R:Evolutionary Motion Typography with After Effects 6.0
Every art form has its technological touchstone. Whether its a million purpura mollusk shells ground up to make the color purple or the Korg DX-7 defining a generation of music, technology has had a profound influence on art and design. With the release of After Effects 6.0, designers, animators and compositors have been given a radical new tool to push pixels around: call it Textacy.
The annals of After Effects are filled with the pleas of artists asking for Text! Text! Text!. If it wasnt pair kerning, it was mixing fonts in a sentence. Text paths. Word wrap. First-timers were left scratching their heads figuring out the logic behind first having to create a solid before applying a Text Effect. With AE 6.0, text has taken a huge step forward. Indeed, I feel that Textacy is going to have a radical effect on motion graphic typography once artists take the time to properly figure out the new paradigms that govern it.
I talked with Steve Kilisky, Group Product Manager for Adobe After Effects, about Textacy and how it all came about:
AS: An argument could be made that text and typography had been 'ignored' in After Effects for a long time. What brought on the change?
SK: First and foremost customer feedback. Also, the timing was perfect as Adobe had recently developed a core text engine that could be used across our products allowing us to provide Adobe customers with a consistent way of creating and editing text, and also improve the integration between the apps.
AS: Why did the After Effects team choose to code the new Text tool? Why not leave it to third-party plugin developers?
SK: Creation and animation of typography is core to motion graphics. Users shouldn't have to purchase a plug-in for core functionality.
AS: Was it a priority to establish a continuity of text tools across Adobe applications, such as with Photoshop and Illustrator?
SK: Absolutely, as much as possible given our different development cycles.
AS: The paradigm adopted for text animation - individual animators and ranges - is fairly unusual. How was it developed and what was the inspiration?
SK: Besides having very creative and talented engineers, we have gathered lots of feedback from our users on what they'd like to be able to do with text. We have tried to implement it in the most flexible manner and provide as much control as possible, yet at the same time making it easy to create cool looking animations with minimal keyframing. The user's creativity, not the tool, should be the limiting factor in terms of what you can do.
AS: What's next for text?
SK: I'm not allowed to discuss specifics, but it is safe to say that we have lots of other ideas on how we can build on the foundation that was added in AE6.
||Text entry is now more Photoshop-like, in keeping with the establishment of tool continuity across all applications. If youre familiar with PS or Illustrator, then youre familiar with the new Character and Paragraph tabs in AE 6.0.
|Select the T in the new toolbar palette and, as one might expect, simply click on your canvas. A cursor will appear, and you start typing. No solids, no effects applied. Radical! A new layer automatically appears on your timeline, named after your text (up to 32 characters). With the T tool still chosen, select some text and feel free to mix and match fonts, point sizes, colors
and Lo! Pair kerning, using the familiar alt or apple + cursor left/ cursor right keyboard shortcuts! Typographical nirvana.
||The text itself is vector based. Make your point size as large as you like, youll never see the jaggies make their awful presence known. Modifying the parameters is easily done in the Character palette. Indeed, youll find that its already been taken to the next level: move your cursor over the TT icon beside the point size entry box and click and drag the point size interactively, as with most AE numbers, with immediate screen updates.
If you still insist on creating your text in Photoshop or if you have a lot of archived projects, drag and drop you imported text onto your timeline from the project window, select the layer in the timeline, then choose Layer-> Convert to Editable Text So long as you have the font installed on your system, youll be able to modify the content without touching the original PS file. This is great when youve got a large number of versions to create.
Another trick is to type your font and then - making sure that the layer is selected in the timeline - choosing, Layer-> Create Outlines. A new layer is created, with masks forming the font. Use this option if youre going to send a project cross platform or to another computer that doesnt or cant have the same font installed, or to take advantage of effects that look for masks.
|Click on graphic to see larger image
Generally speaking, youll find that text entry is in many ways similar to what youve come to expect with Adobe products. Looking at things a bit more closely, after you type some text and when you open up your text layer twirly in the timeline, you see just two choices: Text and Transform. Spin Text open, and youll see Source Text and another twirly, Path Options. And is that a little stopwatch beside Source Text? Hit it, and a square Hold keyframe is created on your timeline. Move along a second or so, double-click your text in the Comp window to edit it (or double-click the layer in the timeline, or select the T in the toolbar and click on your text in the Comp window), change the text, and another keyframe is automatically created. Add a few more changes every second or so. Dont forget to hit the Number Pad Enter to set you text (or deselect the T tool in the toolbar), then hit the Num Pad 0 for a little RAM preview. Watch as your text changes at the keyframe, and lament not the loss of hundreds of layers of text lined up on the timeline!
Under Path Options, select any masks you may have that are on the text layer (open OR closed paths) and your font will re-flow along that path, with some options to fine tune.
Now comes the evolutionary part of the revolution: making it all move. The animation paradigm that Textacy uses can be difficult to grasp upon first glance. You habitually reach for the Transform twirly of your text layer, expecting a fabulous new interface to unroll, only to find
Anchor Point. Position. And their worthy, if a little bit long-in-the-tooth, brethren. Look a little bit closer. Not there. Over to the right a bit. In the Switches/Modes column. There it is: a modest little word- Animate- and a single flyout.
