Blending modes in Photoshop and After Effects are often taken for granted, but neither application started out with these features. When blend modes were introduced into After Effects around Version 3, they literally blew my mind. The idea that you could mix still images together had been long established in Photoshop, and the thought of being able to do that with animation and video was incredible.
Flash forward to the present and blend modes are incredibly well documented, but even with all this documentation, I’m often asked “what can I do with them?” In this week’s edition of Design in Motion, I’ll show you some of my favorite blend modes and how you can use them for type effects and color correction.
After watching this, if you’re ready to learn a lot more, After Effects Apprentice 04: Layer Control from Chris and Trish Meyer is filled with tips and ideas on how to get the most out of blend modes in After Effects.
Published by Rob Garrott | Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012
Often times creating type is the bread and butter for motion graphics artists. But like plain old bread and butter, it can get a bit stale. When that happens, gradients are a great way to freshen up your stale type.
A gradient is simply a transition from one value to another. This can be from one color to another, or from light to dark. When used properly, gradients can be used to pump up the legibility of your type, and to make the text really leap off the screen.
Using gradients on text in CINEMA 4D boils down to understanding how textures are applied to objects. This can be a difficult concept to understand, but it’s crucial to getting control of the look and feel of your objects in 3-D. There are three main tools that help you manage the projection of textures on to the surfaces of 3-D objects: The Texture Tag, the Texture Tool, and an often overlooked command in the object manager called Fit To Object. These three elements will give you tremendous control over how your objects appear to the viewer.
Published by Rob Garrott | Wednesday, February 8th, 2012
The idea of dynamic simulations has gotten a lot of attention lately. Dynamics allow an animator to create very realistic motion and collisions with objects without using key frames. Nearly every 3-D software package has some kind of module dedicated to this. That being said, dynamics can be somewhat unpredictable by nature, so they’re not entirely flawless. Similar to setting up a stack of dominoes or a Rube Goldberg machine, dynamic simulations just don’t always give you what you expected. This can make them very challenging to use in production, and it often has designers and animators asking themselves what exactly it is they can do with dynamics. With so much unpredictability, what problems can they solve?
The answer is, really, quite a lot! Dynamics can be great addition to your tool kit if you’re willing to accept a bit of unpredictability in your animations. In this short project I’ll show you how to use dynamics to animate some text being knocked over. Using key frames, this kind of animation would be very time consuming, and it would be even harder to make it look convincing. Luckily, CINEMA 4D’s dynamics engine is really easy to use, and allows you to apply these techniques to a variety of different projects.
Published by Rob Garrott | Wednesday, January 25th, 2012
A lot of folks get started in motion graphics creating 3D logos and logo animations. It’s how I got started all those years ago. When I look back on that animation now, I cringe. The clients loved it, but the lighting was terrible. Luckily, I’ve learned a lot since then, and in this week’s Design in Motion, I’ll share some key logo-lighting tips with you.
First and foremost is the idea of lighting through the camera. The 3D world is based entirely on the idea of perspective, and the only valid perspective is the angle that your artwork will be viewed from. That view is your render camera. Positioning your lights from the angle of the render camera ensures that you are only adding information that your viewers will actually see. This will take all the guesswork out of the process, and make it faster and more efficient.
The second step is to create an environment for your reflective logos to help give them a textured, dynamic look that can make them feel like they’re moving even when they’re not. Remember, the standard 3D space that surrounds your logo is just black, so even if you turn the reflection up past 100 percent, if there isn’t anything there to reflect, your logos will look dull and lifeless. Use the Material Manager and the Luminance channel to start creating an environment sphere for your logo, then you can apply and edit gradients to tweak your environment to your liking. Once you have your environment surrounding your object and texturing your logo just how you want it, it’s important to remember to apply a Compositing tag, which allows you to show only the transparency, reflection, and refraction of your environment sphere to the render camera—not the environment sphere itself.
Lastly, the color of your reflections has a big impact on the look and feel of your surfaces. The default color values for reflections in CINEMA 4D are white, and that’s just fine if you’re creating something like white enamel or tiles. But, if you’re making a gold surface, then a white reflection will make your logo feel washed out. By coloring your reflections to match your surface color, your logos will have a richness and saturation that really makes them pop off the screen.
