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Building the Cage: Part 4 of the Golden COW by Serge Hamad

COW Library : Adobe After Effects Tutorials : Serge Hamad : Building the Cage: Part 4 of the Golden COW by Serge Hamad
Building the Cage: Part 4 of the Golden COW by Serge Hamad

A CreativeCOW Adobe After Effects Tutorial

Building the Cage: Part 4 of the Golden COW by Serge Hamad
Serge Hamad Serge Hamad,
New York City, New York, USA

Article Focus:
Many of you have seen Serge Hamad's various animations in the After Effects forum at CreativeCOW. In this 5-part tutorial, Serge demonstrates the steps involved in re-creating his "Golden COW." In this tutorial you will be creating the cage around the planet. You will need 3D Stroke from Trapcode as well as Invigorator Pro or Classic for this one. Note that with Invigorator Classic you won’t be able to open the provided AEP though. The emphasis in this tutorial is on the use of the transparency mapping technique.

Download Movie Project file: sit Project file: zip Go to Part One


Download the project files from the green bar above. You'll find three folders, one containing the aep and one labeled Stills and one labeled Pre_Render. You may have to relink the media.

After you opened SciFi_3 use the Save As option to save a new project named SciFi_4.

-Open now the Shockwaves composition located in the Explosion folder.

-Hide all layers but Nebula & Aura. If you didn’t render this file already then switch the Nebula layer on but be warned that your RAM Preview will suffer.

-Scrub your TimeLine to (09:13), create a new solid layer and name it Cage_Front.

-Apply Invigorator to your Cage_Front layer. When the import window pops up click on Import Illustrator Object to import the file and create a sphere as you did in the SciFi_2 tutorial.

Cage Map

-Once your sphere is done, highlight your Maps folder in your footage window and create a new comp (Duration 15 sec) and name it Cage_Map.
-In Cage_Map start by creating a new solid layer and naming it Cage.
-Now using the Pen Tool draw a straight horizontal path covering the whole width of your comp.
-Draw now a second mask in the center of your comp using the Elliptical mask tool and transform it to something like this:

-Now apply 3D Stroke twice on your layer. Name your effects Stroke_Mask1 and Stroke_Mask2 (From top to bottom).

-Assign Mask 1 as a path in the Stroke_Mask1 instance and Mask 2 in the second one.

-Now make sure that the Transfer Mode of Stroke_Mask1 is set to None and the Thickness to (8). You are done with this one.

-Stroke_Mask2 should have the Transfer Mode set to Normal and its Thickness to (2).

-Enable now the Repeater for Mask 2 and change the Instances value to (10). This gives you something like this:


If you now check the provided movie you will see that the cage first starts appearing on top of the planet then closes in a kind of mechanical movement.

So what we need to do is first offset our masks so they are out of the composition view then animate them back in, setting KFs on our way so we get the mechanical movement I mentioned.

Note: To successfully create such kind of maps you need to learn how Invigorator maps its objects. There are also differences between mapping the front, back and sides of an Invigorator object. Check out the manual for this or the Invigorator forum. Believe me, it’s pure fun!!!

-Click here to find a little movie demonstrating how to animate your masks.

Problem & Solution

Now let me first explain what you are about to do. If you have a look at the movie again you will see that the Red Giant planet explodes at a certain time while the cage is still forming. It would have been easier to create the cage using the same Invigorator instance we used to create the planet; then both objects would have been in the same 3D space/scene. But! As you would try to shatter the planet your cage would explode as well.

So creating the cage in another Invigorator layer helps here to keep the cage intact. The other challenge now is to create the illusion that the planet resides inside of the cage. This is where transparency maps come handy.

Basically you have to cut your “cages/spheres” in half to obtain a front and back side using a transparency map. Placing then the front cage layer on top of the planet layer and the back underneath (Sandwich) will create a perfect faked object interaction.

Note that I said “basically” I will come back to this later.

Creating the Transparency Maps

-Start first by duplicating your Cage_Map comp twice (In the footage window)

-Name one duplicate Cage_Transparency_Front and the other one Cage_Transparency_Back. Add a black solid layer inside of each comp as a BG.

Note Black creates fully transparent areas and white fully opaque ones when used in an Invigorator transparency map.

-Drag and drop all three cage comps to your TimeLine at (09:13) and switch off their eye icon.

-Assign now Cage_Map and Cage _Transparency_Front as layer maps in the Scene Preview window then apply them in the Set-Up window.

While you are at the Material Editor, alter the following:

Highlight Sharpness to (200) and Highlight Brightness to (100). This will give you a nice shiny cage once you apply the final map.

Cage Positioning

-Move now to (10:20) and switch your Cage_Front layer to best quality to see your map.

