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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.
If you've ever done home improvement projects before, you might be familiar with having to cope with imperfection. If you've ever tried to hang some wallpaper with a repeating pattern, you know how tedious it can be to try to make all those edges line up without any seams. It's after those kinds of home improvement projects that I really do appreciate the precision of working within a software package. If you ever need to create a repeating pattern inside one of your motion graphics projects, look no further than After Effects or Photoshop.
So to get started, let's look at our project so far. Right now, I have a comp called Loopy, because we're going to loop absolutely everything in here, and in that comp I have an ASND file. Now if you're unfamiliar with ASND files, it's an Adobe Soundbooth Document. It's a part of the Creative Suite. It is its own file, much like After Effects has its own format, but the nice thing is the fact that you can edit your audio in Soundbooth and then just import the Soundbooth document into your After Effects document.
So if I ever needed to make any changes to this audio, I could just select the ASND file, go to Edit, and say Edit in Soundbooth. Okay, so anyway, I have the ASND file selected. Let's go ahead and listen to it. (video playing) You get the idea. There is no beginning. There is no end. It is a seamless loop of audio.
And now we're going to create some seamless loops of video using some textures that we've shot using a digital camera as well as some graphics natively generated right here within After Effects. So let's get started by looking at some of those textures. I'm just going to Command+Tab over to Bridge and sure enough, here are the textures that I've been using throughout the course that I have just went around and shot in my house. So the texture we want to use is this one right here, and the reason I'm choosing this texture--if I go ahead and just click to open up my magnifying glass--is you can see it's got some interesting textures to it, but it's relatively blurry in many areas.
So this is the perfect kind of texture to open up in Photoshop to create a seamless loop with. To do that, just go ahead and Ctrl+Click or right- click on the file and say Open With > Photoshop. Now right here in Photoshop, I'll just expand my canvas here so you can see things better. I'm in the Design workspace, and what we'll do is use the Offset filter to loop this texture around visually. So to show you what I mean, let's start by double-clicking the background.
This will create a new layer, and we'll just call this FrillLoop. Okay. With the FrillLoop layer selected, do up under Filter and down in the Other section is Offset, so choose Offset. And here, if we just click and drag, yours may be set to 0 by default. The Offset filter tends to remember its last setting, so here we go. Offset is set to zero on the Horizontal and zero for the Vertical. You want to make sure that Wrap Around is selected and that you have your Preview enabled.
I want this texture to be seamless from left to right. So to do that, we just adjust the horizontal offset. And as I click and drag this, when I let go, we should see a seam here. Now this texture is so perfect for seamlessness it's kind of hard to see, but if you look here in the center of the screen--here, let me zoom in, Command+Plus-- you can see I've got this seam, and that was created when I adjusted the offset on the horizontal axis, and basically, Photoshop just went right around and wrapped to the pixels.
Now I can't resize the canvas here until I click OK, so let me click OK and that way I'll resize the canvas. So now we have to deal with the seam. If you've ever use the Clone Stamp tool, well, good on you, because that's what we're going to use right now. Select the Clone Stamp tool and you want to choose a large soft-edge brush. It's pretty simple to go through here and patch this up, but one of the things I always recommend is to make sure you're at 100% magnification as you make your adjustments.
So just Command+Plus to zoom in to a specific area within the Photoshop document. There we go, and now what we can do is sample a specific area of this texture to paint in another area. So I'll just click down here to the lower-right and hold down Option on my Mac, Alt on Windows and just click once. Now, I've got a sample, and notice when I move my mouse, you can see the center of the brush is actually going to paint the area that I sampled into the new area where I've started my painting.
And since it's a soft-edge brush, it has a nice little fade around the edges. So I'll just click and drag, and sure enough, now I've gotten rid of the seam there. As I hold down the Spacebar, that allows me to move around in the canvas here. Let's go ahead and hold down Alt or Option and resample the new area and do the same kind of thing. Here we go. Okay, I'll just move it down.
And notice I'm not choosing something that's right next to where we were in the comp; I'm trying to choose areas that don't look particularly distinct. So let me actually resample over here. Paint that and draw down. And obviously, if you want less of a repeating pattern, don't draw such large strokes like I've been doing. Just go ahead and Option+Click and paint in smaller strokes. That way you can just paint in smaller areas. There we go.
Okay, so for the most part, we now have a seamless texture that we have created out of a live photograph. Let's go ahead and save this. We'll save it As Frill, and I'll just do -X, and that just lets me know that that is my seamless file. So we can go ahead and save that right into our images folder and save it as a JPEG, go ahead and click Save, and make sure the Quality options are set to Maximum, because JPEG is a compressed format. So, I'll go ahead and click OK.
