How to Create a Title Sequence in Adobe After Effects

The Wiggler, one of the features that first drew me to After Effects all those years ago, has by far the best name for an option in any piece of software! But its ability to generate random values for anything in your animation is still a most powerful necessity, and when this can be achieved through simple scripting, it adds a whole new weapon to your arsenal of animation tools and techniques. Let’s create a really stunning title sequence for a program called “It’s a Bit of an Animal” with just four keyframes and a little Expression magic.

The specs for this project are an NTSC square-pixel composition (720×540), 29.97 frames per second, 4 seconds long, with a background color of black. Some of the effects we’re using here are only available in the Professional version of After Effects.

[For a QuickTime preview of this project, go to www.layersmagazine.com/magazine-downloads.]

STEP 1 Import PSD; Duplicate 3D Layers

Import a texture image from Photoshop that’s 768 pixels square. This will serve as one of the walls to the animal cage we’ll create. We’ll need six walls for the cube arranged perfectly in 3D space-easy using Digital Anarchy’s 3D Assistants that ship with After Effects. Drag the texture into the Timeline at 0 seconds, and make it 3D by clicking in the blank box under the cube switch. Press Command-D (PC: Control-D) five times to duplicate the layer, giving us the six layers we need. Then, in the Comp window, switch to Custom View 1 instead of the Active Camera.

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STEP 2 Create 3D Cube; Remove Front Face
With all six layers selected, go to Window>Box Creator Lite (make sure you’ve installed the 3D Assistant plug-ins from the AE Installer CD), select Fit Box to Layers, and click Apply. You should now see a cube shape, and if you hit C to access the Orbit Camera tool, you can rotate around the cube in the comp window. Now, in the Timeline, turn off the visibility of the first layer to remove the front of the cube so we can see inside it. Return to the Active Camera view.

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STEP 3 Add, Position, and Rotate 3D Camera
Go to Layer>New>Camera and from the Camera dialog, choose a preset of 28mm, then click OK. You should see a little more of the cube now because of a greater perspective. We’re going to animate this camera to be very “hand-held,” so we need to turn off its auto orientation value by going to Layer>Transform>Auto Orient, choosing Off, and clicking OK. Hit P to access the camera’s Position, and key in 630, 90, and -560 for the X, Y and Z axes. Then, hit R for Rotation, and key in 350, 340, and 356 for the Orientation property.

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STEP 4 Import Illustrator Titles; Place in Cage
Double-click in the Project window to access the Import dialog and bring in a layered Illustrator file containing the titles. Be sure to choose Composition – Cropped Layers from the Import As sub-option. Open the newly created comp, select all the layers, copy the layers, then switch to the main comp, and paste them in. Click the 3D Layer icon for one layer to make them all 3D, then drag only the red and green arrows in the comp window to position the titles’ X and Y axes to the lower right (dragging the arrows on one layer will move them all together).

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STEP 5 Add Position Expression
Select one of the title layers, hit P for Position, and hold down the Option key (PC: Alt key) while clicking on the Position Stopwatch to add an Expression. We need to use a simple Wiggle script to randomly animate the position but constrain it to one axis. To do this, we need a variable. Key in “steve = wiggle(3,350);”. This establishes a wiggle of 350-pixel movement, three times per second, packaged up inside a variable and given a name-in this case my name. But the script is not complete, as it now wiggles on all three axes.

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STEP 6 Finish Expression
Press Return at the end of the first line of script, and key in “[position[0], position[1], steve[2]]“. This tells AE to keep the original position values for the X and Y axes (0 and 1) and to use the Steve Wiggle value on the Z axis (2). Press Enter to OK the script and then preview the animation-perfect random motion along one axis! Select the two lines of script and copy them. Select the other title layers one at a time, Option-click (PC: Alt-click) their Position Stopwatch, and paste in the same script. AE now creates new random values for every layer.

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STEP 7 Animate Camera with Keyframes and Script

At 0 seconds, select the camera and show its Position and Orientation values. Click their Stopwatch icons to add keyframes, and then go to 4 seconds. Change Position to 20, 530, and -560 and Orientation to 16, 25, and 353. A preview now shows a nice smooth animation across the cage. Maybe the camera should shake realistically? Hold down Option (PC: Alt), click on the camera’s Orientation Stopwatch, and enter this script: “wiggle(3,5);”. Preview again. This rotates the camera randomly by 5� three times per second.

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STEP 8 Add Light; Parent to Camera
Now, at 0 seconds, go to Layer>New>Light. Choose Spot, Intensity 110%, Cast Shadows On, 55% Darkness, 10 px Diffusion, and click OK. Again, go to Layer>Transform>Auto Orient and select Off. Let’s attach the light to the camera: Control-click (PC: Right-click) on the Source Name column in the Timeline, go to Columns, and choose Parent. Drag the small @ symbol next to the Light’s Parent option and point it at the Camera layer. Now show the Light’s Position values and change them to 0, 0, and -65. Looking through Custom View 1, you can see the light attached just above the camera.

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STEP 9 Wiggle Light Intensity; Activate Shadows
To make the light flicker, let’s use that same Wiggle script again. Twirl down the Light’s options, Option-click (PC: Alt-click) on the Intensity Stopwatch, and key in “wiggle(10,50);”to randomly animate the intensity 10 times per second by up to 50% in either direction. Now select the title layers, hit A twice to access their 3D properties, and next to Casts Shadows, click to turn them all on. A preview should now show the flickering light, as well as shadows being projected onto the cage’s walls.

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STEP 10 Add 3D Smoke/Dust Layer

If you have a movie render of some slowly moving smoke, use it now; if not, create a new solid layer and use AE’s Fractal Noise effect to create some. Now, bring the layer into the comp at 0 seconds, make it 3D, scale it to the edges of the cell, position it on the Y axis to just touch the bottom, and then position it on the Z axis to -360, just in front of the camera. Looking through Custom View 1, notice that the layer has a hard edge and needs to blend into the scene better.

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STEP 11 Use Linear Wipe Transitions
Go to Effect>Transition>Linear Wipe, and in the Effect Controls window, change the Transition Complete value to 5% and the Feather to 40. This softens the smoke on the left side of the cage. Hit Command-D (PC: Control-D) to duplicate the effect and change the Wipe Angle to -90� to affect the right side. Duplicate the effect again, and a Wipe Angle at 0� affects the bottom. Finally, duplicate again, set the Wipe Angle to +180�, Completion to 25%, and Feather to 140, and the top of the smoke softly fades in.

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STEP 12 Create Volumetric Smoke
Click the Switches/Modes button at the bottom of the Timeline to switch to Modes and set the smoke layer’s blending Mode to Screen to drop out the darkest pixels, leaving soft white smoke. Preview now through the active camera, and it’s looking great. But the smoke doesn’t have depth. Here’s a great trick for creating 3D volumetric smoke in AE: Deselect the layer, select it again (to avoid duplicating another effect), and duplicate it twice to make three layers, all currently in the same position on the Z axis.

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STEP 13 Offset Smoke Layers
Access the Position values for the two duplicated layers, and change their Z axis values to -260 and -160 respectively, putting 100 pixels between each of the smoke layers. If you click the Solo icon for these layers in the Timeline and preview, you’ll see smoke now that truly looks 3D and dense. From certain camera angles, however, there’s a pattern repetition. To fix that easily, select the middle one of the three layers, access its Rotation value, and change the Y axis to 180�. Preview again and the problem’s solved.

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STEP 14 Create Cage Door; Motion Blur Effects
Turn off the Solo icons and turn the visibility back on for the first texture layer (the cage front). Quickly turn this into a cage door by going to Effect>Render>Grid. Set the Border to 10 and the Color to gray. Then, add Effect>Blur & Sharpen>Fast Blur and set Blurriness to 5 pixels. Remember to hit A twice for the layer and turn Casts Shadows to On to see the grid shadow on the back wall. Finally, turn on Motion Blur for all the layers and render your finished, very cool, and realistic title sequence-all courtesy of a little command called Wiggle.

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http://www.layersmagazine.com

Create a Talking Head with Adobe After Effects

Can You Talk the Talk?

Recently, we needed to create a Monty Python-style talking head in Adobe After Effects and, as with most of our projects, the deadline was yesterday. So there was no time to keyframe the mouth movements. With a little know-how, we were able to craft a chatterbox faster than you can say “Spam.” In this tutorial, we’ll take you step-by-step through the process, beginning with the sound recording in Adobe Audition, moving on to the image prep in Adobe Photoshop, and ending up in good old Adobe After Effects, where a little Expression magic saves the day.

Record Sound File in Audition

STEP 1 Create a High-Quality Sound File
Plug a microphone into your PC and launch Audition. Make sure you’re working in Edit view, and click the Record icon. When Audition displays the New Waveform dialog, choose high-quality settings (e.g., a Sample Rate of 48000, which is DVD-quality sound). You can always export the sound at a lower quality later if necessary.

