Animating a Composition - Bongo and After Effects [ a Composition - Bongo and After Effects ]

Introductory After Effects

Arch 200c 2013 Fall

Course Arch 200c
Date 2013/11/14
Learning Objectives This workshop will indroduce Bongo - a animation plugin for Rhino.
  • Introduction to After Effects
  • Quick tour - Interface
  • Key frames / Timeline
  • Compositions
    • Layers
    • Importing Footage
    • Trim Footage
  • Working with Illustrator Files
  • Tracking
  • Rendering
Uses Tool(s)

After Effects Part 1

Adobe After Effects is a video post-processing program much like Photoshop is an image post-processing program. In After Effects you can animate 2d images and vector graphics, add effects to video footage, and composite still and video graphics. This workshop will introduce several After Effects tools and techniques relevant to the final Seer Capstone Project. Additional targeted workshops will be held during help desk on November 15th.


If you are familiar with Adobe Photoshop and/or Illustrator the After Effects interface will look familiar. The interface is a series panels that can be moved around the the work space or you can choose a predetermined panel layout from the workspace drop down. When in doubt click on the window tab at the top of the screen - there will be checks by the panels that are in view.


Ae layout.jpg

  • A. Tool Panel: A lot like Photoshop or Flash, this is where you find your selection, zoom, shape, text, clone and other tools.
  • B. Project Panel: This is where all your imported and created assets will live including but not limited to Compositions, Videos, Audio, Graphics etc.
  • C. Layers Panel: AE, again like Photoshop or Flash, uses layers where the top layer sits above the lower ones [not always the case if you are using AE's 3D mode] Each layer has drop down control settings along with Layer Mode [blend modes], TrkMat [masks] and Parent [for parenting layers].
  • D. Composition Window: Displays the current frame content for the selected composition.
  • E. Layer Modes Panel: Additional layer modes switches for Motion Blur, Frame Blending, Shy Hide and more.
  • F. Timeline Panel: Displays the lengths of your layers along with all keyframe data for those layers.
  • G. The Timeline Scrubber: Drag this in order to scrub the timeline and see your animation frame to frame.
  • H. The Timeline Render Bar: This slider selects and represents the keyframes you want exported in the final render.
  • I. All Other Panels: There are several such as Time, Audio, Effects etc. These panels are great but not completely necessary for basic usage. These may be covered in a future post.

Compositions, Layers, and Importing Footage

Understanding compositions is key to a fluid and manageable workflow in After Effects. To create a new composition right click in the project panel -> create new composition. You can think of compositions like master layers for a time-based clip, image, or video. All compositions have an entry in the project panel. Each individual composition has its own timeline and you can apply an infinite number of specific effects that will be isolated and not carry across the whole projects.


Individual compositions can be nested within a “main” composition that hold everything for the final project. To place one composition within another simply drag it from the project panel into the layer panel. Anytime a composition is changed it changes everywhere it is located in the project. Organizationally it is helpful to have one MAIN composition – think of this as the final product. Any composition that will be nested within the MAIN comp should include “pre comp” in the name.


New Composition

To create a new composition right click in the blank space of the project panel and click new composition . A dialogue will come up which allows you to name the composition, set the size, frame rate, and duration. If this composition will become your MAIN composition the width and height should be the size you want your output to be and the duration should be the full length of the animation. Pre compositions which will be nested in the MAIN composition can be smaller in width/height ratio (a flower that will be in a large scene, for example) and shorter in duration. To start off the frame rate should be the same for all of your compositions - 29.97, 30, and 24 are all standards. Keep this in mind when you are setting up animation renders in Bongo.


New Layer

Layers can be added and removed in the layers panel for each composition either by right clicking in the layers panel -> new -> layer or by dragging a pre composition from the project panel.

You can create several kinds of layers:

  • Video and audio layers that are based on footage items that you import, such as still images, movies, and audio tracks.
  • Layers that you create within After Effects to perform special functions, such as cameras, lights, adjustment layers, and null objects.
  • Solid-color layers that are based on solid-color footage items that you create within After Effects.
  • Synthetic layers that hold visual elements that you create within After Effects, such as shape layers and text layers
  • Precomposition layers, which use compositions as their source footage items

When you modify a layer, you do not affect its source footage item. You can use the same footage item as the source for more than one layer and use the footage differently in each instance.

Changes made to one layer do not affect other layers, unless you specifically link the layers. For example, you can move, rotate, and draw masks for one layer without disturbing any other layers in the composition.

Import footage

To import footage - a still image, bongo rendering, .mov, illustrator, or photoshop file. Right click in the blank space of the project panel and click import -> file . If you are importing a video or bongo animation the file should be imported as footage . If you are importing an Illustrator or Photoshop file the file should be imported as a composition, meaning After Effects will recognize layers. This will be covered in more detail under the Working with Illustrator Files portion of this workshop.

To start our project right click in the project panel and import the file. The file will appear in the project panel. Right click in the project panel and create a new composition for this footage - name it Footage PRE comp . Double click on the Footage PRE comp icon to open it in the layers panel. Drag the file into this pre comp.

Trimming Footage + Warp Stabilizer

The footage for this workshop has two problems that are easy to fix in After Effects. It is too long and the camera motion is a bit shaky.

Trim Footage

If you watch a bit of this one minute pan shot you will notice that the first five seconds or so are a bit shaky and that after about the 24th second the camera begins to pan back.