And now with our Frill-X saved, we can go ahead and jump right back into After Effects. So let's import our seamless texture by double-clicking in the Project pane, and select Frill-X. Okay, the Frill-X texture is now ready to animate. Let's drag it and drop it right down into our Timeline. You'll notice this layer is actually huge, and I specifically left it large because if we were to animate this in three-dimensional space and the camera needed to get really close to it, I wanted to make sure that it was large enough that we wouldn't lose any quality.
In this specific example, we're not going to do that, but I just wanted you to understand why I didn't resize this in Photoshop. Anyway, let's press S to open up our Scale and scale this texture down to just around the edges of our comp. Okay, perfect. Now, we can animate the offset parameter in After Effects. Yes, it is the same offset effect that you saw in the filters in Photoshop, but here in After Effects, it's under Effect and Distort. Then you can choose Offset.
Okay, with Frill-X selected, if we open our Effects settings, we can see Offset. And the parameter that we want to adjust is this Shift Center To parameter, but before we add any keyframes, let me explain something. Since we set up this texture to be seamless along the x axis, all we're going to animate is the X parameter. So notice as I click and drag to the right, I'm not seeing any seams on this texture. That's because Photoshop did such a perfect job of just wrapping the texture around, and then obviously we painted out the seam.
In order for this to actually create a seamless loop within After Effects, there is a kind of easy trick that you can use to make sure that this Shift parameter is seamlessly loopable every time you use it. And that's to reset the parameter that you're going to be animating, in our case the X parameter. Reset that to zero. Now the entire size of this layer--let's select Frill-X in the Project Pane--is 2821. So it's 2,821 pixels across on the X axis.
Since we reset our X axis on zero for our offset, we can go ahead and keyframe that for the first frame of this comp, but go ahead and press End to move your playhead to the end of the composition. Now, shift the center to the entire size of the X parameter, so 2,821. Okay. Now if you press Enter on your keypad, we have a second keyframe, and if you notice, nothing changed in the scene. If I press Home and End, you notice the first frame and the last frame are exactly the same. This is perfect! It is a perfectly seamless loop, but the only issue is we have the same frame for the beginning and the end.
So to make this truly seamless, what we need to do is take the second keyframe and slide it one frame down the Timeline. So make sure your Info panel is up, and when you click and drag to the right, just pay attention and make sure that you only moved it one frame down your Timeline. Now if we press Home and load up a RAM preview, you'll be able to see that we have a perfectly seamless textured loop, created from an element that we shot in the "real world".
(video playing) I'll go ahead and stop playback, but as you can see, we have a nice seamless loop here. It's great that we can create seamless loops between Photoshop and After Effects, but believe it or not, you can create nice seamless loops right here natively inside of After Effects, and we can do that using some specific effects. Now, I want to jazz this up a little bit.
First thing we can do is create a new layer solid. So go to Layer, and create a new solid. Make sure the solid is the comp size, and you can leave it whatever color you want, because honestly, we're going to create a generator that will generate a specific graphic look. So let's go ahead and click OK. And now the effect we want to use is down under the Generate settings. And if we go to Fractal, we'll see that we have this kind of cool graphic look that's been created.
Fractals are--yes, the same fractals that you have studied in school, but in a graphic representation this is really kind of cool. What I want you to do is open up the Color Settings for the fractal, and anytime you see a parameter that says Cycle Offset, you know that that effect is seamlessly loopable. Also, you can do the same thing with Evolution options as long as you make note that it's one that complete evolution that you've selected. Let's create one complete cycle offset.
Move your playhead back to the beginning by selecting the Timeline and press Home. Add your first keyframe for the cycle offset. Move your playhead to the end, change the Cycle Offset from 0 to 1. If we select our gray solid and press U, will open up the Cycle Offset keyframes that we just created-- and just like we did to the previous loopable texture, and that's move this keyframe one frame down the Timeline. If we go ahead and move our playhead back to the beginning here, we can load up a RAM preview and I think you'll see a pretty funky animation with this fractal.
So let's go check it out. (video playing) I don't know if you think that's as cool as I do, but really, there is no beginning and there is no end. So the last thing we need to do is actually blend these two different effects together. So let's select our Light Gray Solid and just adjust the opacity by clicking T and clicking and dragging.
Here we'll adjust the opacity down, and let's add some color to this Frill layer here. We can just go to Effect > Color Correction, and we'll choose Tint. And let's go ahead and just choose kind of a yellow color, and that's perfectly fine. We'll add a slight glow to the entire graphic. So let's create a new adjustment layer and go up to Effect > Stylize, and choose Glow.
That's pretty crazy. Adjust the Intensity down just a little bit. We can adjust the Radius up, and if you adjust the Threshold, you can kind of tweak out, specifically, what's being affected. Obviously, I could sit here and tweak till the cows come home, but I think you get the general idea of what we're going for. Let's go ahead and just load up a RAM preview so we can check it out one more time and make use of our beautiful seamless textures and animations.
(video playing) As you can see, with After Effects and Photoshop you can create a virtually endless supply of seamless graphics and animations, and best of all, true precision is only a mouse click away.
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