After Effects CS4: Wiggle Transform Tips

with Chris Meyer and Trish Meyer
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After Effects CS4: Wiggle Transform Tips
Video duration: 0s 8m 35s Intermediate


After Effects CS4: Wiggle Transform Tips was created and produced by Trish and Chris Meyer. We are honored to host their material in the Online Training Library®.

After Effects CS4 features a new operator for shape layers: Wiggle Transform. This useful tool can automatically animate the anchor point, position, rotation, and scale of a layer without having to use expressions or animation presets. In After Effects CS4: Wiggle Transform Tips, Chris and Trish Meyer present helpful advice for using Wiggle Transform to its full potential. For example, they show how to combine it with the Repeater operation to create writhing, pulsing, wiggling masses of automatically animating shapes.

This video assumes prior knowledge of how to use shape layers inside After Effects. For an introduction to this topic, we recommend watching the "shape layers" movie from After Effects CS4: Apprentice's Guide to Key Features in the Online Training Library®.

After Effects

Wiggle Transform

Hi, I am Chris Meyer and I'd like to share with you some tips for how to use the new shape layer's Wiggle Transform operator that was added in After Effects CS4. Now, if you are already familiar with the Wiggly Selector for text layers, it's a very similar concept. It allows you to randomize various Transform properties, Scale, Position, Rotation, and the such, for shape paths in a shape layer, just like the Wiggly Selector randomizes individual characters inside a text object. So let's go see how it works. Here in After Effects CS4 I have a very simple shape layer. The first thing I need to do is select the Shape Group that I want this Shape operator to go inside of. Then I will select Add > Wiggle Transform, and you see it has been added to my stack.

Initially it doesn't do anything, the object doesn't move because all of the transforms default to 0 change. I twirl it open. You will see I have Speed paRameters and some other things like Correlation I will talk about later, and Transform paRameters. Let's say I want this object to wander back and forth. Well, I will type in a number, like say 300 in the X dimension. Hit 0 on the numeric keypad to Ram Preview, and now you see that my object wanders back and forth in the X direction. If I find that to be too fast, I will just change the Wiggles per Second to something slower, like 1 wiggle second, Ram Preview again, and now I have much more sedate wandering.

Now, here is where things get interesting. Let's say you want to wiggle more than one paRameter. Let's say I want this object to say rotate at the same time it's wandering about. I am going to go ahead and set the Rotation to 1 full Revolution. Ram Preview again and see my result. Now watch what's going on. As the object goes to the right, it's rotating clockwise; as the object goes to the left, it's rotating counterclockwise. This reveals a very important point about how Wiggle Transform works underneath the hood.

What's going on underneath the hood is that Wiggle Transform is a generating a flowing stream of numbers that varies between -1 and +1. It then takes that wiggled value and multiplies it by your Transform offsets. So in this case we will have 1 Revolution entered for my transform value. It goes between -1 Revolution and +1 Revolution. I enter 300 pixels in the X dimension; it wanders between -300 in the X and +300 in the X.

The problem is those two actions are coordinated because the underlying wiggle stream is the same stream. It's the same numbers, going from -1 to +1. So if I want these two Transform Properties to wiggle independently, I need two Wiggle Transform operators. I am back in After Effects, and I have decided that my first Wiggle Transform operator is going to do just my Position. You know I can even rename it. It's selected, I hit Return, then say Wiggle Position, hit Enter. I will zero out the Rotation, and I will go ahead and keep the X position transform for this. I will twirl it up.

Now I will go ahead and add another Wiggle Transform operator. I will rename it Wiggle Rotation. Twirl it open. Go ahead and give it 1 Rotation of Wiggle. Now when I Ram Preview, you will notice that the Rotation is disconnected from the X movement, and since it is a separate operator I can go ahead and do things such as change how fast it's wiggling. Say the Rotation wiggles more slowly than the X position. Now this is what I get.

