After Effects projects and downloads

Here are a number of After Effects projects which are free to download.

All of these projects were created using After Effects version CS3 and won’t open in earlier versions.

If you have any problems with these files then please email me!

Some of these projects have lots of layers in them, and so they may take a while to display when you first open them.  Also, some of them may open with different project settings than the usual defaults, eg 32bit colour with colour values as decimal rather than the default 8 bit RGB.

If you use these projects for your own work then please let me know, I’d love to know how people are adapting them and what they’re being used for…

3D in After Effects – A demonstration

Last modified on 2009-08-20 00:29:20 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

In 2006 I created the opening video for a Centrica conference that attracted a lot of attention, because it looked like it was made in a 3D animation package but it was actually done inside After Effects.

I’ve recently completed a 3-part video tutorial on how it was all done, and you can watch the series over at the ProVideo Coalition. The tutorials aren’t intended to give a detailed explanation of every step, but rather to give a general insight into the various processes that were used- starting with the original client brief and ending with final delivery.

To celebrate the release of my first video tutorials for the ProVideo Coalition I’ve put together a small demonstration project that you can download here. For the best result you will need a copy of the Knoll Light Factory Spectacular plugin, but even if you don’t have a copy you will still be able to see how the scenes in the Centrica animation were put together, and you’ll be able to play around with the same files that I’ve used in the tutorials.

Demonstration of 3D in After Effects

Demonstration of 3D in After Effects

So watch the tutorials here and download the project here… enjoy!

Spirograph-style pattern generator

Last modified on 2008-11-27 23:41:11 GMT. 3 comments. Top.

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

Crosshairs & Target – single layer preset

Last modified on 2008-11-27 23:41:17 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

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

Repeating images in a circle

Last modified on 2008-11-27 23:41:04 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

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

Image grids and auto-storyboard

Last modified on 2008-11-27 12:33:57 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

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

Watercolour wipe- revised & updated

Last modified on 2009-02-01 17:30:29 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

According to my website statistics the original watercolour wipe project (further below) is incredibly popular. I’ve always found this intriguing as it’s a very simple project that only took a few minutes to put together. And although it’s useful as a teaching aide it doesn’t look especially great, and honestly it doesn’t look much like a watercolour.

So – as promised – here’s a revised and updated project which hopefully looks a lot nicer.

A watercolour style effect - revised and updated

A watercolour style effect – revised and updated

The project is driven by two basic compositions – one contains the image to be wiped on and the other contains a very basic gradient to control the direction of the wipe. You can easily import your own image to replace my holiday snap, and any greyscale gradient can be used to replace the simple ramp that I’ve used.

The difficult part is making the image look as though it’s part of the paper and not just superimposed on top of it. The next step is to adjust the matte patterns so that they also have some texture, otherwise the image simply looks like it’s fading up.

The paper in the project was created using only Fractal Noise in a separate project, and if you’re interested in the process then head over to the Cow.

You can download the updated project watercolourwash-revised.


I have revised and tweaked this project yet again, and have created a 2-part video tutorial examining how everything works.  You can download the latest version of the watercolour wipe project (2013) here – and you can watch the video tutorial here.

Watercolour wipe

Last modified on 2008-11-27 23:45:27 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

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

Halftone effect – using card dance

Last modified on 2009-02-01 17:30:36 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Printed images are made up of loads of dots and there are several 3rd party plug-ins around which simulate this effect. But what if you want to achieve a halftone effect using only standard AE plug-ins?

If we consider how halftone works then we can think of some solutions. Basically an image is divided up into a fine grid, usually of circles, and the size of each circle is proportional to the brightness of the image under it. In After Effects terms this sounds like how compound effects work – the scale of one layer is being controlled by the brightness of another layer. All we have to do is figure out which compound effect will do what we want.

My first thought was Particle Playground – often overlooked but still very powerful. We could set up Particle Playground to create a grid of circles using text bullet-points and then have a controlling layer – our source image – determine the size of each circle. This is exactly what we want and this approach would work perfectly…

…except that Particle Playground is slow. Really, incredibly, frustratingly slow. So it’s worth looking for a better alternative.

Another plug-in which will do what we want is Card Dance. Card Dance divides our source image into a grid of cards and then sets the size of each card according to luminance of another layer- exactly what we’re looking for. And Card Dance is much, much faster than Particle Playground.

So by separating our source image into primary colours, applying our halftone effect using Card Dance to each individual colour layer, and then combining them with small position offsets we can create a passable halftone effect:

Halftone effect using Card Dance

Halftone effect using Card Dance

Another advantage of using Card Dance is that it’s aware of the AE comp camera and can be used to create a 3D halftone effect. The layer itself isn’t a true 3D layer but behaves as though it is. This opens up a whole load of possibilities for interesting 3D halftone effects.

While Card Dance provides the finished halftone effect we also have several options for creating our grid of circles. It’s actually interesting to consider how many different ways there are to create a grid of circles in After Effects – including:

• Use the circle effect, then CC Repetile / Motion Tile

• Use a solid and CC Ball Action

• Use a solid and Brush Strokes (size 5,length 1, density & randomness 0)

• Use Particle Playground and a text grid of bullet points

But the one I went for is to use a Shape Layer, and then a repeater. This has the added advantage of allowing me to set up some simple expressions to drive the size, position and alignment of the circles.

There are a few other expressions in this project designed to help the end result look as good as possible. The slider which sets the size of the circles has a simple expression applied to ensure that they’re evenly spaced out horizontally – with no half-circles sticking out the side. Unfortunately I haven’t figured out how to ensure that the same limitation works vertically. If the DotSize you select gives you half a circle at the bottom of the screen then the finished result will look a bit odd, as the Card Dance effect doesn’t do half-cards.

The size of the circles is linked to the Card Dance effect so that the correct number of rows and columns is automatically set, and the colour layers are slightly offset to simulate the printing process. The offset is also linked with an expression to the size of the dot being used. This way you can adjust the size of the overall halftone effect with the one slider.

The paper background was created with fractal noise and you can find an article detailing the process here.

Here are two AE projects – one which creates an ordinary halftone effect on a flat layer and one which demonstrates a 3D camera move. There are options for a black & white image, RGB and CMYK colour space.

You can download the After Effects project here: halftonepatterns-withcardwipe.

Moving things in a circle

Last modified on 2008-11-28 14:34:39 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

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.

Something for Valentines Day

Last modified on 2009-02-13 21:31:39 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Recently I had a small job which was really fun to work on.  Martin Scanlan, a London based writer/director, has written a fantastic feature film screenplay called “Complicated” and I was asked to create several potential posters to advertise it. Without giving too much away, one of the characters is a chaos mathematician and as a fan of fractals I incorporated a Mandelbrot Set into one of the designs.  As it’s the day before Valentines Day I’ve stripped down the original project…

…and here – just in time for Valentines Day – is a Valentines Day themed After Effects project just in case the special someone in your life is a real geek and you’re having trouble finding a suitably geeky card…

But be warned – this takes ages to render!