Thanks for the note, Ben. For ‘Death Tooth’ (http://vimeo.com/65156055) I didn’t have a lot of time to draw my shadows/ highlights as I normally would–as in, draw them frame by frame as a separate layer in Photoshop–so I opted to animate a dark blue shape-layer mask over everything in AE. That’s the hard edged shadow you’re seeing cutting the character in half. It’s kinda sloppy, but it worked in that instance.
Usually, I will hand animate a highlight and a shadow pass and use them as mattes in AE to comp with. You’d be surprised how much you can do with a couple of mattes, blending modes and lots of blurs!
I use a mix of brushes to give things texture and generally prefer to paint any noise that appears over my animation. I LOVE Shady Safadi’s brush set – lots of interesting stuff and tutorials over there.
But when I need some quick, overall noise, I’ll make it in AE. Here’s my effect setup from the Blinky gif: