Category Archives: After Effects

Say it -> Select it: Runway ML promises semantic video segmentation

I find myself recalling something that Twitter founder Evan Williams wrote about “value moving up the stack“:

As industries evolve, core infrastructure gets built and commoditized, and differentiation moves up the hierarchy of needs from basic functionality to non-basic functionality, to design, and even to fashion.

For example, there was a time when chief buying concerns included how well a watch might tell time and how durable a pair of jeans was.

Now apps like FaceTune deliver what used to be Photoshop-only levels of power to millions of people, and Runway ML promises to let you just type words to select & track objects in video—using just a Web browser. 👀

New eng & marketing opportunities in Adobe video

Come join my wife & her badass team!

Roto Brush 2: Semantic Boogaloo

Back in 2018 I wrote,

Wanna feel like walking directly into the ocean? Try painstakingly isolating an object in frame after frame of video. Learning how to do this in the 90’s (using stone knives & bear skins, naturally), I just as quickly learned that I never wanted to do it again. 

Happily the AE crew has kept improving automated tools, and they’ve just rolled out Roto Brush 2 in beta form. Ian Sansevera shows (below) how it compares & how to use it, and John Columbo provides a nice written overview.

In this After Effects tutorial I will explore and show you how to use Rotobrush 2 (which is insane by the way). Powered by Sensei, Roto Brush 2 will select and track the object, frame by frame, isolating the subject automatically.

New public betas available for Adobe video apps

I somehow overlooked last month’s announcement of a public beta program for Adobe DVA apps:

Today a small group of users will become the first Adobe Creative Cloud members to find Beta versions of the Adobe video and audio apps available in the Creative Cloud Desktop app. This marks the start of a public Beta program which will roll out incrementally over the coming months, until it is available to all Creative Cloud members.

Now O.G.’s David Simons & Jason Levine have given a live overview and Q&A covering the project:

The new public Beta program started rolling out to Creative Cloud members earlier this year. On Friday, join this discussion and live Q&A with Jason Levine and David Simons, Adobe Fellow, who has been leading the initiative. If the name rings a bell: Dave is one of the inventors of After Effects, for which he won a technical Academy Award, and Adobe Character Animator, which won him a technical Emmy.

Premiere Pro introduces productions

Not to be confused with cloud-hosted Team Projects, this new feature is geared towards editors working together on premises:

Productions connects Premiere Pro project files, making them into components of the larger workflow.

Media referencing across projects means you can reuse assets within your Production without creating duplicate files. Using shared local storage, multiple editors can work on different projects in the same production. Project Locking ensures that no one overwrites your work.

You control your content: Productions use shared local storage and can be used without an internet connection.

Adobe makes Team Projects free to editors & animators into August

My wife & her team have been working hard to support freelancers & other video professionals collaborating remotely. Here’s some great news:

[W]e are pleased to extend the availability of Adobe’s Team Projects video collaboration capabilities to Premiere Pro and After Effects users with a Creative Cloud for individual license… until August 17, 2020, at no additional cost. […]

Team Projects is a cloud-hosted collaboration service that allows editors and motion graphics artists to work within Premiere Pro and After Effects. With Team Projects, colleagues can collaborate on video projects from anywhere by syncing changes through the cloud. All you need to do is connect to the Team Projects service and create a team project in Adobe Premiere Pro or After Effects.

Project files are stored and saved in Creative Cloud, so you can revert and sync project files across multiple workstations.

Check out the rest of the post for an FAQ and other details.

Killer animations o' the day

  • Despite finding it some time ago, I’ve been avoiding blog The Art of the Title Sequence, knowing that it would likely take over my life.  Sure enough, it’s loaded with good stuff.  Check out the beautiful titles for El Don, whipped up by Santiago artists Smog.  I saw motion graphics pioneer Kyle Cooper (SE7EN, etc.) speak years ago and remember him saying that every frame should hold up on its own as graphic design.  This piece aces that test.  (For unrelated goodness, see Smog’s “monkey-headed dancing guy” (or whatever “un mono bailarín” is).)
  • Motion artist PES creates incredible stop-motion films using found objects.  KaBoom and Western Spaghetti are particularly great (c’mon, Candy Corn as flames?).  Check out his work before People for the Ethical Treatment of Upholstery shut him down. [Via John Peterson & Maria Brenny, “Because (re: KaBoom) I know what you do in the desert”]
  • My Drive Thru is a new stop-motion video for Converse, produced by the team at Psyop.  Behind the scenes, Pharrell Williams talks about rescuing Chuck Taylors from the taint of Punky Brewster, and Glossy interviews the Psyop crew while posting some high-res stills. [Via]
  • Superfad has kicked out a trio of stylish ads for Sprint.  The Hurricane Katrina spot is particularly worth a look.  

