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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.
Over the past few years, it seems like flowing lines, lights, swoops, swooshes-- whatever you want to call it-- it seems like they've sort of taken over the airwaves. Well, of course, I couldn't resist. I hardly think one can do a motion graphics course without having to create some kind of swoops or swooshes. Now, I'm going to show you two techniques that I like to use. I kind of think of them as the old- school way of doing swoops and swooshes, because these swoops and solutions don't technically live in a 3D environment.
These will be flat in 2D space. But we will fake the look so they will appear as though they are in three-dimensional space. Now, if you are looking for the ability to actually create a stroke that lives in a truly 3D environment, you want to check out a filter by Red Giant Software. It's called 3D Stroke. It's been around for a while. It used to be trap code, 3D stroke, but it's Red Giant Software 3D Stroke. It's pretty darn awesome. But if you want to kick it old school with me, you might want to check this out, because this is a really, really neat way of creating some interesting animated lines, swoops, and swooshes-- again, whatever you'd like to call it.
So let's get started by double-clicking the Strokes comp, and as you can see, I don't have anything in this comp yet. So let's go up under layer, and create a new solid. Now instead of black, I'm just going to create kind of a light gray solid, just so I know where the edges of the solid are. You can choose whatever color you like, because when we apply this effect--by going up under Effect > Generate, and choosing Stroke-- there is an option at the bottom for the Paint Style, so we can switch that from Original to On Transparent.
Now I'm not seeing anything yet, because I haven't added a mask to my solid. So go ahead and select your layer and grab the Pen tool and just click anywhere in the canvas. So I'm going to have a stroke sort of coming from the left of the screen and then work its way across to the right. So let's go ahead and just click here. If you click and drag as you are creating the pen strokes, you will open up the control handles, so you can create some kind of smooth interesting-looking shapes. So it's going to leave right across the screen, and let's go ahead and press Enter to set that stroke.
Now since I pressed Enter on the keypad, it opened up that layer, so let's just go ahead and close that. I want to add one more stroke, because the Path option gives us the ability to stroke more than one mask at a time. So let's go ahead and just make sure our mask is deselected by grabbing our Move tool and clicking anywhere in the canvas. Now, when we grab the Pen tool again, we should be able to create a brand-new stroke. There we go. I'll just have this sort of mimic the previous one but overlap a little bit.
If you want to tweak your stroke, go ahead and grab the Convert Vertex tool and click and drag on any of the anchor points. Okay, so now with the paths created, let's go ahead and change the Path options from None to actually All Masks. If you go ahead and select All Masks right underneath the pulldown, I'll have the option of stroking every single mask. Now I'm having a hard time seeing the stroke, because I can still see the masks in my comp. So let's turn off the Mask options by going up under View Options, and turning off the mask visibility.
When I click OK, now we can see just the strokes. Don't panic if it looks a little jagged. If we go ahead and zoom in to 100%, you can see it's pretty smooth. There may still be some little jaggies, but when it renders out, it'll look perfectly fine. Now when you are creating graphics for video, you want to make sure that your brush size is a little bit larger than 2, because you don't want any ringing. Now since the color of the stroke is bright white, that's kind of problematic. But don't worry; we're not going to use the color that the stroke generates.
Let's adjust the softness of these strokes by adjusting the brush hardness. If we go ahead and drag to bring that number down--let's go ahead and bring it down to somewhere in the low 20s-- it still looks pretty harsh. But that's okay, because we can add yet another adjustment. The Spacing, if you click and drag Spacing to the left or to the right, what it's doing is creating a bunch of different dots that end up creating the stroke. So adjusting the spacing, you notice as I get out, I can get to these specific dots.
So let's go ahead and just bring the spacing back up a little bit. Okay, so I know this doesn't look particularly exciting right now. If we want to add some animation, all we have to do is just keyframe this End parameter. Since I have Stroke Sequentially set up, it's going to stroke through my first mask and then stroke through my second mask. If we deselect Stroke Sequentially, it's going to go ahead and stroke through both at the same time. Now if you've been using After Effects for any amount of time, I'm sure you are kind of thinking to yourself, wow, I've known how to do this since day one.
Yes, I get that, but what we're actually going to do is fake the 3D look. The way we're going to do that is by adjusting the Brush Size, but also animating the Start parameter at the same time we animate the End parameter. So I want both of these strokes kind of draw across the screen at the same time, and disappear roughly at the same time. So let's get started by creating our animation. Make sure your playhead is back at the beginning of your Timeline. We want to make sure that the strokes have not yet appeared on the page.
So let's make sure it's off the page. I'll go ahead and keyframes the End right there at 2%. In order to make these strokes move kind of fast, let's move out to about one second here and get the end of the stroke all the way across our canvas here. There we go. So it's going to move all the way across the canvas in one second. The next thing we want to do is actually keyframe the start point. So if we move our playhead back, we can kind of preview the animation. I'd say right about here, I want the tails of the strokes to start appearing.