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STEP 2 Prepare File for Export
After speaking into the mic, click Stop, then choose File>Save As to save the sound. Choose the WAV format for uncompressed (highest quality) sound or MP3 for a smaller file size (but still a pretty good sound for dialog). The Options button reveals controls for fine-tuning the export. In this example, we accepted all the defaults. Once you’ve saved the WAV or MP3, you can close out of Audition.

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Prepare Images in Photoshop

STEP 1 Choose Your Two Images
In Photoshop, choose File>Open and navigate to your two images: one of a closed-mouth face and one of an open mouth with teeth and a tongue.

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STEP 2 Place Images into a Single File
Choose the Move tool (V) and drag-and-drop the closed-mouth image onto the teeth and tongue image.

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STEP 3 Make a Selection
Choose the Lasso tool (L) and make a selection of the chin and lower lip of the closed-mouth layer (Layer 1).

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STEP 4 Cut-and-Paste Selection into New Layer
Press Shift-Command-J (PC: Shift-Control-J) to cut-and-paste the chin selection onto a new layer. Use the Move tool to drag the chin down a little from its original position, as if the mouth is open.

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STEP 5 Rename Layers; Save File as PSD
Now you need to move and resize the lower layer. Photoshop will only let you do this if you rename it something other than Background. In the Layers palette, double-click the text “Background” and rename the layer “teeth.” Now, using the Move tool and Free Transform command (Command-T [PC: Control-T]), adjust the lower layer (move, resize, and rotate it) until you can see the teeth and tongue showing through the open mouth on the upper layer. Rename the middle layer “face” and the top layer “chin.” Save the file as a PSD and close out of Photoshop.

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Animate Chin in After Effects

STEP 1 Import the PSD
In After Effects, choose File>Import>File from the menu bar. Select the PSD and choose Composition – Cropped Layers from the Import As drop-down menu. This will import the PSD file as a layered AE Composition, keeping the layer order and layer names intact.

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STEP 2 Import the Sound File
Find the imported comp in the Project panel and double-click it to open it in the Timeline and Comp windows. Import the sound file that you created in Audition and add it to the Comp.

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STEP 3 Convert Audio to Keyframes
With the audio layer selected, choose Animation>Keyframe Assistant>Convert Audio to Keyframes. After Effects will create a new layer called Audio Amplitude and add it to the Comp. Twirl this layer open to reveal its Effects in the Timeline. Twirl open Effects and then the Both Channels effect (which AE added automatically). You’ll see a property called Slider with keyframes on every frame. These keyframes contain volume information from the audio layer.

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STEP 4 Add an Expression to Chin Layer
Select the chin layer and move it back into its original position (closed mouth). Press P to reveal its Position property, and then Option-click (PC: Alt-click) the property’s Stopwatch icon to add an Expression. Drag the Pick Whip and release it when it’s pointing to the Slider property on the Audio Amplitude level.

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STEP 5 The Expression Is Added
After Effects adds an Expression to the Position property of the chin layer, as shown in the image above.

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STEP 6 Modify the Expression
Click inside the Expression to place a text cursor in it. Highlight all of the text that appears after (“Slider”) and replace it with the following text:

* 10;
[position[0], position[1] + temp]

Note: There should be a space both before and after the asterisk (*). Also, make sure you don’t accidentally erase the semi-colon (after the 10) or the square brackets on the beginning and end of the second line.

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STEP 7 Time to Play
Play the Comp. To make the face shout, change the 10 in the Expression to a larger number. To make the face whisper, change the 10 to a smaller number.

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BY RICHARD HARRINGTON & MARCUS GEDULD

http://www.layersmagazine.com

Creating a Title Sequence with After Effects 7

A project we recently created at Energi for the Type group at Adobe yielded some tips and techniques that were so much fun that I thought I would share them with you. Using a combination of type, 3D layers, repetitive expressions, parenting, and masking, a very striking title sequence can be created from a very few elements. With the theme of “Opposites Attract,” I think you’ll find quite a few attractive options here to use in your future After Effects work.

The specs for this project are an NTSC square-pixel composition (720×540), 29.97 frames per second, 8 seconds long, with a background color of white.

[If you'd like to download the images used in this tutorial to practice these techniques, visit www.layersmagazine.com/downloads.html.]

STEP 1 Background Type Element
As always, we need to start somewhere, and so we’ll start with a simple text element. With the whole “opposites” idea, we want to construct a mass of words that are opposites. With the Timeline or Comp panel selected, go to Layer>New>Text to add a new text layer (this ensures that the layer is centered in the comp). Type in the first word (“Love” in our example) and press Enter on the keyboard to exit text-editing mode.

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STEP 2 Format Type
If you don’t see the Character palette, click the small palette icon to the right of all the tools in the Toolbox. Ensure that the color of your type is black (RGB), then adjust the font, size, tracking, and kerning to your own style. For our design, the “light” words will be in Trade Gothic Bold Condensed (lower case), 36 pt, with Optical kerning. When you’re finished, go back to the main selection tool and adjust the Baseline Shift value (-) of the type until it appears centered vertically over its anchor point.

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STEP 3 3D Layer; Add Anchor Expression
In the Timeline panel, click the 3D Layer switch for the type layer, then in the Comp panel, click Active Camera and switch to Custom View 1. On the keyboard, press the period key (.) a couple of times to zoom in, then press A to reveal the layer’s Anchor Point property. Option-click (PC: Alt-click) on the property’s stopwatch, and in the resulting text field in the Timeline, key in the following, pressing Enter when done: offset = wiggle(0,1000); [anchorPoint[0], anchorPoint[1], offset[2]]

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STEP 4 Duplicate Layer
This expression creates a variable called “offset,” which contains a randomization script “wiggle” that allows a property to offset up to 1000 pixels, but 0 times per second-meaning that there’s no movement. Applying this expression only to the Z axis “[2]” gives our word a push to a random position. Now, with the layer still selected, press Command-D (PC: Ctrl-D) to duplicate it, and another word appears in a different position along the Z axis-the wiggle script creates new values for each new layer!

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STEP 5 Format New Type Layer
Double-click on the new layer’s T icon in the Timeline to select the type, and enter the word that’s opposite to your first choice (in our case, “hate”). Then, go back to the main selection tool and format the new word’s font, size, tracking, and kerning accordingly. You might want to click the other layer’s Visibility icon in the Timeline to hide it and switch Custom View 1 to Front to make the type adjustment easier. In Front view, it’s also much easier to adjust the Baseline Shift to re-center the new type.

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STEP 6 Add Orientation Expression
Back in Custom View 1 with both layers visible again, select the Love layer and press R to reveal its Rotation and Orientation properties. With the newfound understanding of the wiggle variable used in Step 3, we can apply the same theory to tell After Effects to automatically rotate the layer to a new angle each time. Option-click (PC: Alt-click) on the Orientation stopwatch, add the following expression, and press Enter: wiggle(0,360);

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STEP 7 Apply Expression Again; Check Size
As you can see, this has chosen a random orientation angle for X, Y, and Z. Now click on the word Orientation to select it and press Command-C (PC: Ctrl-C) to copy it. Select the Hate layer and press Command-V (PC: Ctrl-V) to paste the Orientation expression directly to it. Again, After Effects will use new wiggle values to offset the angle of this layer (around our custom anchor point). Before continuing, you might need to drop the size of your type to leave a little more room around the words (you can do this later).

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STEP 8 Create Mass!
Now for the fun part: Twirl up both layers, select them both, and use the shortcut to duplicate them both at the same time-brand-new position and orientation values again! Select the new layers one at a time, double-click the T icon to enter text-editing mode, and change the words again (peace and war, day and night, Starsky and Hutch, etc). When you’re finished, repeat this process again and again until you have the required mass of words-all being repositioned and rotated by one single expression!

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STEP 9 Control the Mass
The “universe” of words we now have needs to spin around a central axis, but animating all these layers (in our example, more than 200) isn’t a good choice. So, go to Layer>New>Null Object, then click the Null layer’s 3D icon in the Timeline. Now, press Command-A (PC: Ctrl-A) to select all the layers, Command-click (PC: Ctrl-click) on the Null to deselect it, then Control-click (PC: Right-click) on the Layer/Source Name Bar, and choose Columns>Parent. Choose the Pick Whip icon next to any of the selected layers, drag it onto the Null layer’s name, and let go.

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STEP 10 Spin the Mass
Select the Null and press R to reveal its Rotation properties. At 0 seconds on the Timeline, click the stopwatches next to both Y and Z Rotation to add a keyframe at 0�. Hit End to go to 8 seconds, then change both the values to read 1x+0.0�, giving them a full rotation across time. Press 0 on the keypad to preview a few frames of this beautiful mass of spinning words. Next, we’ll split the entire image so the top half stays the same, but the bottom half shows white words on a black background-remember, opposites.

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STEP 11 Create Adjustment Layer; Add Invert
At 0 seconds, go to Layer>New>Solid. Set the Width to 720 and Height to 270 (50% comp height), check that the color is black, and click OK. Drag the new solid down 135 px to align it at the bottom of the Comp panel, then click the Adjustment Layer switch in the Timeline. Make sure you don’t make this layer 3D also-leaving it 2D allows it to adjust all the layers beneath it. Now, go to Effect>Channel>Invert to apply the Invert filter, and the bottom of the comp will turn completely white.

