Making Motion Graphics Animation Look More Analog in After Effects CS6

This Tutorial is part of a series.  Please read my Introduction to Hand-Drawn and Organic Looks Tutorials before proceeding.

Introduction:

Working with motion graphics in After Effects is very similar to animating 2D paper cut-outs underneath a down-shooter animation stand or a multi-plane if you’re working with After Effects layers.  The main difference is that when you animate a graphic in After Effects, the program interpolates the in-betweens for you so you don’t have to physically move the cut-out or graphic every time you take a picture.  This greatly speeds up animation production time, but the downside for many analog animators is that movement often looks extremely smooth and unnatural like the loop of this bouncing ball motion graphic:

This tutorial will cover some techniques for making motion graphics look more analog like stop-motion cut outs or hand-drawn animation.  This is the same motion graphics animation from before only the ball has been replaced with an image sequence, wiggler has been applied to the keyframes and then the keyframes were toggled to hold:

Making a Ball Image Sequence for Animation in After Effects CS6:

1.  If you did my tutorial Working With Image Sequences in Photoshop & After Effects CS6 then this part will be very familiar.  We’re going to start by creating an 8-frame looping image sequence of a ball in Photoshop.  That way we can bring a moving image sequence of a ball into After Effects instead of a static ball graphic.  To begin open Photoshop and go to – File – New or Command N on the Mac.

2.  Change the name to Ball_Sequence.  And, since we’re going to be working in HD, change the preset to Film & Video and set the size to HDTV 1080p/29.97.

The 29.97 refers to a video frame rate, but since we’re going to be using the Export Layers to Files Script in Photoshop, we can bring the layers into After Effects as image sequences and interpret the frame rate there.  The main reason I use this preset is because it yields a 1920 x 1080 pixel canvas that will match any of the HDTV 1080 composition presets in After Effects.  Plus, it has action safe and title safe guidelines, which can be useful for creating titles and credits.

NOTE:  In this tutorial we’re going to crop down this canvas, but I still like to use this preset because it gives me a good idea of how big to make my drawings so they’re right size when I bring them into After Effects.  You can of course start with a smaller canvas and skip the cropping step later if you’d like.

3.   Go to Layer – New – Layer or Command Shift N on the Mac.

4.  Make sure you have the new layer selected and click the brush tool.  If you’re really going for a hand-drawn look, I’d experiment with the brushes in Photoshop and find one that has an organic look similar to a medium you like using on paper.  One of my particular favorites is the one I used for this tutorial, the square charcoal brush.

If you have a Wacom tablet installed, use the stylus to draw 8 different digital charcoal balls to bring into After Effects as a looping ball sequence.  You could technically use a mouse for all of these tutorials, but if you’re really going for a hand-drawn look then using a tablet and stylus is going to give you the most organic results.  In the screenshot below you can see that I’ve drawn all 8 balls but I only left one turned on so you can see the transparency of the pressure sensitive brush-strokes you can achieve with a Wacom tablet.

5.  Before you export your layers to files, turn them all on, press the C key to activate the crop tool and crop closley around them.

NOTE: Normally you could do this by using the Trim layers function in the Export Layers to Files script in Photoshop, but since all of your balls are hand-drawn they will be slightly different sizes and that means that the Trim layers function will crop them all slightly differently.  Then, when you bring them into After Effects the anchor points will be off and when you play them back as an image sequence, they might move around.  Since we’re going for an organic look this could be desirable, but just to be safe I’d crop them.

6.  To export your layers to files be sure to turn off all of the layers you won’t need and leave on only the layers you’re going to use in your sequence.  In this case just leave on the ball layers and turn the background off.  Then use the Photoshop script located in File – Scripts – Export Layers to Files, and change the settings to match the ones in the screenshot.

a.) First click Browse… to determine a location for exporting your files, click New Folder, label it and click Open.

b.) Then give your file name a prefix.  In this case I called it Hand_Drawn_Bouncing_Ball.

c.) Make sure Visible Layers is selected.  This makes it so only the layers that are turned on in your Photoshop Panels window are exported.

d.) I prefer setting the file type to PNG-24 because the quality is excellent, the file size is relatively small and they support Alphas, meaning the transparency of the layers will be preserved just like they were in the Photoshop document.  PSDs and TIFF files also support Alpha’s and the quality is technically better than PNG-24, but TIFFs and PSDs are so much larger they tend to slow down performance in After Effects.

e.) Select transparency to preserve the transparency of the layers.

f.) Finally, make sure Trim Layers is turned off otherwise Photoshop will crop the unused spaced around each individual ball and they won’t play back properly in After Effects.  Trim Layers is useful if you just want to import a bunch of static graphics into After Effects, but not necessarily when you’re importing an entire sequence.

When your settings are correct, click the “Run” button to run the “Export Layers To Files” script.

7.  When the Script is finished your files are ready to be imported into After Effects.

Importing and Animating your Ball Sequence in After Effects CS6

1.  If you did the tutorial Working With Image Sequences in Photoshop & After Effects CS6, you can simply open up that project file and place the background sequence behind your ball animation, otherwise if you’re opening up a fresh After Effects CS6 project, you’ll be prompted by the welcome screen.  If you get no welcome screen or accidentally cancel out of it, just follow step 13 in part 2 of my first tutorial Doing Hand-Drawn Animation Using Photoshop & After Effects CS6 (PART 2).

