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.