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STEP 12 Add New Solid
The words are white, but why did the background not turn black? Because the Invert effect can only invert the color of an object and our white background is just the composition’s background color. So, go back to Layer>New>Solid and click Make Comp Size to ensure this one covers the entire background. Change the color to white, click OK, then go to Layer>Send to Back to place this solid behind everything else. Now we see the difference.

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STEP 13 Add Camera; Adjust Z Position
Now that we have this wonderful three-dimensional mass of spinning words, easily inverted from black to white, and making a very stunning graphic, let’s add a subtle camera move to gently pull back on the mass and finish the sequence. At 0 seconds, go to Layer>New>Camera, and from the dialog’s Preset menu, choose 28mm. Ensure Enable Depth of Field is turned off and click OK. Now press P to show the camera’s Position property and set the values to 360, 270, -200 to move the camera into the center.

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STEP 14 Animate Camera
Click the camera’s Position stopwatch to add a keyframe, press Command-G (PC: Ctrl-G) and enter 5.0 to jump to 5 seconds along. Now adjust the camera’s Position values to 360, 270, -1200 to pull the camera back, and with the second keyframe selected, go to Animation>Keyframe Assistant>Easy Ease In to slow the motion down into the keyframe. Preview or create a final render of your scene, and I’m sure you’ll agree that the world of opposites sure does offer some pretty creative options. Enjoy!

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http://www.layersmagazine.com

Creating Flash Video with Adobe Premiere Pro or After Effects

With the recent acquisition of Macromedia by Adobe, creating Flash content has gotten even easier. In fact, with the latest version of the Adobe Production Studio, Adobe offers the option to buy the Premium edition bundled with Flash. Why so much emphasis on video integration? Well, it’s the ultimate in motion content, and Flash is becoming increasingly ubiquitous in the Web browser world. In this lesson, you’ll learn how to get a Flash video file exported from both Premiere Pro and After Effects.

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Flash Video from Premiere Pro

STEP 1 Choose Your Media
It may seem obvious, but you need to start somewhere. You can choose to select a sequence in the Timeline panel or Program Monitor. Additionally, you can select just a clip by choosing it in the Source Monitor or Project panel. If you need to refine the selection that you’re going to export, you can set an In and Out point.

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STEP 2 Send to the Adobe Media Encoder
You’ll need to have Flash Professional installed in order to make this work. Choose File>Export>Adobe Media Encoder. This will send the selected sequence or clip to the Adobe Media Encoder. Here you can create a variety of Web and disc formats including MPEG-1, MPEG-2, QuickTime, Real, Windows Media, and Flash video.

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STEP 3 Choose the Range

You need to specify what part of the clip to use. This option is really a second chance to identify the parts you intend to use. From the pop-up list, you can choose to export the Entire Clip (or Sequence), a specified range of frames, the work area, or between the In and Out points. Using the In and Out point option is a very precise way to control which media is converted.

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STEP 4 The A/V Club
You need to make a judgment call about including audio, video, or both. For example, you might have a great shot of an outdoor scene that you want to embed into a webpage, but you might not want to include the audio track (which picked up background conversation). Be sure to check that you have audio and video selected to match your needs.

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STEP 5 Presets Versus Custom
There are several well-thought out and tested presets available to choose from. These will often serve the purpose for most users; however, you can tweak an existing setting or create your own from scratch. Click the Options button to access advanced control over settings like Color Depth, Frame Rate, Data Rate, and Frame Size.

STEP 6 Pixel Aspect Ratio Solutions
One of the most common errors occurs when converting video to Flash video (or any other multimedia format). Most video formats use some form of nonsquare pixels. However, when converting to Flash video, you need to compensate and resize the frame; otherwise, your video will look distorted. Use the table below as a quick reference.

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STEP 7 Make It So
When ready, click the OK button to export. Then wait. Depending upon the speed of your processor, amount of RAM, and length of clip, you might be waiting a while. Good compression takes time. Before running a clip all the way through, it’s a very good idea to test compression on a short section of the overall project. This test compression will let you verify your settings. When you complete the final compression, you’ll have an FLV file (Flash video file) that’s ready for import into Flash for additional authoring or programming.

Flash Video from After Effects

STEP 1 Pick Your Path
You have two different options for exporting to Flash from After Effects. You can create a SWF (small Web file, aka Shockwave format) or an FLV (Flash video) file. Here’s how to choose: Create a SWF if you want to export an animation and have it playable directly in Flash player without needing to go to Flash Professional to author. This would work well if you wanted to send an animation to a client to review. Choose FLV if you want to send the video clip to Flash Professional and use it as an asset in a bigger project.

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STEP 2 Set Your Work Area
After Effects doesn’t offer the use of In and Out points that you’ll find in Premiere. Instead, you’ll want to mark out the work area in the comp’s Timeline. This can be done by dragging the Work Area Start and End handles (these are located in the dark gray area just below the Timeline numbers). You can also place the Current Time Indicator and then press B to mark the Beginning or N to mark the End of the work area.

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Step 3 Creating a SWF
A word of warning: The SWF export module has fairly primitive controls and was created before the Macromedia acquisition was finalized. As such, the full power of Flash export is hidden. After Effects attempts to maintain vectors as much as possible and only rasterizes (or ignores) the features that won’t transfer to vector-based animations. If you’re animating a layered Illustrator file or working with the After Effects text engine, the SWF export option works very well. However, the following features will need to be rasterized or ignored: Raster images and some effects; Blending Modes; and Motion Blur.

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Step 4 Exporting a SWF
If you’ve animated using only vector files, text, or supported filters, then SWF export will work well. Choose File>Export>Macromedia Flash (SWF). Give the file a name and include the .swf extension. Specify a location to save the file and click Save. In the resulting dialog, you can specify a JPEG compression rate for rasterized items, as well as the option to Ignore or Rasterize the Unsupported Features. Other options for audio, looping, etc. are also offered. When satisfied, click OK to write the file. After Effects will also write a log file that describes how each frame was handled.

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Step 5 Creating an FLV File
You can export a Flash video file from After Effects as well. The features are very similar to Premiere (so if you skipped the first part of this article covering Premiere, go back and take a look). Choose File>Export>Flash Video (FLV). The first time you choose this option a warning dialog comes up steering you to use the Render Queue for advanced options. You can ignore this advice if you want to make an FLV file, as you can’t create an FLV file there. Click OK to move on to the Flash Video Encoding Settings window.

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Step 6 Choose a Setting
The Flash Video Encoding Settings dialog offers a lot of choices for export. The encoder offers seven choices of well-designed presets that are well suited for different bandwidth connections as well as support for Flash 7 and Flash 8. You can choose the preset that best describes your need. For those power users with specialty needs, click the Show Advanced Settings button. Here you can choose from several video and audio options, including choices for frame size, rate, and quality. For more on these options, see the Premiere tutorial above. Click OK to write the file.

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Step 7 Import into Flash
Flash 8 offers superior support for distributing your FLV file. You can choose to open the FLV file directly, then create a streaming player by following the onscreen wizard. Additionally, you can choose to import the file to the Stage or the Library. You don’t need to choose File>Import>Video, as the file has already been converted to a native Flash file. Enjoy Flash video and start getting your work out there for the world to enjoy.

[For a tutorial on preparing your FLV files for streaming using Flash Media Server 2, click here to read it now.-Ed.]

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BY RICHARD HARRINGTON & MARCUS GEDULD

http://www.layersmagazine.com

Developing Depth of field with Adobe After Effects 7

Building and animating a detailed 3D environment in After Effects is one of my favorite things to incorporate into the right motion-graphics project. Adding shapes, lights, and shadows can give the scene extra depth and detail, but one of the most photo-realistic effects to aspire to is true depth-of-field. In this example of a program title intro, depth-of-field gives a sense of scale and proximity to the layers. After Effects has wonderful built-in depth-of-field controls, and controlling them correctly can yield terrific results.

The specs for this project are an NTSC square-pixel composition (720×540), 29.97 frames per second, 5 seconds long, with a background color of black.

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[For a QuickTime preview of this project, go to www.layersmagazine.com/magazine-downloads.]

STEP 1 Import Graphic Elements
First, assemble the main elements that will make up the animation. In this project, we imported into the Project panel a selection of five high-resolution images of me against a green screen backdrop (thank you to James Dean Conklin for these images). Our square-pixel images, around 1080 px in height, have already had their backgrounds removed in Photoshop, but any graphics with transparent backgrounds will work for this technique. Once the images are loaded, select them all and drag them straight into the open composition’s Timeline.

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STEP 2 Scale and Arrange Layers
Because the images are large in a small composition, let’s scale them down. With the layers still selected in the Timeline, press the S key to reveal their Scale property, and click-and-drag on one of the 100% values until you reach the size you need (we used 40%). Also, drag the layers up and down in the Timeline to put them in the order you’d like to see them, from front to back. This doesn’t affect anything when working in 3D, but it makes it easier to see which layer is which.