For now I’ll continue as if prompted by the welcome screen.  Click new composition and use the following settings:

First change the Composition Name to Background_Sequence, second choose the Preset: HDTV 1080 24 and third change the duration to 0:00:10:00.  When the settings look like the screenshot click OK.

2.  When After Effects opens go to File – Save As – Save As or press Shift Command S and Save your project in your desired location before you continue.  Then go to Window – Workspace – Animation so your set up looks like the screenshot below.

3.  Go to File – Import – File, double-click the Project panel or press Command I on the Mac.  In the Import File dialogue box locate the Ball Sequence files you exported from After Effects with the Photoshop Export Layers to Files Script and choose import as Footage – PNG Sequence – Force alphabetical order.  The dialogue box should look like the following screenshot:

4.   Once imported, click on the PNG Sequence in the project panel and press enter/return to rename the file to Ball_Sequence.  Right click the PNG Sequence and go to Interpret Footage.  Then follow the steps in the screenshot below to change the Frame Rate amount of times your sequence will loop.

5.  NOTE: In step 13 of the tutorial Doing Hand-Drawn Animation Using Photoshop & After Effects CS6 (PART 2) I had you create the Composition after Importing and Interpreting your footage.  Since we created the composition at the welcome screen we can skip ahead to the next step.

6.  Now drag your Ball_Sequence onto the Background_Sequence Composition Timeline.

7.  Since the Background_Sequence is semi-transparent, make a white solid to put underneath the sequence so it shows up better.  Go to Layer – New – Solid or press Command Y on the Mac.  Click Color and change the B setting to 100% or drag the circle to the upper left corner of the color picker so B changes to 100%.

When you press OK in both boxes, the new white solid will show up above your Ball_Sequence.  Move it underneath so it shows up.

8.  Now we’re going to keyframe some animation.  Position the Ball_Sequence in the canvas as it’s shown in the screenshot below.  Use the light blue square handles that surround your Ball_Sequence to squash and stretch your ball against the side of the composition.  Then move your playhead to frame 0 and twirl open the transform menu by pressing the little triangles to the left of your Ball-Sequence in the timeline.  Click the stopwatch icons next to the Position, Scale and Rotation properties.  This will add three diamond shaped key-frames in the timeline.  The diamond shaped keyframes are the standard constant velocity keyframes.  Continue by following the steps in the screenshots:

NOTE:  If you change the scale in timeline window below the canvas you need to turn off the little chain-link icon next to the settings so you can scale each parameter separately.  Also, you may have drawn your ball a different size than mine so the scale parameters won’t necessarily match up.

9.  Now you’re going to add an Easy Ease to those keyframes, so the ball eases into its first movement.  Select all three keyframes, right click them, go to keyframe assistant and select Easy Ease.

As you can see I’ve already set up all the other keyframes for the rest of the animation.  Below are screenshots of all the settings.  Feel free to examine them closely, follow the steps and adjust the settings as you go through them.  You’ve also probably noticed the motion paths in between the key-frames.  They show up when when you drag a graphic or sequence with a position key-frame from one point to another.  The curvature in the motion paths exists because I used bezier handles to pull out the curved motions paths.  But, don’t worry about this right now.  I’ll explain how to add the bezier curves once the position keyframes are set.

10.  Make your 2nd Position, Scale, Rotation keyframes, but only convert the position keyframe to an Easy Ease.  Don’t worry about the extra Scale and Rotation keyframe before this.  These are extra squash and stretch in-between keyframes you should add at the end.  First make all of your position keyframes then go back and add the other scale and rotation keyframes.

11.  Make your 3rd Position, Scale, Rotation keyframes.  Convert all three keyframes to Easy Ease.

12.  Make your 4th Position, Scale, Rotation keyframes.  Only convert the position keyframe to Easy Ease.

13.  Make your 5th Position, Scale, Rotation keyframes.  Convert all three keyframes to Easy Ease.

14.  Make your 6th Position, Scale, Rotation keyframes.  Since the ball is bouncing backward you can copy and paste the keyframes from your second position using the Edit – Copy and Edit – Paste Commands or Command C and Command V on the Mac.

15.   Make your 7th Position, Scale, Rotation keyframes.  Since the ball is bouncing backward you can copy and paste the keyframes from your first position using the Edit – Copy and Edit – Paste Commands or Command C and Command V on the Mac.  Then follow the instructions in the screenshot to create curved motion paths using the bezier keyframes.

16.  Now make your 8th squash and stretch keyframes by matching your scale and rotation settings to the screenshots below.  You won’t need to convert them to Easy Ease, so you can just leave them all as the diamond constant velocity keyframes.

17.  Now make your 9th squash and stretch keyframes by matching your scale and rotation settings to the screenshots below.  You won’t need to convert them to Easy Ease, so you can just leave them all as the diamond constant velocity keyframes.

18.  Now make your 10th squash and stretch keyframes by matching your scale and rotation settings to the screenshots below.  You won’t need to convert them to Easy Ease, so you can just leave them all as the diamond constant velocity keyframes.

19.  Now make your 11th squash and stretch keyframes by matching your scale and rotation settings to the screenshots below.  You won’t need to convert them to Easy Ease, so you can just leave them all as the diamond constant velocity keyframes.

