Hand-drawn animation with After Effects Paint tools

Hand-drawn animation with After Effects Paint tools

Week four of 2011 brings my fourth FREE Giveaway Tutorial.

This tutorial comes from my Adobe After Effects CS5 Learn by Video DVD from video2brain.

The paint tools in After Effects are usually used for cloning or filling in mattes, but they can also be used to create stop-motion-style animation. In this movie you’ll see how they can be used to create a stop-motion style without the need for painful frame-by-frame tweaking of keyframes or drawings.

In this Jumpstart tutorial I’ll show you how to create a little animated stickman, creating a looping walk cycle. I hope you can use the tips and tricks from this tutorial to create your own unique twist on my idea. If you do please come back here and post a link to your creation, I’d love to see it!

There are a few Jumpstart tutorials included with the Learn by Video DVD. These  are designed to give you a quick overview of a particular technique.  The DVD also contains many more detailed tutorials, designed to take you through techniques and tech you After Effects using a more detailed step-by-step approach. I hope you enjoy watching them as much as I enjoyed making them.

Happy Keyframing!

Lip Sync in After Effects

Lip Sync in After Effects

Lip-syncing is something that all animators will be asked to do at some point in their career. The following technique automates the process of lip sync in After Effects and uses only built-in features of Adobe After Effects – no extra software is required! This video tutorial is an updated version for Adobe CS5. Tutorial files and a text-based version of the tutorial for older versions of After Effects are available here if you want to follow along.


This project
was a test project for a job for the BBC. They contacted me and asked if it was possible to create a minute of lip-synced animation on a cartoon character. The budget was really tight, as was the deadline, so I had only one day to create a character that lip-synced to a provided sound track for a full minute.

Of course it was the BBC so I could hardly say no! So I said “Yes, no problem, I’ll take the job!” The minute I put the phone down I thought, “Oh Blimey! What have I got myself into?” I went to bed that night worrying about how I’d manage to get the job done. I tossed and turned, having nightmares about failing in my first job with the BBC. Then suddenly I sat bolt upright in bed and thought, “hang on a minute, what if I use Time Remapping with the Convert Audio To Keyframes Assistant, I’m sure that’ll work!” (That’s the kind of sad geek I really am!) 😉

Anyway, I leapt out of bed, ran over to my computer and put together a test project to see if it would work. This is the very project I put together as a test to see if the technique would work. Luckily, it did and I got the job done on time!

The audio used in this tutorial is contributed with kind permission. “Memories Of Your Own” – Words and Music by Jason A. Levine © Jason Levine 2007

Tip: Wrapping text around a circle in After Effects

Tip: Wrapping text around a circle in After Effects

I saw a post on the After Effects mailing list today asking how to wrap text around a circle in After Effects. Here’s how it’s done;

1) Create a text layer with the text you want.
2) Select the layer and then, with the Ellipse tool, draw a circular Mask on the Text layer.
3) Open the Layer in the Timeline by clicking it’s disclosure triangle and then open the ‘Text’ section too.
4) Open the ‘Path Options” and in there you’ll see a drop down menu under ‘Path’ where you can select your Mask, the text should now wrap around the circle.
5) You can use the controls under ‘Path’, and the controls on the selected path in the Composition panel to adjust it to suit.

Tip! Remember to save it as a preset for future jobs so you don’t have to continuously repeat the process each time you need a circular path text effect!

Tip! There are also a load of free Animation Presets that create text on paths in the Effects and Presets panel, or you can Browse them in Bridge to get a real preview of what they look like before applying them.

Creating a Cityscape in 3D

I want to share an example of one of my tutorials that I’m very proud to say inspired a great piece of work, “Black Day to Freedom” by the amazing Rob Chiu. I met Rob after watching a very inspiring talk he gave at the Flash on the Beach conference a few years back. I approached him after the talk to tell him how much I enjoyed it and was blown away when he told me that the movie he had shown was partly inspired by my own tutorials. We have since kept in touch and Rob has contributed to my latest book, Design Essentials for the Motion Media Artist.

