AE Script – Move Selected Layer Group

Sometimes you want to select a group of layers in After Effects, and just move them all to the current time indicator and keep their relative timing. So you think ”I’ll just hit [ and move them all!” Only then you’re immediately hitting undo as you notice all the layers in-points moved to the CTI, erasing your carefully crafted timing. I got tired of that a long time ago and wrote a little script for my ft-toolbar setup. The topic recently came up on Twitter so I thought I’d share it.

Download below and set to an ft-toolbar button, or set a keyboard shortcut on macOS. Open up System Preferences: Keyboard: Shortcuts. Then click on App Shortcuts and add After Effects. Then you can type in ‘MoveSelectedLayerGroup.jsx’ and assign a shortcut.

MoveSelectedLayerGroup.zip

AE Preset – Turbulent Wipe

Update: Turbulent Wipe is now a Fractal Wipe and part of Conigs Mixtape complete with a custom controller! Download it today!

Last week I posted on Twitter about an effects stack for a less boring linear wipe. Enough people asked for a preset, so you’ll find the base preset at the bottom of the post. But first, let’s go through this stack. Keep in mind this is intended to be applied to a solid and used as a matte.

Linear Wipe

01-WipeThis is the basic Linear Wipe effect we know and either love or hate. The only main difference here is adding the feather (which can be adjusted to suit your needs).

Shift Channels

02-ShiftChannelsThe Shift Channels effect is used to move the alpha channel to the luminance by applying it to the red, green, and blue channels. This is needed to get our fractal noise onto the transition since it works in RGB, and not the alpha channel.

Invert

03-InvertThe Invert effect is just here to make our wipe work in the correct direction for a reveal.

Turbulent Displace

04-TurbulentDisplaceThe Turbulent Displace effect is what gives us a nice, irregular, crawling edge on our wipe. The complexity is increased to 2.0 to give some more smaller details on the edge. Feel free to play with this, or animate Evolution to get an even more animated wipe.

Turbulent Noise

05-TurbulentNoiseLastly we have Turbulent Noise. This is what applies the noise on the edge of our wipe. You can play with different fractal and noise types, but you might need to roll Contrast back down to 100 to see the noises correctly.

Evolution is controlled by an expression which increases from to 360° as the Transition Completion on the Linear Wipe effect goes from 0% to 100%. This is very subtle, but it allows the noise to change as the wipe completes.

The last thing to note on this effect is setting Blending Mode to Overlay. This just places the noise on the gradient, and not on the black and white portions of the matte.

What’s Not In the Preset

There were a few extra effects in the Twitter post not included in the preset. This is because the further refine the look of the wipe, but aren’t necessary to the basic setup. These are CC Vector Blur (added a more wispy noise), Noise HLS (remove some smoothness from the previous effect), and Curves (crank up contrast a bit more).

Download Preset

Okay, with all that said, here is the preset. Like I said earlier, it’s intended to be applied to a solid and used as a luma matte. Have fun!

This preset will be maintained for those who need it, but an updated version is in the Conigs Mixtape preset pack. Download it today!

conigs_TurbulentWipe.ffx

After Effects: A Better Bounce

A lot of bounce expressions rely on either setting parameters like frequency and decay, leading to guess work for when bounces will end or how long they’ll last. Or the expression will settle the bounce on the last keyframe, giving you no real idea how fast the object will move before the bounce. This always bothered me.

Then this week on the Motion Design Slack group, someone was asking about getting bounce expressions to behave more intuitively. So I rolled up my sleeve and got to modifying an existing expression for inertial bounce (actually elastic). Here’s the resulting code:

bounces    = 4;     //total number of bounces
duration   = .25;   //duration of each bounce in seconds
amp        = .05;   //multiplier for incoming velocity used in bounce
decay      = 3;     //exponential decay of bounce height

n=0;
if(numKeys>0){n=nearestKey(time).index;if(key(n).time>time){n--;}}
n==0?t=0:t=time-key(n).time;
freq=1/duration;
mult = (bounces-Math.floor(t*freq))/bounces;
if (n>0 && mult>0) {
    v=velocityAtTime(key(n).time-0.001)*amp; //velocity to use
    b=Math.abs(Math.sin(freq*t*Math.PI))*Math.pow(mult,decay); //bounce calculation
    value-v*b;
} else {value;}

Now this won’t be physically accurate. Each resulting bounce would really be shorter in time as well. If that’s what you’re looking for, Dan Eberts has a physically accurate expression. And there’s many other bounce tools like After Ease, Ease and Wizz, and Duik. However, this will give you a specific number of bounces, a set time for each bounce, and take incoming speed from keyframes for the object. This works great as an ft-toolbar button or a Text Expander snippet.

Making Intuos 5 Touch Work

Part of my everyday gear includes a Wacom. At home and my previous jobs, that would have been my personal Intuos 4. At Code 42, I received a brand new Intuos 5 which includes touch gestures, similar to a trackpad. Unfortunately, those gestures just don’t work reliably. And because of the way I use my tablet, with the keyboard above, I got a lot of accidental touch events. Here’s how I tamed them.