20.  Now make your 12th squash and stretch keyframes by matching your scale and rotation settings to the screenshots below.  You won’t need to convert them to Easy Ease, so you can just leave them all as the diamond constant velocity keyframes.

21.  Now make your 13th squash and stretch keyframes by matching your scale and rotation settings to the screenshots below.  You won’t need to convert them to Easy Ease, so you can just leave them all as the diamond constant velocity keyframes.

22.  Now make your 14th squash and stretch keyframes by matching your scale and rotation settings to the screenshots below.  You won’t need to convert them to Easy Ease, so you can just leave them all as the diamond constant velocity keyframes.

23.  Now that you have your animation keyframed you should play it back by pressing the RAM Preview button in the Preview panel in the upper left hand corner of the workspace.  I’ve set up the work area so it ends right before the last set of keyframes.  That way the first frame doesn’t repeat when the loop restarts.  To do this, move your playhead one frame before the final set of keyframes and press the N key.  This will make it so the end of the work area lines up with the playhead.

24.  When watching your animation you’ll notice that it has especially smooth motion.  To fix this and make it look more organic we are going to use the wiggler plug-in.  First select all of the Position keyframes across the timeline without selecting any of the scale or rotation keyframes so it looks like this:

25.  When the keyframes are selected properly you should see that the apply button in the Wiggler panel becomes active.  Use these settings and click apply:

By setting the Fequency to 12 per second, we’re telling After effects to wiggle the position 12 times per second, which is almost the equivalent of an animation that was shot on “2s” or played back at 12fps.  The only difference is that when wiggler adds its key-frames it converts them all to Easy Ease so there is actually one frame of interpolation that happens in-between each one of those keyframes.  But, when we shoot something on “2s” with a down shooter, we usually photograph twice in the exact same place.  To achieve this effect we have to select all of the key-frames added by the Wiggler plugin and convert them to holds so they don’t move at all during the in-betweens.  To do this make sure that all of the position key-frames are selected, right click one of them and press Toggle Hold Keyframes.  This will cause all of the keyframes to hold during the in-betweens.

26.  Now when we play back the animation it might look a little sporadic.  This is because the ball is looping at 24fps while the hold keyframes are causing it to play back at 12fps.  This can be fixed by copying and pasting the following frame randomizing expression into the Time Remap function:

fr = 12; // frame rate;

numFrames = 8;

seedRandom(index,true);

seg = Math.floor(time*fr);

f = Math.floor(random(numFrames));

for (i = 0; i < seg; i++)

f = (f + Math.floor(random(1,numFrames)))%numFrames;

framesToTime(f);

If you don’t know how to do this please see my tutorial Working With Image Sequences in Photoshop & After Effects CS6.

27.  To give the animation a fully organic look, you can also apply the Wiggler plugin to the scale keyframes and the rotation keyframes.  I would also suggest converting them to hold keyframes afterwards.  These are the settings I would recommend starting with for the scale and rotation properties:

28.  If you did the tutorial Working With Image Sequences in Photoshop & After Effects CS6 you can import the after effects project and copy and past randomized the randomized background we made behind the bouncing ball.

29.  To render this animation, see steps 25 – 27 in Doing Hand-Drawn Animation Using Photoshop & After Effects CS6 (PART 2).

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Working With Image Sequences in Photoshop & After Effects CS6

This Tutorial is part of a series.  Please read my Introduction to Hand-Drawn and Organic Looks Tutorials before proceeding.

How to Create Image Sequences in Photoshop for Use in After Effects CS6

This tutorial explains how to use Photoshop and After Effects CS6 to create looping image sequences like the one I used in the background of the Hand Drawn Bouncing Ball animation in my two part tutorial, Doing Hand-Drawn Animation Using Photoshop & After Effects CS6 (PART 1) &  Doing Hand-Drawn Animation Using Photoshop & After Effects CS6 (PART 2).

1.  Open Photoshop and go to – File – New or Command N on the Mac.

2.  Change the name to Background_Sequence.  And, since we’re going to be working in HD, change the preset to Film & Video and set the size to HDTV 1080p/29.97.

The 29.97 refers to a video frame rate, but since we’re going to be using the Export Layers to Files Script in Photoshop, we can bring the layers into After Effects as image sequences and interpret the frame rate there.  The main reason I use this preset is because it yields a 1920 x 1080 pixel canvas that will match any of the HDTV 1080 composition presets in After Effects.  Plus, it has action safe and title safe guidelines, which can be useful for creating titles and credits.

3.  Go to Layer – New – Layer or Command Shift N on the Mac.

4.  Again if you were going for a hand-drawn look, I’d experiment with the brushes in Photoshop and find one that has an organic look similar to a medium you like using on paper.  One of my particular favorites is the one I used for this tutorial, the square charcoal brush, which looks like this in the Brush Presets panel in Photoshop CS6:

If you have a Wacom tablet installed, use the stylus to draw 8 different digital charcoal backgrounds to loop behind your bouncing ball.  You can use a mouse for all of these tutorials, but if you’re really going for a hand-drawn look then using a tablet and stylus is going to give you the most organic results.  In the screenshot below you can see that I’ve drawn all 8 backgrounds but only one is turned on.  That’s because my Wacom tablet is set up so that it’s sensitive to pressure.  This causes the strokes to become more or less transparent depending on how hard I press down on the tablet just like it would if you were using real charcoal.  Therefore, leaving all the layers on will just make it look black because the different transparencies are piled on top of each other.

