I remember that this has been discussed on the forums and IIRC the solution was to have two arms: one behind and one in front and then exchange them via keyboard shortcuts when recording the scene.
Right now the layer order is determined by the layer order in Photoshop or Illustrator. The workaround is to switch between artwork using keyboard triggers. We do plan to make this easier and possible with only one copy of the artwork, but that would be a new feature that is not yet under development.
Since Character Animator works with groups, doesn't that mean you would have to rig each group separately, one in front, and one behind? If so, how would you ensure that the animation on each layer is the same when you trigger the switch so the layers line up? I'm curious how this switch rig is set up. Can you provide an example?
Otherwise, is there a way to parent two layer groups together like in AE without having to group them, or is there talk of adding a puppet overlap tool like in AE so that only a portion of a layer, for example a forearm, could appear in front an upper arm and the body?
Right now it seems like the best way to do this is to render separate foreground, middleground and background layers out of ChA and composite them in AE. If there's another better way of doing this I would like to know.
See the mouth swap technique listed here:
Now imagine if there were two of these, one above the head group and on below it, and it switches between two groups on a key press - a bank one and the full arm group. So basically you'd offset them to have one group turn on while the other goes off, so only one shows at a time. I have honestly never seen a puppet with this switch technique for the arms though - probably because of its complexity. Most people seem to pick front or back and stick with it.
We would like to make this easier, it's a top request at http://adobe.com/go/ch_wish.
Thanks for getting back so quickly.
The layer trigger function is very straightforward, easy to use, and works perfectly for mouths and other static layers, but it doesn't quite work for what we need. We would need to be able to switch to another layer like an arm or leg in the middle of a dragger movement and the layer would then need to be animating the same as the previous layer - like they were linked or parented somehow. As I said, rendering out different layers and comping in AE works perfectly, but it would be nice to be able to do everything in one place.
Currently, I work for a small animation studio on a web series with rather complex animation. We usually use a mixture of hand-drawn animation and/or assets done on paper, cleaned up and colored in Photoshop, and puppets rigged with DUIK either animated or composited in AE. The control DUIK offers is great, but even though it offers a lot of excellent tools for automation, all the puppet pin creation and renaming makes it more consuming to rig than ChA. Also, the expressions it writes makes animating in AE laggy, to the point where I usually just convert PSD layers to quarter res proxies for huge photoshop documents.
The fact that Character Animator can take a giant document and run in real-time is a huge plus. And, I think a lot of the new functionality it offers like the walk cycles and vizeme editing are excellent, and will allow us to create other simple animations very fast. But, right now it's lacking a few important features that would help make it production ready.
I briefly worked for Adobe a few years back so I know it can be tricky to figure out which feature requests to add, but I think customizable layer overlapping is a must. I'm going to add it to the feature request page as well as a few other ideas I have that I think will help make this tool more ideal for a production environment. I really hope these features are added to the next version and if Character Animator continues to improve to the point where it offers the same level of control as DUIK, we may make it a major part of our pipeline and use it instead.
Thanks for the feedback, very helpful. Agreed that this would be a very powerful and helpful feature. Yeah, we're still in the early stages, but I think it's inevitable that we'll keep adding more control like this. I think the arms in particular are going to get a lot of improvements in the next year...