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Generating graphics inside of After Effects can be extraordinarily rewarding. But you have to be careful because sometimes time will fly. I have a tendency to get lost inside of how many different things I can do inside of After Effects, especially if I'm generating something from nothing. To get started in this example, what we're going to do is actually create an effect where there's a beam of light that attaches between these two shapes.
If you're joining me from the previous video, I want to point out something really quickly. If we select our background layer here and open our Effects Control panel, you can see I've replaced the Camera Lens Blur, or really now, I've turned off the Camera Lens Blur and added a Fast Blur instead. Let me just turn Fast Blur off and Camera Lens Blur on, you can see Camera Lens is beautiful, but it takes a very long time to work with. So this is a trick to speed up your workflow.
So just remember before you render, disable Fast Blur, enable Lens Blur. Okay let's jump back to our animation here and select the Yellow and the Blue shapes in the timeline. Now I want both of these shapes to start together right over top of each other. So let's press the P key to open the Position and a quick way to reset both of them to the same position is to just click in the X value for one of them and then type in a number. So let's choose something like 600, and then press tab to move to the Y value and notice, it automatically set the Y value, but let's set this around 360.
Okay now these are overlapping. You might be able to see little bit of edge but that's just because of not viewing it at exactly 100% full resolution the whole nine. Okay. But basically, they're on top of each other. So let's zoom back out here and look at how we're going to apply this beam effect. Since I can't apply the effect to one or the other, I need to use an Adjustment layer. So we need to go up under Layer and choose New > Adjustment Layer.
See Adjustment layers allow you to apply effects to that layer and the effects will be rendered on that layer over top of any other layers that are below them. So to generate the effect, we need to go up to the Effect pulldown and go to the Generate section. In here, these are all different things that you can generate from within After Effects. The effect I want to use is the Beam effect. Go ahead and choose Beam and look in the Effects controls.
The reason I want to use Beam, it has a very clear defined starting point and ending point. See with both starting and ending point, I can now apply an expression to the starting point of one beam to the Position data of another layer. Now we can't see our graphics anymore, and that's because this bottom option in the Beam is set to Composite on Original. So let's go ahead and select that so we can see just our beam.
Now the length of this beam, notice, my start point here and my end point here, the beam is not all the way across. So we need to adjust the length up to 100. Now to apply an expression, let's select our Adjustment layer in the timeline and press E to open the effect. Now expand the triangle for the beam, and I'm going to use the Tilde key to maximize the Layers panel while I apply this expression.
The Tilde key is in the upper left part of your keyboard under the Escape button. So let's select the Starting Point and go up under Animation, and choose Add Expression. Now we have a pick whip. So let's click on the pick whip, and hold your mouse down as you drag down to the position data of the Yellow layer. Now select the End Point, go up under Animation, choose Add Expression, and do the same with the pick whip up, but point it to the Position data of the blue layer.
Now in order to set the expression, you just need to click anywhere outside of this expression box. Now to see the results, let's press the Tilde key again to reset our menu and you notice, we have red values for our starting and end points and that's letting us know that there is an expression applied. And if we scrub our current time indicator down the timeline, you notice nothing is happening. Well that's because we haven't actually animated these two shapes, they're just sitting right on top of each other.
Now to quickly animate anything in After Effects, use the Automatic Keyframing button right here in the top center of your timeline. With that enabled, here let's collapse the Adjustment layer, so we can select the Yellow layer here. With Automatic Keyframing enabled, I can select the Yellow layer, and move it anywhere in the timeline, and as I move my current-time indicator around, notice I can actually set a keyframe just by moving that shape.
Now let's move the blue shape in a similar fashion. We'll have it start there and then move our playhead and we can move it out, okay and then we'll move down here and bring that up. All right, now just so you can see that this will record anything, let's go up to the Tool panel and select the Rotation tool and just click on the Blue layer and spin it around. Now I only have one keyframe on there, so let's move our current-time indicator back up towards the top and spin this back around again.
All right, now as much fun as Automatic Keyframing is, let's disable that for now so we don't forget that we're actually adding keyframes. So let's load up a RAM Preview, and check out what we have. Now I don't know about you, but I think that's kind of cool, especially with the rotation, it looks like the yellow shape is actually kind of pulling the blue shape into a spin, sort of like a yo-yo. Now I'm going to do one thing to tweak this.
Let's stop playback here for a second. Notice the beam is on top of the shapes. Well one of the beautiful things about using Adjustment layers, you can always move the effect below any other layers. Now magically the beam is below the shape. Now just because I kind of want to blend these in a little bit more, I want to select both the Yellow and Blue layers and press T on my keyboard to open up the Opacity, and bring that Opacity down just a little bit. If you really want to blend things together, you could add another Adjustment layer and add a Glow on the top and add that on top of all your layers and you could really kind of go crazy.
But I think you can see how quickly and easily you can generate graphics from within After Effects, and sure enough, you might even lose some time.
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