5.  To export all of your layers to files be sure to turn off all of the layers you won’t need and leave on only the layers you’re going to use in your sequence.  In this case just leave on the charcoal layers and turn the background off.  Then use the Photoshop script located in File – Scripts – Export Layers to Files, and change the settings to match the ones in the screenshot.

a.) First click Browse… to determine a location for exporting your files, click New Folder, label it and click Open.

b.) Then give your file name a prefix.  In this case I called it Hand_Drawn_Bouncing_Ball.

c.) Make sure Visible Layers is selected.  This makes it so only the layers that are turned on in your Photoshop Panels window are exported.

d.) I prefer setting the file type to PNG-24 because the quality is excellent, the file size is relatively small and they support Alphas, meaning the transparency of the layers will be preserved just like they were in the Photoshop document.  PSDs and TIFF files also support Alpha’s and the quality is technically better than PNG-24, but TIFFs and PSDs are so much larger they tend to slow down performance in After Effects.

e.) Select transparency to preserve the transparency of the layers.

f.) Finally, make sure Trim Layers is turned off otherwise Photoshop will crop the unused spaced around each individual ball and they won’t play back properly in After Effects.  Trim Layers is useful if you just want to import a bunch of static graphics into After Effects, but not necessarily when you’re importing an entire sequence.

When your settings are correct, click the “Run” button to run the “Export Layers To Files” script.

6. When the Script is finished your files are ready to be imported into After Effects.

How to Add a Frame Randomizing Expression in After Effects CS6

In traditional hand-drawn animation when you wanted to hold a pose without the drawing looking static you would create what’s called a “traceback.”  This means you would physically trace at least 8 frames of the same drawing and then shoot them over and over again in a random order for however long you wanted to hold the pose.  The randomness of the frames make the loop more interesting and it gives your animation a less predictable and more natural feel.  You could technically do less than 8 frames, but the more frames you have, the more variation your animation has.

The problem is that when you set an image sequence to loop in After Effects, there’s no option that allows you to randomize the play back of frames.  This can make for a less-interesting repetitive cycle that often looks like this:

Of course you can manually reorder frames in After Effects, but it’s very time-consuming.  So, I asked Dan Ebberts, the guru of After Effects expressions, and he was able to come up with a simple Expression on the Time Remapping function that controls the frame rate of the sequence within the expression and randomizes playback without repeating frames based on the total amount of frames in the loop.  This way you can make randomized looping sequences look as if they were shot on “2s” or “3s,”  and use those sequences with different frame rates in the same composition without have to re-interpreting footage, comps or using Time Stretch.  The result might looks like this:

The tutorial for applying the expression is below:

1.  If you did my two part tutorial Doing Hand-Drawn Animation Using Photoshop & After Effects CS6 (PART 1) and Doing Hand-Drawn Animation Using Photoshop & After Effects CS6 (PART 2), you can simply open up that saved project file and place the background sequence behind your ball animation, otherwise if you’re opening up a fresh After Effects CS6 project, you’ll be prompted by the welcome screen.  If you get no welcome screen or accidentally cancel out of it, just follow step 13 in my previous post Doing Hand-Drawn Animation Using Photoshop & After Effects CS6 (PART 2).

For now I’ll continue as if prompted by the welcome screen.  Click new composition and follow the steps in the screenshot below to change your Composition Settings.

a.)  Change the Composition Name to Hand_Drawn_Bouncing_Ball.

b.)  Choose the Preset HDTV 1080 24.

c.)  Change the duration to 0:00:10:00.

d.)  When the settings look like the screenshot click OK.

First change the Composition Name to Background_Sequence, second choose the Preset: HDTV 1080 24 and third change the duration to 0:00:10:00.  When the settings look like the screenshot click OK.

2.  When After Effects opens go to File – Save As – Save As or press Shift Command S and Save your project in your desired location before you continue.  Then go to Window – Workspace – Animation so your set up looks like the screenshot below.

 3.  Go to File – Import – File, double-click the Project panel or press Command I on the Mac.  In the Import File dialogue box locate the Background Sequence files you exported from After Effects with the Photoshop Export Layers to Files Script and choose import as Footage – PNG Sequence – Force alphabetical order.  The dialogue box should look like the following screenshot.

4.   Once imported, click on the PNG Sequence in the project panel and press enter/return to rename the file to Background_Sequence.  Then right-click the PNG Sequence and go to Interpret Footage.  Then follow the steps in the screenshot below to change the Frame Rate.

5.  NOTE: In step 13 of the tutorial Doing Hand-Drawn Animation Using Photoshop & After Effects CS6 (PART 2) I had you create the Composition after Importing and Interpreting your footage.  Since we created the composition at the welcome screen we can skip ahead to the next step.

6.  Now drag your Background_Sequence onto the Background_Sequence Composition Timeline.

7.  Since the Background_Sequence is semi-transparent, make a white solid to put underneath the sequence so it shows up better.  Go to Layer – New – Solid or press Command Y on the Mac.  Click Color and change the B setting to 100% or drag the circle to the upper left corner of the color picker so B changes to 100%.

