Animator as version 1.1, part of their Creative Cloud suite of apps. If you want to give Character Animator a go, even just to see how you can control a ready made cartoon puppet via your webcam, sign-up for a FREE seven-day trial at Adobe's website. The app is available for Windows and Mac.


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