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STEP 3 Change Background Color; Create 3D Layers
Our images will look better on a lighter background, so we’ll go to Composition>Background Color, click on the swatch to access the RGB values, enter 235, 235, 235 to give us an almost-white color, and click OK. If we use pure white on such a large scale as this, it could cause audio buzzing during television broadcast, so this is a nice little trick to avoid that. Now, with the layers still selected, click the 3D Layer icon under the Switches column in the Timeline to make them all 3D layers.

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STEP 4 Adjust 3D Positions
Press the P key to reveal the selected layers’ Position properties, and you’ll see three values for X, Y, and Z. We can now edit these values to stagger the offset between the layers, not only left to right but more importantly, to put space between them down the Z axis so we can focus on them with depth-of-field (referred to as DOF from hereon in). Select your topmost layer and change the position values to 260, 270, -200, shifting it slightly to the left and moving it toward you.

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STEP 5 Finalize 3D Positions
Leave the second layer at 360, 270, 0 (dead center of the comp). Change the third layer to 460, 270, 200, pushing it to the right and further away from you. Change the fourth layer to 560, 270, 400, and the final layer to 660, 270, 600. By now you should get a sense of 3D space with all the layers offset along the Z axis. Note that we’ve separated their Z positions evenly by 200 pixels each, which will make DOF control and animation much easier for this project.

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STEP 6 Front View; Adjust Anchor Points
Go to the Active Camera pop-up at the bottom of the Composition panel and choose the Front view to see our layers with no perspective. With the first layer selected, choose the Pan Behind/Anchor Point tool from the Tools panel at the top of the screen, then Shift-click on the blue center circle of the layer and drag down until the Anchor Point aligns to the bottom of the layer. Repeat this process for the other four layers.

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STEP 7 Add Wiggle Expressions
In the Timeline, select the first layer, press R to reveal its Rotation property, hold down Option (PC: Alt), and click on the Z Rotation stopwatch to add an Expression. In the text field, type in “wiggle(1,4)” and then press Enter to apply it. Hit 0 on the keypad to RAM Preview the file and the first layer gently rotates back and forth randomly. Again, repeat this process for the remaining four layers and our animation now has some life! Note: The wiggle Expression can use the same numbers for frequency and rotation, but it creates unique results each time.

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STEP 8 Add 3D Camera
Switch to Custom View 1 from the view pop-up in the Composition panel to view the scene from a different angle. Then to see the offset between the layers, press C to access the Camera Orbit tool and drag it around the Comp. Go to Layer>New>Camera and choose 28mm from the Preset pop-up menu. Click OK, and you’ll see the camera appear in the Timeline and the comp view, positioned in front of your foreground layer. Press P and change the camera’s position values to 470, 270, -600.

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STEP 9 Animate Camera; Adjust with Graph Editor
Now, switch your comp view back to Active Camera and you’re looking through the lens of your new 3D camera. At 0 seconds on the Timeline, click the Position stopwatch to add a keyframe, then hit End to jump to 5 seconds. Change the camera’s position to 230, 110, -600 for its final position. Click the new Graph Editor icon in the Timeline to view the velocity graph for the property and drag the rightmost handle down and left to ease the camera position down gently over the last second or so. Check your animation with a RAM Preview (0).

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STEP 10 Activate Depth of Field
Go to 0 seconds and turn off the Graph Editor. With the camera selected, press AA to reveal its 3D Camera Options. The DOF option is off by default, so let’s turn it on and set the Blur Level to 400%. You should now see accurate blurring of the layers based on their distance from the camera’s focus point, with your second layer appearing the most in focus. Why? The camera’s default focal distance is 560 pixels in front of its body, which is 600 pixels back from the scene center, which happens to be near the Z position for that layer.

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STEP 11 Adjust F-Stop
If you relate to real-world camera terminology and measurements, then seeing an Aperture value of 14.2 pixels in the Camera Options in the Timeline may cause some confusion! But it’s possible to use the more popular F-Stop setting instead. Double-click the camera layer to open up the dialog again, set the Units at millimeters (on the left), and set the F-Stop value (on the right) as desired. For this project (and if I were photographing it), I’d use an F-Stop of around 3.5. Click OK, and you should see a shift in the DOF effect.

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STEP 12 Adjust Focus Distance
Remember, the F-Stop adjustment reacts like a real lens would and shortens the DOF. The Blur Value is a fine-tuning adjuster-dragging it up to 800 to try and achieve the same blur will render noticeably “chunky” edges. If you RAM Preview, you’ll notice the second layer always staying in focus, so let’s change that. At 0 seconds we want to focus on the backmost layer, which is at 600 pixels beyond scene center. The camera body is positioned -600 behind scene center, so enter the total value of 1200 into the Focus Distance property to set it correctly.

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STEP 13 Animate Focus Distance; Adjust Velocity
Click the stopwatch next to Focus Distance at 0 seconds to keyframe it, then hit End to go to 5 seconds. To focus now on the frontmost layer, we can calculate the value based on positions: Layer is -200, camera body is -600, so the distance is 400 pixels from the camera body. Enter that number to add another keyframe and then drop that Blur Level down to 250%. Select the Focus Distance property, activate the Graph Editor, choose Edit Speed Graph from the Graph Type menu at the bottom of the Timeline, and again adjust the speed gently into the final keyframe.

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STEP 14 Add Final Elements
Now that the depth-of-field animation is complete and you’ve grasped how the 3D position of layers can be used to focus on the right plane, you can add other 3D layers and elements to your composition and they’ll be visually affected in the same way. Depth of field adds so much reality to any 3D composition in After Effects, so use these techniques sparingly and intelligently and you’ll see some wonderful results in your future animations. Enjoy!

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Source : http://www.layersmagazine.com

Flexible and Efficient Animation Projects in After Effects

The Winds of Change

It’s that time of year-the seasons are changing, the colors are shifting, the leaves are falling.autumn and winter are approaching. Animation projects can be just the same way-color schemes, graphic elements, and keyframe motion need to be flexible and efficient enough to make immediate changes. A recent titling project used such techniques, creating a look of organic autumnal motion with leaves, which was changed to wintry snowflakes at the very last second. Here’s how it was done.

The specs for this project are an NTSC square-pixel composition (720×540), 29.97 frames per second, 6 seconds long, with a background color of white.

STEP 1 The Elements (Pardon the Pun)
For this animation, we need five elements: two different leaf shapes, a snowflake, an autumn backdrop, and a winter backdrop. We recommend making the leaves and snowflakes in Illustrator, using similar outer dimensions for easy replacement in After Effects. The backdrop graphics are 720×540 pixels, and all elements are saved as native Illustrator files named Leaf 1.ai, Leaf 2.ai, Snowflake.ai, Autumn.ai, and Winter.ai.

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STEP 2 Import Files; Add 3D Leaf
In After Effects, double-click inside the Project panel to bring up the Import dialog. Locate and select the five Illustrator files, and click Import. Deselect, then drag Leaf 1.ai into the open composition’s Timeline, which will place it in the center. Press the S key to reveal the layer’s Scale property, and drag the values to set the size of the leaf as desired. In the Switches column, turn on the 3D Layer and Motion Blur switches for that layer.

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STEP 3 Add Wiggle Expression to Position
In the Comp panel, change the view from Active Camera to Custom View 1 to see the 3D leaf from a perspective angle-this makes it easier to see animation changes. Hit the P key to reveal the leaf’s Position property, and Option-click (PC: Alt-click) the Stopwatch to add an Expression field. In the field, type the code as shown in the image above, then press Enter (not Return) to confirm.

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STEP 4 Add Control; Assign Values to Slider
Choose Layer>New Solid, click OK, then turn off its Visibility icon in the Timeline. Go to Effects>Expression Controls>Slider Control to add a slider to the solid. Hit E to reveal the effect in the Timeline, then twirl down to show the Slider name. Click in the Expression field for the Leaf 1 layer, select the 0 value of the movex line, then click-and-drag the Pick Whip icon to point at the Slider name of the Solid layer. Repeat this for the other 0 values on both the movey and movex lines. Select the Slider effect’s value and change it to 1.

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STEP 5 Repeat for Orientation
Step 4 added a control to allow you to change the wiggle speed of all three position axes with just one slider. Very neat! Let’s use the same for the rotation of the leaf. Select the Leaf 1 layer, hit R to show its Rotation property, and add an Expression field to the orientation value (affecting all three rotation axes simultaneously) by Option-clicking (PC: Alt-clicking) its Stopwatch. Type in “wiggle(0,180)” then press Enter to confirm. Go to Layer>Transform>Auto Orientation, and choose Orient Along Path.