When you click OK in both boxes, the new white solid will show up above your Background_Sequence.  Move it underneath so it shows up.

8.  Right click the Background_Sequence in the Composition timeline and go to Time – Enable Time Remapping or press Option Command T on the Mac.  Then hold the Option key and click the little stopwatch icon next to the graph on the left of the Time Remap function.  This will bring up an Expression box in the timeline.

9.  As it says in the above screenshot, double-click the words timeRemap in the timeline to open the Expression editor box.  Then copy and paste the following frame randomizing expression into the box:

fr = 12; // frame rate;

numFrames = 8;

seedRandom(index,true);

seg = Math.floor(time*fr);

f = Math.floor(random(numFrames));

for (i = 0; i < seg; i++)

f = (f + Math.floor(random(1,numFrames)))%numFrames;

framesToTime(f);

The line “fr = 12; // frame rate;” means that it will play the Background_Sequence at 12 frames per second.  This number can be changed depending on what frame rate you want your sequence to play back at.  Likewise, in the second line “numFrames = 8;” means that the number of frames in the sequence is 8.  This number can also be changed depending on how many frames you have in your sequence.  Therefore, if you wanted to randomize a 24 frame sequence and have it play back on “3s” or 8fps, the expression would look like this:

fr = 8; // frame rate;

numFrames = 24;

seedRandom(index,true);

seg = Math.floor(time*fr);

f = Math.floor(random(numFrames));

for (i = 0; i < seg; i++)

f = (f + Math.floor(random(1,numFrames)))%numFrames;

framesToTime(f);

10.  To render this animation, see steps 25 – 27 in Doing Hand-Drawn Animation Using Photoshop & After Effects CS6 (PART 2).

Doing Hand-Drawn Animation Using Photoshop & After Effects CS6 (PART 2)

To see part 1 of this tutorial please click here:  Doing Hand-Drawn Animation Using Photoshop & After Effects CS6 (PART 1)

HOW TO IMPORT AND EDIT YOR PHOTOSHOP ANIMATIONS IN AFTER EFFECTS CS6:

Open up After Effects CS6 and go to Window – Workspace – Animation so your set up looks like the screenshot below.

11.  Go to File – Import – File OR double click the Project panel OR press Command I on the Mac.  In the Import File dialogue box locate the layer files you exported from After Effects with the Export Layers to Files Script and choose import as Footage – PNG Sequence – Force alphabetical order.  The dialogue box should look like the following screenshot.

12.  Once imported, click on the PNG Sequence in the project panel.  To rename the file in the After Effects project press return and change the name to Hand_Drawn_Bouncing_Ball.  Then right click the PNG Sequence and go to Interpret Footage.  Then follow the steps in the screenshot below to change the Frame Rate.

13.  Next go to Composition – New Composition or press Command N on the Mac.  Follow the steps in the screenshot below to change your Composition Settings.

a.)  Change the Composition Name to Hand_Drawn_Bouncing_Ball.

b.)  Choose the Preset HDTV 1080 24.

c.)  Change the duration to 0:00:10:00.

d.)  When the settings look like the screenshot click OK.

14.  Now drag your Hand_Drawn_Bouncing_Ball PNG Sequence onto the timeline of the Hand_Drawn_Bouncing_Ball composition and click the little checkerboard button to toggle the transparency of your background.

15. If you press space bar to play back your animation you’ll notice that it won’t play in real time.  In order to see your animation play back in real time you have to do a RAM Preview by either pressing Control 0 on the Mac or pressing the RAM Preview button on the Preview panel.  The Info panel above the preview panel will tell you the frame rate it’s playing back at.  If it’s correct it should say “fps: 24 (realtime).”

NOTE:  You may remember that I asked you to interpret the PNG Sequence as 12fps, yet we’re playing it back in a 24fps comp.  This makes it so that the interpreted 12 fps footage will play at the speed of 24fps and therefore it will play on “2s” just like we had it set up in the Photoshop timeline.  If you needed to interpret the footage the same as your comp, which is often the case, you can also change the speed by right clicking the sequence in the timeline and going to Time – Time Stretch.  If your sequence and your comp were set to play back at 24fps, then a stretch factor of 200 will make the sequence play back twice as slow and therefore make your sequence play back at 12fps.

16.  The next thing you’ll notice when you play back your animation is that it’s playing backwards.  To fix this, right click on the sequence and go to Time – Time-Reverse Layer or press Option Command R on the Mac.  This will make your animation play forwards.

17.  You’ll also probably notice that your animation still stops on the way back.  To complete the bouncing ball loop, find the peak of the first bounce by stepping forward through the animation.  Hold Command and press the arrow keys on the Mac to move forward or backward frame by frame or  use the Next Frame and Previous Frame buttons on the Preview Panel.  Stop on the last frame after the first bounce before your ball starts to fall down again.  Remember that since you have a 12fps sequence in a 24fps comp, each frame will actually be two frames long.  After Effects always displays the frame in front of the playhead so you’re going to want the frame after the peak to be displayed.  Then, split the layer by going to Edit – Split Layer or press Shift Command D.  The correct split point is about here in my animation.