Recent motion graphics goodness

 

  • Roi Sabarov’s Typeflow animation is poetry in motion.  ("That is awesome.  That goes on the blog."  –Margot, Licensed Nackwife.)
  • Fatal Farm makes some super, ah, unique remixes of 80’s TV themes.  Knight Rider is brilliant, though be warned that you won’t be getting the song out of your head. The rest are of mixed taste, so don’t say I didn’t warn you.
  • Mato Atom’s "Champions" probably won’t change any hearts and minds about Bush, Blair, & Co., but it’s impeccably executed. [Via Sebastian Meyer]
  • I like the lo-fi stylings of these animated videos for Welsh band Los Campesinos!, created by Simon Ampel & Chris Seimasko.
  • The Whitest Boy Alive is all about optical illusions. [Via]

 

By the way, if you’re going to be in NYC in a couple of weeks & are interested in After Effects, you might want to check out the next AENY meeting.  Jim Geduldick writes to say that the June 26th meeting will feature some cool speakers:

 

  • Visual Designer Marc Coleran, whose work has been seen in films like  The Bourne Ultimatum, Domino, Alien vs. Predator, The Bourne Identity, Blade II, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, The World Is Not Enough – just to name a few.
  • Visual effects artist John Montgomery, co-founder of the online visual effects news site fxguide, as well as the training site fxphd. His Clients and Credits include Super Bowl commercials for McDonald’s, Disney as well as work for Budweiser, Miller, Hallmark, Sears, Moen, Gatorade, Morgan Stanley, and the ESPN and CBS television networks.

 

Check out the AENY site for more details.

Technology sneak: Photoshop, AE, Flash

Last Thursday Adobe held a day-long event at which the execs briefed members of the financial community.  A couple of us spear carriers (Steve Heintz, Karl Soule, and I) were recruited to help show off some new technology that’s baking "in the labs" (i.e. none of this stuff is promised for a future version, your mileage my vary, void where prohibited, professional driver on a closed course, etc.).

Check out the Connect webcast to see the goods in action.  (Scrub ahead to 18 minutes or so–about one third of the way through–to catch the demos.)  I show off some new performance tuning in Photoshop by playing with a 650 megapixel image on a Mac Pro.  It’s too bad that the low frame rate of recording hides the fluidity of panning, zooming, and rotating via OpenGL hardware acceleration.  I also demonstrate automated merging of images to extend depth of field, as well as a 360-degree panorama mapped onto an interactive 3D sphere on which I can paint directly.  (Painting directly onto 3D models–mmm, yes.)  Steve demos Adobe’s new "Thermo" RIA design tool while Karl shows off inverse kinematics in Flash and more.

You can check out the rest of the executive presentations & their slides here.

Winners of the $20,000 Adobe design challenge announced

Congratulations to TJ Sochor of 3 Wagons Deep on winning the grand prize in Adobe’s "See What’s Possible" motion graphics contest:

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TJ writes,

The entire animation was done completely with Photoshop and After Effects (with a touch of Illustrator for logo preparation). No 3rd party plug-ins, programs, animation, videos were used; just the tools that ship standard with Adobe software. All photos are original – taken with my Nikon D80 (organized in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom). The music is also original. No 3rd party stuff, well, except for my cheap Yamaha guitar.

Finalists

Participation

  • More than 348 Submissions from over 31 countries with over 1/3 in the last day before the deadline
  • More than half the submissions came from outside the U.S.
  • More than 5,800 registered users who contributed submissions, comments, and votes
  • More than 120,000 unique visitors from over 156 countries around the world

Then, of course, there were a few that remind you that "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro"

Thanks to everyone for the great entries! If you see any that strike you as particularly cool, funny, bizarre, etc., please pass ’em along via the comments.