  • In the time viewer slide the time picker (red horizontal line with yellow top) to the place you want the video to start.
  • Holding shift drag the layer bar until it snaps to the time picker.
  • Holding shift drag the layer bar back to 0:00
  • To trim the end slide the time picker to 24:00 and holding shift drag the layer bar until it snaps to the timer


Warp Stabilizer

Although Bongo animations will have not have any issues with shaky camera motion you may want to use footage from Point Bonita that does.

  • To stabilize the camera right click on the layer in the Footage PRE comp and click warp stabilizer . This will take a few minutes. You can see the progress in the effects panel, which by default will appear in the area where the project panel is.
  • The warp stabilizer is essentially an effect layer added to the .mov file and appears if you twirl open the triangle next to the .mov layer. It can always be deleted.


Key Framing Basics

We will look at the basics of key framing through two simple effects applied to the .mov layer of the Footage PRE comp.

Appropriately named, After Effects includes many effects that can be added to compositions and layers much like in Photoshop. These effects are infinitely editable and are nondestructive, they can be adjusted at any point.

Key Frame Hue and Saturation

  • Right click on the .mov layer in the Footage PRE comp -> effect -> color correction -> hue/saturation.
  • The hue/saturation controls will appear in the upper left corner, where the project panel typically is.
  • You can also see the hue/saturation effect within the layer by twirling open layer -> effect -> hue/saturation triangles.
  • To change the image from color to black and white drag the time picker to 0:0 -> click the stopwatch for color range -> move the time picker forward -> adjust master saturation.

Key Frame Opacity

  • All layers have a few default attributes that can be key framed with out adding an effect. They are within the layer under transform .
  • To key frame opacity twirl open transform -> move the time picker to 0:0 -> set the opacity to 60% -> click the stopwatch -> move the time picker forward -> change the opacity value to 100%


Working With Illustrator Files

After Effects works seamlessly with Illustrator and is a great tool to animate all types of vector line work.

Importing Illustrator Files

  • To import an Illustrator file right click in the project panel -> import -> file . A window will come up that allows you to select the file you want to import. Be sure to Import As: Composition. This ensures that After Effects will reconize seperate Illustrator layers.
  • Rename this composition Lines PRE comp
  • Drag the composition to the layers panel. You should now see all your Illustrator layers.

Animating Illustrator Lines

  • In order to animate Illustrator lines the individual layers must be converted into After Effects shape layers.
  • Right click on each layer -> create shapes from vector layer . Once your vector layers are created you can delete the original Illustrator layers.
  • Make lines "grow." To make lines appear as if they are being drawn on the screen you will need to add a trim path to each layer. With the layer selected click add (at the top of the interface) -> trim path . This allows you to key frame the end point of each line.
  • Twirl open each layer -> contents -> trim path .
  • Move the time picker to where you want the line to be invisible, at 0%.
  • Change the End value to 0.0% and click the stopwatch icon. You should see a yellow diamond, key frame icon appear in the timeline.
  • Move the time picker to the time when you want the line to be full.
  • Change the End value to 100%. You should see a second key frame icon appear.
  • Click the spacebar for a quick preview.


This is just a very small intro into how you can animate vector line work. Also think about tone, opacity, rotation, position, and scale.

Camera Tracking

Camera Tracking gives you the capability to layer animated graphics (like the Illustrator) lines on top of video or rendered footage and have it move along with the camera. We are going to test this out by tracking the Lines PRE comp onto the parking lot of our MAIN composition.

  • First drag the Lines PRE comp into the layers panel for the MAIN composition.
  • Create a null object. Null objects are essentially layers that can hold motion information but do not appear in the scene in a visual way. Right click in the layers panel -> new -> null object . Name this layer "Tracker".
  • Track Footage PRE comp. Window ->tracker . Make sure the Footage PRE comp layer is selected. Click track motion .
  • Place motion tracker. The motion tracker will appear in the scene as two white boxes with a target in the middle. Adjust the position and size of the motion tracker so it is located at a point in the scene with the highest contrast or color difference.
  • Press the play button in the tracker panel to run the motion tracking. This may take a minute (it goes frame by frame). If your object is moving out of the scene pause the tracker, move the two white boxes to a new location, and place the "x" a the original start point.
  • Apply motion tracking to null object. In the tracker panel click edit target and change the target to the Tracker layer.
  • Apply tracking. Click apply and make sure the x and y values are selected.
  • Link Lines PRE comp to the Tracker layer. Under the parent drop down menu in the layers panel change from None to Tracker
  • You can now position the Lines PRE comp wherever you want in the scene and it will move along with the footage.



DRAFT Quality

If you are planning to make a draft render (quarter resolution) save the project with a new name. Right click on each composition in the Project panel > composition settings > set resolution to quarter.

You will be rendering the MAIN composition which contains all the elements you have layered together in your project. In the composition settings for this composition make sure the time is set to the exact time you want to render. If the animation is only 24 seconds make sure the time for this composition is not one minute.

Select the composition from which to make a movie in the Project panel > Choose Composition > Add To Render Queue.

The Render Queue Panel will appear at the bottom of the interface. Under the Render Settings drop down change the mode to custom, quality draft, resolution quarter. Click Render button in right corner to render animation.


FINAL Quality

When rendering a Composition for final quality make sure each Pre Composition is full quality and that the frame rates are the same for each composition.

In the AE Render Panel render settings should simply be set to "Best Settings"

The Adobe Render/export web page has extensive information about exporting and rendering projects.

Keyboard Shortcuts

Ae shortcuts.jpg Click twice on this image to view large

Help Desk II

Intro to Bongo - Friday, November 15th - 3-5

Animating a Composition - Bongo and After Effects