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STEP 6 Assign Orientation to Slider
Make sure the Slider on the Solid layer is still visible in the Timeline, then select the 0 value for the Rotation Expression, and drag the Pick Whip icon to the Slider name. Now, the single Slider value of 1 is being used to drive the speed of the random wiggle on both Position and Rotation. It’s so much easier to control than individual, line-by-line Expression changes. Deselect the layer(s), and hit 0 on the keypad to RAM preview the result-a perfectly swirling leaf in 3D!

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STEP 7 Disable Expressions; Duplicate & Arrange
Select the Leaf 1 layer, then hit EE on the keyboard to show both Expressions. Click the small, highlighted = symbol next to each Expression to disable it temporarily. Now, go to Custom View 1 in the Comp panel and choose Front. Press Command-D (PC: Control-D) to duplicate the Leaf 1 layer, and manually position it elsewhere in the Comp window. By default, After Effects assigns new wiggle values to each new layer, so by disabling the Expressions, it’s easier for us to see the initial position of the leaves before they start blowing around.

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STEP 8 Continue Duplication; Replace Selected Leaves
Continue duplicating and moving the leaves until you’re happy with the numbers. Now, hold down the Shift key and randomly select about half of the leaves in the Comp window-we’re going to change these to the second leaf shape. Go to the Project panel and select Leaf 2.ai. Hold down the Option key (PC: Alt key) and drag the new leaf onto any one of the selected leaf layers’ names in the Timeline, and let go. All those leaves are replaced with the second design but retain the Expression, Scale, and Position settings we applied earlier.

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STEP 9 Enable Expressions; Close Comp
Click the Lock icon next to the Solid layer, then press Command-A (PC: Control-A) to select all the leaves. Hit EE to reveal all their Expressions, then click on each of their = symbols again to reactivate the Expressions. Change the Comp view from Front to Active Camera and do a RAM preview to see the final random motion of all the leaves. Now, click in the Composition menu at the top of the Comp panel and close the comp.

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STEP 10 Nest Comp; Add Position Keyframe
In the Project panel, select the Leaves comp (Comp 1) and press Return (PC: Enter), then rename it “Leaves.” Now, go to Composition>New, leave the specifications the same as the Leaves comp, but name this one “Autumn.” Click OK to open this new comp, then drag the Leaves comp from the Project panel into the Timeline to nest it. Hit the P key to access its Position and change the value to 360,150. With the Current Time Indicator (CTI) at 0 seconds, click the Stopwatch for Position to add a keyframe.

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STEP 11 Animate Position; Rasterize 3D Comp
Now drag the CTI to 6 seconds, and change the Position value to 360,450. As you drag the CTI through the Timeline, you might notice that some leaves get cropped off the top or bottom. This is because we nested a 3D comp as a 2D layer, so in the Switches column in the Timeline, click both the 3D Layer and Collapse Transformations icons. Drag the CTI again and you’ll see all the leaves as they were in the previous comp.

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STEP 12 Add Backdrop; Change Leaves’ Colors
At 0 seconds, drag Autumn.ai from the Project panel into the Timeline below the Leaves layer. We now have black leaves on an autumnal backdrop. Select the Leaves comp in the Timeline, choose Effect>Generate>Fill, and the leaves will all turn red! In the Effect Controls panel, click the red swatch and change the leaves to your desired color. This is another timesaving reason the leaves were all left black in the original comp. Turn on the Comp Motion Blur switch in the Timeline and RAM preview the results.

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STEP 13 Winter is Coming
Close the Autumn comp and in the Project panel, select both the Autumn and Leaves comps and duplicate them (same shortcut). Press Return (PC: Enter) on each of the duplicates to rename them as “Winter” and “Snowflakes,” respectively. Open the Snowflakes comp and press Command-A (PC: Control-A) to select all the layers. In the Project panel, select Snowflake.ai, then Option-drag (PC: Alt-drag) it onto one of the selected layers in the Timeline to replace all the leaves with snowflakes. When done, close the Snowflakes comp.

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STEP 14 Add Winter Elements
Open the Winter comp, select the backdrop layer and Option-drag (PC: Alt-drag) Winter.ai from the Project panel to replace it. Select the Leaves layer and replace it with the Snowflakes comp, then go to the Effects Controls panel and change the color of the flakes to white. Close that comp and create a new one called “Seasons.” Drag both the Autumn and Winter comps into the new Timeline, with Autumn on top. At 3 seconds, select the Autumn layer and hit Option-] (PC: Alt-]) to trim the layer. A RAM preview shows the seasons changing, but the leaves and snowflakes transition perfectly.

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Source : http://www.layersmagazine.com

From Text to a Cool Extruded-3D with After Effects

As cool as 3D is in After Effects, there’s no doubt that an extrude tool is something we all wish for. While there are a few plug-ins that handle such a task (Zaxwerks Invigorator PRO being one of my favorites), there’s a cool way to achieve a true 3D look (more or less) using the 3D effects in Illustrator. Add to this mix some cool particles, lights, and shadows (and some Energi studio techniques) and we’ll show you how to turn simple text into a cool extruded-3D scene inside After Effects. Let the games begin!

If you’d like to download a finished movie for this tutorial, just click here. All files are for personal use only.

1 CREATE ILLUSTRATOR TEXT
Create a new Adobe Illustrator document (File>New), name it “Game Night,” select Video and Film in the New Document Profile drop-down menu, and set the size to 720�540 pixels. Under the Advanced option, choose the Dark preset for the Transparency Grid-this will ensure our white text will be visible as we work on it. Click OK. Select the Type tool (T), click on the page, and add your type, choosing the font and size to suit your design. Here, we’ve used a font from www.veer.com called Newspeak-Heavy, which will look great when extruded. Set the Fill color to white and the Stroke to none.

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2 CONVERT TO SHAPES; RELEASE TO LAYERS
Select the type with the Selection tool (V), then go to Type>Create Outlines. Now we need to divide the type so that each letter is on a separate layer, so go to Object>Ungroup, then from the Layers panel flyout menu, choose Release to Layers (Sequence). Shift-click all the resulting sub-layers to select them and drag them up above Layer 1 in the Layers panel. Drag Layer 1 to the Trash icon to delete it, as we don’t need it. Now we’re ready to apply the 3D effect to each one of the shapes and tweak it as necessary.

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3 ADD 3D EFFECTS
Select the first letter shape, choose Effect>3D>Extrude & Bevel, and then simply press OK to exit the dialog-we’ll return shortly to adjust it. Shift-click all the other letters on the artboard to select them and choose Effect>Apply Extrude & Bevel. This applies the effect to each letter individually. At this stage you might want to choose View>Hide Transparency Grid to make the 3D shapes easier to see. Now that every layer has its own 3D effect, we’re free to adjust the Extrude & Bevel properties on each letter to make the design much cooler.

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4 EDIT 3D STYLES
Select a letter, and in the Appearance panel (Window>Appearance) click 3D Extrude & Bevel. Adjust the rotation and camera perspective values to angle the letter slightly and give the extrusion some perspective. Adjust the Extrude Depth value and add some extra lights if desired-this is a creative process-you’re in control of the final look. When done, click OK, then repeat this process for each letter. Rearrange the layers and use the Selection tool to move individual letters so the word “Game” appears to be sitting on top of the word “Night.” When finished, be sure to Save the document.

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5 IMPORT TO AFTER EFFECTS; PRE-COMPOSE
In After Effects, go to File>Import>File and select the Illustrator document. Choose Composition in the Import As drop-down menu and click Open. Double-click the new Game Night comp to open it, press Command-K (PC: Ctrl-K), set the size to 720�540 px, the Duration to 5 seconds, and click OK. In the Timeline, Command-click (PC: Ctrl-click) the layers that make up the word “Game” to select them, choose Layer>Pre-Compose, and name it accordingly. Repeat this process for the other word-now we have only two layers, which are much easier to control. Import a texture image to use as a floor. The one used here is free, found in the concrete section of www.textureking.com.

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6 DESIGN 3D SCENE
Drag the texture image into the Timeline, rename it “Floor,” then double-click it to open it in a Footage viewer. Use the Rectangle tool (Q) to draw a mask around the entire layer. Grab the Selection tool (V) and drag the mask down about a fifth of the way from the top edge. Hit F for Mask Feather, unlink the Chain, and set the Vertical axis to 300 pixels. Close the Footage Viewer, then click the 3D Layer switch for all the layers. Select the Floor layer, press R, and change its Orientation to 270� on the x-axis. Drag it down to the bottom edge of the comp. Move the word layers to rest on the floor and each other.

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7 APPLY BASIC ANIMATION
Select the GAME layer, go to frame 18 in the Timeline, and hit Option-P (PC: Alt-P) to set a Position keyframe. Return to the beginning of the Timeline (Home), and drag the layer upward on the y-axis until it’s offscreen. Shift-click both keyframes to select them and go to Animation>Keyframe Assistant and apply the Easy Ease velocity to them. Now, go to Animation>Keyframe Velocity, and set the Outgoing Velocity Influence to 100%. To enhance the effect, feel free to add Position keyframes to the NIGHT layer for a slight position shift at the moment of impact.

