Getting Started with After Effects Expressions

Getting Started with After Effects Expressions

Getting Started with After Effects Expressions

Even if you’re not comfortable with scripting or coding, you may still want to take a look at expressions. They are like little scripts that trigger changes to layer properties, and they can save you time, make your work more flexible, and open up new creative possibilities.

In this course, motion graphic designer Angie Taylor shows you how to make Adobe After Effects expressions work for you, starting with building expressions with the pick whip. Then she introduces JavaScript-based math expressions, which allow you to adjust timing and movement, and her favorite “no brainer” expressions, such as property linking and connecting camera focus to layers. Plus, discover how to react to sound, play with color, format text, and link 2D and 3D properties.

Topics include:

  • What are expressions?
  • Creating and applying expressions
  • Linking expressions to layers with the pick whip
  • Simplifying expressions with variables
  • Working with JavaScript math functions
  • Creating looping animations
  • Randomizing values
  • Converting expressions to keyframes
  • Creating keyframes from audio with expressions
  • Controlling 2D effects in 3D space
  • Converting color from RGB to HLS
  • Formatting strings and text
Paper Folding Animation

Paper Folding Animation

After Effects tutorial:

Create a 3D paper folding animation

Build a trick paper-folding animation from still images in After Effects.

Paper Folding Animation After Effects

Approaches like this are really useful as they allow you to create footage and a quirky paper folding animation from very few source files. All I’ve used here are five images of these models – and one audio track. Here’s a three-part tutorials series that I’ve created at the Digital Arts website. Click on the links below to go to the Digital Arts website. Following these links is the movie showing the effect that you will create.

Part 1 – After Effects tutorial: Create a 3D paper folding animation

BFolding Paper Animation in After Effectsuild a trick paper-folding animation from still images in After Effects.

Part 2 – After Effects tutorial: Automate cuts to sequence comps in After Effects

Discover a simple way to automate the process of cutting a sequence of comps together on the Timeline in After Effects, and apply 3D lights, cameras and effects to all of them.

Adding 3D object to After Effects with CinewarePart 3 –After Effects tutorial: Add a 3D object to a comp in After Effects using Cineware and Cinema 4D Lite

Use Cineware to add a real 3D object to your After Effects scene and apply 3D lights, cameras and effects to it.


Kinetic Typography Techniques with After Effects

Kinetic Typography Techniques with After Effects

Kinetic Typography

Kinetic typography is an art form that combines text and motion to express ideas in the form of animation designed to accompany spoken word or music. Join author, and motion graphic designer Angie Taylor as she shares her considerable knowledge of this form.

Work along with her in this unique course as she builds a complete kinetic typography project from start to finish. Along the way, discover how to create and animate text layers directly within Adobe After Effects using animators and 3D features, set up Photoshop files for animating in After Effects, and use a variety of effects and techniques to create numerous text animation styles within a single project. The course also offers lots of tips and tricks for animating 3D cameras and lights and using expressions and scripts to simplify the processes involved.

Topics include:

  • Working with audio
  • Preparing source files
  • Structuring your After Effects project
  • Working with shapes and effects
  • Optimizing performance
  • Animating text
  • Creating 3D animation
  • Using expressions to create motion
  • Rendering your final movie
Removing dust from video frames with Photoshop

Removing dust from video frames with Photoshop

I was very pleased to be invited by John Dickinson to create a Prosentials video tip for Motionworks. This tip is for Photoshop CS6 and demonstrates how to removing dust from video frames. I’d love to hear what you think of my first Prosentials tip so please add comments. I recorded this tutorial at my studio, Creative Cabin in Brighton.

John Dickinson is a motion graphic designer who I admire greatly. His work as Senior Broadcast Designer at Foxtel in Australia is impressive enough but on top of that full-time role, he aslo manages to run one of the most inspiring and useful resource sites for other motion graphic designers. It’s called Motionworks. Here you can find all sorts of tips, tricks, tutorials, presets and templates designed by John and his contemporaries.


FREE After Effects Stereoscopic 3D Workshop

FREE After Effects Stereoscopic 3D Workshop

In this week’s newsletter I’ll be giving away a complete workshop about using the Stereoscopic 3D workflow in After Effects CS5.5 (offer ends 26/09/11). That’s four chapters – a total of 16 training movies absolutely free to subscribers of my software tips and tricks newsletter. Sign up today to make sure you don’t miss out. The lovely people at video2brain have created this workshop for me if full, fabulous HD quality for your viewing pleasure. You can find out more about their high quality productions here. Any the wonderful team at Artbeats have donated some fantastic Stereo 3D footage absolutely free so you can build this opening title graphic sequence is glorious Stereoscopic 3D.

