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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 library.
- Animating to music
- Arranging layers in 3D space
- Performing time stretches
- Working with 3D camera tracking
- Typesetting and animating text
- Adding effects like drop shadows and motion blur
- Creating and animating shape layers
- Building and delivering a broadcast package
Skill Level Intermediate
You've spent a couple of hours so far building this Opening Title Animation. In reality, on a real job, we'd probably spend a few days and go through a few proofs and iterations with the client. In particular, I would spend at least another day seeing how I could massage and improve the design I already have. In this final chapter I'd like to go through some of the ideas I might employ to help dress this up. To begin with, we do have a fairly interesting background going on here, nice animated shapes. We do have our Vital Signs traces, we do have our text, but I do think it could have even a bit more going on in the background, a bit more of an interesting animated wallpaper feel.
Now the subject of this is HEART ATTACKS. We have lab results and life sign displays, I think maybe something technical, maybe circles as sort of represented molecules or blood cells might be a nice thing to add to that background. So I'm going to down and select my background layer, Layer>Pre-compose it, leave all the attributes in my Final Comp. I've spent some time positioning it in 3D and scaling it up, I don't want to lose any of that work and this will give me just a copy of my video in its own comp that's then brought into this Final Comp, and I'll call it background precomp.
I'll Open the New Composition since I need to do some work there, and here is my background layer. Whenever I want to add a graphical element to a layer, my favorite tool in After Effects are Shape layers. I'm going to make sure no layers are currently selected. If a layer is selected, I'd be masking it instead of making a new layer, and choose the Ellipse tool to create my little circles for my molecules. I'll start to drag out my shape in the middle. To make it a perfect circle, I'll add the Shift key while I'm dragging and pick the size of about one circle inside this composition.
Okay, one circle is kind of boring, I'd like to have this full of circles. I could randomly place a bunch of circles or I could use the Repeater shape operator to help fill out a grid of these circles. So with my Shape Group selected, I'll add a Repeater. The default of Repeaters will give me 3 Copies heading off to the right in the X dimension. Well, frankly, that spacing looks a little bit large to me, so I'm going to scrub it down to create something a little bit tighter.
I think I like that pattern a bit better. Now I want to fill out an entire row with these circles, so I'll increase the number of Copies. Okay, that got me some copies off to the right side, but I need some to the left as well. Well, to do that I'll scrub the Offset to the left so that my first dot is actually closer to the left edge of my composition, then I'll increase the Copies until I go off the right side as well. That gives me a nice row, now I need to repeat this row to fill up my entire composition. I'll go ahead and add a second Repeater, change its Transform properties.
So rather than repeating in the X dimension, we'll repeat in the Y dimension, and I'll make it repeat by the same number of pixels as we had above, 50. That's one of the reasons I like to round my values off to something really easy to remember, like multiples of ten or multiples of two or something, because that makes it much easier to repeat those patterns and remember those numbers later on. I have three rows. To make multiple rows I'll scrub my Offset until the first row is at the very top of my comp and then repeat my Copies down the screen.
Now it looks like my dots aren't quite centered in this composition, so I will need to center my original ellipse. To do that, I'll go down to the Transform Properties for the entire Shape Group, not the Transforms in the Repeater, but the Transforms for the Ellipse Group. And in there all I need to do is zero out its initial position and now my first shape will be centered to my comp, which means all the repeats will key off of that centered shape.
And by the way, your initial shape is still alive. I can go ahead and make it smaller. I do think maybe I like that pattern a little bit better of tiny dots; or I can it make very large dots, an interesting fish scale sort to look, but not appropriate for this particular project. I can go ahead and choose a smaller Size, or I can even choose how I Fill them. I might Option or Alt+Click on the Fill Color and have no Fill and instead just have say a little white stroke, so I have nice little white circles. I think I'm liking that a bit better.
Yeah, that's closer to my molecule or blood cell sort of look that I was hoping for, not those big dots. Okay, I have a bunch of circles, but they're just sitting there. I'd like for these to animate on and off. Well, a Repeater can do a lot of things, but it's not very good at randomizing stuff like Opacity. I can create a ramp of Opacity but it doesn't give me that random blinking look that I think will look interesting. So instead of further altering the Shape Group parameters, I'm going to add a Transition to this layer; Effect>Transition>Block Dissolve, which makes blocks of the image appear or disappear.
I'll scrub it to Transition Completion of about 50%, about halfway through, and I just have little pieces of my Os being dissolved away. I think I need a larger block size. A good starting point would be the spacings that I used to space out the grids of those circles. Now I've got something that's a bit closer to what I want, but I still have these little soft edges appearing for some of these circles. If I turned off the Soft Edges Parameter, now I have a nice hard grid that's going to bring the dots on and off.
Animating Transition Completion just goes from all off to all on, I want a random pattern, and whenever I need to randomize a parameter in After Effects I rely on the expression known as wiggle. It was one of the essential expressions we taught you back in the course on Expressions. To enable Expressions, I'll hold Option on Mac or Alt on Windows and click on the stopwatch next to the parameter I want to randomize. It will appear in the Timeline panel ready for expressions. So I'll type wiggle, open parenthesis, decide how fast I want it to wiggle.
Let's use one wiggle a second for starters, and how much I want to wiggle by. Well, let's try plus or minus 50% so it goes from all off to all on and see how that looks. I'll hit Enter and do a quick RAM Preview to see what I think. Well, I see that this is going from all the circles being off to virtually all of them being on, which is not exactly what I wanted. I wanted to have some circles around all the time, so I think I'll turn down the amount of wiggle to just plus or minus 40%, so I'll go between 10% and 90% for the final range of my Transition Completion.
Next I think I want to change the wiggle speed maybe to be timed to my music. Now my music was at a pace of 20 frames per beat and my composition had a frame rate of 24 frames per second, or to be specific, 23.976. That might be a good starting point so that I'm wiggling at a pace that matches the timings of the beats of my music. I'll press Enter, try that out quickly.
Just queue up a few seconds with the RAM Preview, playback at full speed. Yeah, I think I like that pattern. Okay, my last step is I want to blend it in to the backgrounds so they don't stand out quite as much. I'm going to treat them the same as I treated the text and the Vital Signs traces elsewhere in the composition. So I'll toggle Switches and modes to show me Blending modes; F4 is the shortcut to toggle between Switches and modes. Put it into Add mode as I had done with those other elements, press T for Opacity, and cut it down until it just blends in nicely with the background.
And maybe just give it a touch of Blur; Blur and Sharpen, I've been using Box Blur, let's keep that up, and just give a little bit of Blur to soften their appearance, maybe right around there. That's looking a little bit fat. I could reduce the size of the Stroke or reduce the Blur Radius. Now I have a nice soft pattern of circles filling up my background, making things look a little bit more interesting in our world. Now that I see this in context, I'm thinking those circles might be a little bit large, no problem, I'll go back to the background precomp, twirl open my Shape Group, go the Ellipse Size, and cut that down a little bit to be smaller circle,maybe some around there.
I think that looks more appropriate in the Final Comp.