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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.
Whenever I'm creating a transition using graphic elements, I'm always acutely aware of one thing: the duration and placement of the edit. Specifically if I'm designing a transition to send to an editor, I want it to be as easy as possible for that editor to import and place my graphic right into their Timeline, and right over their edit. Now, if you are creating this transition to go into Adobe Premiere, you don't even have to render; the editor can bring the After Effects project directly into Premiere and place accordingly. But if you're not quite sure where it's headed, no problem; just go ahead and render the graphic with an alpha channel.
Make sure there is at least one frame of full-screen graphic to cover the cut point. So if we scrub our playhead through the Timeline, you can see I am just cutting from this wide shot of the falls to a close-up. And for the transition, I want to build the snowflakes to appear on the screen and work their way across. Now, we only need one for now, so let's go ahead and turn off Flake2, and just select Flake1. If we expand the layer to look at how it's built, you can see we have a path. In order for this to work properly, you need to place the graphic at your start point of your transition.
So let's move this flake. Now, I could go ahead and click on one of the points, but sometimes that can be problematic. It seemed to work just perfectly fine right now. But if you ever have an issue, go ahead and click on the path, and you can press Command+T, and that way all you have to do is just click anywhere inside the transitional bounding box. So in order to have this build on from the upper-left and go all the way down to the lower-right, we need to position it kind of halfway on screen. And this is a little large, so since I pressed Command+T, let's go ahead and move the scale down by clicking in the corner and dragging. And notice after I start scaling, I want to hold down Shift to keep it in proportion.
That's looking pretty good. Let's move that back over, so we have it about half on and half off. Now, let's just click anywhere in the Timeline to go ahead and set that transformation, and we have our snowflake. And if it looks a little jagged, you always want to go view it at 100%, just to double-check. And as you can see, that's pretty sharp, so we are doing okay. Let's zoom back out on the canvas here. Now we need to build our transition. Since this is a shape layer made up of a path and a stroke, we can go ahead and use a repeater.
So to apply a repeater, in the Contents area, go to the Add button and click on it to choose Repeater. Now, by default, it's going to repeat out to the right. So what we need to do is open up the Transform properties for that repeater, and here you can see, by default, it's moving out to the right 100 pixels. Let's start the build to go from the top to the bottom. So instead of having Translation on the X, let's set that to 0 and set Translation on the Y to 200. That looks okay, but let's click and drag for the final placement, so we can make sure the edges of the snowflakes line up.
Now, since this isn't going all the way to the bottom of the page, we need to increase the number of copies. So let's go ahead and set that to 5. Now, in order to have this group repeat from left to right, we need to create a second repeater for our repeater. So if you select Repeater 1, come back up, next to the Add button and choose Repeater again, now we have Repeater 2, and you notice I'm starting to get that build out towards the right. Let's do the same thing by adjusting the Transform properties of our second repeater.
Since it's already headed out to the right a little bit, let's go ahead and drag the X axis out. And if we keep the tips of the snowflakes together, we will end up with a space in between each snowflake. So let's make these fit together kind of like a brick pattern. So if we click on the Y axis and drag up, notice now we've got our snowflake set up like bricks. And if we click and drag on our X axis, we can go ahead and fit them together kind of like bricks or like a keystone. And sure, you might want to tweak it just a little bit to make sure that we are getting perfectly aligned on the Y as well as the X.
Now, we have the same situation where we need to increase the number of objects on the scene, so let's go to Repeater 2 and increase the number of copies until our snowflakes disappear off the right side of the page. Now, if you notice as I drag this out, when I get to seven or eight copies, I still have an empty spot here, and that's just because if we zoom out, this graphic only repeats down a couple of layers. And as we are repeating out to the side, since we are offsetting on the Y axis as well as the X, each of these snowflakes are moving slowly towards the top.
So what we need to do is open up the Options for Repeater 1 and increase the number of copies. Now that will go ahead and fill out the bottom corner. Perfect! Now, as you can see, I've got all of our snowflakes covering the scene. Yeah, I know what you're thinking; this graphic is covering the page, but there are an awful lot of holes here, so you'd still be able to see the transition. And you're correct, and we will fix this in just a second, but before we deal with the transparency issues, let's go ahead and animate this going from one side to the other, and the easiest way to do that is to animate the number of copies.
