Mograph Techniques: Physics Simulations in After Effects
Illustration by John Hersey

Mograph Techniques: Physics Simulations in After Effects

with Eran Stern

Video: The washing machine effect

After creating the Staggering Effect for the circus that we have over here. Newton will ask you if you want to divide the whole circles into separate groups.

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Watch the Online Video Course Mograph Techniques: Physics Simulations in After Effects
2h 0m Intermediate Apr 11, 2014

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Explore how to create complex physical animations inside After Effects using Newton (a third-party plugin) and the Connect Layers (a free script). This project-based course covers a few specific and popular types of effects, such as letters suspended from strings and connected, randomized spheres. Artist Eran Stern shows how to connect any type of element together in a complex 3D array of strings and work with different dynamic simulations in order to create Dormant and Collision as well as Staggering and Kinematic animation types.

These lessons are perfect for motion graphics artists who want to create earthy physics simulations and add realistic motion to their projects.

Topics include:
  • Building a random sphere animation
  • Creating a tree connection
  • Animating letters dangling from rope
  • Creating body types and groups
  • Staggering layer simulation
After Effects
Eran Stern

The washing machine effect

After creating the Staggering Effect for the circus that we have over here. We are ready to animate them into the frame using the new tone simulation plug-in. Make sure that nothing is selected in the timeline by pressing F2. And then let's go to the Composition menu and from there let's choose Newton. Newton will ask you if you want to divide the whole circles into separate groups.

We don't need to do it, actually if we will do it, it will ruin the effect we're after. So make sure you are skipping this step. Now, inside Newton let's set up our basic simulation. First, by defining the arc. We'll first change the mesh precision from two to a higher value, around eight. And if we are here, let's do the same for the whole circle. But for now, I'm just going to set the whole circle type to Dead.

So the solver will not trade it at all. Now we are ready to test the result. Remember that the default behavior of those circles or the other elements is already being set to the Dynamic tab. So if we're going to press on the Play, gravity should pull them down and everybody will fall into the frame. However it's not what we are after, we want the arc to be a static element. So we turn to it and set it to a Static Element.

And once again, preview the animation. This is much closer to what I had in mind. Let's zoom in. Go to the beginning and, once again, play it from the start. Now you will notice that at some point, the arc is going to disappear. Because we twinned it in the After Effects composition. You don't need to worry about it because at the same time we have the second element, our whole circle. Which should start to take it's course and drive the little circles.

Now you might be tempted to select an AEmatic type for it. And the reason, of course, is that these body type really respect After Effects keyframes. So it will take under account the rotating animation that it already have. But it will also be influenced by the physics. Remember this is some kind of a hybrid between kinematic and dynamic. And in order to demonstrate, what it will look like, I will press Play and let's see the simulation.

And you see that these object is going to almost look like we are expecting because it already has some After Effects keyframe. They are taking their course over here. But due to the fact that it is an AEmatic, it's also being influenced by the physics. So the fixer for this is, of course, changing from AEmatic to Kinematic. Kinematic, just to remind you, is a value which, of course, animated inside After Effects It's motion path is not altered by the physics until the end of the animation, where the body itself becomes dynamic.

And when this specific case, and it's all about the prep work. The key frames that I've set inside the after After Effects composition are until the end of the composition. So here in this case these body type will not become dynamic, however it will still effect the other body types which are inside of it. And this is exactly what we are after. So let's check the simulation by pressing Play. And we can see first all the spheres are falling to this arc.

And then the arc disappear and instead of it, we are getting the movement from this whole circle. And this is what helps to create this washing machine effect. Now at the end it will fall because we are after the last point of our timeline. So inside Newton even though our composition is only 450 frames long the simulation will keep on going.

So by the end of it you saw that everything was falling apart. However, we don't really care about those last 50 frames. We only need the 0 to 400 frames. So only the region of interest in our timeline. I'm going to enable Motion Blur for this one. And make sure to apply the solution to a new composition. And then, let's hit Render. Now it may seems like a very easy solve due to the fact that you saw me just doing it in a couple of minutes right in front of you.

But in reality, it may take you a couple of trial and errors until you find the appropriate body type. Don't be afraid to do these tests until you get there. And don't be alarmed if you almost got it, but it's not doing exactly what you had in mind. Remember, the beauty of this simulation system is that it generate regular After Effects key frame to regular layers. So if I'm going to open the Staggering and Kinematic version two which is the result of what we did.

And I'm going to select one of the layers and press U. You will see those key frames. This means that you can change them and tweak the result as much as you like. Or even remove element from the final comp until you get what you're after. The reason I love Newton so much is because it is fast, usually real time, and it is very fun to play with. Of course, it will also save you hours of manual labor work. But you do need to prepare the elements ahead of time and imagine what you want to achieve with it.

I'm going to enable Motion Blur for this, and I'm also going to turn off Flare number two and three. Because these were only a helper guide layers. Now, let's switch to a full-frame view. And I'm going to sign off here and leave you with this fluid washing machine animation. Which, to my opinion, summarize the abilities of motion graphics as an art form. It will help to simplify the illustrated complex idea as presented in this short movie here.

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