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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.
I'm sure many of you understand the advantage of creating graphics inside of Illustrator for the most part, but if you're new to Illustrator or just a little unfamiliar, Illustrator is a vector-based graphic application. That means no matter what size you create an element, you can scale that graphic as large as it needs to be without losing any quality in the graphic. Of course there are exceptions, as Illustrator can import and create some rasterized graphics. But really about 90% of the time you'll be working with 100% fully vector-based files.
So what does this mean for you? Well, quite possibly a few things. Now, we're going to import these graphic elements into our project using a few different methods, and I think once you see just how many options there are, you'll have a better idea as to the flexibility that Illustrator can provide your projects. So to get started, the first thing to understand with Illustrator is the fact that you can have multiple elements all residing on one individual layer. Now, if your interface doesn't look like this, in Illustrator, go up to Window > Workspace, and make sure Typography is selected.
Now, the Layers panel is in the lower right-hand corner and notice we only have layer 1. And if I click on this disclosure triangle, you can see I have all these other text layers underneath. Now, what we need to do before we import this into After Effects is make sure each one of these elements lives on its own individual layer. Now, when we created these type layers, they automatically became sublayers of layer 1. If I just click on that layer and try and drag it up above layer 1, it's not really going to work, and that's because type is actually set up as a default layer.
What we really need to do is actually create the new layers for these type layers to live inside. So what we'll do is select layer 1, and down here at the bottom of the Layers panel, go ahead and click the Create New Layer button two more times. Now I can select this top Wave layer and hold down Shift and select King underneath of it, and with both of those layers selected, just drag them up to layer 2. And I know it's going to appear on layer 2 because I can see that triangle there in the left-hand side of the layer. When I let go, now if I turn the visibility off on layer 2, you can see I have this version of the King Wave graphic on layer 2.
Now, let's do the same thing with the other layers on layer 1. Select the first layer, Shift+Click, select the second layer, and now drag that up to layer 3. Now, if we turn the visibility on and off, we can see these other versions. So let's rename our layers. layer 3 we'll call King-Slab. I'm calling it slab because that's a slab serif font. Go ahead and click OK. And then layer 2, I'll call it King- Trad, for traditional and click OK, just because that's a very traditional kind of chiseled-looking serif font.
And then this layer 1 we can go ahead and rename as King-Mod for modern. Okay. I'm just calling it modern because it's a clean sans serif font. Now, before we go into After Effects, go up under File and don't choose Save, but choose Save As. I like to choose Save As because when I work with elements that are optimized for After Effects I like to notate that. So I still have the original Illustrator file and then I will have another copy that's notated for import into After Effects.
So since all the type is already selected, all you have to do is press your right arrow, and now my cursor is ready to start typing. So go ahead and type dash and then put AE. I always use capital AE just so I know that that's going to be what I import into After Effects. Notice I'm saving it into my Illustrator Sources folder, Ill-Sources, and I'll leave it as an Illustrator-formatted file and click Save. Now, of the nice things about Illustrator is the fact that you can save it in multiple versions.
So if you had older versions on a different computer, you could flatten things out that way. We'll just leave it at CS5 and click OK. So now let's import this into After Effects. I'll just Command+Tab over to After Effects, and to import the Illustrator document all we have to do is double- click in the Project pane and navigate to our Ill-Sources folder, and in here we want to choose the one that ends in -AE, because I know I've optimized those files. Under Import As, make sure you have Composition - Retain Layer Sizes selected.
That way each one of these groupings will end up on its own layer, and the transformation handles will be tied just to the graphic, not to the overall composition. So go ahead and click Open. Now if we double-click this KingWave-AE file, we can see absolutely nothing. Well, that's not really true, because actually the text is here; it's just black, and this is quite common. So a lot of times what I'll do instead of changing the color of the type, I'll just go right here and actually enable the alpha channel.
So when you choose Alpha, now I can see all the different elements that are in this composition. I could have just as easily gone up under Composition and changed the background color under my Comp Settings right here, but honestly, I just like to turn on my alpha channel. That will make things really, really easy. But if you notice, now when I go ahead and turn off and on King-Slab, it's on its own layer. I can do the same thing for King-Trad and King-Mod. But all in all, we've optimized the Illustrator document and imported it into After Effects.
Now, this is well and good, but we need to see exactly what happens with Illustrator files. So with King-Mod selected, let's go ahead and press S on our keyboard to open up Scale, and just click and drag on the Scale parameter, and just drag it all the way up. And if you're seeing these jagged lines, what you need to do is click this button right here in the Timeline, underneath the thing that sort of looks like a sun. This is called Collapse Transformation. So notice when I click on that, now I'll have some sharp edges.
Now, I'm getting this slight jagged edge and that's just because I'm not at 100% magnification. So if I go ahead and change my magnification to 100%, now when I press the Spacebar and pan around, you can see, even though this type is huge, it's perfectly sharp, and that's because it's continuously redrawing this vector-based graphic as it's being scaled up. Now, let's go ahead and just scale this back down to about 100%. Now, even though I had to go ahead and change my magnification to 100% so I could make sure that it was sharp, the moral of the story is, really, once you have Collapse Transformation selected for any Illustrator layer, as long as it's vector-based, when you go ahead and scale that layer up, it's going to have nice and sharp edges when I go ahead and render my project.
So you've seen how to import the file, you've seen how to actually scale it up, but one other thing that you can do with this file is take the outlines from the type and actually bring those in as paths on their own layer. And the way to do that is not through the import command, but to actually copy and paste. So what I'm going to do is just turn off the visibility of all these layers, and go up under Layer, choose New > Solid, or just press Command+Y or Ctrl+Y. We can leave it a dark gray Solid. That's fine.
I am going to click OK. Now, you notice it's not dark gray and that's because I have the alpha channel selected here. So let's go ahead and jump back to RGB, and now we can jump to Illustrator-- again, just Command+Tab. So in Illustrator make sure that King Wave up here on the top is selected; with your direct Selection tool just go ahead and draw a box around the top King Wave here. And what we want to do is go up under Type and Create Outlines. What that does is draw a path around the outside of all the letters.
So now with that selected, we can just go up under Edit and choose Copy. So when we Command+Tab, jump back into After Effects, with the Dark Solid layer selected, we can go up under Edit, and when we choose Paste, look what happens: the dark gray is actually cut out using masks. So when we press M, you can see there are multiple masks that make up this King Wave text. So now that the text is only paths, we can use the stroke effect to actually draw on an outline or animate an outline of this type.
So if we go up under Effect, we can go to Generate. And if you choose Stroke, let's look at the Effects Control options right here. Notice first off I can stroke just an individual mask. So by default, Mask 1 is selected. Or, we can choose All Masks, and by default Stroke Sequentially is selected. Now, if I go ahead and click and drag on that End here, you'll see that the outline of the type is appearing or disappearing as I drag back and forth.
Now, we could keyframe this parameter, and we could also paint this directly on the original image or on transparent. So when I go ahead and deselect this layer, you can see I have outlines of type created from paths that I pasted from Illustrator. So as you can see, working with Illustrator sources can give your graphic elements a number of added benefits-- the least of which is just that much more added flexibility.
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