First, a picture of my setup…

As you can see, any time I reach over the tablet to type, that could cause problems for touch gestures. ((I prefer my tablet here, as opposed to the side where a typical mouse would be, because it feels more natural that way.)) To remedy that, I disabled most of the touch gestures and limited them to mostly scrolls/pans. Here’s my settings:



I slowed down the pointer speed to reduce unwanted cursor movement as I use the keyboard. I also completely disabled any clicking. Zoom & rotate were finicky at best, and don’t even seem to function in After Effects, so they were disabled as well. This leaves scrolling and navigation, which is what I really want touch gestures to be. It’s really nice to just lift my pen and use the same hand to switch between desktops, reveal the desktop, and even use Launchpad. ((Yes, sometimes I use launchpad. If set up right, it can work well.)) For custom gestures, I modified three finger tap & hold to save, and disabled five finger anything. Holding a pen, it’s not an easy gesture, especially when trying to keep the pen far enough away from the tablet to enable touch.

Ideally, I’d like to see Wacom do three things with their drivers. 1.) Somehow increase reliability of touch, but I have no idea of the engineering already involved in the current drivers. 2.) Be able to relegate touch input to a certain portion of the tablet, in my case the left side or corner. 3.) Add a customizable delay to the “Show Express View” option. This wasn’t covered here, but if you rest your finger or hand on the Express Keys, a HUD pops on screen showing you what they do. Current delay is just under a second, and I hit it a lot while typing.

So that’s what I do to tame touch on the Intuos 5. After using it this way for about a week, it’s working well so far. I still have to customize the Express Keys and customize settings for each app. But I’m waiting for my tower to come in before I do that. ((I’m temporarily on an i5 iMac, waiting for my tower to arrive with dual displays.))

AE Quicktip: Assign Keyboard Shortcuts on a Mac

Is there that one menu command you always use in After Effects and wish there was a keyboard shortcut? In the past, there were cumbersome methods of modifying a text file buried in the filesystem to change things. But there’s a much easier way:

System Preferences: Keyboard & Mouse

System Preferences: Keyboard & Mouse.

Go to the Keyboard Shortcuts tab and click on the “+” button towards the bottom.

Then select After Effects from the Application pulldown (you might have to go to “Other…” at the bottom and browse to AE).

Type in the exact name of the menu item you want a shortcut for, then hit the keys you’d like to be the shortcut. Just make sure they shortcut isn’t already used by After Effects.

And there you go!

VFX Breakdown: Sweater

Last week I was working on a retail spot where we needed a product that wasn’t shot on-figure. But we did have a shot of a similar product. It just needed a little work. This is what I mean by “a little:”

I’m pretty pleased with the end result. It was a fun task to work on, though I hope I don’t have to do it too often…

AE Mini Tip: Color Control Layer

If you’ve worked on commercial project, you know there’s only one constant: change… especially at the last minute. One of the things that seems to frequently change is color choice. If you have a complicated AE animation and many layers that use the same colors, this can be a royal pain. You can reduce this pain if, from the beginning, you set up a color control layer.

[Note: this really only works well if you’re working on vector animations with single-color objects.]

First, set up an adjustment layer and add the “Color Color” effect found under “Expression Controls.” Do this for as many colors as you want.

ColorControl

I recommend naming the controls for the layers you will be coloring rather than the color itself.

Then, apply the “Fill” effect under “Generate.” Here, you can option-click (alt-click on PC) and drag the pick-whip (that little spiral button) to the color control in your color control layer.

layer

Now, when the client comes back to you with the comment “The trees should be purple,” you won’t be cursing under your breath (as much).

Mograph Workflow for NY Times

With so many newspapers seeing decline in their physical circulation, it’s nice to see a paper like the New York Times embracing the flexibility of content that the Internet can offer.

Recently, their After Effects workflow was posted on digitalartwork.net. It’s a little rough and they fully admit they’re new to the mograph game, but it’s always interesting to see how someone else works.

Now if only other papers would realize Internet distribution offers more than digital copies of their print.

Here’s the New Your Times’ demo reel:

Introducing Post Haste

PostHaste256
UPDATE: Humble pie. I already had to fix a pretty critical bug. Post Haste 1.0.1 has just been released.

One of the more tedious tasks in post, with the exception of rotoscoping, is just setting up a project. A while back, we discovered the usefulness using a template folder to keep everything consistent. Thomas Tomchak at Suite Take goes into great detail about project templates. But we were still duplicating folders, copying and pasting, and renaming multiple files before we could get started. I decided to make the write my own software to make things easier. The result is Post Haste.

Post Haste really just does one thing, but does it well: automatically generates a project folder for you. All you have to do is enter information such as project number, client, etc. and Post Haste will create a project folder with files in place and renamed. It’s customizable to allow up to five fields of information and auto-fills certain fields such as date, editor, or suite. Take a look.

Post Haste is completely free. There are no nag dialogues about how you should give me money. Really, I wrote the program for myself to make things easier. But to make things interesting, I’m releasing Post Haste as “luchware.” If you find it useful, consider buying me lunch.