Click, and youre presented with a whole range of options, including our tired little transformative friends. Select Scale, and right away things happen: a new option under the Text twirly is created, named Animator 1. This isnt the easiest parameter name to remember, so click once on the word Animator 1 to select it, hit the Enter key, then re-type the name as Animator 1 scale. Hit Enter again to accept the change.
|Click on graphic to see larger image
Now youll see an instance of the Scale transform available under Animator 1 scale. Drag one of the numbers and, as youd expect, the text scales up and down. The difference is that its doing so based upon the anchor points of individual CHARACTERS, not the anchor point of the LINE. Try using the usual scale under the transform twirly to see the difference.
|Click on graphic to see larger image
The important concept to grasp is that Textacy works under the principle of Range Affects Animators. Simply put, for your animated transform to work, it has to be within your chosen range. To see how it works, set the Scale (under Animator 1 scale- NOT under the layer Transform twirly) to 200% and make sure that the Range Selector 1 twirly of Animator 1 scale is open. Set the three options to the following: Start = 20%, End = 60%, Offset = -100. Now, set a keyframe in your Offset by pushing the stopwatch, move a couple of seconds down the timeline, then change to Offset to +100, and give yourself a RAM preview. Youll see that the scale cascades along your text as the offset travels.
To see it procedurally, select Animator 1 of your text layer on the timeline so that it is highlighted, go to 0:00 and Page Down through your animation frame by frame: Youll see the edges of the range proceed through the text, indicated by vertical bars. This is your animated offset. The characters that are in the middle of the range are at the maximum scale, and the closer the characters are to the Start and End range markers, the smaller the scale. After Effects calculates the cascading scale automatically.
Open up the Advanced twirly in Range Selector 1 and take a look at the options youve got. Take some time to play around with them. One important option is the Shape. Youve probably noticed that out little Scale animation is sort of chunky. Change the Shape pulldown (which says Square) to Round and youve now got a nice smooth travelling scale effect.
Using our little Scale project as an example, try to wrap yourself around the key concepts of Textacy: You can animate the range that affects the scale, or the scale that is affected within the range, or a combination of the two. Its a weird concept to grasp, but central to the Textacy paradigm. Throw in the ability to affect layer transforms using the OLD transform twirly at the same time, and youve got some head bending animative powers at your disposal.
Its easiest to grasp how Textacy works when animating the Scale as we did above. But once you figure it out, start applying it to the other transforms available in the Animate flyout menu (in the Switches/Modes column). Then move on to affecting the colors, strokes, tracking and characters. Youre not limited to a single animator: stack them up for sophisticated action. This project shows what happens when you combine scale and position animators.
Lets take it to an extreme: Text as Particle System. Whaaa? Text? Particles?
Create a new project, select the Medium 320x240 project preset. Select the text tool, click in the middle of your comp, and type 15 or so periods (.). Make their color yellow by selecting them all, and clicking on the foreground color swatch on the Character palette. Now, open up the twirly for the layer named
on your timeline. Select Animate-> Position from the Switches/Modes column. To the right of Animator 1 youll see another flyout menu in the Switches/Modes column that says Add. Open this up and choose, Selector-> Wiggly. Open up the Wiggly Selector 1 twirly. Change the Wiggles/Second to 0.5 Now go down to the Position option (make SURE its the one under Animator 1, NOT under the Transform twirly!!!) and enter 300 for the X value, and 300 for the Y value. Do a little RAM preview to see our little proto-particles.
Now take it to the next level. Add a Scale animator (Animate-> Scale in the Switches/Modes column). Select Add-> Selector-> Wiggly (beside Animator 2 in the Switches/Modes column). Open up Wiggly Selector 1 in the Animator 2 animator (getting confusing, huh? Thats why I often rename animators to say Animator 1 scale or some other descriptive name), change the Wiggles/Second parameter to 1.0, click on the Lock Dimensions option to turn it On, and change the scale (under the Animator 2 twirly!) to 1000%. If you wish, add a Rotate animator and a Hue animator. Now hit the P key to open up the main Position transform (remember, this is NOT the position of any of our animators!) and change the positions to 140, 80. Hit the F4 key to change to Switches if youre in Modes, click under the M column to allow motion blur on the layer, select the M at the top of the timeline window to enable global blur, THEN do a RAM preview. Whew! Hows that for proto-particles! And you may not have noticed what youre missing completely
Keyframes! If your particles were square, simply change the font in the Character palette to Times and they become circles, or to Arial to be square. The ! character and Webdings gives you a good Spidey effect. Find a Mosquito font, and youre all set for a Canadian summer!
This should give you a taste of whats possible with Textacy.
Take it even further with Expressions and Parenting, maybe some tracking data with your particles and youve got an extraordinarily powerful new tool to impress your friends and family.
Phoenicians had to grind millions of purpura mollusk shells to make enough dye for their emperors' clothes. You just have to purchase, or upgrade to, After Effects 6.0 to have your own little tool in the evolution of art and design.
About Alan Shisko & Mograto: Alan Shisko is one of the driving forces (along with Steve Roberts and Tom Mae) behind the Toronto, Canada-based Motion Graphics Toronto (Mograto) users group. Mograto's meetings span exploration and discussion of both the tools of the trade and the techniques that expand the creative options of users. Creative Cow highly recommends that users in the Toronto area join and attend this great group of creatives.
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