Skaters in slow-mo, with explosions

Decks & Bombs & Rock n’ Roll: Peep the amazing intro to Lakai’s Fully Flared skateboarding video.  (Okay, no rock here, but the grandiose score & slow motion really do it for me.)  I’d love to see a higher-res version of this clip, but for that apparently you need to buy the DVD. [Via]

In other animation/motion graphics news:

  • Yannick Puig’s I Lived On the Moon is just unreasonably great-looking, loaded with memorable character designs in a melancholy palette.  His site contains a good deal of behind-the-scenes info on how he created storyboards, then used Photoshop, After Effects, and 3ds Max to realize the vision. [Via]  A few of the visuals recall Jamie Caliri’s similarly wonderful Dragon ad for United.
  • On the other end of the tech spectrum is Fantoche, a rather nightmarish stop-motion sequence crawling across a bathroom wall.  [Via Frederick Johnson]  I can’t find much in the way of credits, but I imagine it’s connected to the animation festival of the same name.
  • Hamburg-based Sehsucht has created a hypnotic & painterly animation for the 20 Jahre Auto Trophy. [Via]
  • Toolfarm features an interview with Jim Geduldick of Wonder Pets, discussing his work on that AE-powered show.

Wicked cool: Building a 3D model from video

Here’s something pretty well guaranteed to put a smile on your face, I think: the Australian Centre for Visual Technologies has developed VideoTrace, "a system for interactively generating realistic 3D models of objects from video."  A user sketches a few surfaces, after which the system works to generate 3D data.  The short video demonstration is a little ho-hum until near the middle, which is where the uncontested smiling begins. 😉 [Via]

This demo makes me think of Strata’s Foto 3D, a tool for generating 3D models from within Photoshop, using just a series of photographs.  By placing an object onto a specially printed piece of paper, then shooting it from a variety of angles, you give the software enough info to generate a 3D model that can then live as a 3D layer in Photoshop CS3 Extended.

It also reminds me of Extended’s ability to set 3D planes on a photograph using its Vanishing Point plug-in, then export the results as 3D data for use in After Effects and other tools.  With it you can export an image like this as 3D data, then set camera movement in AE and create an animation like this.

Welcoming a new year with animation & photos

Hey everyone–happy 2008!  May the new year bring you much peace, joy, success, and hilarity.

The madcap, After Effects-wielding Spiridellis brothers at JibJab have created a great animation to ring out ’07.  The look on Steve Jobs’s face is particularly excellent. 🙂

The NYT features a gallery of New Years photos from around the world.  I really like the shot of a sparkler-loving child in Moscow, as well as a slightly surreal shot of the Popemobile at night.

Recent motion graphics goodness

  • The first four minutes of “The Kingdom” fly through “the history of U.S. involvement in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”  You could call this treatment fast food history, but the concluding image is the most indelible rendering of a bar chart I’ve seen.  [Via]
  • For their latest ad Guinness commissioned a huge set of dominoes in an Argentinian mountain village, culminating in cars hitting one another.  Here’s the vid.
  • Post-It’s drop f-bombs in this trailer for Douglas Coupland’s The Gum Thief.  (Books have trailers now?)
  • Things blow up real good in this spot for the Nissan Note.  In a world full of CGI, what look to be good old-fashioned FX can feel pretty refreshing.
  • Adobe’s Dennis Radeke runs The Genesis Project, a blog devoted to sharing examples, info, and tips to get you started in After Effects and other Adobe tools.
  • Microsoft’s Zune Arts project features all kinds of interesting, often incomprehensible animation and design.  Peep “Masks” for a good example. [Via]
  • Here’s a simple but interesting time lapse showing the growth of the NYC subway system. [Via]  If that’s up your alley, see also Transit Maps of the World.
  • The Mac Video Pro hosts an interview with After Effects PM Michael Coleman (blog) discussing his thoughts for the future.  By the way, I’m told that the AE update for Leopard is due extremely soon–maybe by the time you read this.

AE+Scripting: Loveliness

After Effects is known for its crazy-powerful timeline, but lurking below the surface is a great deal of power that’s accessible via scripting.  Manny Tan has taken a break from his usual Flash-based work in order to create a really lovely example of what can be done by driving animation programmatically. [Via Matthew Richmond]

If the prospect of driving AE via code is up your alley, check out AEnhancers.com, a community of people creating expressions, sharing tutorials and presets, and more.  [Via Dennis Radeke, who points out a number of free AE plug-ins]

Use AE+Flash to create interactive video

News about After Effects always proves popular with the Flash crowd that stops by here, so I thought I’d pass along AE Product Manager Michael Coleman’s tips on Creating Interactive Video with After Effects and Flash.  The 40-minute presentation talks about using AE’s motion tracker to generate cue points that tell the SWF what to do, among other things.