  • In the “Introducing Stero 3D” chapter you’ll find out what stereoscopy is, why those funny glasses are used to view S3D and how After Effects re-creates the illusion of depth for 3D broadcasts.
  • In the “Faking 3D tracking” chapter you’ll discover how to combine 3d animated elements with Stereo 3D video footage from I’ll show you how to track the footage in 2D and then “fake” 3D tracking by cleverly combining the tracking data with additional 3D animation. Once the shot is designed you’ll add 3D cameras and lights that will help the text combine well within the shot and and add effects to bring it all together.
  • In Effects, Transparency and Style chapter we’ll add effects, blend modes, and layer styles to the graphic elements so that they appear to blend into the shot.
  • Finally in the Stereoscopic 3D workflow chapter you’ll build a Stereo 3D rig that automates the comp structure required to create an anaglyphic image for 3D broadcast. We’ll look at the effects you can use to adjust the settings so that they are just right for your individual needs. We’ll also look at ways of adding even more depth and realism to the scene with Depth of Field and Motion Blur effects.


Understanding Axis Modes

Understanding Axis Modes

After Effects can be a difficult application to learn simply because it offers you so may options. Many of these options are not immediately apparent to users so they muddle through using default settings when a better solution may be available to them. My job is to point you in the direction of these hidden helpers!

When working in 3D, have you ever experienced difficulty when positioning or rotating layers, cameras or lights within 3D space? If the answer is yes, then understanding the 3D axis modes may help to you.

Click on this image to enlarge it

In this example (taken from my After Effects CS5 Learn by Video DVD) you can see a Square layer inside a 3D comp. Notice in the Active camera view (top left) you can see the three-way-axes attached to the layer. It consists of three arrows, each representing one of the three dimensions of 3D space. The red axis (representing the horizontal ‘left-to-right’ X axis) is an arrow facing left to right. The green axis is pointing upwards and represents the vertical ‘top-to-bottom’ Y axis. Finally, it’s a bit tricky to see in this view but the blue arrow, representing the ‘near-to-far’ Z axis is pointing towards the viewer.


It’s a bit easier to see this if you look at the layer in the Right view. Notice in this view that we see the axes (and the layer) from a different angle. We can imagine that we are now standing to the left of the layer, looking towards the right. therefore, the blue arrow, representing the Z axis is pointing to our right, towards our imaginary viewer, who is standing in front of the layer.

Local Axis Mod is the default behavior for these axes in After Effects. In this mode the axes are attached to the layer. So, wherever the layer moves, the axes will follow as if attached to it. Let’s see what happens if I rotate the layer.

Click on this image to enlarge it

In this second example I’ve rotated the layer by 90 degrees on the X axis. When I rotate the layer, its 3D axes rotates with it. Notice in the Right view, the Green Y axis is now pointing towards the viewer.

Local Axis Mode may seem logical, when you rotate a layer, the axes rotate with it. But confusion occurs when you then start using the axes to move or rotate the layer in the Composition panel as the axes may not actually affect the values you think you’re adjusting.


Notice in this movie, if I grab the Y axis to move the layer in Right view, I’m actually  adjusting the Z value of the layer. axismodesThis can be seen refelcted in Z position value in the timeline, notice it changing as I drag. If I adjust the position by dragging on the Z axis, I’m actually adjusting the Y value in the Timeline. At times this can be very confusing!

The good news is, if this causes you difficulty, there are two other axis modes to choose from. You can change the Axis mode by clicking on the Axis Mode buttons in the Tools panel that runs along the top of the application.

If I switch to World Axis Mode notice what happens to the axes on the layer as I do so, it changes so that the axes is fixed to the coordinates of the Composition (or world) rather than to the layer itself. If I rotate the layer again on the X axis, the axes do not move with the layer, they remain relative to the composition.

For new users to After Effects, this mode is perhaps more logical as dragging on the individual axes in the Comp panel will always adjust the corresponding values in the Timeline as they would expect. Adjusting the position by dragging on the Y axis will always adjust the Y value, adjusting X axis always affects X and adjusting the Z axis always affects the Z value. Regardless which view I select, or how much I rotate my view or my layers the axes will always be aligned to the edges of the Comp.

The final axis mode, View Axis Mode can be a little tricky to get your head round so beware! View Axis mode will align the axes to whatever view you are in. It allows you to rotate around the geometric center of your scene as it is currently being viewed as opposed to the comp itself.

I hope this has helped you understand the different axis modes available in After Effects and how they can help you when moving or rotating layers within 3D space. If you want to learn more about 3D in After Effects why not pop along to my session, ‘Introduction to 3D in After Effects’ at the NAB 2011 Post Production World Conference. Please say hello if you do! Happy Keyframing!