I’ve recently recorded the tutorial on video and want to share it with you. I’m in the process of updating some of my most popular demos and tutorials for my video2brain Adobe After Effects CS5 Learn by Video DVD.I’m featuring one FREE tutorial per week for the next five weeks here in my blog. If you like these free tutorials you can also buy the DVD here.

My 3D Cityscape tutorial is one that I’ve had great feedback on and it really was one of the biggest compliments when an artist I admire told me that this demo had inspired some of his own work. Rob Chiu (AKA The Ronin) is a well respected live action commercial director and photographer. Black Day to Freedom was one of his first films, an animation entirely built in After Effects. This was actually inspired at least technically by this tutorial where a very basic city is built with skyscrapers and lights. Rob took this as a starting point and created his own world to help anchor the story. You can find out more about Rob on his website or you can read the foreword he wrote and see exmples of his work in my latest book, Design Essentials for the Motion Media Artist.

The tutorial was developed co-written with myself and my good friend, Paul Tuersley, visual effects artist and After Effects guru of the highest order. Paul has worked on various feature films including Kick Ass, Angels and Demons and 10,000 BC. Paul came up with the initial idea to build a real 3D environment from basic flat layers within After Effects. This technique has now been used widely in a variety of different ways both in Motion Graphic designs and animation projects. Paul is also the moderator at AE Enhancers, a fabulous resource for After Effects artists that you should also check out.

In this updated tutorial you’ll see how easy it is to create graphics from absolutely nothing, directly within After Effects. You’ll also see how to create 3D environments and build scenes for your animations. I’ve also included the project file you’ll need to go through the tutorial here 3D_City.aep. After going through the tutorial I’d love to see examples of what you’ve done with it so please post links in the comments section.


Creative After Effects Bonus Tutorials

Creative After Effects Bonus Tutorials

These Creative After Effects Bonus Tutorials are ones created specifically for readers of my “Creative After Effects”books but are also freely available to everyone who visits my website.They were designed for previous versions of After Effects but still contain useful tips, tricks and techniques. These books contain many more in depth tutorials on Adobe After Effects and related topics. It also includes a free CD full of goodies and training materials for your delectation!I welcome feedback from readers as it is essential to the growth and development of the book and website. If you have any comments or feedback please feel free to leave comments.
Keylight Training movie This is a sample movie from my book “Creative After Effects 7″. The tutorial focusses on how to use The Foundry’s Keylight in After Effects to key out really badly shot DV footage. Angie shares tips and tricks on how to avoid problems and to fix them once they occur.
Character Animation tutorial I’ve done a fair bit of character animation using After Effects, mainly cut-out animation, similar to the style Terry Gilliam used in the Monty Python animations and not too dissimilar to South Park’s style of animation.Till Parenting was introduced, I always used complex nesting procedures to link the individual parts of my characters together. I would draw them in Illustrator with each part on a separate layer, bring it in as a Comp and then Pre-comp the body parts together as needed.Parenting gets rid of the need for complex nesting hierarchies, I can now link the body parts together in one composition. This tutorial simplifies and demystifies the processes, making them less intimidating to those who have never used Parenting.
The Talking Dog Lip syncing Tutorial for After Effects 6 is based on the After Effects 5.5 Production Bundle but can also be followed using the version 5.0 PB. If you want to get hold of an updated After Effects CS5 version of this tutorial, complete with new footage, it’s available as part of my After Effects CS5 Learn by Video DVD in association with Adobe’s Todd Kopriva.
This tutorial shows you how to use Motion Math scripts and Time Remapping on a 3D – rendered character to automate the process of lip-synching. I used this technique in an animated program which was broadcast on a major UK TV network.
Multipass for After Effects 5.5 and Cinema 4DXL These comprehensive tutorials cover techniques for creating multipass renders as well as importing and manipulating the multiple passes in After Effects 5.5.Using a whole host of old and new features to bring your 3D scene to life you will learn the basic principles and discover the power and flexibility that can be achieved by rendering out your 3D scene in passes.