Writing this in 2007, I still can’t quite believe that AE’s chocolate is getting into Flash’s peanut butter, so to speak.  Back in 1999, during my previous gig, I started browbeating people at Adobe & Macromedia to make these tools work together, and with CS3 it’s finally happening.  I think this is just the beginning of what AE & Flash will be able to do in tandem.

For more tutorial content on AE, Premiere Pro, Flash, and other timeline-related things, check out Dennis Radeke’s Genesis Project.

Going to MAX? Let's talk Photoshop, AE, Flash…

Greetings from O’Hare, where I find myself en route to this coming week’s Adobe MAX conference in Chicago.  If you plan to attend the show and are interested in talking about the future of Photoshop & how all this stuff fits together, please drop me a line.  In particular, Michael Coleman & the After Effects guys are looking for customers who use AE & Flash together (or who would like to do so).  Drop him a line if you’re interested in that, and hope to see you at the show.

[PS: There will be Birds of a Feather sessions featuring the Photoshop team Monday night. Photoshop is 7:30-8:30.
Suites teams (Design and Web) are 8:30-9:30.  I’m not yet sure about the location(s).]

Make Fireworks in After Effects, Ditch Quark, & more on Design Center

The Adobe Design Center shimmies into some new content:

* New Dialog Box:

* New Tutorials:

* New White Papers:

Also, check out some of the 970+ Adobe links on del.icio.us.  Info on how to contribute links is here.  [Via]

Stop motion, painting with light, & more

*Tangentially related: Last week we had a great visit with the Pixar folks, discussing how they use Photoshop today & how they’d like to see it evolve.  In talking about creating the lifelike rat movements in Ratatouille, they said, "Yeah, it was really tough gluing tiny ping pong balls onto those guys for the motion capture!  We tried marshmallows, but they kept eating ’em…"

Photoshop, AE go to war in "300"

I’ve got movies on the brain, having just returned from a couple days spent with the amazing folks at Disney Feature Animation.  (Seriously, I throw around “great” and “amazing” as much as the next guy, but these artists are laughably talented.  It’s the sort of place where you’ll hear a guy saying, “Well, I’m not a painter…” as you look around and see his lovingly painted artwork on every wall.  I had to interrupt, saying, “Man, maybe you’re not officially ‘that guy’ here, but trust me, you’re *That Guy* everywhere else!”)  I took notes furiously, and maybe at some point I’ll be able to share bits here.  (I just want to make sure that I don’t inadvertently “give up the gag,” as the Disney folks would say.)

In the spirit of peeking behind the scenes, I enjoyed learning on Adobe.com how Photoshop and After Effects were used in the making of 300.  From roughing out storyboards to painting backdrops in Photoshop, “crushing” the colors, adding dust in AE, and compositing layers in HDR, Adobe apps are used throughout the filmmaking process.

The article reminds me of a previous Adobe.com profile, one discussing how Photoshop and AE were used in the making of The Aviator.  Favorite insight:

Scorsese wanted The Aviator’s color palette to reflect the look of movies from the period being portrayed onscreen. Hence, when the action is set in the years 1927-1937, the film emulates Technicolor’s two-color dye transfer; for the period 1937-1947, the film’s look changes to Technicolor’s three-color dye transfer system…

After consulting with one of the oldest color timing experts at Technicolor, Legato was able to “previz” the palettes by scanning black-and-white stills and using Photoshop to digitally overlay cyan, magenta, and yellow filters, digitally emulating historic Technicolor color processes.

Adobe’s own Mike Kanfer won an Oscar for his work on Titanic and is helping keep the ideas flowing back and forth.  We’ll try to gather more info to share soon.

PS–One other cinematic mention: New Yorker/Lightroom PM Tom Hogarty recommends Celluloid Skyline: New York and the Movies. Author/architect/curator
James Sanders gives Photoshop a shout-out for its role in the interactive & documentary efforts.

