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Importing Illustrator files

From: After Effects Apprentice 15: Creating a Sports Opening Title

Video: Importing Illustrator files

The next element we'll create is the animated dial that appears on the left-hand side of the Video panels in the first half of the animation. The two inner dials use an expression to wiggle the rotation, and I also animate it on the tick marks around the outside of each circle. We are not expecting you to create anything in Illustrator, so if you don't have it that's fine. We did want to include some Illustrator layered files so you can see how you would work with them, because it's quite common for a motion graphics designer to work with Illustrator files that are supplied by a client or another graphic designer.

Importing Illustrator files

The next element we'll create is the animated dial that appears on the left-hand side of the Video panels in the first half of the animation. The two inner dials use an expression to wiggle the rotation, and I also animate it on the tick marks around the outside of each circle. We are not expecting you to create anything in Illustrator, so if you don't have it that's fine. We did want to include some Illustrator layered files so you can see how you would work with them, because it's quite common for a motion graphics designer to work with Illustrator files that are supplied by a client or another graphic designer.

So for now I am going to select the MyPrecomps folder, press Command+I to import, and then I am going to navigate to the Sources folder and select the Dial.ai file. You'll notice there is a pop-up at the bottom that says Import As Footage, Composition or Composition - Retain layer Sizes. The terminology inside this dialog has changed in recent versions. But generally it means that if you import as footage--any layers in the Illustrator file are flattened or merged--and you'll only get one piece of footage inside After Effects.

The next option, Composition, will import the layers, create a composition, but each layer will be the same size as of the Illustrator artboard. In this case we are going to import it as Composition - Retain layer Sizes. This means that every layer will only be as big as it needs to be and the anchor point will be in the center of every layer. So we'll select that, we'll click Open, and in the Project panel you'll see a composition called Dial and also a folder called Dial layers.

These are the individual layers, and these match the layer names inside Illustrator. If I double-click the Comp, at first you might see only some white text on black. That's because our background color is black and all of the other elements are also black. I'll toggle on the Transparency Grid, and now you can see that the white text appears on a black stroked circle. And I have also two more layers which we call the outer ring and the inner ring. In the timeline, you can see these as inner ring, outer ring, and event names.

layer number four, the Guides layer, is not actually doing anything, so you can delete that. I have a tendency in Illustrator of putting all the guides on a separate layer. For some reason I find it easier to toggle on and off the visibility and lock the guides from the layer panel. Now when you import a layered Illustrator file, you have to remember that Illustrator only defines the width and the height of the composition, but you have to open the Composition Settings in order to check all the other parameters. The width and height of the composition is determined by the width and height of the artboard inside Illustrator, and the Pixel Aspect Ratio will always be Square.

there is a Frame Rate, Resolution and Duration and Background Color, these parameters are all set by the last composition you created. So check that your frame rate is 29.97. I think 5 seconds is fine. We are only using it at the first half of the animation. But I do want the background color to be black because that way I always have to have the Transparency Grid on. So I'll just make that white, click OK, and we'll click OK. And now we have the option whether or not you turn on the Transparency Grid.

Remember that the background color will not be visible when you nest it in the next composition. If the Illustrator files are looking a little crunchy, that's probably because the magnification is set to fit up to 100%. If you set magnification to 100%, the layer should look much sharper, because now they're not using nearest neighbor. I'll toggle the Switches and modes column, so now I'm looking at the Switches and remind you that the Quality switch is very important for Illustrator layers.

Only when Illustrator layers are in best quality will you see any anti-aliasing. Feel free to toggle those to draft, just so you can see the difference. Now it doesn't matter what magnification you're at. You have no anti-aliasing when you're in Draft Quality mode. Fortunately, best quality is the default, so you shouldn't have to worry about the quality setting. To the left of the Quality switch, is to Continuously Rasterize switch, and this is important for vector layers like Illustrator files.

Normally when this switch is turned off, the Illustrator vector files are imported placed in the comp and rasterized into pixels. Right now we haven't done anything with this layer, so we only have transformations. But if we were to apply masks and effects, the rendering order would be masks, then effects, then transformations. But when you enable the Continuously Rasterize switch, any transformations are rendered first and then the masks are applied and then the effects.

In this particular case it's not important whether or not you continuously rasterize, so I'll just turn that off for now. But no matter whether that switch is enabled or not, remember that you're always seeing pixels in the composition. So in the next movie we are going to copy the paths for the inner and outer ring and paste them to the respective layers. That way we'll be able to animate on the tick marks using the stroke effect.

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This video is part of

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  1. 3m 39s
    1. Welcome
      1m 39s
    2. Using the exercise files
      2m 0s
  2. 17m 38s
    1. Building the grid floor
      8m 48s
    2. Creating a radar sweep
      5m 13s
    3. Adding lightning
      3m 37s
  3. 14m 18s
    1. Building the video panel
      4m 34s
    2. Using the Block Dissolve effect
      3m 52s
    3. Stylizing the footage
      2m 15s
    4. Duplicating precomps
      3m 37s
  4. 21m 22s
    1. Importing Illustrator files
      5m 47s
    2. Working with paths and masks
      4m 54s
    3. Animating the Stroke effect
      4m 20s
    4. Tinting the event names
      2m 42s
    5. Wiggling the rings
      3m 39s
  5. 33m 35s
    1. Starting a new composition
      1m 48s
    2. Spotting music
      5m 55s
    3. Building the floor
      5m 27s
    4. Adding a video panel
      3m 40s
    5. Creating a reflection
      7m 47s
    6. Adding the dial
      4m 7s
    7. Arranging the frame
      4m 51s
  6. 9m 22s
    1. Setting up the final pose
      4m 28s
    2. Keyframing the camera
      4m 54s
  7. 14m 39s
    1. Adding a text layer
      5m 16s
    2. Using text animation presets
      3m 16s
    3. Customizing the preset
      6m 7s
  8. 6m 56s
    1. Adding a Spot light
      3m 41s
    2. Casting shadows
      3m 15s
  9. 12m 7s
    1. Improving consistency
      2m 43s
    2. Adding a 2D background
      4m 29s
    3. Tying up loose ends
      4m 55s
  10. 20m 37s
    1. Overview of Main Comp 2
      3m 32s
    2. Grouping layers
      4m 39s
    3. Animating the swivel
      9m 2s
    4. Assembling the final comp
      3m 24s
  11. 25m 56s
    1. Adding a transition
      7m 0s
    2. Keyframing the camera
      3m 20s
    3. Adding a filmic glow
      4m 0s
    4. Increasing the motion blur
      4m 2s
    5. Retiming a video source
      7m 34s
  12. 13m 4s
    1. Exploring render settings
      2m 48s
    2. Outputting for archiving
      1m 15s
    3. Outputting anamorphic widescreen DV
      1m 57s
    4. Creating a 4:3 center-cut version
      2m 31s
    5. Outputting for web
      2m 23s
    6. Exploring components for editors
      2m 10s
  13. 12m 49s
    1. Creating the inner ring
      5m 19s
    2. Creating the outer ring
      3m 9s
    3. Creating the text ring
      4m 21s

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