Join Chris Meyer for an in-depth discussion in this video Working with paths and masks, part of After Effects Apprentice: 15 Creating a Sports Opening Title.
For this element we'd like to animate on these little tick marks over time. This is not as straightforward as it looks. While the tick marks are individual paths inside Illustrator, inside After Effects they all appear on one layer. So let's go get the paths from Illustrator and we will paste them on top of the pixels that you see here. The easiest way to do that is to select the inner ring layer and then select Edit > Edit Original. This will open Adobe Illustrator for you, and that was quick since I already had it opened in the background.
So these are the layers I am working with. Make sure you can see the layer panel so you can examine the individual layers. And let's concentrate on the first layer for now, the inner ring. When I twirl down the inner ring layer, you can see the layer is composed of multiple paths, and the last one is the circle. Notice as you select layers inside Illustrator, the artwork on those layers is not actually selected. So if I just click on inner ring and copy, I'm not actually copying any objects.
To select an object that's on a layer, you can click on the right-hand side of the layer panel or on any of these little buttons. Of course, you can Shift-click to select multiple items. To select all of the paths on this layer, I can either click on the right-hand side, click on the button, I can Alt-click or Option-click on the name of the layer itself. Now you will see that all of the objects on this layer are selected, so now we can copy. Edit > Copy. I will return to After Effects, make sure the layer is still selected inside After Effects.
Now I can select Edit > Paste. And if at first you don't see anything, just click on the Masks Visibility button at the bottom left-hand corner of the Comp panel. I'm not sure what color your masks are appearing, but mine are in blue. But if you find your color is maybe yellow or is not very helpful, simply twirl down Masks, click on the color, and you can pick any color you like. It's really not important. When I pasted the masks, I got everything from Mask 1 to Mask 11.
Sometimes it's a little hard to figure out which one is which, except I can tell that the circle is Mask number one, and that's because it has a mode pop-up. Only masks that are closed will have this mode pop-up. And I will set it to None so it doesn't actually create any transparency. I will just zoom in here a little bit. And as you click through Mask 2, Mask 3, Mask 4, it's very hard to see which one is actually selected.
You will notice the difference between a mask that's not selected and a mask that is selected. And yes, it's very subtle. In this case, it's not actually important that I can tell which mask is which. But when you are working on another job, this might be really critical. So let me show you a few tips. The first thing you might want to try is making those mask points a little bit bigger. Under After Effects > Preferences > General you can increase the Path Point Size, let's say we make it 8 or 10, something like that.
Nowadays, the points are a little bit bigger so you can see them a little easier. Another thing you might want to try is just changing the color on some of the mask points. Like that's a blue one. The next one I could make orange. So if I spent the time and gave each one a color, at least I will be able to tell which one is which. Here is an even simpler way. Go to the layer menu and toggle on an Option under Mask to Hide Locked Masks. What this means is that if you lock a mask, it will be hidden.
You will notice there is a Lock button here. As you toggle this on and off, you can see which one is which. So I can see that's the circle. I can even name it circle. Again, this level of detail is not important for this job, but it might be depending on what you are doing. The only thing we are concerned about is the order in which the masks appear, and that's because when we start animating it, this circle will wipe on first, followed by Mask 2.
And Mask 2 is the mask that appears at 12 o'clock. So when I animate it, the sequence will start with the circle and then start animating around clockwise from 12 o'clock. If that's not the order you want, you can either reorder your masks now or do it later after you have set up the animation with the Stroke effect, and that's what we'll do in the next movie.
The After Effects Apprentice series was created by Trish and Chris Meyer. These tutorials are designed for After Effects CS4 through CC, and can be used on their own or as a companion to the Meyer's book, After Effects Apprentice.
- Building a 3D world
- Working with layered Illustrator files
- Synchronizing to music
- Using text animation presets
- Rendering strategies
- Working with widescreen video, including 4:3 center cut and safe area considerations