After Effects CS3 roars on 8-core Mac

"As you know," writes Rob Morgan of benchmarking site Bare Feats, "we’ve been fishing for an application that, by itself, can justify the purchase of an 8-core Mac Pro. I think we have found it: Adobe After Effects CS3."

According to the site, AECS3’s ability to spawn multiple processes & render multiple frames at once is "like creating a ‘render farm’ within a single Mac" and produces some great results: e.g. doing in 35 seconds on an 8-core Mac what a quad-core G5 needed 155 seconds to accomplish.  Bitchin’.  I think that longtime AE interface designer/newly minted AE Product Manager Michael Coleman may have more details to share on his blog soon. Also note that AECS3 is available for download as a public beta via Adobe Labs. [Via Fergus Hammond]

Adobe video apps: Back to the Mac

Excellent news: Last fall’s debut of the cross-platform Adobe Soundbooth beta was a sign of good things to come, and the company has just announced that the next version of the Adobe Production Studio will be available on both Macintosh & Windows. Specifics of features, pricing, and schedule aren’t being discussed right now; rather, this announcement is a heads-up that signals the direction for this tightly integrated suite of products, including a greatly increased commitment to the Mac platform.

After Effects PM Steve Kilisky has posted some background on the history & evolution of platform support in DV apps.  The short story: Adobe Premiere needed a rewrite from the ground up, so the team had to focus its efforts on a single platform, with the hope and intention of returning to the Mac after building momentum on Windows.  That’s exactly what they’re now doing, alongside Encore DVD and Soundbooth.

I know that there’s plenty of really emotional history here, and I’m posting the news just to help spread the word.  I expect that Steve, along with DV PMs Bob Donlon & Hart Shafer, will have more to say via their blogs in the weeks and months ahead.  So, I’ll leave comments open on this post, but it would probably be most useful to channel feedback to those guys directly.

[Update: Macworld has posted news and analysis of this development. I’m really pleased to see all the positive and supportive reader comments. Elsewhere, Orphanage founder Stu Maschwitz posted some brief positive notes about switching from FCP to Premiere. I love the “Voltron” comparison. :-)]

Sweet Flash+After Effects example

The crew at WDDG has declared "Technological & Creative Warfare" on lame online portforlios, kicking out the retro jams with their new company site.  Besides being a great Flash showcase, it represents a great integration of Flash & After Effects.  Company founder James Baker says he was inspired by seeing Dr. Woohoo’s AE->Flash tools, which he then used to link the apps.  He writes, "The jitter is motion-captured from some old footage and looped throughout the site.  I threw a 2-pixel blur on it and a loop of crap over the top, and suddenly crappy JPEGs looked like newsreel footage." And of course the site makes heavy use of color-treated & modified film stock, exported as Flash video (FLV).  Killer all around. [Update: Drew has interviewed James & shares more info about the project.]

(Oh, and don’t forget to take a look behind the scenes at their advanced design process.)

AE+Flash for 3D, more in Design Center

The Adobe Design Center offers a whole pile of new content, as well as new product-specific pages (e.g. Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash, After Effects) that make it easier to find training on particular topics.

New Dialog Box:

New ThinkTank:

New Gallery:

New Tutorials:

[Via]
 

Takagi Masakatsu: Particles & Painting in After Effects

Japanese artist Takagi Masakatsu is a triple threat & then some, setting his paintings in motion to the sound of his original compositions. In this profile on Apple.com, Takagi talks about his creative process & the ways he combines After Effects & Photoshop to create uniquely painterly visuals. [Via] The slippery lines of “Lightpool” (farthest right in the gallery; see also stills) remind me of James Patterson, pumped & shimmering with glows and particles. More pieces are available on his (overloaded) personal site, and the work sets off a debate of the merits of video art on Motionographer.com.

Takagi Masakatsu: Particles & Painting in After Effects

Japanese artist Takagi Masakatsu is a triple threat & then some, setting his paintings in motion to the sound of his original compositions. In this profile on Apple.com, Takagi talks about his creative process & the ways he combines After Effects & Photoshop to create uniquely painterly visuals. [Via] The slippery lines of “Lightpool” (farthest right in the gallery; see also stills) remind me of James Patterson, pumped & shimmering with glows and particles. More pieces are available on his (overloaded) personal site, and the work sets off a debate of the merits of video art on Motionographer.com.