So let's keyframe the start, and move our playhead down to when the strokes finish, and we could keyframe the start all the way through. Now this is going to be kind of neat, because the lengths of the stroke will change as they're animating, getting smaller as they go off the side of the page. That's part of the illusion that I want to create on this swoosh stroke kind of exercise. So let's move our playhead so we can see the strokes here. What we need to do is increase the Brush Size.
Okay, so notice when I increase the Brush Size here, I have Spacing so low that we can actually see the dots. So let's go ahead and adjust the Spacing till it's down around 50. Okay, so we can now keyframe the Brush Size. Let's keyframe the Brush Size right here at the start, so we'll go ahead and choose 49. Then as we move our strokes along through the path here, what we want to do is change the Brush Size down. So we can go ahead and drag it right down to around 4.
So press U to open up all the keyframes, and let's make sure this last keyframe actually exists right here off the end of our animation. So as you can see, I've got two strokes appearing on the screen. As they're going off to the left, it looks like they're starting kind of close to the camera and then making their way off kind of far away from the camera. So this looks relatively okay, but I still want to tweak things a little bit more, because you know, what is a graphic without a little more tweaking? So first thing, let's go ahead and colorize these strokes.
We can do that using, you guessed it, the Tint effect. Go up under Effect > Color Correction, and choose Tint. Now let's adjust the white setting to something around blue here, and I still want to soften things up, so let's add a glow. Go up under Effect > Stylize and Glow. So as we add the Glow, notice the color kind of shifted, and that's because of the Add blend mode. Now we want to change the Radius a little bit here, so it's softer. There we go.
That's kind of cool. We can adjust the Glow Intensity down a little bit. There we go. Let's set that around 0.9. Okay, this is looking pretty cool. Now if we want to keep tweaking, we could definitely change the colors of this as the animation is happening. But I think you get the general idea how to create a swoop and a swoosh using stroke with a tint and the glow. Let's go ahead and just do a RAM preview really quick. I think that looks pretty darn cool. I don't know about you, but for something that we did here in just a few minutes, I think it looks pretty darn great.
Now there is one other step you can do to tweak this even more, because right now if you notice this stroke is kind of even all the way across. What you want to do to magnify this is actually pre-render this stroke. Now in order to pre-render this, go ahead and just press Command+M or Ctrl+M to make a movie. We'll render this to the PreRenders folder under chapter 9 in our exercise files. I'll call this StrokesPre and click Save.
Now let's jump back to the Strokes project here for a second and expand our layer. As you can see, this stroke only exists for the first second. So there really is no reason to render all the rest of this. So let's position our playhead here at the end of our animation and press N, and that'll change our work space or our work area duration. So now when we go back to the Render Queue and click on the words Best Settings, notice by default, it's automatically going to just render to our current work area, which is that one second.
So the comp will be a render of one second and one frame. Now we can go ahead and render this at full quality, best settings. But under the Lossless settings for the Output module, what we want to do is choose RGB and Alpha. We can leave it at Premultiplied. That's perfectly fine. If we click under Format, you'd notice Animation is the compressor that we're using. So it's just an uncompressed compression. Also, if we click on the Output Module, you want to make sure that the Post-Render Action is set up for Import.
So after it renders, it's automatically going to reimport into the project. So let's click OK. Now when we click Render, we'll see our strokes go across the page and import back into our composition. Now in our composition, let's go back to Strokes, and we'll turn off our Gray Solid and grab our pre-rendered QuickTime and drag it right into the canvas. So with our QuickTime now in the Timeline, what we want to use is an effect that can only be used on video, and that effect is called Echo.
So go up to Effect and go down to Time and choose Echo, and check this out. When you choose Echo, you can choose the Echo Time, and basically, what this is doing is just blending frames during the animation. So you can adjust the Echo Time as far as how far ahead or how far back you want it to actually blend things. But notice as it's blending, it's giving me kind of a different blend mode here. We can increase the Number Of Echoes, so let's make this number something more like 5.
There we go, and let's adjust the offset here. 0.05. There we go. If you adjust the Decay, now it's looking cool. Actually, we want -.05, so we can have the decay go the other way. You can increase the Number Of Echoes if you want to kind of accentuate things. Now the Echo Operator is where you can choose the blend mode between the different frames that we're actually overlapping. So now if we move our playhead back to the beginning here and press Play, we've got kind of a cool effect that's happened just by adjusting the Echo parameter.
Now I could sit here and tweak this little more by adding some motion blur or some more blur on the effects, but I think you get the general idea as far as how to use Echo to accentuate your strokes and swooshes that we generated using the Strokes Filter.
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