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October 10, 2010 /Region of Interest /

alternative animation techniques by John Dickinson

John Dickinson recently posted an excellent two-part video tutorial (part 1, part 2) on his Motionworks website that shows about a dozen ways to animate without using conventional keyframing. He refers to these techniques as “automatic” animation, because many of the techniques that he shows require much less manual work than the usual means of setting keyframes.

Here’s a synopsis of what this two-part video tutorial covers, with some links that you can follow for more information about the features mentioned:

  • Auto-keyframe mode: John shows how this feature works and gives his opinion about it. We’d like to know your opinion, too; please let us know what you think on this thread.
  • keyboard shortcuts for setting keyframes: The keyboard shortcuts for setting (and removing) keyframes are very useful. There are some more handy keyboard shortcuts for working with keyframes here.
  • Motion Sketch: Motion Sketch is a feature that John has talked about before, and I certainly agree with him about its broad usefulness. One thing that many people miss is the fact that there’s a version of Motion Sketch built into the Puppet tools, too.
  • Convert Audio To Keyframes: This feature makes timing any sort of animation to music so much easier. This feature is a rich source of experimentation, and many people have created utilities and tutorials related to it, as you can see on this page. Converting audio levels to keyframes is especially powerful when you know how to use the expression pick whip to tie the changes in one property to any other property.
  • The Wiggler and the wiggle expression method: John rightly points out that there’s not much reason to use the Wiggler panel now that the wiggle expression method is available, especially when there are so many examples available using the wiggle expression method that you can just copy and paste.
  • Convert expression to keyframes: If you need keyframes, but your animation is based on an expression (such as one using wiggle), you can convert the property’s expression-based values to keyframes.
  • path from Illustrator to a motion path: The ability to bring a path in from Illustrator or other applications and convert it to a motion path means that you can draw your animations using the tools most suited for drawing. You also make a motion path from a mask, shape, or paint path, so animation can follow various graphical elements in a composition.
  • Wiggle Paths and Wiggle Transform: The Wiggle Paths and Wiggle Transform shape layer path operations cause a shape layer’s path to change over time in dynamic, random ways. John’s example is especially interesting, because it uses a shape layer to create a lighting result that is not what one typically thinks of when thinking of vector graphics and shape layers. (Nice work, John!)
  • Wiggly selector for text animation: The Wiggly selector randomizes text animations within specified parameters.
  • self-animating effects: Many effects can be animated without any (or many) keyframes, including several in the Noise & Grain and Simulation categories. I appreciate the fact that John called special attention to the Foam effect; this often-overlooked effect is actually a very powerful particle system and is not just for bubbles.

Thanks a lot, John, for one of the most instructive and useful videos that I’ve seen about After Effects in a while. You managed to include lots of things for beginners and advanced folks.

Region of Interest