Flash + After Effects text, warping in Photoshop, more

The Adobe Design Center has been updated with a passel of new content:

[Via Jen deHaan]

Smokin' AE particles, complex Flash masks, more in Design Center

The Adobe Design Center offers a trunkful of new content:

New Dialog box:

New Gallery:

New Tutorials:

[Text cheerfully boosted from Jen deHaan]

AE->Flash Part II: Audio Amplitude

Dr. Woohoo is back, introducing After Effects 2 Flash: Audio Amplitude. This new ExtendScript exports the audio analysis data from AE 7.0 as an XML file and uses a component to map it to the Rotation and Scale Matrix transformations in Flash 8. “In other words,” he writes, “it makes objects in Flash dance to the music.” The scripts complement the recently introduced Transform Properties work, and each is on sale for $40. It’s cool work, and seeing it takes me back to a weird & ridiculous example I did, using AE to map audio data to rotation, then exporting XML to LiveMotion be made interactive.

AE->Flash Part II: Audio Amplitude

Dr. Woohoo is back, introducing After Effects 2 Flash: Audio Amplitude. This new ExtendScript exports the audio analysis data from AE 7.0 as an XML file and uses a component to map it to the Rotation and Scale Matrix transformations in Flash 8. “In other words,” he writes, “it makes objects in Flash dance to the music.” The scripts complement the recently introduced Transform Properties work, and each is on sale for $40. It’s cool work, and seeing it takes me back to a weird & ridiculous example I did, using AE to map audio data to rotation, then exporting XML to LiveMotion be made interactive.

Slick After Effects->Flash integration

I’m delighted to see that Drew Trujillo (aka Dr. Woohoo) has released a pair of tools for moving After Effects keyframe data into Flash. Along with a free AE export script, Drew has created After Effects 2 Flash-Transform Properties, a Flash extension that smooths the importing of AE data. You can read more about the tools on his blog. (Note: My role in this is kindly overstated; in fact I just helped people smarter than myself get connected–which, for what it’s worth, is what a lot of product management boils down to.)
This kind of integration is, I think, the start of much great progress to come. Back in 1999, when I first heard that Adobe was thinking of making a Web animation tool, I started lobbying my contacts at Adobe & Macromedia for a “Flash Interchange Format” that would enable Flash, AE, and other applications to exchange data with layers, keyframes, object names, and other data intact. The timing wasn’t right, of course, but now that the companies have come together, the opportunities to collaborate are incredible. Stay tuned, and in the meantime, give these tools a shot.
(More on Drew’s work can be found here.)
[Update: I realized I’d inverted the title. It’s now revised to indicate the direction of integration: AE into Flash.]

Slick After Effects->Flash integration

I’m delighted to see that Drew Trujillo (aka Dr. Woohoo) has released a pair of tools for moving After Effects keyframe data into Flash. Along with a free AE export script, Drew has created After Effects 2 Flash-Transform Properties, a Flash extension that smooths the importing of AE data. You can read more about the tools on his blog. (Note: My role in this is kindly overstated; in fact I just helped people smarter than myself get connected–which, for what it’s worth, is what a lot of product management boils down to.)
This kind of integration is, I think, the start of much great progress to come. Back in 1999, when I first heard that Adobe was thinking of making a Web animation tool, I started lobbying my contacts at Adobe & Macromedia for a “Flash Interchange Format” that would enable Flash, AE, and other applications to exchange data with layers, keyframes, object names, and other data intact. The timing wasn’t right, of course, but now that the companies have come together, the opportunities to collaborate are incredible. Stay tuned, and in the meantime, give these tools a shot.
(More on Drew’s work can be found here.)
[Update: I realized I’d inverted the title. It’s now revised to indicate the direction of integration: AE into Flash.]

Illustrator, Flash, AE, and a bandsaw…

…equals kinetic sculpture. This is one of the coolest customer applications of Adobe tools I’ve seen in a while. Artist David C. Roy builds spring-driven wooden forms that, once given a few cranks by hand, provide hours of hypnotic movement.
Though the techniques page is out of date (is that Illustrator 6 and Extreme 3D??), David reports that he’s been evolving his technique in synch with the software and cutting tools. He writes:

I do all my drawing directly in Illustrator, and as an idea matures I “test” it in After Effects. The direct update link between the programs has been a great boon as I can modify the forms in Illustrator, often using symbols, and get almost immediate feedback on how the piece will look in motion from After Effects. The design of my “Variation” series and my new sculptures Illusion and Spectrum were greatly enhanced by the ability to see motion and quickly change the design.