18.  Once the layer is split, click the first layer and go to Edit – Copy or Command C on the Mac.  then go to Edit – Paste or Command V on the Mac.  The Layer will be duplicated above the first layer.  Click on that layer and change it so it plays forward by right clicking it and going to Time – Time- Reverse Layer.  Then drag that Layer so it’s above all the other layers in the Timeline window.  Hold Shift and snap it to the end of second layer so it looks like this.

19.  When you play the loop back you’ll notice a bump from a rogue frame on the last layer that appears when we switch the Time-Reverse back to normal.  Just hover over the beginning of that layer and pull it forward so that frame disappears.

20.  Then hold shift and move the layer back so it snaps to the end of the previous layer.

21.  Hold Shift and snap your playhead to the end of the layer and pull the last frame back so the same frame from the beginning of the animation won’t duplicate when it loops.

22. Hold shift and drag the work area bar so it snaps to the very end of the layer.  You can also use the N key to snap to the end of the work area and the B key to snap to the beginning.

23.  Click the Ram Preview button or press Command 0 on the Mac to watch your animation loop.  If there are any issues  in the moving of the animation you most likely have an unwanted frame somewhere and you may have to adjust the ends of the layers so the animation plays back correctly.

24.  Since the background of your composition is transparent it will render to black and your black ball most likely won’t show up.  Therefore you may want to put a white solid underneath your ball layers so the animation shows up.  Go to Layer – New – Solid or press Command Y on the Mac.  Click Color and change the B setting to 100% or drag the circle to the upper left corner of the color picker so B changes to 100%.

When you click OK in both boxes, the new white solid will show up above all of your other Ball layers.  Move it underneath all of them so the balls show up.

25. To Render this animation to a movie file you can go to Composition – Add to Render Queue or press Command M on the Mac or Control M on Windows.   In the Render Queue, click Best Settings and change the frame rate in the Render Settings box to 23.976, so it’s using a standard video frame rate instead of 24fps, which is cinematic frame rate.

NOTE:  I like to work in After Effects in true 24 frames per second compositions, so  the full frame lengths show up.  If you work at 23.976 in After Effects the lengths of the individual frames are slightly shorter than normal and I find this confusing for animation work, which is so dependent on individual frames.

26.  Then select Output Module and change the format to whatever you like.  After Effects defaults to using the Animation codec, which is lossless, yields very large file sizes and may not necessarily play back on the desktop.  Then click the “Format Options…” button to change the codec.  Here’s an Adobe FAQ forum post by Todd Kopriva concerning best render settings for After Effects.

27.  Finally, click your composition name next to the “Output To” section and choose where you’d like to save your render.  Then press the caps lock key (this stops the video refreshing and can therefore speed up render time) and press render.  The animation is very short so your render should be done quickly.

Doing Hand-Drawn Animation Using Photoshop & After Effects CS6 (PART 1)

This Tutorial is part of a series.  Please read my Introduction to Hand-Drawn and Organic Looks Tutorials before proceeding.

INTRODUCTION:

Hand-Drawn Animation is usually traced frame-by-frame with paper and  pencil on a light box or animation table.  It’s a very common technique and was used for most animated feature films and cartoons before computer-based workflows became commonplace.  Now digital hand-drawn animation can be done in the computer using a tablet and stylus.  By eliminating the shooting process, the speed of animation production is greatly increased by providing instant digital frames that can be exported and composited at will.

Although digital hand-drawn animation will never look the same as real analog animation, it’s possible to achieve something very close using the new tools in Photoshop and After Effects CS6.  Below I’ve attached the following video to illustrate how digital hand-drawn animation done in Photoshop and After Effects CS6 might look.

EXAMPLE:

Digital hand-drawn bouncing ball loop done in Photoshop and After Effects with a frame randomizing expression on the background loop, courtesy of Dan Ebberts.

HOW TO CREATE A HAND-DRAWN ANIMATION IN PHOTOSHOP CS6:

Here’s a tutorial for doing a hand-drawn looping animation of a bouncing ball in Photoshop and exporting it for use in After Effects.

1.  Open Photoshop and go to – File – New or Command N on the Mac.

2.  Change the name to Hand_Drawn_Bouncing_Ball.  And, since we’re going to be working in HD, change the preset to Film & Video and set the size to HDTV 1080p/29.97.  This will give us a 1920×1080 pixel canvas that will match the HDTV 1080 composition preset we’ll be working with in After Effects.

NOTE: The 29.97 refers to a video frame rate, but since we’re going to be using the Export Layers to Files Script in Photoshop, we can bring the layers into After Effects as image sequences and interpret the frame rate there.  The main reason I use this preset is because it yields a 1920 x 1080 pixel canvas that will match any of the HDTV 1080 composition presets in After Effects.  Plus, it has action safe and title safe guidelines, which can be useful for creating titles and credits.

3.  Go to Layer – New – Layer or Command Shift N on the Mac.

4.  Make sure you have the new layer selected and click the brush tool.  If you have a Wacom tablet installed, use the stylus and draw a rough motion path for the bouncing ball to travel along.  You can use a mouse or track pad for all of these tutorials, but if you’re really going for a hand-drawn look then using a tablet and stylus is going to be much easier and give you the most organic results.  Draw the motion path using a simple red brush so the line shows up underneath the balls you’re going to draw.  You can adjust the brush size by using the [ ] keys on the Mac keyboard.  Since the motion path is just for reference, it doesn’t have to look perfect.