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8 LIGHTS & SHADOWS
Go to Layer>New>Light, change Light Type to Point, set the Intensity to125%, turn Casts Shadows off, and click OK. Press P and adjust the Position attributes to 360, 75, and -200. Since the elements we’ve created are without true 3D extrusion, we need to add their shadows manually. Select the NIGHT layer, press Command-D (PC: Ctrl-D) to duplicate it, and rename it “NIGHT Shadow.” Delete any position keyframes, and hit S to show the Scale property. Unlink the Chain icon, scale the Y value to 20%, then press R and set the X Orientation to 270�, and move it to just on top of the Floor layer.

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9 MORE SHADOWS!
With the “NIGHT Shadow” layer still selected, go to Effect>Generate>Fill, and then choose Effect>Blur & Sharpen>Fast Blur. In the Effect Controls panel (ECP), set the Color to black, and set the Blurriness value to 20. Now repeat Steps 8 and 9 to create a shadow for the GAME layer: duplicate it, rename it, remove any keyframes, scale its height, rotate it (you may have to experiment with the angle of rotation), move it up to appear on top of the NIGHT layer shapes, fill it with black, and blur it. Hit T for the Opacity value, and drop it to 80%.

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10 ANIMATE SHADOW SCALE
Now we need to animate the GAME Shadow to follow the animation of the word falling. Select the GAME Shadow layer, go to frame 18 in the Timeline, and hit Option-S (PC: Alt-S) to set a Scale keyframe. Now move back around 10 frames, and set the X and Y scale to 0. This nicely enlarges the shadow as the word falls from the top of the screen. For more reality, you could also keyframe the layer Opacity, getting darker as the word gets closer.

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11 ADD PARTICLES
Go to Layer>New>Solid, name the solid “Particles,” click the Color swatch, choose a white color, click OK, click Make Comp Size, and click OK again. Drag the layer to start at 18 frames in the Timeline, then go to Effect>Simulation>CC Particle World. In the ECP, set the Grid to Off, then change the Birth Rate to 300, and click the Stopwatch to apply a keyframe. Move one frame forward (Page Down) and set it to 0 so there are no new particles after this point. Adjust the Longevity to 6 seconds, which should be enough for our 5-second comp.

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12 BASIC PARTICLE SETTINGS
Twirl down the Producer in the ECP, change the Position Y value until it sits between the word layers (around 0.05 should do the trick) then set the Radius X to 0.4-this will spread particles across the width of the whole NIGHT layer. Under Physics, change Animation to Viscouse, Velocity to 0.60, Gravity to 0.010, and Resistance to 3.0. Under Particle, change Particle Type to QuadPolygon, Birth Size to 0.020, Death Size to 0.050, and Size Variation to 100%. Sample from the floor’s bright color for the Birth Color and its dark color for the Death Color, and set the Transfer Mode to Screen.

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13 ADVANCED PARTICLE SETTING
In the ECP, click the word “Options” near the name of the effect, then click Opacity Map in the resulting dialog. Choose Constant from the Presets drop-down menu. Click OK twice, then duplicate the Particles layer for a shadow version. Select the duplicate, return to the effect’s Options again, click Rendering, and set Render Animation to Projected on Floor. Click OK twice, then position this layer between the Floor and NIGHT Shadow layers in the Timeline. In the ECP, change the Particle Birth Color to be the same as the Death Color. Click the Toggle Switches/Modes button, change the layer blend mode to Multiply in the Timeline, then add a Fast Blur effect with a Blurriness of 2. Perfect!

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14 FINAL EMBELLISHMENTS
Go to Layer>New>Camera, choose the 15mm Preset and turn on Enable Depth of Field. Set the F-Stop to 2.0, the Blur Level to 300%, and click OK. On frame 16, twirl down the Camera layer and then twirl down Transform. Move the Camera slightly back on the z-axis, and set a keyframe for both Position and Point of Interest. At frame 18, move the camera on the z-axis towards the type, and then on the last frame in the Timeline, move it a few more pixels. Select all the new keyframes and apply an Easy Ease. Enable Motion Blur for All Layers, and render. True 3D? You tell me.. Enjoy!

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ALL IMAGES BY STEVE HOLMES UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED

Source : http://www.layersmagazine.com

After Effect Tutorial – How To Create Smokey Type Effect

Type animation is one of the most wonderful functions to play with in After Effects, especially since version 6 introduced actual text character animation control. With CS3 adding per-character 3D control, typographic motion design has never been more fun. Let’s create some cool smoky type.

[If you'd like download the image used in this tutorial to practice this technique and also to preview the final effect, click here. All files are for personal use only.]

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1 CREATE COMPOSITION & BACKDROP
Let’s start out by creating a composition to hold our titles. We’re focusing on type animation for this tutorial, so we’ll use simple background elements instead of footage. In After Effects, click on the Create a New Composition icon at the bottom of the Project panel and create a new 20-second composition using the HDV/HDTV 720 29.97 preset, name it “Where there’s Smoke” and click OK. Then double-click in the Project panel to bring up the Import File dialog and import the Backdrop image [Backdrop image is available for download by clicking here]. Drag the backdrop image into the Timeline at 0 seconds.

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2 ADD AND FORMAT TYPE
At 0 seconds, go to Layer>New>Text, to create a new text layer in the center of the comp. Type the words you desire, then use the Character panel to size, track, and style the text accordingly. This first line of text will be our intro for the main title. In my case, I’m using one of my all-time favorite typefaces, Walbaum, from Veer.com. Both classic and modern, it suits clean typographic work nicely.

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3 ADD OPACITY ANIMATOR; ADJUST
Go back to the Selection tool (V) so the entire text layer is highlighted, then twirl down the text layer in the Timeline. Next to Text, click on the right-facing arrow next to Animate and choose Opacity from the flyout menu to add an opacity Animator 1. Twirl that down, and then twirl down both Range Selector 1 and Advanced. Set Shape to Ramp Up, and drag the animator’s Opacity value down to 0%. You’ll see the right half of the line fades out. Finally, adjust the Range Selector’s Offset value to -100%, and the type is now invisible.

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4 KEYFRAME ANIMATOR; ADD BLUR
At 1 second along the Timeline, click the Stopwatch next to Offset to add a keyframe. Then, move along to 4 seconds and adjust the offset to +100%, revealing the type. Control-click (PC: Right-click) on that second keyframe and choose Keyframe Assistant>Easy Ease In. Now, click on the Add option next to Animator 1, and choose Property>Blur from the bottom of the flyout menu. This adds the Blur function into this already animated item. Simply adjust the Blur value to around 30, then scrub the Timeline and see the result!

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5 CREATE SMOKY SOLID
Now we need the “smoke” that we’ll use to reveal the type. Go back to 0 seconds, then go to Layer>New>Solid. Click the Make Comp Size button, check the color is black, name it “Smoke Solid,” and click OK. Now go to Effect>Noise & Grain>Fractal Noise, and in the Effect Controls panel, set the Contrast to 140, Complexity to 12, and twirl down Transform and set Scale to 160. Animating any and all of these items can create moving smoke nicely, so feel free to play around with these settings at any time.

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6 ANIMATE SMOKE MASK POSITION
Go to the Toolbar and select the Ellipse tool. Click-and-drag over the center of the smoke to create a mask shape of your chosen size. Go back to the Selection tool, and in the Timeline click on the Eye icon next to Animator 1 to disable it. Double-click on the edge of the smoke mask, then drag it over the start of the text line. At 1 second, press Shift-Option-M (PC: Shift-Alt-M) to add a mask keyframe, scrub to 4 seconds, and drag the mask to the end of the text line. Be sure to Easy Ease In that second keyframe.

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7 ANIMATE SMOKE MASK OPACITY
At 1 second, press Shift-T to show the layer’s Opacity. Add a keyframe and change the value to 0%. At 2 seconds, set the value to 100%, and at 4 seconds back to 0%. Shift-click to select all three keyframes and go to Animation>Keyframe Assistant>Easy Ease. Press Shift-F to show the Mask Feather value and adjust it to 100 pixels. In the Mode column, set the layer blend mode to Screen to remove the black edges. (If you don’t see the Mode column, Control-click [PC: Right-click] on Source Name and select Columns>Modes.) Finally, turn back on the visibility icon for Animator 1 on the text layer, and view your results. Very smoky, very nice!

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8 ANIMATE TEXT OFF
Now we want to use another animator to “wipe” the text back off before the main title appears. Twirl up Animator 1 (be sure it’s not selected). Click on Animate next to Text and choose Opacity once again. This adds Animator 2. Use the exact same settings as in Step 3 but set the Shape to Ramp Down instead. Then, keyframe the Range Selector’s Offset from -100% at 5 seconds to +100% at 7 seconds. Select the first keyframe, use Easy Ease Out, and your text intro is perfectly animated.

