|Invigorator Pro AE by Zaxwerks opens offers some amazing new options for 3D animation within After Effects 5.0 and 5.5. Invigorator has long been the fastest and easiest way to turn vector-based graphics into 3D objects. Here's how fast and easy: Create a logo in Adobe Illustrator. Launch After Effects. Apply the Invigorator effect to a layer. Import the Adobe Illustrator artwork. A few quick mouse clicks and presto. Instant 3D!
The new Invigorator Pro AE builds on that foundation by adding an ability called Layer Mapping. This technique allows you to create models that form before your eyes, deform, or morph from one shape to another over time.
How it works: Layer mapping is a lot like traditional animation, in that the animation is created a frame at a time, with each frame containing subtle changes over time. Fortunately for us, the process with Invigorator is automated, flexible and fast.
Step 1. Create the artwork in Adobe Illustrator... you'll be using layers, and need to save your art at Illustrator 8.0 or earlier. This is where the bulk of the work is done - and it pays off big when we get to After Effects.
Start by creating or pasting in your complete logo, in this case, I'm using an outline of a "2." Note that I'm using a filled solid rather than a stroked path for this. The color of the logo doesn't matter because we'll be texturing it later. (Though you can tell Invigorator to use Illustrator colors, if you want.)
Before we get too far into this, consider how long you want the write-on effect to take. Think of each layer in Illustrator as representing a frame in the animation. In this case, I want the effect to take a little more than a second, so I'm planning on 30 to 40 layers. The idea is to create a progression of layers during which the logo is revealed a bit at a time.
Step 2. Duplicate the layer containing the 2 Outline. Cover a small part of the logo with another filled object. Use Pathfinder>Minus Front. You're left with the same logo, with a small part missing.
Step 3. Duplicate that layer. Use another filled object to cover up a bit more of the logo. Use Pathfinder>Minus Front. As you can see in the image below, we're well on our way through the sequence.
Step 4. Repeat the process as many times as you need. each time, you end up with less of the logo. When done, you'll end up with a sequence of layers, from full logo to almost nothing. One trick - lock the layers and make them invisible after you're done with them. Click through the eyeball sequence to see the layer-by-layer progression. You can certainly use other techniques in Illustrator to speed up this layer building process a bit - but you get the idea.
Step 5. Now, the fun part begins! Launch After Effects. Add an After Effects layer to your composition. Apply the Invigorator effect to the layer. In the first window you see, choose Create Layer Cycling Object.
This step opens a dialogue box asking you to select your artwork. Be sure to select Open By Layers and As Layer Cycling Object. You can use Illustrator colors if you want, but it's not necessary in this example.
At this point, you can apply bevels and textures to your object. Scrub the timeline and you'll see the different frames, as the object shape changes frame by frame in the preview window. You can also adjust Invigorator's lighting controls, or click two buttons to have Invigorator use AE's lights and cameras. In some circumstances, this ability can be very powerful... it's certainly worthy of tutorials to come.
Now that we've done most of the work, go ahead and add any camera move, lighting changes or texturing you want. Also, check out the layer cycling options. You can choose how often Invigorator changes frames, which affects the duration of the effect as well as the smoothness. Use the "change every" box for this. You can also tell Invigorator to loop the effect, do it once or hold, or any number of other options. See what I mean about easy? Once you've made these choices, you're ready to render.
Invigorator Pro AE is the first to offer two rendering engines -- the normal Invigorator renderer and the new OpenGL renderer. The Invigorator renderer is more flexible, because it supports shadows, bump maps and transparency, but for flat-out speed, Invigorator's OpenGL rendering engine is hard to beat. In this example, each frame took a second or less using OpenGL on a PowerMac G4 with a GeForce4 video card. It's so fast, I use it to do RAM previews of motion, rather than using draft mode. Depending on which options are selected, the rendering time is significantly longer using the Invigorator Renderer.
Take another look at what we've built. Try doing this in another 3D application! Unless you're using the standalone Invigorator Pro Modeler, you're probably in for a lot more work and a much bigger time investment.
Before we wrap this up, it's important to point out that the write-on technique is just one way you can use Invigorator's Layer Cycling power. Think about deforming text in Illustrator, or morphing from one shape to each other. It's easy, using Illustrator's Blend tool and using each of the in-between shapes on a separate layer. In the example below, I used FILTERiT's deformation tool to create a wave in the text, and Illustrator's Blend tool to make the in-between versions which I've represented as different colors. I repositioned all versions on top of each other in Illustrator because Invigorator positions elements based in their location in the Illustrator document.
If you want to give Layer Cycling a spin, visit http://www.zaxwerks.com and download the demo of Invigorator Pro AE. You'll be glad you did. If you have some ideas or questions, be sure to visit the Zaxwerks forum at Creative Cow. We look forward to hearing from you.