Here’s an example screenshot of how your motion path might look.  The colored arrows are meant to indicate the path your ball will travel along as it bounces.

5.  Before we can start animating we need to determine where our key-frames will be.  Key-frames break up the animation into short intervals, which help us calculate the position and number drawings we’ll need to complete each movement within the animation.  In most cases key-frames should be used on the first frame of a movement and the last frame of a movement and/or key intervals where a major change takes place.  In the screenshot below letters a.) through d.) indicate the places I’ve chosen to place keyframes.

6. Once you have your key-frames, all you have to do is fill in the gaps.  These frames are called in-betweens, because they go in between your key-frames.  In order to determine the placement of your in-betweens, it’s usually a good idea to plan your motion by drawing tick marks along the motion path to indicate the timing or speed of the bounce.  Therefore if you want your ball to move slower, the gap between the tick marks will be smaller and you’ll have more in-betweens, whereas the further the tick marks are from one another the faster the movement will be.  Here’s where I put my in-between tick marks for my bouncing ball.

7.  Next, you’re going to create a new layer (Go to Layer – New – Layer) and use the brush tool to draw your first ball over the top of the very first tick mark in the upper left hand corner of your motion path.

Again if you were going for a hand-drawn look, I’d experiment with the brushes in Photoshop CS6 and find one that has an organic look similar to a medium you like using on paper.  One of my particular favorites is the one I used for this tutorial, the square charcoal brush, which looks like this in the Brush Presets panel in Photoshop CS6:

When drawing your balls I would suggest adding squash and stretch to the drawings.  Squash and stretch is an animation term used to describe how much an object deforms when it moves.  The purpose of which is to give a sense of weight and flexibility to a drawn object in motion.  For example, in classic cartoons you’ll notice that both characters and objects tend to squash when they slow down and stretch when they speed up.  The most important thing to remember about squash and stretch is that the volume of the object doesn’t change, the shape is merely deformed.  In my tutorial Making Motion Graphics Animations Look More Analog in After Effects CS6, I illustrate how this concept can easily be applied to motion graphics.

When you’ve finished drawing your first ball you can draw the other balls over the tick marks labeled key-frames in the screenshot above.  Be sure to create a new layer each time you draw a ball otherwise you’ll have two balls on the same layer and your animation won’t play back correctly.  Here’s how the final key-frames look for my bouncing ball.

8.  Now you can finish drawing your in-betweens.  Again make sure to create a new layer for each ball as you draw it.  Also, remember to make your balls look “stretched” as the tick marks get further apart.  There’s no need to number all of your layers like I did.  This is just a habit I’ve carried over from animating on paper where it’s necessary to number all of your drawings in case they physically get out of order, something that’s bound to happen when you’re shooting or scanning them.  Below is a screenshot of all the in-betweens together.

8.  If you want to check the animation of your ball in Photoshop you can go to Window – Timeline and organize your layers so you can watch them play back.  However, in order to to do this you have to manually organize your layers and pull each layer to dictate the timing.  Also, to export these layers from Photoshop properly you’ll have to move them all back to the first frame of the timeline so they’re all visible at once.  You can import a PSD file into After Effects as a Photoshop sequence, but PSDs tend to be very large files and my experience is that they tend to significantly slow down After Effects performance.  If you plan on compositing your footage with other image sequences later it’s better to use the smallest possible files that still deliver the best quality images.  That being said, it might be quicker to skip the timeline step in Photoshop and preview your loop directly in After Effects.  The timeline is useful if you’re doing a lot of animation in Photoshop and you really want to be watching it as you go to see how it’s moving.

But, if you want to learn how to check your animation in Photoshop, you can continue with step 8.  As you can see below, I organized this animation to play back on “Twos,” which is an animation term that means each layer or drawing lasts for two frames. Animation on “Ones” mimics the look of 24fps footage, animation on “Twos” mimics the look of 12fps footage and animation on “Threes” mimics the look of 8fps footage.  Technically you can make your frame last as long as you want, but it all depends on how smooth you want the motion to be.

Follow the steps in the screenshot below to set up your animation in the Photoshop Timeline.  Turn off your motion path layer in the layers panel and press space bar to watch your ball bouncing around.  Of course your animation will stop before completing the loop because we haven’t drawn all of the layers to finish it.  But, thats okay because we can duplicate the next section of the loop very easily in After Effects CS6.

9.  If you wanted to finish your animation loop in Photoshop by duplicating each individual layer you could, or you could save time by bringing the layers into After Effects as an image sequence and duplicating part of the sequence itself.  To export all of your layers to files be sure to turn off all of the layers you won’t need and leave on only the layers you’re going to use in your sequence.  In this case just leave on the ball layers and turn the background off.  Then use the Photoshop script located in File – Scripts – Export Layers to Files, and change the settings to match the ones in the screenshot.

a.) First click Browse… to determine a location for exporting your files, click New Folder, label it and click Open.

b.) Then give your file name a prefix.  In this case I called it Hand_Drawn_Bouncing_Ball.

c.) Make sure Visible Layers is selected.  This makes it so only the layers that are turned on in your Photoshop Panels window are exported.

d.) I prefer setting the file type to PNG-24 because the quality is excellent, the file size is relatively small and they support Alphas, meaning the transparency of the layers will be preserved just like they were in the Photoshop document.  PSDs and TIFF files also support Alpha’s and the quality is technically better than PNG-24, but TIFFs and PSDs are so much larger they tend to slow down performance in After Effects.

e.) Select transparency to preserve the transparency of the layers.

f.) Finally, make sure Trim Layers is turned off otherwise Photoshop will crop the unused spaced around each individual ball and they won’t play back properly in After Effects.  Trim Layers is useful if you just want to import a bunch of static graphics into After Effects, but not necessarily when you’re importing an entire sequence.

