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An After Effects Christmas

With all respect to other holidays around this time, my house celebrates Christmas (hey, my blog is called the Genesis Project!) and so I wanted to post a simple animation that you can use to learn some basic things about After Effects.

The genesis of the idea (yeah, I couldn’t resist) came from watching a motion background at a service recently.  It was kind of cheezy but Christmas like and it served its purpose.  I nudged my wife and said I thought I could do better.  I’m not sure I did, but the journey to create this was fun.

The ideas for this animation are similar to what I normally preach (have you got an idea that I’m running away with playing on this theme yet?):  basic transforms, simple operations and a few concepts to know in After Effects and you’re off and running.

Here’s a basic idea of how I created this:

  1. I built three separate landscape comps with a couple of shapes I created on colored solids.
  2. Then I positioned these three in 3D space and rigged a camera and light.  The light ended up being fixed and the only change I made was the width of the angle of the beam.
  3. Then I created and adjustment layer and added some CC Snow plugin.  At this point, I added a CC Snow plugin to each of the landscape comps to give it added depth. 
  4. While I was at it, I enabled the depth of field option and changed the camera F-Stop to make the blur pop a little bit more.
  5. Then I added the Merry Christmas title.  Essentially, take a script font (I used brush script so you’d likely have the font) and then draw one or masks on the letters.  Then apply a Stroke and animate the masks and choose ‘reveal original image’.  This will give it a write on style effect.
  6. Then I added a particle to wipe on the letters.  I used CC particle world and then created a snowflake by hand by using shape layers in a comp
  7. Go back and create a Snowman by using masks and animating the expansion parameter
  8. Create a Big Sky: I grabbed a star field picture on the web, created a gradient to add to the night sky.  Afterwards, I decided to add some light beams. This was the tricky part.  I created a comp called heavenly light and created a shape layer.  I added dashes to the shape layer and then applied a CC Radial Fast blur to give it that shining light look.  I had to pre-comp it to have it look right in my main comp.  Its a neat little trick though.
  9. I was close to finished, but given the season, I decided to add a lens flare to speak to the star that the three wise men followed. 
  10. I added a sled sliding down one of the hills and then grabbed some audio to drop in.

You can download the zipped project files here: Christmas 2008.  You’ll notice that I’ve begun to use Acrobat.com to make files available for you to download.  I’m thinking that it’s faster than the blogging server.  The download is about 6MB.  Let me know what you think of the experience.

I’d like to type up the step-by-step tutorial on this, but as is often the case these days, time just doesn’t permit it. If I had to do it one more time, I’d probably make the snowman 3D by using CC Sphere on each of his segments. 

Enjoy and my best wishes to a successful and fun 2009…

Dennis

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