Published by Rob Garrott | Wednesday, January 11th, 2012
It’s easy for motion graphics artists to neglect their modeling skills. Websites like Turbosquid, and the wide availability of amazing model libraries mean that a lot of artists can go for a long time without ever modeling anything from scratch. But what happens when a job or client comes along that requires a specific model that you can’t find? Don’t panic! The polygon modeling tools in CINEMA 4D are helpful and easy to use.
Points, Edges, and Polygons are the basic building blocks of all objects in the 3D world. Everything from a simple sphere to a photo-realistic model of a T-Rex are made of these elemental parts. This week on Design in Motion, I’ll show you how to build and animate a simple model of a paper airplane to use as a prop in a logo animation.
For those more advanced modelers who have mastered the CINEMA 4D Essential Training course, I recommend taking your animation skills to the next level with CINEMA 4D: Designing a Promo to learn how to take a 15-second promotional video from concept to on-screen animation, and into final rendering and compositing.
Published by Rob Garrott | Wednesday, December 28th, 2011
Adobe Premiere Pro has a robust titler built in, including the ability to create title rolls and crawls. However, Adobe After Effects has even more advanced tools, including hundreds of Animation Presets for type, Shape Layers (to build additional graphic elements such as lower third bars), and a combination of Layer Styles and Effects to further enhance the final look. If you have either the Production Premium or Master Collection suites, Premiere Pro and After Effects can talk to each other using Adobe Dynamic Link, which makes this process more fluid. In this course instructor Chris Meyer explains the general process of using After Effects to create refined lower thirds for Premiere Pro, including sharing some After Effects design ideas. Although this course is aimed at intermediate Premiere Pro users who have some After Effects experience, beginning After Effects users will also find this course to be full of useful tips, exposing them to numerous areas of the program.
Published by Rob Garrott | Wednesday, December 14th, 2011
Motion tracking (the ability to follow the location of an object in a piece of footage, and use this information to stabilize that shot or animate other layers) and color keying (the ability to make a green- or blue-screen background transparent so that you can replace it with a new image) are two essential visual-effects tasks you need to learn if you want to take your After Effects skills to the next level.
In After Effects Apprentice 12: Tracking and Keying, Chris Meyer covers tracking and keying basic and essential skills including a quick tour of mocha, the third-party tracking software that is bundled with After Effects, and an introduction to The Foundry’s KEYLIGHT, an Academy Award-winning keying effect that is also built into After Effects.
Throughout the course, Chris shows you how to use the motion tracker and stabilizer built into After Effects, and offers advice on how to handle a variety of shot scenarios. He also discusses how to use tracking and keying to track a greenscreen shot with a handheld camera and replace its background.
While practice is the secret to mastering your tracking and keying skills, getting to look over someone else’s shoulder as they perform these tasks is a great way to jump-start your learning curve.
Published by Rob Garrott | Wednesday, December 7th, 2011
The difference between a good animator and a great animator is finesse, and no matter what application you’re using, adding finesse to your animations boils down to having control. Using any kind of animation software is a lot like playing a musical instrument, and the greatest musicians in the world all need to have control over their instruments to create the strongest final product.
For musicians, finesse means moving from one note to the next in the appropriate manner, which can mean abrupt movement or seamless and smooth movement. The same is true for motion graphics, except an animator’s finesse means moving with appropriate control from key frame to key frame, rather than from note to note. For motion graphics, After Effects, and CINEMA 4D (C4D) are my instruments. In C4D, you finesse your animations using the F-Curve manager (which you can learn more about in the CINEMA 4D R12 Essential Trainingcourse). In After Effects, you finesse your animations using a tool called the Graph Editor, which is like a flipped version of the timeline—where you see the key frames themselves in the timeline, we see what’s happening in between the key frames in the Graph Editor.
By definition, a key frame is simply the value of an animation parameter recorded at a specific moment in time. Normally the software will automatically figure out the animation from one key frame to another, but each application has its own default method. For After Effects the default animation between key frames is a linear transition from one value to another. That means that the values automatically move in a straight line with a sharp transition at each key frame. Sometimes that sharp transition is just fine, but there are other times where smoother, more fluid transitions may be the answer. To achieve these fluid transitions, you could use one of the preset key frame interpolations like easy ease (which is my solution about ninety-percent of the time if I need a smooth transition in key values). It’s when you need extra control over your animation’s finesse that I recommend using the Graph Editor.