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9 ADD MAIN TITLE LAYER
Twirl up the text and smoke layers, and at 8 seconds go to Layer>New>Text. Add and style your main title accordingly, making sure to keep all the words on this one layer. This example uses a font called Freebooter Script. Use different font sizes and change the baseline shift as needed. For example, we set the smaller text at 45 pixels and the larger text at 175 pixels. We then added Returns after each “There’s,” adjusted the baseline shift for the various lines, and then added a few spaces before the word “Smoke.” Position the text layer in the center as shown here.

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10 ANIMATE MAIN TITLE OPACITY
Twirl down the new text layer and add a new opacity Animator. Twirl down all the options, and set them once again to the same values we used in Step 3 (Opacity 0%, Ramp Up, Offset -100%), but change the Based On option to Words. At 8 seconds, add a keyframe for the Offset value, and at 11 seconds change it to +100%. Then be sure to Easy Ease In the second keyframe. It’s cool that the exact same settings can be used again, but it gives a different effect when set to Words and not Characters!

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11 ADD NEW TITLE ANIMATOR
Twirl up Animator 1, deselect it, then add a second Animator choosing Position. Click on Add (next to Animator 2) and choose Property>Rotation, and then click on it again and choose Selector>Wiggly. Twirl down the Wiggly Selector, and set Wiggles/Second to 0 and Correlation to 30%. Most importantly, set the Min Amount value to 0%, which means when we animate these characters with random values, they’ll only move in one direction: forward.

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12 ADD 3D; ANIMATE VALUES
Click on the Animate option next to Text, and choose Enable Per-Character 3D, which activates multiple axes for Position and Rotation in the Animator. At 13 seconds, add a keyframe for Position and the X, Y, and Z Rotation values of Animator 2. Then, at 18 seconds, adjust the values as desired. Be sure to adjust the third Position value (Z axis) to a negative number, pulling the characters toward you. When done, select the four keyframes at 13 seconds and set them to Easy Ease Out.

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13 APPLY BLUR
As a final nod towards the “smoky” feel, go ahead click on Add again and choose the Property>Blur option to add it into Animator 2. Keyframe it across the same 13-18 second timeframe (including Easy Ease Out), starting at 0 and ending however blurred you wish to see it (85 in this example). Now as you scrub the Timeline from 8 to 18 seconds, you can see the “simple” animator bringing the words in separately, and the “detailed” animator randomly moving and spinning the letters towards the viewer and “smoking” them out in the process. Beautiful!

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14 ADDITIONAL EMBELLISHMENTS
As an additional flourish to this piece, you could add a 3D camera (Layer>New>Camera-we used the 50mm Preset) to the scene and animate its z axis so it moves toward the middle from 13-19 seconds to make the letters fly “behind” the camera and offscreen (we set our Z axis to -200 at 19 seconds). At the same time, you could add an effect such as Turbulent Displace (Effect>Distort>Turbulent Displace) and animate it’s Amount over the same time period from 0 to 150, making the letters simply “wisp” away. Some very powerful type animation options, achieved using a handful of simple Text Animators. Enjoy!

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Source : http://www.layersmagazine.com/

Using Layers to Create DVD Menu in After Effects

The real essence of After Effects, what makes it tick, is its clever use of layers. Most people know layers in Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign, and in many ways After Effects mimics these almost identically. However, layers can be so much more than they seem at first glance. Here are a few cool examples of where you can save time and money in creating a DVD menu background using layers for more than just the basics. What a perfect subject for this magazine!

The specs for this project are an NTSC D1 composition (720×486), 29.97 frames per second, 5 seconds long, with a background color of black.

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STEP 1 Import Footage; Arrange in Timeline

After creating the new project and composition in After Effects, go to File>Import>Multiple Files, and bring in some elements to use as your backdrop. In this case, I’m bringing in a couple of Artbeats clips, namely from their Light Alchemy and Digital Microcosm collections. These are perfect for looping backgrounds and for using as mattes and effects. Choose the main clip to play in the background and drag it into the Timeline at 0 seconds (I’m using Digital Microcosm clip 119).

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STEP 2 Add Light Layer; Remove Background

Now, drag the next clip (Light Alchemy 106, or something similar with a dark background and swirling areas of light pixels) into the Timeline at the top of the layer stack. The black background covers up the original pixels, so let’s use a blend mode to get rid of it. Control-click (PC: Right-click) in the Switches header in the Timeline and choose Columns>Modes. Next to the Light layer under the Mode column, click on Normal and choose Add. Now you’re using a layer as its own matte. Cool!

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STEP 3 Duplicate and Rotate Light Layer
How about adding another set of light wisps, but changing their color? For this, we can use a new blank layer of color with an existing layer as its matte. With the Light layer selected, hit Command-D (PC: Control-D) to duplicate it, and hit R to access its Rotation values. In the second input field (0.0�), key in 180 to spin the light around. Hit 0 for a RAM Preview and check the composite you have created, all with a few simple layers.

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STEP 4 Change Clip Speed and Duration \Let’s change the speed of the second Light layer so it plays back faster than the other, as if we used a completely different clip. Click the small <> icons at the bottom-center of the Timeline to expand the In, Out, Duration, and Stretch sections in the Timeline. For the current Light layer, click on the number in the Duration column (in this case, 0;00;14;03) to bring up the Time Stretch dialog. Change the New Duration to 0;00;05;01 and hit OK. Playback will now be much faster.

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STEP 5 Add Color Solid; Change Layer Order
So how best to change the color of that light to be bright yellow and stand out? Let’s use another layer! Go to Layer>New>Solid. Make sure to click the Make Comp Size button, and then click the color swatch and change it to a bright, strong yellow. Click OK and the new solid comes in on top of the stack. Drag it down in the Timeline to below the first layer (the duplicated, rotated light).

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STEP 6 Create Luma Matte; Adjust Levels
Go to the TrkMat column in the Timeline for the yellow solid and choose Luma Matte from the options. You now have beautiful yellow wisps! The luminance values of the Light layer are being used as transparency information for the yellow solid, but we can make them even stronger. Select the top Light layer again and go to Effect>Adjust>Levels. Under the topmost histogram in the palette that appears, drag the white slider toward the left until the yellow wisps become as strong as you like.

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STEP 7 Create Fractal Noise Layer
Now let’s create a water-like movement on a layer, which can be used to distort our main title. Once again, go to Layer>New>Solid, and set the color to black. When done, go to Effect>Noise & Grain>Fractal Noise. To make this look like rippling water, change Noise Type to Spline and set Contrast to 130 in the Effect Controls palette. Under Transform, turn off Uniform Scaling and adjust the Width to 600, Height to 20, and Complexity to 3. This makes a nice, elongated noise with a very soft feel to it.

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STEP 8 Animate Fractal Noise
Making sure you’re at 0 seconds in the Timeline, click the little Stopwatch icon next to Evolution in the Effect Controls palette to add a keyframe, and also click the Stopwatch icon next to Offset Turbulence. Now, hit End on the keyboard to go to the end of the Timeline, change the Evolution value to 2 full rotations, and the Offset Turbulence value by 100 pixels down from 360, 243 to 360, 343. When done, do a RAM Preview to see the water-like motion you have just created from a blank layer!

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STEP 9 Import & Position Title Elements
Now for titles: Go to File>Import>Multiple Files and import the title/text graphics you wish to use. I’m importing an Illustrator CS2 file (although any version will do) with three separate layers. Choose Footage in the Import window, then select a layer from the next dialog, but make sure that Document Size is selected also. When done, drag these graphics into the top of the Timeline and hit Option-Home (PC: Alt-Home) to make sure they start at 0 seconds.

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STEP 10 Pre-Compose Fractal Noise
Our desire here is to use the animated water layer to animate a ripple onto our titles (all layers or just one-it’s up to you). However, our Noise solid cannot be used for animated distortion of another layer, as AE doesn’t see the animated pixels in motion until they’re rendered. But we don’t want to render! So, select the Fractal Noise black solid layer and go to Layer>Pre-Compose. Select Move All Attributes into the New Composition and click OK. Visually, nothing changes.

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STEP 11 Hide Pre-Comp; Apply Displacement Effect
Now, click the Eye icon on the far left of the Noise Pre-Comp layer to turn it off and see the original composite. Select the title layer to which you wish to add the ripple animation and go to Effect>Distort>Displacement Map. In the window that appears, change the Displacement Map Layer to the Noise Pre-Comp (layer 4 in this case). Change the Max Horizontal Displace value to 0 and the Vertical to 10. Set the Displacement Map Behavior to Center Map, then do a RAM Preview. Very nice!

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STEP 12 Create Solid; Add Mask
Go to Layer>New>Solid and create another black solid at 0 seconds. Hit Q twice on the keyboard to access the Ellipse Mask tool, and with the Shift key held down draw a circle mask on the new solid. Create it slightly off to one side. If you need to move it, press Command-T (PC: Control-T) and adjust its size and position. When done, hit M to show the mask in the Timeline, and click the Invert checkbox next to it. Finally, hit F to show the Feather value, and soften the mask to around 160 pixels.

