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After Effects: Principles of Motion Graphics with Ian Robinson covers some of the core principles used to create motion graphics, breaking them down into smaller groups of applied techniques in After Effects. The course explores everything from gathering inspiration to integrating traditional typography, transitional elements, animated textures, color, and more into motion graphics. Instructions for building a toolkit with templates and a style guide for future projects are also included. Exercise files accompany the course.
The process of getting your lights in place in the scene is really only scratching the surface when you're talking about delivering the final finished graphic. In this video, we are going to focus on adding the finishing touches by combining our lighting with some key effects, and since we'll be finishing up, we might as well add some keyframes and create the actual animation while we are at it, also. So looking at the scene, as I see it, things still look a little bit flat and I'm having a hard time picking the visual hierarchy of this image.
The trees here are very sharp, the type is definitely popping out at me, but all in all, the image is pretty flat in how it's lit. So, first thing I want to do is actually look and see if I can deal with this edge back here in the back. See how I can see the gray of my composition? If you're not seeing that at home, you need to go to Comp in your Comp Settings and change the background color. My background color is set to this light gray, so that's what I am seeing the edge of the ground layer here.
So first thing, let's look at the overall lighting. And this parallel light, I remember when it was added it was just bringing up the overall luminance to the entire scene. So let's go ahead and turn that on, and already, I sort of like what this is doing, but I'm not sure. So typically, in the design process, what you'll do is kind of work down the path and see if it works and then if it doesn't, sort of undo. So, what I am going to do is just turn off the parallel light, but obviously, if we decide later that we want to bring it on, we could.
But that's where we are with that right now. So to draw the viewer's eye to the center of the screen, what we need to do is add a vignette around the edges. So to add a vignette, let's use the layer-solid technique. Just go up under Layer and choose New > Solid. Now, I want this vignette to create kind of a soft wintry look, and we will actually make it look sort of like there's frost on the edge of the glass. So, in order to do that, we don't want a black vignette. Let's go ahead and click on the eyedropper and sample a color out of our type.
When we click OK, you can see we've got a slightly lighter layer solid here. And if we go up and click our Ellipse tool, we can draw a mask to actually cut a hole in this layer solid. So click in the upper-left corner and drag to the lower-right corner. Now, if you can't see the bottom of your canvas, no problem. Let go off your mouse and Command+Minus to just zoom out, and you can press Command+T or Ctrl+T to bring up your transform handles, and that way I can just make sure the edges of my mask are going out to the edges of the canvas. And just press Enter or Return to set the transformation of the mask.
Now, we need to invert the mask, so select Inverted, and we need to soften the edges. So open up the Mask options and let's adjust the Feather setting for this mask. All right, that's looking pretty cool, but we need to add the frost in here as well. So right now, let's go ahead and rename our layer solid, and we will call this Frost. And to actually create the texture of the frost, we will bring in a texture from our folder that we have in our assets folder. So if you double-click in the Project panel to import, navigate to the images folder in your asset.
And in there, I want you to import one of these stone textures. All these are literally pictures of this stone tile, but when we import it into After Effects and drop it into our composition, we can use this texture to create that kind of frozen frost look. And the easiest way to do that is to actually use the luminance from the stone texture. So select your Frost layer and adjust the Track Matte settings from No Track Matte to Luma Matte.
That's just taking the luminance information from the Stone layer. So we don't have to worry about the fact that this layer was actually brown. So I think that's looking pretty cool. If we wanted to bring that down a little bit, we could just duplicate this Frost layer and put it on top, but for now, I think this looks pretty good. So we've got our vignette, and we've sort of dealt with the issue of the upper edge, but not really, because I can still see that edge up there on the top of the graphic, this part right here.
So to deal with that, let's add a black solid in the background. Go up under Layer and choose New > Solid and just make sure the solid is black. Let me click OK. Drag that all the way to the bottom of your comp. And now, even though it's a black solid, I'm still getting a little bit more of an organic feel to the edge, because all I'm seeing is the edge of the light. Now, we can soften the edge of the spotlight, but I think you get the general idea. Now one of the other things that is a little visually distracting in this scene is the fact that these trees in the background are so sharp.
So let's go ahead and add a slight blur to each one of the trees. Select the Tree layer in the Timeline and just go up under Effects > Blur, and we will add a quick Fast Blur. And we can just go ahead and crank up the blurriness here on the one tree. That's a little too much, so let's bring that back down to around 7. That looks good. And since I like that, I'll just copy that Fast Blur, select the other layer and select the Effect Control palette, and now we have the same blur on both trees.
That's looking pretty good so far. So let's get to the animation. We can animate the light first, which is this point Light. Let's make the light slide all the way from the left side of the word all the way to the right side. So open up the Position data for the point light and let's drag on the X parameter all the way to the left so the point light disappears off the left side of the word. And just add a keyframe, making sure your playhead is at the beginning of the Timeline. Now, move the playhead to the end of the Timeline just by pressing End on your keyboard and click and drag on the X parameter to move the position of the light all the way off to the right-hand side.
