// 8 mins read
As ThreeSixtyEight’s film director, I lead our film department in many facets of production. Today, I’ll focus on two-dimensional motion graphics. Motion graphics bring to life the still designs created in our [storyboarding phase] and tie this movement in with the [written script] to create a full story. (link [x] to past blog posts)
I am lucky to work with a really talented team that supplies me with the tools I need to create a killer end piece. There is a lot of work that is done before I get to animate, but I will walk you through the steps I take to bring images to life, just as the designer is wrapping up.
Part I. Transition from Design to Animation
Before any animation is done, and after the designs are finalized, each project requires a set-up period. Don’t discount the importance of this step. After years of working through this process, we’ve made enough mistakes to fine tune this step in a way that sets a solid foundation for the rest of your animating.
Step 1. File Management
First, I receive the design files in either Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop. For the sake of this blog, let’s use Illustrator as an example. Before jumping into Adobe After Effects, my animation software, I organize and rename all of the elements in Illustrator. When importing an Illustrator file, AE will flatten everything that is on the same layer. This means I have to make sure all pieces that will be animated are on independent layers.
For example – let’s say I’m dealing with a character whose eyes should move around and blink. Those eyes need to be on their own layer in Illustrator before being imported into AE. The designer’s animation notes in the storyboard guide this process and help me construct the file correctly.
While I’m doing this, I like to name my layers since the layer name will also transfer over to AE. This helps me stay organized and efficient. When everything is in order, I import the files into AE.
Step 2. The Voice Over
The next piece of set-up to import is the voice over. Hopefully voice talent has already recorded and sent over a draft. If not, I will record my own rough copy to use on early drafts. Using the storyboard as a reference, I place markers along the voice over to signify the beginning and end of every scene. This acts as a visual guide to make sure your animations are in sync. At this point, it’s time to make things move.
Part II. Animating
There are hundreds of tutorials out there that can teach you how to animate in AE, so I won’t do that. Instead, let me share with you 5 animating tips that I use every day.
1: Easy Ease
*Use easy ease to smooth out your animations. Select the keyframes(s) and right-click the selection. Under “Keyframe Assistant” click “Easy Ease.” This will ease the animation speed in and out. You can further tweak the effect in the graph editor.
2: Create shapes with editable paths
*Select a shape tool. Click and hold OPTION (ALT for pc) and then draw your shape. After Effects will create a shape layer with editable points that you can then transform and keyframe using the path dropdown. This works for any of the geometric shape tools.
3: Create shapes from vector layer
*Import a vector file from Adobe Illustrator. Drag the file into your comp and right-click the layer. Select “Create Shapes from Vector Layer.” After Effects will create a new shape layer made from the vector file. You now have all of the capabilities of normal shape layers such as editable paths and colors.
4: Wiggle Expression
*This is a very simple expression that can be applied to any keyframable property. Hold Option (ALT for pc) and click the stopwatch on the property you would like to wiggle. Type in the following expression: wiggle (x,y)
Replace x and y with your own values based on the results you are trying to get.
x = frequency of change (the higher the faster)
y = amount of change (the higher the further)
5: Trim Paths
*This effect can be applied to any Shape Layer but it works best on paths (not fills). Create a path using the pen tool. Drop down the layer to reveal your properties. Click the arrow towards the right and select “Trim Paths.” Here you can keyframe the Start, End and Offset. This is a great alternative to using masks to reveal your paths.
If my tips help you create better, more efficient animations, I’d love to hear about it. If you want to read more about our motion graphic video process, see our recent writeup on scriptwriting and our six steps to storyboarding.