Download files:

Cinema 4DXL (Version 7.303)

Multipass tutorials

Tutorial notes: Cinema 4D Multipass Project files: Cinema 4D project files

After Effects 5.5

Multipass tutorials

Tutorial notes: After Effects Multipass Tutorial Notes

Project files: After Effects project files Footage files: Movies, Lights, Footage files

The Cinema 4D tutorial was co-written by myself and Tim Clapham of HelloLux. Find out more about Tim and HelloLux by here.

A free tutorial gift for the holidays

A free tutorial gift for the holidays

Well, another year comes to an end and the holidays are about to begin. What better way to spend your time off than sitting back comfortably and allowing me to entertain you with some of my latest After Effects CS5 tutorials?

Here’s a free tutorial movie for you, taken from the “Jumpstarts” section of the video2brain After Effects CS5 Learn by Video DVD that I created this year in collaboration with Todd Kopriva from Adobe. You’ll also find lots of other free tutorials alongside this one so please enjoy them and let us know what you think. You can read what Eran Stern said about our DVD training here in his blog.

After Effects has great tools for character animation called the Puppet tools. The Puppet Pin tool places a mesh over your footage using the alpha channel. You can add points to this mesh that allow to distort it and animate it, providing some really natural movement for your animations and motion graphics projects.

The Puppet tool is as fun to use as a kids toy so get stuck in, have some fun and learn how to use this great set of tools to create your own fun animations.

You can also find links to lots of other free tutorials and an extensive reading list right here on my website.

Happy Holidays!

Angie Taylor

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Trapcode Particular Free Tutorial

Trapcode Particular Free Tutorial

I’ve just watched a great After Effects tutorial, made by my good friend, the great Peder Norby of Trapcode fame. He’s dome a wonderful job of teaching you how to get the best volumetric smoke effects using Particular.

I love this tutorial as it was totally improvised so it shows how he had to experiment to get the settings right. Check out his tutorial and if you don’t already own Particular, you can also download a free trial of Trapcode Particular from the Red Giant website so you can try it out.

I also stumbled upon a very kind and generous offer from Andrew Kramer at Video Copilot. Andrew is giving away 100 MB of stock footage free this month to say a big thanks to his followers. Nice one Andrew! 🙂

Digital Arts Online Tutorials

Free tutorials, created for Digital Arts magazine

Master Particles in Adobe After Effects

Shatter and Card Dance are two of After Effects CS4’s most underrated particle effects. Both were created by Brain Maffitt’s Atomic Power Corporation, before being bought by Adobe to include in After Effects. Both Card Dance and Shatter allow you to divide your layer into particles determined by layer map. They also allow you to animate pieces in 3D space, and interact with After Effects’ cameras and lights. This tutorial will help you understand how layers can be used as displacement maps or control layers for other layers in your compositions. This process is just as useful when controlling VFX as it is for motion graphics.

Create easy infographics in After Effects

Make diagrams easier to understand – by animating them, with tips from motion-graphics and animation expert Angie Taylor. Infographics are hugely useful for explaining a complex or technical subject visually. A quick and easy way to create compelling animated infographics is to break down and reconstruct technical drawings or plans – we see them all the time on the TV news, where they’re popular for explaining abstract or tricky subjects to a broad audience. In this tutorial, Angie Taylor shows that going back to the basics of animating simple shapes and 2D graphics can be just what you need to provide you with a clean and simple design.

Handling particles in After Effects

If your budget doesn’t stretch to pricey plug-in particle filters, use After Effects’ internal tools. After Effects CS3 includes built-in particle filters you can use in your projects. Although they are not as powerful as some of the specialist 3D particle filters (like Trapcode’s amazing Particular plug-in), you can use them to achieve fairly convincing animations of natural phenomena such as fire, smoke, rain and dust. All you need is patience and a natural affinity for tweaking sliders. In this tutorial, Angie Taylor shows you how to create fire, smoke effects and 3D rocks, all using After Effects’ built-in 3D particle filters, to create part of the title sequence for Taylor’s forthcoming animation Hellwoman, a spoof of the movie Hellboy.

