Cell Pattern And Favorites
Cell Pattern And Favorites
from CreativeCow.net's ''25 Cool Things about After Effects 5.5'' Series

Cell Pattern and Favorites: A demo from Jim Tierney
Jim Tierney Jim Tierney
Digital Anarchy, San Francisco, California, USA

©2003 by Jim Tierney and CreativeCow.net. All rights are reserved.

Article Focus:
Cell Pattern is a filter that can be used to create all sorts of background animations, displacement maps, track mattes, and many other things. It uses algorithms to generate the shapes and shading you see rendered. This allows you to create thousands of different patterns and textures. In this tutorial, Jim Tierney demonstrates a few of these as well as discusses how to create and save your own After Effects favorites.

No movie stuffit project file zipped project file

---Cell Pattern---

Cell Pattern is a filter that can be used to create all sorts of background animations, displacement maps, track mattes, and many other things. It uses algorithms to generate the shapes and shading you see rendered. This allows you to create thousands of different patterns and textures.

It's a fairly simple filter, but like many simple filters, you can combine it with other filters to create a wide range of unique effects.

A few examples:

We're also going to talk about Favorites in this tutorial. Favorites are essentially After Effect’s version of presets. You can save out filters and the keyframes associated with them. You can even save out groups of filters.

It's a very powerful way of saving any cool effects you've created and re-using them in other projects or passing them along to friends or colleagues.

First off, let's dive into Cell Pattern.

Open up the ‘celling_favorites.aep’ project. (Download from the green bar above.)

You'll see a solid layer called ‘Cell Space’. Select this layer and apply Cell Pattern (Effect>Render>Cell Pattern).

The most important parameter in this filter is the ‘Cell Pattern’ pop-up (surprise, surprise). This lets you select the type of cell you want to use. There are about 8 different types, with some having High Quality versions (look for the HQ after the name). Flip through them to get an idea of the choices you have.

We're going to create an animated background, quickly and easily by animating a single parameter.

Set the Cell Pattern pop-up to Plates HQ. This will give us some interesting polygon shaped objects. We're going to animate the edges of these polygons to create an undulating background.

which will give you this:

With the Time Marker at 00:00, set a keyframe for the Evolution parameter. Make sure it's set to 0.

Move the Time Marker to 02:00 and set it to 1 revolution. It should look like this:

Preview the animation. So far so good, we've got our plates animating away and it's taken us all of about 30 seconds. The Evolution parameter forces the shapes to rotate around, making them change shape as they interact with their neighbors.

They look a bit drab, being just grayscale plates and all. Let's add some color to these things

Apply the Colorama (Effect>Image Control>Colorama) filter to our Cell Space layer. This is a gradient filter that is designed to add color to grayscale images. Apply that and under the Output Cycle section, select the Fire preset.

Oooh!… fiery plates!

Turn on the ‘Title’ layer and preview your animation! Cool backgrounds in mere moments.

--- Favorites---

So now let's get into Favorites. We've just completed this fabulous title animation for the hip, happening new show called ‘The Squares’. We're going to need this background for all sorts of things. We could just import this project every time we need the background, or re-apply the filters. However there's an easier way.

Save it as a favorite.

What’s a favorite? It's simply a preset. A very powerful preset. You can save multiple filters and save keyframes as well. Favorites are super cool, and no one knows about them (hence the reason I'm writing this).

You can Save or Load a Favorite from the Effects menu. At the very top of the Effects menu is the Favorite section.

First, let's save a Favorite.

In the Effect Controls Window, select both the filters that have been applied:

Then go to the Effects menu and select Save Favorite. Name it ‘Fiery Squares’.

Woo hoo! We've created our first Favorite. It's saved both filters and the keyframes we set for the Evolution parameter.

Now let's apply a Favorite. Revert your project, or delete the filters applied to the Cell Space layer. This gives us a clean slate to work with.

With the Cell Space layer selected, go to the Effects menu and select Apply Favorite.

Select the hell.ffx Favorite.

As it happens, the dorky characters in our show somehow end up in hell, fighting off demons, drinking tequila, and just generally getting themselves in trouble.

Because of this, the producers want a different opening to the show. Same title, different background. Luckily, you've been playing around with a bunch of different looks and been saving them as Favorites. The hell.ffx Favorite is just one of those.

Notice that when you load up the hell Favorite, it loads four filters:

which results in something that looks like this: .

Now preview your animation to see the new title treatment.

As you may have noticed, there are several other Favorites in the Favorites folder. Apply each one, see what’s in them, and basically get familiar with saving and applying them.

Notice that when you apply a Favorite, the filters in the Favorite just get added on top of any filters the layer already has. You generally want to avoid having any other filters applied to the layer that you're going to apply the Favorite to.

As a bonus, take a look at the Displacement Example. If you have the Production Bundle, this shows an example of using Cell Pattern as a source for the Displacement Map filter (PB Only).

The Displacement Map filter distorts a layer based on the luminance of another layer. In this case, take a look at the Cell Comp, which is a grayscale version of Cell Pattern. This non-animating Cell Pattern effect will be used as a displacement map to distort the ‘Squares’ title as if it was refracting through glass.

Take a look at the Displacement Example Comp and see if you can figure out what’s going on!

That's all for Cell Pattern and Favorites. If you have any questions, feel free to discuss this technique in the After Effects forum here at CreativeCOW.

---Jim Tierney

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