Now, if we move our playhead back to the beginning here, you can see we've got our light right here in the middle of the word. Now, one of the things I like to do when I'm dealing with lights like this is just do a RAM preview at full resolution just for a very short amount of time, maybe two or three frames. Let's go and do that. So, as we can see, the light is kind of flickering because it's moving back and forth during our RAM preview. But you can see that light is pretty darn bright, so let's go ahead and just adjust the luminance of that light.
If we press A twice, we can open up the Light Options, and the luminance of the light is controlled by the Intensity, so let's go ahead and just bring the Intensity down a little bit. So that way, we are going to have a nice highlight, but it's not going to blow out the text so much. Now, we can animate the camera. So move your playhead back to the beginning of the timeline just by pressing Home on your keyboard, and press P to open up the Position data. If we add a keyframe at the beginning of our Timeline, we can go ahead and press End and move the camera to the right-hand side here.
Now, let's move our playhead back to the beginning. One of the things I like to do to accentuate type, especially if it's in the center of the scene, is to actually add a little Z move to your camera move. So instead of just panning along and having the light kind of catch our eye during the move, what we can do is adjust the Z parameter. So, the first keyframe, I think were looking pretty good. Let's move our playhead to the end and move in on the Z axis.
Since this is so close and it looks like we are looking down on the type, we want to move down on the Y axis, because I want the type to be a little bit more dominant in the scene. Now, I think I got a little overzealous with that Z move, so we will just move back out just a tiny, tiny bit. That's looking pretty good. One of the things you want to be careful of when you are talking about type is Title/Action Safe. So let's go ahead and turn that on. As you can see, we have the type and it's a little bit outside of Action Safe on the right here.
So one of the things we can do is adjust the scale of the type. So let's select ALL Winter. Press S to adjust the scale. I have brought that down a little bit, but now we need to reposition it to the left side of the screen. Even if we move our playhead back to the beginning of the Timeline, now one of the things we need to do is reposition the type just a little bit to the left of the screen. Now, if we select the Type layer and then click on the X axis and start to bring it to the left of the screen, notice the camera is moving but the type isn't.
Well, technically the type is moving. Let me just undo that. What's happening, we have a behavior applied to this camera. If we select the camera and press U, we have the Point of Interest to the camera tied to the transform position of the ALL Winter type. So if we need to reposition the ALL Winter type, instead of changing its position, press A to open up its anchor point, and let's go ahead and drag it to the right. And you notice now, as we adjust the anchor point, since we're not changing the position of the type, we can actually reposition it within the scene.
So let's move our playhead back up to the beginning, and actually that's looking pretty darn good. So there's one last thing I want to do, because all in all, while this looks good, I still want it to have a little bit more contrast and brightness. One of the things we can do is add a glow effect. So let's go ahead and collapse the Camera layer here and go up under Layer and choose New > Adjustment Layer. And if we go up under Effects, Glow can be found under Stylize. Now, with a glow effect, you notice we automatically have a heightened sense of contrast.
Let me go ahead and turn off Title/Action Safe here. But this is really, really bright. The way you can bring this back is to just adjust the Threshold. The higher the number, the less glow you're going to have because it's going to need a little bit more contrast before it starts blowing out the color of the image. Now, we could also adjust the radius of the glow. Let's go ahead and just drag that to 15, and let's bring the Intensity down a little bit because it is getting a little intense on the letter W here as that light moves across.
So we will turn the Glow off and turn it on. And as you can see, it's just sort of highlighting this one area. That's fine, because we have one more effect that we are going to layer on in here. And this effect is going to be achieved by using a technique that I use in Photoshop quite often. So what we need to do is take all of these layers in the composition and pre-compose them, or just duplicate this comp. So to get started, let's go to Composition and create a new composition.
We will call this Winter Out, and that way I know this is what I'm going to render out of my scene, and now let's drag the ALL Winter comp into here. Now, if we duplicate the ALL Winter layer, we can adjust the brightness and contrast of what's going on just by adjusting the blend mode. Let's go ahead and change the blend mode from our top layer to Soft Light, and now we have a really nice contrast on our scene. If we scrub our playhead down here, you can see we have a beautiful glow that's moving across the letters.
Now, if we wanted to soften this up a little bit more, we could select the top layer, go up under Effect, and just add a very soft blur. Now, I am going to use Fast Blur because it renders the quickest. So we'll add maybe a blur of about 11. There we go. Now, we are all set. We've got our camera animated. We've got our glow going. We have our frost on the window. I think we are pretty much all set for this example. So all we have to do is render our RAM preview, check it out, and enjoy.
So, as you can see, there were a number of steps that we went through to troubleshoot our image and actually decide what effects we want to use and what effects we didn't want to use, but also we kind of remembered there are some old-school techniques that work perfectly well as well. So keep in mind, After Effects is very much like Photoshop. So if you have had a lot of Photoshop training, you might want to try some of those techniques in here as well.
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