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STEP 13 Make New Solid an Adjustment Layer; Add Effects
In the Switches column, click under the small half-black/half-white circle for the masked layer-it will disappear, but that’s okay-it’s waiting for us to add effects now. Go to Effect>Blur & Sharpen>Gaussian Blur, and change the Blurriness value to 8 pixels. Go back to Effect>Adjust>Levels, and this time let’s drag the right-hand white slider on the grayscale ramp about a third to the left. These two effects are now combined and applied through a soft-edged mask on an adjustment layer!

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STEP 14 Final Layer Order; Summary
One more thing-adjustment layers only affect layers beneath them. If your layer is affecting all your titles and you only want it to affect one (or none), simply move the other titles above the adjustment layer in the Timeline!
So, we have used layers for many different things: simple composites, self-masking with blending modes, luma masking on basic solid layers, creating animated textures and applying as distortion effects, and as masked adjustment layers with effects that affect everything else! As I said, a layer is definitely more than just a layer! Enjoy.

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Source : http://www.layersmagazine.com/

Vector Graphics – 3D Depth with 2D Layers in After Effects

You see them everywhere-vector graphics, swirly elements drawing themselves onto the screen, and fake 3D depth with 2D layers. It’s a very popular trend in design and motion graphics, and remarkably easy to create. This tutorial is based loosely on (and uses footage from) a piece we’re working on for a Web trailer (hence the size), and highlights some of the ways this cool and modern effect can be achieved.

The specs for this project are a square-pixel composition (650×275), 29.97 frames per second, 6 seconds long, with a background color of white.

[If you'd like to download the assets used in this tutorial to practice this technique, visit www.layersmagazine.com/downloads.html.]

STEP 1 The Elements
For this animation, we need a selection of elements-some easy to create, such as vector swirls and a city scene (Illustrator), and others that you might need to source from different locations (we used green screen footage of a woman running in place, and a blue sky background movie from Artbeats’ White Puffy Clouds collection). The important thing to remember is to organize the different lines of the swirls and the buildings/trees of the city scene onto separate layers in Illustrator-this will make them infinitely easier to animate.

CLOUDS CREDIT: ARTBEATS DIGITAL FILM LIBRARY, JOGGER CREDIT: STEVE HOLMES

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STEP 2 Import Files
In After Effects, double-click inside the Project panel to bring up the Import File dialog. Locate and select the two movie clips, and click Open. Deselect, then access Import File again and choose your first swirls vector file (Wing Swirls.ai in this example). In the lower part of the dialog, under Import As, choose Composition – Cropped Layers. Click Open, and a Wing Swirls comp and folder of layers will appear in the Project panel. Perform the same actions to import your city scene vector file (City Scene.ai in this example) as a layered composition.

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STEP 3 Open City Comp; Arrange 3D Layers
Double-click the City Scene Layers comp to open it. In the Timeline, click the 3D Layer checkbox next to all of the layers to make them 3D. At the bottom of the Comp panel, change Active Camera to Custom View 1 to see the following changes more clearly. Select all the layers, hit P to reveal their Position values, and you’ll see three values: X, Y, and Z. Leave the bottom layer (Backdrop 3) at 0. Set the next layer up to -100 on the Z axis. Set the next layer to -200 and so on, until each layer is separated by -100 pixels from the previous.

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STEP 4 Duplicate Trees; Offset Z Axis

Select the top layer, the detailed trees on either side of the scene. Press Command-D (PC: Control-D) to duplicate the layer, then reveal its Position values (P) and offset the Z axis by an additional -200 pixels (to -600 in this case). Duplicate and offset again until you have four rows of trees, the final row being -1000 pixels on the Z axis. This gives us depth to play with when we animate the backdrop later on. If you want to see the scene a little more easily, hit C to access the Camera Orbit tool, and drag around the Comp panel.

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STEP 5 Add Sky in 3D
In the Project panel, select your clouds clip (ours is Artbeats WC101.mov) and drag it to the bottom of the Timeline, below the other layers. Turn it into a 3D layer, then hit P and Shift-S to show the Position and Scale values. Set the Position to +300 on the Z axis, and the Scale to 200%. To add a final touch of realism, go to Effects>Blur>Fast Blur and set the Blurriness to 2.0 pixels in the Effect Controls panel (ECP) at the top left. This adds a fake depth of field effect and finishes the 3D sky nicely.

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STEP 6 Add Jogger; Speed Up

In the Timeline, switch back to the initial, blank Composition tab. From the Project panel, drag your jogger clip (ours is Jog Front.mov) into the Timeline, then go to Effects>Color Correction>Levels. Adjust the Input Black, Input White, and Gamma sliders in the ECP to add contrast to the clip. As the runner in this clip runs too slowly, click the Stretch Panels icon ({}) at the bottom left of the Timeline, click on the 100% Stretch value, and change it to 80%. Naturally, you can set this to whatever speed you desire to get the correct running cadence.

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STEP 7 Mask and Keylight
Double-click the jogger layer in the Timeline to open it in a Layer panel. In the Toolbar, select the Rectangular Mask tool and create a rectangle that removes the outer junk (a “garbage matte”), leaving only the runner and clean green background. Close the Layer window, then go to Effects>Keying>Keylight. In the ECP, click the eyedropper next to Screen Colour (yes, British spelling!), and click the green background on the clip to remove it. Twirl down Screen Matte and adjust Clip Black and Clip White to improve the key, if necessary.
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STEP 8 Animate a Wing Swirl
Open the Wing Swirls comp from the Project panel. Select the first swirl layer to be animated, and go to Effects>Transition>Linear Wipe. In the ECP, set the Wipe Angle to oppose the direction you wish to flow (in this case, upward), and Transition Completion to 100%. Click the Stopwatch (at 0 seconds) next to this value to add a keyframe, move the Current Time Marker (CTM) to 15 frames along in time, and set the value to 0%. Control-click (PC: Right-click) on the second keyframe in the Timeline and choose Keyframe Assistant>Ease In.

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STEP 9 Animate Remaining Swirls; Offset Appearance
Repeat Step 8 for each of the other swirl layers, adjusting the Wipe Angle accordingly. You can also keyframe the Wipe Angle over time to vary the flow of the transition. When done, select all the swirl layers and hit U to show the keyframes. To stagger them so they don’t all play simultaneously, select the second swirl layer and drag it an extra five frames along the Timeline (Option-Page Down [PC: Alt-Page Down] will do this one frame at a time). Repeat this on all of the other layers until you’re happy with the speed.

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STEP 10 Scale Wings; Adjust Anchor
Switch back to the main composition and drag the Wing Swirls comp into the Timeline below the jogger layer. Move the CTM to around 2 seconds so the swirls are visible (to make it easier to visualize the effect), then adjust the layer’s Scale (35% in this case) to more proportionally match the runner. From the Toolbar, select the Anchor Point tool and drag the layer’s anchor point to the lower-middle right edge, where the first swirls begin. This will form the inner edge of the right wing.

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STEP 11 Motion Track Settings
Select the jogger layer and choose Animation>Track Motion to open the clip in the Motion Track layer window. Position Track Point 1’s inner square on a central, high-contrast part of the clip (here, the triangle of white T-shirt visible beneath the jacket), and make it slightly larger than the white area. Set the outer square’s size to just a shade wider but taller (as the clip’s motion is vertical), then in the Tracker Controls palette, set Track Type to Transform, check Position, and set Motion Target to Wing Swirls (if it isn’t, click Edit Target and correct it).

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STEP 12 Motion Track; Add Left Wing
At 0 seconds, click the Analyze Forward icon in the Tracker Controls panel to motion track the target. If the track jumps, press Command-Z (PC: Control-Z) to undo, adjust the outer rectangle, and try again. When the track motion is satisfactory, click Apply to add the tracking data to the swirls layer, then click OK to X and Y in the second dialog. Beautiful! Select the swirls layer, duplicate it, hit S to access the Scale property, uncheck the Link icon next to the values, and set the X Scale to -35%. This flips the wing to the other side, but retains the motion.

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STEP 13 Add 3D City; Add Camera
At 0 seconds, drag the City Scene Layers comp from the Project panel to the Timeline, behind the other layers. Click the second switch in the Switches pane (Collapse Transformations), then go to Layer>New>Camera, choose 35mm from the Preset menu, and click OK. Go to Layer>Transform>Auto Orient and choose Off. Click OK, and hit R and Shift-P to access the camera’s Position and Orientation values. Set the Orientation to 6, 0, 0; the Z position to around -700; then adjust the Y position to around 180.

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STEP 14 Animate Camera; Parent Wings and Jogger
At 0 seconds, add a keyframe for the camera’s Position, then move the CTM along the Timeline to your desired time. Adjust the Z axis to around -1000 and the background moves into the distance. At 0 seconds, Control-click (PC: Right-click) in the Source Name bar and choose Columns>Parent. Select both wing layers and set the jogger layer as their parent from the pop-up menu(s). Now, you can scale and move the jogger to fit your design space. Extra: Select the jogger layer, choose Effect>Generate>Fill, and set the Fill Color to black to match the wings. Enjoy!

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Source : http://www.layersmagazine.com/

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