After Effects Apprentice 14: Shape Layers
Illustration by John Hersey

Video: Repeater

Most shape effects control what happens during line segments of your original shape, for example, Zig Zag, Rounded Corners, Wiggle Paths, et cetera. However, an exception to this is the Repeater, so let's play around with that for a little bit. If you have access to the exercise files, open up the Comps 02-Repeater*starter. What I did here is I just used the Pen tool to create something that looks a bit like a flame, a bit like a flower petal, something organic.

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Watch the Online Video Course After Effects Apprentice 14: Shape Layers
2h 13m Intermediate Jan 25, 2012 Updated Dec 18, 2012

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In this course, author Chris Meyer shows how to create and animate vector-based artwork directly inside Adobe After Effects. The course covers the ins and outs of working with shape layers, including creating shape paths, applying shape effects, and reordering shape operators. The course also contains a series of exercises on creating common motion graphics elements using shape layers.

The After Effects Apprentice videos on lynda.com were created by Trish and Chris Meyer and are designed to be used on their own and as a companion to their book After Effects Apprentice. We are honored to host these tutorials in the lynda.com Online Training Library®.

Topics include:
  • Drawing parametric shapes and pen paths
  • Creating multiple shape groups
  • Exploring Wiggle Paths and the Wiggle Transform effect
  • Defining gradient fills
  • Creating a swarm
  • Blending multiple shapes into a texture
  • Crafting and animating dotted and dashed lines
  • Combining effects, layer styles, expressions, and Brainstorm with shape layers
  • Showing tips for stylizing sidebars
Subject:
Video
Software:
After Effects
Authors:
Chris Meyer Trish Meyer

Repeater

Most shape effects control what happens during line segments of your original shape, for example, Zig Zag, Rounded Corners, Wiggle Paths, et cetera. However, an exception to this is the Repeater, so let's play around with that for a little bit. If you have access to the exercise files, open up the Comps 02-Repeater*starter. What I did here is I just used the Pen tool to create something that looks a bit like a flame, a bit like a flower petal, something organic.

You can go ahead and create your own shape. You'll see in this case I used the gradient fill instead of a solid-color fill. We'll play with the gradients just a little bit later on. Now effects like the Repeater are indeed sensitive to the rendering order of your shape layer. I personally find that quite often I like to repeat the result of the entire group, including its transformations. So rather than selecting a group, I'll just select the whole layer, Add > Repeater, and Repeater will now appear after the entire group.

Let's twirl open Repeater, and we see we do have a Copies parameter. You can scrub this to as many as you like. I'm going to set 5 for starters. And I can change the Offset, whether or not my repeats are happening before or after my original shape. I'm going to set my Offset down to -2 so I'm centered on my original. These two repeats are before. These two repeats are after. Exactly what's happening with these repeats is controlled down here in the Transform section.

I'll twirl that open, and you'll see that Repeater defaults to offsetting by a 100 pixels in the x-direction. That means every repeat is another 100 x pixels away from my original shape. Scrub it down to bring them close together; scrub it up to push them further apart. Notice that my copies that happen before the original shape are going off the -negative x rather than going off to the right in positive x. I'm going to bring them a little bit closer together here. And next I'm going to play with Rotation.

Again, Transform properties are added to every repeat. So in this case, my first positive repeat is rotated 27 degrees, the next one another 27, which is 54, or my copies before the repeat are going off in a negative rotation. Same thing with Scale. If I increase the Scale, my positive repeats get larger, my negative repeats get smaller. Again, if you're confused about this idea of a positive or negative repeat, if I set my Offset just to 0, here's my original shape, and here are my subsequent repeats.

I'm going to hold down Command on Mac or Ctrl on Windows and slowly scrub down Offset, and you'll see I can tumble my shapes to all happen before my original, so they rotate negatively and get scaled down. I'm back to -2 and now we're centered around my original shape again. And for now I'm going to go ahead and set Scale back to its default 100%. You do have the ability to fade in and fade out during the course of your repeats. And interestingly, you also have this Anchor Point parameter.

Let' scrub the Anchor Point a little bit in y, and initially it may not be clear what's going on. Well, remember that we have Position Offset and Rotation Offset as well. So this is basically affecting the center around which these offset shapes are being rotated. I'll put that down to 0. Now what's happening makes a lot more sense. I can rotate around the center part of these shapes or offset to create something that's more circular in pattern. I now return my Anchor Point back to zero.

So now I have a bunch of rotated shapes. What's important to remember is that the Repeater is working on whatever's happening before it in your Timeline's stack. So, any changes you make to the path or to transformations for that path will then b repeated. For example, if I scale here, all the repeats are scaled up because it's taking the output of this transform and repeating those shapes. If I scrub the Anchor Point, we get a very interesting effect.

If I have my one source petal offset above this center point, now each of these rotations will be in reference to the one seed shape's anchor point. If you want to create something symmetrical like a flower, it's a good idea to have one shape offset the way that you want and then create more repeats. I'm holding Command again to scrub. Maybe I'll go up to 12 a nice, and even number, and bring Rotation down to nice and even 30.

Now we have something that resembles like a sunburst or a flower. I'm going to go ahead and create a few more copies and play with the Rotation and then play with my Anchor Points Offset till I have a nice overlapping shape like this. And again, this is one shape with Repeater turned off, and this is with Repeater turned on. If you want to rotate the final result, you don't necessarily want to animate rotation down on Repeater, because that's just an offset added to each petal. That's doesn't work at all. You can either rotate one petal and that rotated petal will then be repeated for your final shape, or you can go down to Transforms for the entire shape layer and rotate your entire layer around. I'll undo.

So the Repeater is really handy for quickly creating geometric shapes out of the one seed shape. And again, if I was to go back to my path, select it, press V to return to my selection tool, and carefully select one point, editing the outline of one shape will be repeated for the rest of the petals. I can see, by the way, that one petal is darker than the others, so I think I have an extra petal here. So I can say either take 360 degrees and divide it by 24 degrees rotation and that says I should have 15 copies-- now I've get a nice copy there--or I could have gone the other way and said no really I want 16 petals to my flower, bring out my calculator again and say 360 degrees divided by 16 petals equals 22.5 degrees per petal, 22.5. There we go.

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