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Evolution 'Card Wipe': Simulating an LED Style Audio Meter

COW Library : Adobe After Effects Tutorials : Mark Simpson : Evolution 'Card Wipe': Simulating an LED Style Audio Meter
Evolution 'Card Wipe': Simulating an LED Style Audio Meter

by Mark Simpson,
JAM Digital, Redondo Beach, California, USA
©2001 by Mark Simpson. All rights are reserved.Used at CreativeCow.net by kind permission of the author.

Mark Simpson ARTICLE FOCUS:
Mark Simpson
uses Atomic Power Evolution 'Card Wipe' effect and Adobe After Effects Production Bundle's "Motion Math" to simulate an LED style Audio Meter.



I wanted to create a 15 second Company ID to put in front of my video productions that stressed both the audio and video aspects of my business "JAM Digital". The concept involved having a large mask formed by the letters "JAM" filled with a video clip of some sound equipment in a rack. Positioned below the mask was to be an animation consisting of a seven segment LED "audio meter", in which each segment contained one letter of the word "digital". This meter would "light up" in response to an audio track much like a real life LED audio meter. This is an example of how I created the meter.
Company ID


  1. The key to this technique is in careful preparation of the source footage. After deciding how many segments, and of what color the meter will contain (in this case seven - 4 green, 2 yellow, 1 red), create one segment in the app of your choice (I used Adobe Illustrator), and duplicate it as many times as is necessary to obtain the desired number of segments. Adjust the colors as desired, and place them side by side (or in a vertical line if so desired). The resulting graphic should contain segments that are exactly the same size (not overlapping, or containing gaps between them). This graphic will be the backside of our "card wipe" layer.
    LED Back



  2. Create another graphic that is exactly the same size as the entire multi-segment graphic in step one, and make it a solid color that matches the background that the meter will placed against (in this case black). This will be the front side of our 'card wipe' layer.
    LED Front
  3. Launch After Effects and import the graphics from above, plus an audio file that will be used to control the meter. Drag these files onto the timeline.

  4. Turn off the backside graphic so that it is not visible, by clicking the layer's 'eye' icon.

  5. Select the front side graphic (the one that is a solid color), and apply Evolution "card wipe": Effect>Evolution>Card Wipe.

  6. Inside "Card Wipe" set "Rows" to "1", and "Columns" to "7" (or the number of segments if different than seven). If your meter will operate in a vertical fashion, reverse these numbers.

  7. Set "Back Layer" to the layer containing the multi-segment meter graphic.

  8. Make sure "flip axis" is set to "x" for horizontal meters, or "y" for vertical meters. Set "Flip order to the direction you wish the meter to operate (From 'Low' levels to 'High' Levels), in this case "Left to Right".

  9. Set "Transition Width" to ".001" (absolute "0" will not allow the first segment to turn off).

  10. With the 'alt' key held down, move the "Transition Complete" slider back and forth. You should see the meter segments turn on and off in the desired direction. Each segment should turn completely on and off. If the segments turn partially on or off as the slider is moved, recheck that you have set the "Transition Width" control to .001 (step 9).

  11. With the front side graphic (Solid color) layer still selected, apply Layer>Keyframe Assistant>Motion Math, and load the "layeraud.mm" script that comes with AE, located in the "Motion Math Scripts" folder.

    Layer audio, version1.2 motion math script

  12. Set "Layer 1" to the same layer that card wipe is applied to, and set layer 1 "Property" to "Card Wipe/Transition Complete" (as this is what we want the audio layer to control).

  13. Set "Layer 2" to the layer containing our audio file. Set Layer 2 "Property" to "Audio Levels", (as this is what we wish to use to control the layer 1 property).

  14. Adjust the "minimum" and "maximum" values as necessary to get the desired response curve from the meter. You will probably have to open the Motion Math dialog several times to get the right settings. Each time you open the motion math dialog, check all settings and if the correct script is still applied before closing. I found that for this particular project a 'minimum' setting of "-50" and 'maximum' setting of "1500" allowed the meter to turn completely off when levels were low, and hit occasional peaks on the red segment when levels were at their loudest.

  15. Close the Motion Math Dialog ('apply') and RAM Preview the meter to ensure it is working as desired.

  16. I wanted to apply further effects to the meter, so I nested it into another composition and applied the glow filter to it (Effect>Stylize>Glow). I then dragged another copy of the multi-segmented backside graphic onto the timeline of the new comp as the topmost layer, and set it's opacity to 50%. This created the effect of having a meter state in which the meter was visible, but the LEDs are not lit. When the audio track plays, the meter segment lights up with a slight glow around them, just like a real meter would.


    If you are having trouble with the overall size of your graphic elements, and need to readjust them, it can be done in After Effects, but remember that "Card Wipe" uses the original graphic dimensions and ignores any scaling you have applied to the layer. The way to work around this is to resize the graphic as desired, then nest or precompose the graphic. Use the resulting graphic in "Card Wipe" instead of the original, and all should be well. You can achieve the meter "static position look" described above without nesting the cardwipe layer, by simply turning the multi-segment 'backside' layer visibility back on and setting it's opacity to 50% (It must be on top of the layer to which you have applied "Card Wipe"), but any effects like glow you wish to apply to the cardwipe backside will not operate properly, if at all.













Enjoy,
Mark Simpson


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