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Creating a Logo Assembling Animation

Creating a Logo Assembling Animation
Adobe After Effects Tutorial


Creating a Logo Assembling Animation

Joe Chao (Cao Jun) Joe Chao,
Jiangsu, China
©2005 Joe Chao and CreativeCow.net.

Article Focus:
Joe Chao was once required to create an animation in which a flock of fireflies assemble into an insect shaped logo. In this tutorial, Joe demonstrates a quick method to duplicate the effect using Trapcode Particlular.



Watch the movie, download the project file and follow along.

My logo looks like this:
logo

Since it would be quite hard to make animated cartoon firefly entirely in AE, it might be a better idea to make the firefly in some other software. I chose 3Dmax6. It was not too complex to make such a cartoon insect role. I made it by assembling a set of basic shapes (spheres, cones, circles and so on). It looks like this in 3DMAX:
3DMax bug


Add key frames for its wings and render the looping animation from three different visual angles. Here is what they look like:

Render the looping

NOTE: You can make the fly animations in any software you like. You can even draw them in Adobe Illustrator. Because the final tga-sequenced animations are too large to upload, I have replaced them with three still pictures. You will find them with the project file linked in the yellow bar above.

We have prepared three fireflies' animations, but we still need something else before getting started.

1. Draw a night sky in Photoshop, if you do not want your fireflies fly on a black backdrop. I made one like this:

Night Sky


2. To make the animation livelier, we need to create some grasses in front of the camera. The grass can be created in many kinds of ways, but the quickest method would be using “particleIllusion from wondertouch”! You can find the grasses here:

Particle Illusion screen shot

I've attached a still frame of the animated grasses with my project file.

3. Abstract the logo in PS and save it as a PSD file.
Well, now everything is ready.

Create a new project, import all the elements I mentioned into AE, and we can start.


1. Create a new comp named as “bugclip1”. Drag a clip of the firefly into it. (in this case we can drag only the still frame). We can also add a growing animation for it. Do the same operation while creating “bugclip2” and “bugclip3”.


2. Create a new Comp named “buganimated”, drag “bugclip1”, “bugclip2”and “bugclip3” into it, sequence them one by one.


3.Create a new comp named “main”.

  • Drag the logo in, convert it into a 3D layer.
  • Create a camera and a null layer. Convert the null layer into 3D layer.
  • Set the null layer the parent of the camera
  • Add key frames for the null layer' z-position, so that the camera can zoom in from the logo. The last frame will look like this:


Last frame

  • Hide the logo.


NOTE: Don't spend too much time on adjusting the motion of the null object. We will adjust it again later.

4.Drag the layer “buganimated” into comp “main”. Create a solid layer.

  • Apply Trapcode Particular effect to the solid layer, select the preset “T-swarmflies”
  • Open the emitter settings, adjust it like this:
  • Add key frames for the “particles/sec” property. Set it to 60000 at 00:00:00,and 0 at 00:00:01.Then the emitter will create a large sum of “bugs” at the beginning and stop after that.

Here is the screen shot of the settings:

Screen shot of settings

  • Open the particle settings.
    • Set the life property to 30 seconds, so that no fireflies will disappear during the whole animation.
    • The Split Clip modes split the custom layer into three clips. AE will randomly select one of the clips and play the clip looping.

Here is the screen shot of the settings:

Screen shot of settings

  • Open the physics settings.
    • Select “air” physics model
    • Set the gravity to 0.

Here is the screen shot of the settings:

Screen shot of settings


  • Adjust the motion of the null object. Let the camera fly through the fireflies.
  • Now play the animation. It looks pretty good except the border of the flock is too regular. So we should make an irregular border for it.
    • Duplicate the logo layer, set the Z-position of the new layer to “-128”
    • Duplicate solid layer. Adjust the settings of the filter “trapcode particular”. Here are the differences:


Screen shot of settings

NOTE: this layer has two functions: make an irregular border; and add more details for the whole particular system especially during the end part of the motion. Because when it comes into our sight view clearly, the fireflies have been very small, we need not to select the Split Clip modes. The random-still frame modes can work very well.

5. To create the glowing logo, you'll need to unhide it.

  • Duplicate the logo layer
  • Apply Gaussian Blur effect to it. Add key frames for the blurriness property when the logo begins to appear.
  • Set various key frames for the opacity property by the wiggle tool. That will make the logo “flash”
  • Recomp the layer, and add a fade-in effect to it. Shift the transfer mode to “ADD”


6. Go to the beginning of the whole footage, create some fireflies flying in front the camera, so that the beginning of the animation will be more interesting.

  • Drag the “bugclip1”, “bugclip2”, and “bugclip3” into our comp, set motion for them, and let them fly in front of the camera.

7. Finally, add the sky background and grasses into the scene. Create the title “www.firefly.com”. BTW, You can also let the title emerge from a group of fireflies by the same means as the logo.

By now, we have gone through the whole example of making a logo assembling animation in AE using Trapcode particular. I hope it's been helpful to those who have just started learning particle systems.

Feel free to ask questions in the After Effects forum at CreativeCOW.net.



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