I use After Effects expressions to simplify setting up the animations. They are nothing elaborate, but they make for far more realistic motions. In the case of the Variation series I use them to keep the orbiting forms counter rotating in time with carrying wheel. In the “bird form” pieces like Migration and Quest I use expressions to keep the bird “level” as the wheels that carry it move at varying speeds. This was very tedious prior to expressions. I’m currently working on a new design where a form that is carried by other counter rotating wheels will pick up a swinging motion but basically stay in a fixed orientation. I was able to add the swinging by simply including a sine function and controlling the amount of swing with a constant.

(this_comp.layer(“back wheel 6 spoke”).rotation+this_comp.layer(“back
carrier”).rotation)*-1 + (Math.sin(time)*60)

The animated simulations can then be exported directly from After Effects to SWF for use on the Web, though David reports he’ll often bring them into Flash or LiveMotion for tuning first. When it’s time to build the pieces in the real world, he converts his Illustrator documents to DXF files using a plug in from BPT-Pro. These files get emailed to a local father/son team who have a large computer-controlled router. These guys convert the DXF files directly to machine code, then send it to the cutter. “It is amazing to watch the machine work,” says David.
It’s likewise amazing to watch an artist and his work grow with the tools. Seeing the technology open doors makes the long hours of development worthwhile. [Thanks to Photoshop engineering director Marc Pawliger, who hangs Tri-Fusion in his home, for the lead.]
[Tangentially related: speaking of computer-assisted woodcutting, Turn Your Head will take a picture of your profile, then use a lathe to render your profile on a wooden dowel. [Via]]

Behind the scenes of United's "Dragon" ad

Man, have you seen that “Dragon” commercial (short film, really) that United Airlines ran during the Superbowl? The gorgeous visuals get all the more impressive when you learn that they were done using stop motion and real paper cutouts. United has posted a behind-the-scenes video showing how director Jamie Caliri and his team drew characters, painted them in Photoshop, animated the pieces by hand, and removed wires and braces in After Effects. It’s really inspiring to see an artistic vision supported, not defined, by the tools & the strengths and limitations of each medium. [Via Kaliber 10000] [Related: more stop-motion links are in this post.]
[Update: Ko Maruyama has posted an in-depth interview with Jamie Caliri that goes into more detail on the tools & techniques that went into the ad.]

Words at Play

Typography + animation come together beautifully in Words At Play, the companion site to Roberto de Vicq de Cumptich & Matteo Bologna’s book of the same name. The project, a “many-splendored, multi-layered typographic tour d’amour,” showcases de Vicq’s typographic portraits of 21 renowned writers (plus Al Capone and Napoleon Bonaparte). After snagging a pair of Webby awards, the site is up for the People’s Choice award at next month’s Flashforward. It’s got my vote.
Words at Play was built by animating type in After Effects, then exporting keyframes to Adobe LiveMotion as XML (.amx). As it happens, I’ve seen speculation recently about Adobe resurrecting LiveMotion. That strikes me as quite unlikely, but there were some cool concepts (e.g. data exchange via XML, animation applied via styles) that I’d love to see revisited.
If you like Words At Play, check out Roberto’s earlier Bembo Zoo, an abecedary featuring animals drawn in letters [Via]. These guys also did a terrific portrait of Adobe co-founder John Warnock, using the Warnock Pro font created in his honor. (Random aside: I also found a portrait of Dr. Warnock rendered in PostScript, the language he invented.)
Tangentially related:

  • I’m captivated by the typographic paintings of Paula Scher [Via]. She discusses her work in the video Adobe commissioned from Hillman Curtis.
  • TYPEDRAWiNG uses Flash to enable drawing with letters.

New Production Studio: After Effects 7, Premiere Pro 2, more

Today Adobe announced the new Production Studio, offering a raft of new capabilities in After Effects 7.0, Premiere Pro 2.0, Audition 2.0, and Encore DVD 2.0. You can see enhancements like the new palette system, increased OpenGL support, Flash video export, Bridge integration, and much more in videos: AE|Premiere|Audition|Encore. [Update: for more on palettes in AE7, see this video from Lynda.com’s new title.] The “Dynamic Link” integration is particularly cool, letting you place an AE composition into Premiere or Encore & have it play back on the fly–no rendering required. To see the tools in person, check out the upcoming seminar tour.
In other After Effects news, Eric Jordan from 2Advanced is soliciting feedback on how to improve AE, especially from a Flash user’s perspective. [Via] Also, AE Product Manager Steve Kilisky expects to join the ranks of Adobe bloggers shortly.

