So, you’ve got an idea for an animation that you want to make, that is heavily reliant on characters and making the characters move and interact in a fun and interesting way. A few years ago, doing something like this would involve a lot of time spent rigging your character illustrations to get them to do basic movements. But now, RubberHose 2.0 is available which makes this part of the process easy and simple, so you can spend more time animating the interesting stuff!

Rigging a character is the process of creating a skeleton for a character so that it can be manipulated and animated in a realistic way. In 2D character animation, this means separating limbs into different layers and creating points on those limbs so that they move (such as a wrist or shoulder and elbow and knee pivot points). There are several plug-ins for after effects that give you the ability to rig, however they do still need a lot of work by the animator to get them set up correctly, this is where RubberHose stands above the rest. As stated by the creator, BattleAxe, “RubberHose is the fastest way to rig and animate a character in After Effects”, and I couldn’t agree more. I am going to talk through some of the features that make RubberHose useful and how this plug-in can bring your character animation to the next level.

The basic premise of the RubberHose plug-in is that at the click of a button you can create a RubberHose shape layer, which essentially is a shape layer with points that can be animated using controllers. These controllers sit at each end of the hose and can be positioned, scaled and rotated, there is also a pivot point in the middle which replicated joints such as an elbow or knee. You have controls to change the bend direction, realise and bend radius. The plug-in is split into 3 different sections. Build, which creates a RubberHose shape layer, it also allows you to rig illustrations imported from Adobe Illustrator. Style, which lets you change the shape and colour of the RubberHose, as well as copying and pasting styles. The last section is the manage tab, this has lots of useful tools such as duplicating hose groups renaming hose groups (using the standard duplicate or renaming feature inside of After Effects will break the hose) and setting new center points.

Here is a short demo video of RubberHose from the BattleAxe website:

RubberHose gives users to create simple characters inside of After Effects in literally a few minutes.  This is handy if you want to test an animation before spending time with more detailed character design. However, the simple look that RubberHose uses is very popular in the current market and is the style the plug-in was designed to compliment the best.

RubberHose isn’t limited to just being used for characters. It can also be used in several creative ways, for example you could animate the hose to be a string on a guitar, to help create animal rigs, or even part of a text animation. However, where you really start seeing the benefit of RubberHose is with Walk Cycles and making the character move. The walk cycle below was created using the RubberHose plug-in. The body and head were created in After Effects and are shape layers. The RubberHose layers for the arms and legs were then created. The shoulder and the hip control points were parented to the Torso layer, and the wrist and ankle point controllers were keyframed using the position tool and this is how the walk cycle was created. Slight “y” axis position was also added to the torso to give the walk cycle a bit more movement. Below is the video of the walk cycle I have created.

It isn’t just people; animal movements can also be created using RubberHose. The example I have created below is of a dog. All 4 legs were created using RubberHose, duplicated and then offset in time.

Overall, using RubberHose has allowed me to think differently about not only character animating, but also character design. Being able to use shape layers for my characters instead of illustrator layers means I not only have more control, but I can spend more time with the animation. For only $45 this plug-in is a must have if you are looking to either start in character animation, or to improve the workflow you currently have.