Make your text 3D in After Effects

Make your message stand out by transforming text with 3D extrusions in After Effects. After Effects CS3 includes fabulous 3D, per-character text animators, but the ability to actually extrude text into solid 3D objects usually requires third-party plug-ins. Unless, of course, you use the trick shared here by animator, designer and After Effects expert Angie Taylor, which permits you to extrude the text with no extra software. There are other ways of creating true 3D text in After Effects, using filters like the Shatter filter. However, the trouble with Shatter is that it’s quite difficult to get the edges of the text looking decent and crisp. The following technique is great as it’s fairly straightforward and quick to carry out. It also allows you to use 3D animators with your extruded text.

DVD motion menu design in Adobe After Effects

Creating multi-dimensional, interactive menus from pen-and-paper sketches is simple – we show you how. In this tutorial, Angie Taylor shows how to put Adobe After Effects and Photoshop to work to create a DVD menu design. The example she uses here was originally created for a DVD of the pioneering all-girl punk bank The Slits, who are currently touring the US. Tessa Pollitt, the band’s bassist, drew the sketch that the menu is based on, and the band felt that it represented The Slits’ overall aesthetic so neatly that they asked Taylor to use it in the menu. This is a particularly good tutorial if you’re already familiar with the basics of After Effects but need a little practice. You’ll learn how to add motion to static images without animating the images themselves – a neat trick to master – by separating different elements or layers of the drawing into a multi-dimensional format, and then guiding the camera through them.

Advanced track and clone in AE

Visual-effects and motion-graphics specialist Angie Taylor shows how to use After Effects’ Clone Stamp tool to convincingly add to moving footage.

After Effects CS5 – Learn By Video by Angie Taylor and Todd Kopriva

Well, what a busy old month I’ve had! I’ve crossed several time zones and been on more flights than I care to mention. But all for good reason.

Earlier this month I went to Graz, Austria to record an After Effects training DVD for the amazing folks at Video2Brain. It was really good to be back providing training for After Effects again. I’ve been looking for a new method of delivery since I stopped updating my “Creative After Effects” books and Video2Brain provide the perfect vehicle for it.

I’ll also be recording some more Video2Brain titles very soon and will keep you posted on those too. The DVD is available for pre-order now. 10 hours of me and Adobe’s own Todd Kopriva teaching you all we know about our favorite motion graphics application, Adobe After Effects CS5! Order it today and save 37% off!

GridIron Software have been very supportive too. It’s so refreshing to work for a company that actively encourages employees to keep real contact with the creative industry it services. I must say it’s too rare. There are so many occasions where I’ve seen creative people join software companies, only to be consumed totally by the business aspect of their job till eventually they struggle to use the products in a creative way or even understand the customers requirements. I’m very grateful to GridIron Software for having the foresight to avoid these problems and for allowing me to remain in touch with the creative aspects of my role.

I’m also happy to report that Adobe have also adopted a similar approach. I shared the training delivery with the amazing Todd Kopriva from Adobe. Together we recorded almost 18 hours of video based training in just over a week. It was intense but very rewarding. I really enjoyed working with Todd so thanks to Adobe too for allowing him to be involved in such a great project.

So I left Gratz, via Frankfurt, got home to Brighton and slept for a few hours and was then whisked off to Ottawa (via Halifax) the next day to meet with my new colleagues at GridIron Software. It was really great to meet the new team and have some face to face time with colleagues that I usually only meet remotely with.

On my way to the airport after four days of meetings I was then kidnapped by my friends and taken to a lovely cottage in the Canadian wilderness for a perfect wind-down weekend of swimming, fishing, eating and campfire singing. It felt very good to finally have some time off after four consecutive weeks of work.

I finally got home last Tuesday and it’s taken me a whole week to unpack and settle back into home life. It’s good to be home and be able to focus on my work again.