-To arrange your cage the way we want you should first start by choosing Front from the Views pop-up menu in the Scene Preview window.

-Switch to object mode. (The 3 cubes button)

-Select your object which should be in Set 1 then click on Recenter Pivot in the Set pop-up menu.

-Change now the X Rotation to (-90.00) in the Sets menu and the Z Rotation to (-135.00). Don’t set Kfs now; you will do it later at (09:13)

-Change back to Camera Mode to arrange your cage using the Manipulator Tools so it fits the planet.

You should now see something like this:


Cage Animation

--Move back to (09:13) and set now an initial KF for the Z Rotation of Set1.

-Move to (19:13) and change the value to (360.00). Select both KFs and hit F9 to Easy Ease them.

Let us now make our front cage half transparent. It is best you use two composition views. One for the Cage_Transparency_Front comp and another one for the Shockwaves comp.


-Open the Cage_Transparency_Front composition and move to (10:00) Remember you animated the Z-Rotation of your object for ten seconds.

-Create a black solid layer at 360 x 486. Look what happens in your Shockwaves composition view. The back of your cage disappeared.

Shockwaves comp @ (19:13) Cage_Transparency_Front @ (10:00)

-If you move now to about (14:00) in the Shockwaves comp where your object reaches a Z-Rotation value of about (90) degrees you will notice that the transparency map now works differently. It is no more hiding the back as we wanted. This is due to the fact that your object is revolving on its Z –Axis.


To eliminate this problem you need to animate the black layer(s) in your transparency map so that the transparency will always work on the back side of your cage enabling you to see the front (From the camera perspective) during the entire animation.

Click here to see the movie showing what your front cage should look like.

Let’s do it!

Transparency Map Animation 1.

-In your Cage_Transparency Front composition scrub your TimeLine to the start and select the top black solid, name it Parent and hit P to open the position properties.

-Now change the X-Axis value to (630.0) and set a KF.

-Create a second black solid layer (360 x 486) on top, change its X Axis value to (-540.0) then parent it to the layer you named Parent.

-Duplicate now the child layer and change its X-Axis value to (900.0).

-Move now to (10:00) and change the X-Axis value of your Parent layer to (-360). Select both KFs and hit F9 to Easy Ease.

Note: If you set the magnification of your composition window to 25% and select the parent layer and its children you will better understand the pattern we used to compensate the Z-Rotation of our object.

Transparency Map Animation 2.

Let’s now create the back side of our cage and animate its transparency map.

-First duplicate the Cage_Front Layer and rename it Cage_Back. Make sure it starts at (09:13) and that it’s placed right underneath your planet layer.

-In the Scene Preview window of Cage_Back change the Layer Map 2 to Cage_Transparency_Back instead of Front.

-Open the Cage_Transparency_Back composition and create a black solid layer at (360 x 486) and name it Parent.

-Change the X-Axis position value of your parent layer now to (270.0), move to (10:00) and change it again to (-720.0). Select both KFs and hit F9 to Easy Ease.

Note: As we Easy Eased the Z Rotation of the Invigorator object it is important to do the same for each Parent layer KFs to keep the motion sync.

-Scrub back to (00:00), create a new black solid layer also at (360 x 486) and parent it to your Parent layer.

-Your child layer still selected hit P and change the X-Axis value to (900.0).

-Duplicate your child layer and change its X-Axis value now to (1620.0).


-Import now from the Stills folder you downloaded Cage_Map.jpg to your STILLS folder in the footage window, drag and drop this file in the Cage_Map

comp place it at the bottom and use the Cage layer as a TrkMat.

-Add an Adjustment Layer and apply the Perspective>Bevel Alpha effect then tweak to taste.

You should now if you switch the solo icon for Cage_Front and Back in your Shockwaves comp. Click here to see the movie.

Planet Explosion

-Now move to (14:04) shortly after the Red Giant planet stops rotating and apply Shatter to the Nebula & layer.

-Alter the Radius value to (0.00) in the Force 1 menu to stop Shatter from being active, set a KF then move to (15:00) and change the value to about (0.48).

-I changed the Strength value to (8.00) but I let it up to you to shatter to taste. If you select the Nebula & layer and hit U twice you will see all the parameters I manipulated.

I also duplicated the Nebula & layer in the Timeline, placed it under the original layer and adjusted the layer Time Slider to make it start at (13:21 ) then moved the (0.00) Radius KF to start at (14:09) and end at (14:25) at a (0.86) value. This was done to give the impression of a multilayered shattering planet.

-To your convenience I added a Custom Map named Shatter_Map.jpg in the Stills folder; drop it in your TimeLine at (13:20), switch off the eye icon and use it if you want as a Custom Shatter Map in the Shape menu.

Salut for now.

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Five

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