Control Layers in Adobe After Effects for character animation

Control Layers in Adobe After Effects for character animation


I was asked a question during my After Effects Fundamentals course at The Bridge this wek. I was about how to use control layers in After Effects to adjust animation, using expressions. Funnily enough I’ve recently recorded a movie covering this exact technique so I just asked the guys at video2brain if they could unlock it for me to give to the readers of my blog-posts. So here it is darling readers, enjoy!

By the way, if any of you live, or work in the Westminster region of London you could qualify for 80% discount on my After Effects and Illustrator courses. If you want to book a place on these courses (an incredible £108.00 for a two day course in London) please contact Natalie at the Bridge. There are still a few places available for my After Effects Intermediate and After Effects Advanced courses and some places available for my Illustrator Fundamentals course.


Uprezzing Comps

Uprezzing Comps

A question appeared on the Video Copilot website today about uprezzing old projects which can be a bit of a nightmare in AE. You can often find that layers positions get messed up and effects change appearance when you scale your comp.

Some of the issues that you’ll come across are hard to avoid but you can make the process a little easier by using some of the scripts that come free with After Effects CS5.

Incidentally, making projects bigger is a massive headache so always good (if you have the opportunity of course) to create your projects at the biggest size you think may be required. If there’s ANY chance of HD requirements then use HD, even if the immediate requirement is only for SD.

Having said all that, there are always times when you need to up-rez. Updating old projects for showreels; adapating other old projects for new jobs etc. So, if you simply HAVE to do it, there’s a couple of scipts that will work. In the Demo Palette (can be opened by going to File > Scripts > Demo Palette) there are two gems, one is called ‘Scale Comp’ and can be used to scale your entire composition, keeping all layers in the correct position. The other is called ‘Scale Selected Layers’ which will work on a selection within a comp, again, maintaining their position relative to each other.

You need to make sure your preferences are setup correctly to use scripts in order to use these. to do so, go to Preferences >General > Allow Scripts to Write Files and Access Network.

You will still need to go through the somewhat painful process of editing effects but this will save you a lot of work with layers etc.

To find out more about After Effects and download some FREE movies, check out my After Effects CS5 Learn by Video page where you can watch excerpts and learn more tips.

Animating a line drawn on a map – Indiana Jones Style

Animating a line drawn on a map – Indiana Jones Style

My recommended workspace setup for this kind of 'Rostrum-style' work. You need to have the Layer panel and Comp panel visible.

I contribute to the Creative Cow Basic After Effects forum (amongst others) where this question was posted recently;

“Hi I am newish to after effects and I have created a old map effect that pans from the UK to africa now I want to add a red line that reveals like in the Indiana Jones graphic.”

There’s definitely a trick to getting this right but once you know the trick, it’s easy, so, here are the rough steps for getting it right.

BTW, a movie demonstrating this technique is available in my After Effects CS5 Learn by Video DVD if you are interested in that here’s a link to it.

1. Place the map in a new comp, it’s best if the Map is bigger than the comp if you want to pan around it. In the Timeline, set a keyframe for the Anchor Point property as it’s this property you will animate to pan around the map. NB: Don’t animate the Position property as you’ll just run into problems.

2. Alt-double-click the layer to open up the Layer panel, this is where you’ll do the animation. It’s great as you’ll be able to see an overview of the whole image without having to faff around in the Comp panel. Make sure that the Target menu is set to Anchor Point Path.

3. In the timeline, move to where you want the next change in direction of the path to happen, and in the Layer panel, click and drag the anchor point to the landmark that you want to be central in the comp panel at that time. You’ll notice that, in the Comp panel, the point that the anchor point is on (in the Layer panel) is always central in the Comp panel, which is what you want exactly!

4. Keep repeating this till you have completed the journey you want the ‘camera’ to follow and so have completed the positional aspect of the animation.

5. If you want to smooth out the timing of the animation so that it maintains an even speed throughout, select all the keyframes except the first and last one, right-click on them and choose Rove Across Time. Once you’ve done that you can pull or push the first or last keyframes to speed up, or slow down the whole animation.

6. Now apply the Write On effect to the layer. Choose a color and style by adjusting the settings.

7. To make the Write on effect follow the path you can either use and expression to link the Brush Position property to the Anchor Point property of the layer (my preferred option) or, if you’re not keen on using expressions you can simply select all the keyframes from the Anchor Point property, copy them, then paste them into the Brush Position property.

8. In the Write On effect, make sure that the Paint Style property is set to On Original Image.

The nice thing about this technique is that it’s now easy to make it into a 3D map pan. All you need to do is add a camera and some lights, adjust the camera angle and animate the zoom property and that’s it! The camera and lights will automatically follow the anchor point so no further animation will be necessary unless you want to animate the angle, zoom, or depth of field.

To find out more details of this technique and others, check out my After Effects CS5 Learn by Video DVD that I created alongside the wonderful Todd Kopriva from Adobe.