Archive for » November, 2008 «

Friday, November 28th, 2008 | Author:

How easy it is to work on any given project isn’t just a matter of how well you know After Effects. All sorts of factors can combine to make one job more or less demanding than the next. Designing the DVD menus for the ITV hit “Prehistoric Park” was probably the most demanding project I have ever worked on, and the extremely tight deadline I had was a significant factor in the job’s difficulty.

I had set up the Episode and Chapter select menus to resemble the security room which appeared in the series, and had a bank of TVs set up to display the various episodes or chapters for the viewer to choose from. Incidentally, this is all done in AE. There are no 3D applications involved here, just lots of cutouts arranged in 3D space. The TVs are each comprised of 4 solids arranged in 3D space – a photo of the front of a real monitor, and grey solids for the top and sides. You never see the back or the bottom so no need for anything there. Shadows and spotlights hide a multitude of rough sins!

Prehistoric Park - Episode Select Menu

Prehistoric Park - Episode Select Menu

But I digress..

I also had 2 computer screens as part of the set and although I had planned to design some sort of fake Prehistoric Park interface to go on them, I simply ran out of time. The deadline was approaching, it was past midnight and I just wanted to finish up and go home. There was no time for me to design something that would rival ‘Minority Report’. And because I had to let the various menu compositions render overnight there wasn’t much point in me working longer anyway, or the renders wouldn’t be done in time for the morning…

So I had to improvise. I screengrabbed the Mac I was working on, with After Effects open and me in the middle of working on the Prehistoric Park menus. Then I imported the still, dropped it into the composition to fill the laptop screen, finished up and went to bed. Problem solved in 30 seconds!

So if you look really carefully at the Episode and Chapter select menus in Prehistoric Park, you can actually see a screengrab of the After Effects project for the Prehistoric Park menus…

Remember what AE version 6.5 looked like?

Remember what AE version 6.5 looked like?

This wide shot shows the two laptop screens I needed to fill – the front one denotes which disc is being played, while the rear one will be used in the Chapter Select menu to navigate back to the Episode Select menu. When there’s a transition to play you can see the screen a bit more clearly…

DVD menu recursion...

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Friday, November 28th, 2008 | Author:

Sometimes you need to move a whole load of things in a circle… so here’s a project with compositions to do it for you. There’s 4 versions, including one which is random.

You can download it here: CircularMovement.

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Thursday, November 27th, 2008 | Author:

This is a simple project based on a gradient wipe. I saw a flash site with a similar transition effect and was wondering how easy it would be to replicate… a gradient wipe with some vector blur was all that was needed.

It’s not an especially interesting project but I’ve found it to be a useful example of how you can take a basic gradient, pre-compose it to create a displacement map, an edge map and a vector blur map, and for demonstrating what the vector blur effect can be used for.

One day I’ll play around with it and see how much I can enhance it. I’ll probably start by using the texturise plug-in with a paper texture, and maybe the caustics effect to get some depth, and a few other things I’ve got in mind…

Try it here: Watercolour Wipe

Thursday, November 27th, 2008 | Author:

Creating a target with crosshairs isn’t a big challenge. But doing it on only one layer is actually quite difficult. This project is really an effects preset (an ffx) as the trick was to fit all the effects onto one layer so they could be saved as a preset and applied to a single solid. It uses a combination of standard effects and expressions to create a crosshairs-style target with many adjustable parameters. It’s a bit like having a plug-in for creating a target with crosshairs.

I put an earlier version of this project together about 4 years ago, when I had a client brief that involved using a set of crosshairs to zoom into different points on a map at regular points in a video. When I realised how often I would be using the effect I decided that it wouldn’t be too hard to come up with an animation preset so all I had to do was keyframe the position of the crosshairs, and adjust the size.

Funnily enough I’ve used it a few times, as I’ve had several briefs since then which have included crosshairs zooming into a map… it seems to be a common device in corporate videos.

The fun part was figuring out how to get the graticule-ticks around the circle while still keeping everything on one layer.

Download the target preset here:Chris’s_Target_Preset

Thursday, November 27th, 2008 | Author:

This is one of my favourite After Effects projects, and one which I have used many times in various ways. It’s very easy to use and fun to play around with.

This project was originally inspired by Ayato’s website, and in particular project 39 – Spirograph-style animation. Ayato’s tutorial shows Illustrator being used to repeat some circles many, many times with a very small offset in their position. The moire patterns that result from the multiple layers interacting create a really lovely gradient.

I was interested in this process but I didn’t own Illustrator- so I figured out it wouldn’t be too hard to come up with a few expressions to repeat and offset multiple copies of a layer. This is the latest version of that initial experiment.

The project allows you to adjust the position and rotation offsets for each layer in the composition and if you don’t mind long render times you make some amazing patterns with hundreds of layers. There are more opportunities to play if you use an animating shape, and when you play around in 32-bit mode with blurs and transfer modes. Included in the download is a greyscale quicktime which has 18 different frames demonstrating some of the different looks you can get. If you’re really adventurous you can use 3D layers in your source composition and enable “collapse transformations” in the main project.

This zip file also includes both the original project to generate patterns as well as a separate project demonstrating the process used by Ayato to create his finished product.

Incidentally, when I originally posted an older version of this project on my website I emailed Ayato to check that he didn’t mind… he was very happy.

Download and play:Spirograph-style pattern generator

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Thursday, November 27th, 2008 | Author:

This is a fairly simple project which I originally wrote to help out a friend who had a brief based on this style. Basically it arranges as many layers as you want in a circle, and you can adjust the parameters with sliders so it’s all very intuitive.

Download it here:repeatingshapecircles

Thursday, November 27th, 2008 | Author:

This is one of the first projects I ever created with expressions, and one which I continue to find the most useful.

Arranging many images or videos into a grid can be quite a tedious process if you do it manually because you generally want to tweak spacing and size as you go, and you have to continually shuffle things around to keep everything lined up, and then if you decide the images should be bigger or smaller, or more to the left or over to the right then you often have to start again …

DVD menu for "Broken News" - with 60 video clips

This project automatically arranges stills or videos into a grid and allows you to adjust position and spacing with sliders. This makes it easy to judge the layout without being distracted by maths.

If you’re not a fan of expressions and don’t want to import this into your own project, you can still use it to get the layout working and then just note down the position values for all the layers.

There are three compositions in the project – one for stills, one for videos, and one to create an “auto storyboard” – in which a video is sampled at user-defined intervals and aligned into a grid.

I used the auto-storyboard to create a small poster for a friend of mine, Michael Graves. He had spent many years working on a self-funded short film (“The Urge”), and as I was involved in the editing I was there when he finally finished it – quite an occasion considering how long he had been working on it.

Since I already had the entire film on my system, I used the auto-storyboard project to arrange the finished film into a grid, with one image for every second of footage. Printed onto glossy photo paper and framed the end result looks interesting and makes a nice memento. I calculated the composition dimensions so the final render could be printed at 300dpi so it was many thousands of pixels in size. I think the render time was over 20 minutes for the one frame! Here’s a much smaller version:

The Urge, by Michael Graves

The Urge, by Michael Graves

Download the Image Grid project here- Image Grids