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Jim Krause | Classes | P354/J560 Program Graphics & Animation

Lab 7


  • Reminders: Midterm pre-production is due today and the project is due Thursday. We'll watch these and carry out peer critiques.
  • Review Quiz 1
  • Look at "Animation with a Purpose" homework
  • Learn more about text in AE (along a path, rolling credits, Star Wars etc.)

After Effects (Review):

  • Duuplicating layers (Cmd-D)
  • Splitting layers (Shift-Cmd-D)
  • Trimming layers - You can drag the handles or press the Option-[ or Option-] bracket keys
  • Fading to black (Can use a Black solid on the top layer)
  • Nesting comps & Pre-composing (solves many complex AE challenges)
  • Setting a work area (B & N)
  • Layer markers are useful to show a special occurance, and stay visible when the layer is collapsed. Select a layer and press the asterisk key on the numeric keypad to create a marker. You can right-click it to bring up settings.
  • Motion Blur (Ch 8)
  • Text - text layer tool (Ch 21)


How can you get text into an After Effects composition? Here are three basic ways, each with its own merits:

  1. Photoshop: You can use the text tools in Photoshop, then import your work into After Effects. This is quick and easy if you have existing Photoshop files. Remember to import Photoshop files as compositions if you want to retain layer positioning. When you do this, AE imports text layers as bitmapped graphics- so if you scale up the text, it will become pixilated. However, right-click on the text layer in the AE timeline and choose Create > Convert to Editable Text. It will create a new editable text layer.
  2. After Effects: There are a few ways to generate text in After Effects. In the tool palette, select the text tool to create a new text layer. This is a straightforward way to make animated text for credit rolls or lower thirds. Just like in Photoshop, you can click and drag the text tool to make containers for text, which can be re-sized using the drag handles.
  3. Illustrator: Adobe Illustrator provides very precise control of stroke, fill, kerning, leading and other type-related parameters. Perhaps the greatest benefit is that Illustrator lets you convert fonts into vector artwork using the "create outlines" command. How many times have you been working on a document on one computer and opened it on another to find that the font is missing? When you convert the font to vector artwork using the "create outlines" command you can take it with you wherever you go.

Creating outlines from text in Illustrator:

  • Create a new document the size of your text block. Start with "Basic RGB and use either points or pixels, as they are interchangeable. It doesn't have to match the proportions of a TV screen, but should be sized to hold the entire block of text you'll be working with. For instance if you were making a long credit roll for 1080i, you might want to make document that is 1920 x 20,000 pixels in size.
  • Use the text tool to define the text block and type or import your text, paying attention to tracking, leading, kerning etc.
    • To modify your text, you'll want the Character Tool (COMMAND T), which should also give you the Paragraph Tool (OPTION COMMAND T).
    • You also might want to assign a stroke and fill. You can modify these colors later in After Effects. (The "Change Color" effect is an easy way to do this.)
  • After you are satisfied, save your Illustrator file so that you can go back and make changes later.
  • Select your text with the selection (arrow) tool so that all the text becomes highlighted. Then choose "make outlines" from the drop down menu (SHIFT - COMMAND - O). This will turn your text from a font into vector artwork.
  • You can make crop marks by using the rectangle tool to define the area that contains the text. Then choose "make crop marks" from the drop down menu. This will turn your rectangle corners into crop marks and define the part of the image that will be imported into After Effects.
  • Save your new file (make sure you don't write over your first one)
  • Import into AE. Since the text is imported as a vector graphic, it will scale very nicely.

Credit Styles

Take a look at some typical end credits. The style, formatting, and layout you want to use will help you decide on the worklow and tools best suited to your needs.

Making Credits

Skipping AE: Before getting into credits with AE, it should be noted that one could skip using it altogether and animate the credits within the editing program. To do this, simply create a very tall Photoshop document with the width matching your format dimensions and tall enough to hold all of your info (E.g. 1920 x 20,000). Output a PNG with a transparent background (or a TIFF with an alpha channel), import into your editing program, and animate as needed.

With AE: After Effects is a fine tool for making title sequences and rolling credits. Before starting you have to decide where in the workflow the graphics will be composited over the video: either within After Effects (in which you'd need the finished video) or in the editing program (in which you'd supply the credits output with an alpha channel and no background). The second option is usually best, since video editors often have to edit the underlying video.

Assuming you want to make an animated credit roll movie file to give to an editor, follow these basic steps:

  • Start out with a tall comp to place your text into. (If you were making this for 1080i broadcast, you might want a comp sized something like 1920 x 20,000 29.97 fps lasting __ seconds.)
    • The main purpose this tall comp provides is a way to see and edit your text.
  • Create an output comp (E.g. 1920 x 1080) and nest the tall comp inside it.
  • Animate the position (Y value) as desired. (Note: credits should roll up from the bottom, as this is the way we read. Otherwise it's annoying.)
  • Output your movie with an alpha channel, either with the Animation codec or with ProRes 4444. using RGB+ from the video channels to render.
    • Advanced tip: When outputting for interlaced formats (E.g. 1080i) you should render individual fields. To do this: In the Render Queue click on Render Settings and select "Render fields". For HD you want "Upper Field First". This will make your credits scroll more smoothly.

Star Wars Opening - In-class Exercise:

  • You will recreate the look and feel of the opening of Star Wars. Feel free to take liberties with the text, but try to re-create the font size, thickness, speed and angle of the wall of text. The rolling text also feathers off into the distance (as opposed to staying visible). Getting the right size and speed takes a little finessing.
  • Make this in 16x9 in an HD format (E.g. 1920 x 1080, 1280 x 720)
  • Upload your completed Apple PreRes 422, MP4, or H.264 movie into the appropriate Canvas assignment. Please make sure it's called "starwars".

AE Type Tricks

Text Along a Path

Sometimes it's useful to have text follow a specific path. To do this:

  • Start out with a text layer
  • Add a mask or draw one with the pen tool
  • Twirl down the Text layer until you see "Path Options"
  • Under the Path drop-down menu, choose your Mask.
  • Animate the First Margin

Experiment by making some text and trying various shapes.


  • Read/Work through Meyer book chapters 9, 10 & 11 before Wednesday.
  • Finish working on Midterm Project


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