When your settings are correct, click the “Run” button to run the “Export Layers To Files” script.

10.  To learn how to import these files into After Effects CS6, click here:  Doing Hand-Drawn Animation Using Photoshop & After Effects CS6 (PART 2)

Introduction to Hand-Drawn and Organic Looks Tutorials

Introduction:

Products affected: Adobe After Effects CS6, Photoshop CS6

In the past, all animation was either drawn or moved manually every frame without the use of a computer to interpolate the in-betweens from key-frame to key-frame.  Now, computer animation tools are designed to smoothly fill in the gaps between key-frames with the click of a button.  To older generations of animators the computerized movement often looks extremely smooth and unnatural, whereas younger eyes are usually less critical.  Either way, in today’s fast-paced work environment we need to be able to recreate the desired technique or look as efficiently as possible.  And, more often than not, drawing hundreds of frames by hand for a few seconds of animation just isn’t feasible.  This is why so many young animators are resorting to computer-based animation tools to speed up and enhance their workflow.

The Hand-Drawn and Organic Looks Tutorials are a series of written tutorials in the form of blog posts.  These tutorials are intended to be a resource for both motion graphics animators with no training in manual animation as well as traditional animators, who are searching for time-savers and organic-looking methods that combine computer-based workflows with analog techniques.  The example videos within the tutorials are meant to serve as a catalogue of techniques that are possible with the use of Adobe Photoshop and After Effects CS6 and browsers should feel free to peruse the tutorials and watch the videos to see if any of the techniques are of interest.

Table of Contents:

Doing Hand-Drawn Animation using Photoshop and After Effects CS6 (PART 1)

Doing Hand-Drawn Animation using Photoshop and After Effects CS6 (PART 2)

Working With Image Sequences in Photoshop & After Effects CS6

Making Motion Graphics Animations Look More Analog in After Effects CS6

Creating a Puppet Made of Image Sequences in Photoshop CS6 (PART 1)

Rigging a Puppet Made of Image Sequences in After Effects CS6 (PART 2)

Links & Tutorials That Cover Similar Ideas.

Below I’ve attached several links to tutorials that cover similar ideas.

VIDEO 2 BRAIN:

ANGIE TAYLOR

In her career as an animator, Angie Taylor has developed some powerful techniques for creating quick but compelling 2D animation, and in this workshop she shares those secrets with you. You’ll learn how to import layered files and paths from Illustrator into After Effects and how to animate flat vector artwork in both 2D and 3D space, and you’ll explore options for outputting your animations. The videos are short, focused, and solution-oriented, and all the project files are included so you can follow along as you go.

2D Character Animation in After Effects

This workshop from author and animator Angie Taylor will teach you how to use Illustrator’s tools and features to prepare 2D files for animation in Adobe After Effects. You’ll learn how to make the most of Illustrator’s drawing tools and Autotrace feature, and to how use Live Paint and Kuler to recolor artwork. You’ll also get tons of tips and tricks for giving artwork a hand-drawn look and find out how to set up layers, aspect ratios, and transparency options for importing into After Effects. The lessons are focused and solution-oriented, and all the project files are included.

Animated Character Design in Illustrator

CREATIVE COW:

AHARON RABINOWITZ

These older tutorials by Aharon Rabinowitz for Light Writing in After Effects share some timeless tips and workflows for using fractal noise in conjunction with displacement maps to wiggle a static graphic and give it a hand-drawn feel.

Light Writing – Part 1

Light Writing – Part 2

In these tutorials, Creative Cow leader Aharon Rabinowitz shows you how to use Auto-Trace and Illustrator to create complex scribble animation in AE.

Working With the Scribble Effect – Part 1

Working With the Scribble Effect – Part 2 

A common question on the Adobe forums is how to make live-action footage look like a cartoon?  Although this tutorial goes all the way back to After Effects CS2, you’ll find that the lessons are quite timeless and can be applied to the latest versions of After Effects.

In this 3-part tutorial, Creative cow leader Aharon Rabinowitz explains the process of converting video to cartoon by using only After Effects and Adobe Illustrator CS2. While the tutorial spans 50 minutes and covers a wide range of topics (some in-depth and some in general), after you have gone through the process once, you will find that it’s easy to adapt the Cartoonification technique to your own needs.

Creating a Cartoon from Video

JERZY DROZDA JR.

This video tutorial from Creative COW is designed to help all you Photoshopers out there by preparing few presets that will enable you to work in After Effects the same way you work in Photoshop.

Photoshoping in After Effects

MOTION SCRIPT:

DAN EBBERTS

Here’s a link to Dan Ebberts’ AE Expressions and Scripting Resource.

MotionScript.com

ADOBE TV:

RUFUS DEUCHLER