Transparency Maps & Custom Edges in Zaxwerks Invigorator Pro AE
Transparency Maps & Custom Edges in Zaxwerks Invigorator Pro AE
A CreativeCOW Zaxwerks Invigorator Tutorial

Transparency Maps & Custom Edges in Zaxwerks Invigorator Pro AE
Jon Okerstrom Jon Okerstrom,
Cedar Rapids, Iowa, USA

©2003 Jon Okerstrom and All rights reserved.

Article Focus:
Invigorator is known around the world as the king of ''flying logo'' animations. No one does it better or faster. But Invigorator is capable of a lot more than that. A question posed by a user in the COW’s Invigorator forum proves the point. The challenge: how to create a 3D crown. The solution: Use a custom edge and a transparency map. Jon Okerstrom shows you how in this project. Download the files and follow along. You'll need Zaxwerk's Invigorator.

Project file: .sit Project file: zip Download Invigorator Pro Demo

Custom edges allow Invigorator Pro AE to create all kinds of shapes, from bottles to martini glasses and beyond. Take a look at the set that comes with Invigorator Pro AE to see how they work and notice the guidelines. In this project, we'll create the general profile of the crown as a custom edge. Think of the general shape of a short, wide vase, from which we’ll use transparency to cut away material and reveal the crown.

In my Illustrator document, I’ve created two layers: one for the crown shape, the second for the rim that runs around the bottom. I’ve labeled them “crown vase shape” and “crown bottom.” The distance from the point where the guidelines meet determines the ratio of the radius of the crown to the height. The art looks like this in Adobe Illustrator:

Bevel shape in Illustrator

Place this Illustrator document in the “Custom Edges” folder. You’ll find that folder nested inside the Invigorator folder, which is in AE’s plug-ins folder.

We need to create two more Illustrator documents, before the fun starts in After Effects.

The first document represents the general shape of the crown, as if it were unwrapped. This document will be used as a transparency map -- the black parts will be seen, the rest will not. In this example, I've added some cut-out details. The shape is a compound path. I've called this "" We'll rely on the alpha channel created by this artwork in After Effects to accomplish our transparency. The color you assign to the crown shape in Illustrator doesn't matter.

You could create a transparency map with Photoshop, but using Illustrator
gives more resolution flexibility in AE. If you choose to use a conventional
pict or tga image as your transparency map, you would create a white crown
shape on a black background. That's because in the absence of an alpha
channel, Invigorator treats white as opaque, black as transparent and gray
as semi-transparent.

Crown Mask
Our last Illustrator document amounts to two very small filled circles. One will become the crown -- the other will become the rim once Invigorator does its magic. I’ve labeled the layers “crown” and “bottom rim.” Call this document “” (One reminder -- all Illustrator art must be saved as Version 8 or earlier, because Adobe changed the file format in versions 9 and 10.)

Now, we’re ready to begin our work in Adobe After Effects. You’ll need Invigorator Pro AE or the demo version. Add a layer to your comp and apply the Invigorator Effect to that layer. When prompted to open an Illustrator document, open and check the “open by layers” box. Then, in the Invigorator effect window, choose the crown object and apply the custom Edge “crown vase shape.” Choose the rim object and apply the custom bevel “crown bottom.” Uncheck all but the “outside edges” faces and you’ll see the beginnings of our crown in the Invigorator Set-up window. In this screen shot, I’ve changed the rotation of the Invigorator camera so you can see it in the correct orientation.

Custom bevel

Now, we’ll work on the transparency map and adding the Creative Cow logo. Import both Illustrator documents and put them in their own precomps. You can turn off their visibility in the main comp while you’re at it.


The resolution of your transparency and texture maps plays a role in how smooth they appear in the final product. In this case, I’ve made both precomps very high resolution -- you will probably be able to get away with lower resolution and gain rendering speed in the process. The screen shot here shows the transparency map precomp. It contains two copies of Wanting to avoid being longwinded, let’s just say that they’re placed in this position because of how Invigorator wraps textures around the edges of objects.

transparent mask

In the COW logo precomp, I’ve placed the COW logo artwork so it lines up between the two “squiggles” in the Transparency precomp.

The next step is to assign the Transparency Precomp to Layermap 1 in the Invigorator Effect control window. Assign the COW logo precomp to Layermap 2 in the Invigorator Effect control window.

At this point, we’ll build the texture for the crown. I started with a metalic golden texture. Then I assigned Layermap 2 to the texture pop-up, and Layermap 1 to the Transparency popup. Apply the texture to the crown. Apply a different texture to the crown base.


When you switch to “best quality” rendering in the timeline, you should see a crown like the one at the start of this tutorial. If not, stop by the Zaxwerks forum and ask a question. We’re glad to give you the royal treatment.

---Jon Okerstrom

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