So let's click and drag on the number of copies for Repeater 1 to see how that would affect this animation. If we just go ahead and click and drag, well, check it out. It's automatically going from the upper-left corner down to the lower right corner, so all we have to do is animate this one parameter. So let's move our playhead back to the beginning and decrease the number of copies from 8 to 0. Now what we want to do is go down to the Edit point here at the bottom of the page. And notice as I am scrolling, there is a slight issue.
I'm having to scroll way far down to get to these layers. Now, I can fix that issue by collapsing all the parameters, but an easier way of making sure you always know where the edit point is is to use a comp marker. So if you click and drag on the Comp Marker button here on the right side of the Timeline, hold down Shift as you get close to the Edit point, and it will automatically snap. That way the marker is snapped right to edit point, so even if we keep our Timeline scrolled up above our edit, we know that the edit is always happening right here in Marker 1.
Now, if you have a lot of edits, you need to label your markers, so let's just double-click Marker 1 and call it Cut, and press Enter on your keypad to set. And now that we know where the edit is, we can go ahead and move our playhead to the edit point. And again, as you click and drag, make sure you hold down Shift when you get close to the edit point, so your playhead snaps. So our playhead is right at 122. Now, we need to time out exactly how long this transition is going to take. I want to make sure the page is completely covered at this point in time, so the first thing I'm going to do is increase our copies to 8 and add a keyframe.
That way I'm assured that this transition is going to cover the entire piece of footage right here at the cut point. So to start the transition, let's move backwards and move our playhead back a couple of frames. We started at 122, so instead of clicking and dragging, let's just do a little math and start at 112. So we'll have a 10-frame transition. Let's go ahead and change the number of copies from 8 to 0, and now if we deselect our layers and just scrub through the Timeline, you can see I've got the copies appearing on the page.
Let's go ahead and do a RAM preview so we have a better idea as to how fast this is actually moving. Now, obviously things look a little funny because we can still see the edit point. So we need to fix that problem right now. So instead of duplicating the graphic, all we need to do is go down to the Contents area and select Path 1, go over to Add, and we want to add a fill. Now, since we selected Path 1 first, we had our fill automatically fill this set of snowflakes.
Now, this is looking pretty good, but as you can see, I still have holes between the flakes. And that's totally fine. First thing, let's change the color of our fill. We will change it to kind of a darker blue, and click OK. Now, in order to fill these gaps what we need to do is add some other snowflakes to cover up those specific gaps. So we could do the same set of options for the second flake, which I highly encourage you to do. Or we can just go ahead and duplicate Flake1 for right now, since it's already animated.
So let's go ahead and press Command+D to duplicate Flake1. And if we just click and drag, now you can see I'm repositioning this. And as you can see, I still can't reposition it to cover absolutely everything on the screen. So what we will do is just change the scale of the shape. So let's open up our Contents, open Path, and make sure that the actual word Path next to the Stopwatch is selected and press Command+T. Now we can see our flake up here in the upper-left corner. Just go ahead and click and drag on the corner of it, hold down Shift as you are dragging, and we will just scale up the flake.
Now, if we scrub our playhead, you can see the transition is building on the page. And if we want to add a little bit more interest to this, we could change the colors or adjust the rotation of the layer, or slide it so the keyframes are happening at a slightly different rate. So let's go ahead and do that. We will adjust the keyframes, and as you can see, now we have the graphic building on from one side to the other. So to finish the animation out, all we need to do is just add two keyframes to our outpoints. So let's select our copy here and change the copies from 8 back to 0, and we could do the same thing for Stroke 1; just go ahead and press U to open up the Uber key and we can go ahead and drag that back to 0.
And to offset the animation, I will just go ahead and add a few more frames to the length of our original build-on. So now, if we move our playhead back to the beginning, deselect all the layers and load up a RAM preview, you can see we've successfully built our graphic that comes in and covers and works its way out.
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