So to have truly random transformations of your wiggled objects, you need to have a separate Wiggle operator for each paRameter you wish to wiggle. Next we are going to play with using Wiggle Transform in conjunction with the Repeater operator, and that's where things get really interesting and really powerful, but again, you have to pay attention to what you are doing to get the results you desire. Here I have a simple shape again, but this time I want to repeat the shape around in a circle to create something like a pinwheel or a flower. So to do that, I will select my shape group and say Add > Repeater. Twirl it open, decide how many copies I want. I have already decided ahead of time I would like to have 18 petals on my flower, and we go ahead and change its Transform properties.

I don't need it repeating off screen, so I will go ahead and zero out my Position. A little bit of simple math tells me there is 360 degrees in the circle, 18 Copies. 360 divided 18 says I need 20 degrees of Offset for each repeat. Right now they are stacked on top of each other, but to go ahead and create a flower, I will take my Ellipse Path and just start to slide it off center a little bit until I have got a nice arrangement. If I want the petals to overlap, I will take advantage of the blending modes that are built into the shape layers.

In this case I will have the Gradient layer. Use an Overlay mode to go ahead and stack on top of each other, and I'll go ahead and have a Stroke also blend on top of each other. So now I have got a nice starting flower. I'll twirl these up, go ahead and clean up my window. Now, I want to randomize the Position of each of those petals. I have got my Group selected and I say Add > Wiggle Transform. I will go ahead and twirl it open here, and I will go ahead and set some Offsets. Let's go ahead and say Y Position of 20, so the petals will jump up and down or away from the center of the flower.

I will have each petal rotate around a little bit and I will go ahead and have each petal change its Scale a little bit as well. Now let's go ahead and Ram Preview and see what happens. The whole flower is pulsing in unison. The petals are not acting independently from each other and here is the reason why. Let's go back into the Timeline panel and I will notice that my Wiggle Transform is after my Ellipse Path, so my Ellipse is being wiggled, but it's before the Repeater. So I am having shape wiggled, then repeated. That's why it's all moving in unison. If I want each petal to be wiggled independently, I need to drag Wiggle after the Repeater. Now each repeated shape will get an independent wiggle, and you will see how the petals go crazy. I will go ahead and Ram Preview, and now they are each doing their own thing.

So stacking order is very important to determine how the Wiggle Transform operator is going to work on your shape paths. Now in this case, I want to bring a little bit of order to this flower; it's a little bit crazy here. This is where these other paRameters come in handy. Correlation says how different is the Wiggle Path or Wiggle Wave for each independent shape object? Let's go ahead and increase the Correlation to something like 90% or so. Now when I Ram Preview, you see the petals are doing a very similar thing to each other. Now if I was going to go all the way to 100% Correlation, I am back to my flower going in unison again. On the other hand, if I want complete randomness, I will put Correlation down to 0. There now will be no Correlation or relationship between the independent petals and they will each be doing their own things based on my Wiggle Transform Offsets. Again, if I want to change the Speed, just go ahead and change that.

Now, Wiggle Transform does automatically animate it just like the Wiggly Selector for text layers. If you want to hand-animate it, put the Speed down to 0; now I have a frozen flower, nothing is happening, and then you can manually animate or keyfRame the phases to get your desired motion when you want it to happen. I will go back to our automatically random flower and try high Correlation so the petals are doing very similar things. You can just imagine how long it might take you to try to animate each of those petals independently to get that sort of movement. That's where these things like Repeater and Wiggle Transform come in really handy.

And here is a couple of tips on using the Wiggle Transform operator in After Effects CS4. It's very important to keep track of where it appears in the stack in your Transform panel; for example, whether it is before or after the Repeater. Also to keep track of what paRameters you are wiggling and whatnot. You want them to be all coordinated or independent. If you want independent wiggles, then you are going to need more than one Wiggle Transform operator, but that's okay, add as many as you need. Hope that helps. See you again later!

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