AE + Flash "In the Mod"; Flickeur

Drew Trujillo (aka Dr. Woohoo) has been experimenting with ways to use color, Flash, and After Effects together. His In the Mod color analytics app assesses artwork, then generates XML files for Flash and Processing as well as HSL arrays for AE. Use the “Choose a Palette” button in the upper-left to select a painter & work, then check out the results.
Drew’s brushes.paints.stencils project uses AE & the Sound Keys plug-in to analyze audio data & generate keyframes which are then fed to Flash as XML. He then exports the audio from AE as a Flash FLV file, using that to synch up with animation based on the XML. It’s more fun to see than to read about, so check out examples like Radiohead & the kaleidoscopic collaboration with Mario Klingemann.
On a related note, Mario (who’s also made some Photoshop plug-ins) shows how modern processors & the new blending modes in Flash Player 8 can create rich motion graphics on the fly. He’s created Flickeur, a project that “randomly retrieves images from Flickr.com and creates an infinite film with a style that can vary between stream-of-consciousness, documentary or video clip. All the blends, motions, zooms or timeleaps are completely random. Flickeur works like a looped magnetic tape where incoming images will merge with older materials and be influenced by the older recordings’ magnetic memory.” The app brings in images from Flickr over time, so be patient if it needs a minute or two before it gets interesting.
J.
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Flash + AE video tutorial

A few days ago on the Flashcoders list, some people were discussing ways that Flash and After Effects can be used together. Video support in Flash has opened some cool possibilities, but note that AE also exports Flash SWF files. The newly launched Motion Design Center features a video tutorial on using AE to animate text, then import it into Flash. [Update: In case they’re useful, you can find my old tutorials on AE SWF->Flash (demoing parent-child relationships, text animation, etc.) here.]
Now that the product teams can work together, we have opportunities to take integration to a new level. As we build the roadmap, we’d love to get your feedback on what’s most important.

New plug-ins from Alien Skin, GridIron, Akvis

  • Longtime Photoshop developer Alien Skin has announced Exposure. “Foremost a film simulator,” the plug-in can “quickly and easily evoke the vivid colors of Velvia®, the rich blacks of Kodachrome®, or the sensitivity of Ektachrome®,” as well as facilitate cross processing, push processing, and glamour portrait softening. [Via] I remember talking to the brilliant photo-illustrator Sanjay Kothari about how he’d simulate film stocks and processes. He asked for just this sort of tool.
  • After Effects developer GridIron Software has announced Nucleo, applying the company’s expertise in multi-machine rendering to speeding up single machines with multiple CPUs and/or multi-core processors. Rendering and preview tasks are said to be sped up by as much as 300%. [Via]
  • Akvis has updated its Coloriage plug-in for black and white colorization. The tool also looks interesting for trying out color schemes in a photo, colorizing a hand-drawn sketch, and more; see the tutorials on their site. [Via]

Photoshop, AE in TV production

Photoshop & After Effects get a nice little nod in this Wall Street Journal article on how desktop software is putting special effects within reach of TV shows: “Updated versions of image-editing software such as After Effects and Photoshop, both products of Adobe Systems Inc., have expanded the arsenal of visual effects available to TV show creators.”
We recently toured the sets of a number of shows learning about the big and small ways these apps touch show production (sticking a young Martin Landau’s head into an old wedding photo; shattering some ribs in an X-ray; designing a logo for a character’s cup of coffee; etc.). Too bad Adobe retired the tag line “Everywhere You Look;” I thought it conveyed something interesting (and true).

After Effects.next sneak

At the MAX show last week, Steve Kilisky from the After Effects team demonstrated some new features of an upcoming version of After Effects & how AE video can integrate with content in the new Flash 8 Player. Check out this video to see “a cure for ‘palletosis'” and more. Steve is fourth from the left in the Day Two nav bar [link via Pixelfumes]. For more examples of Flash and After Effects working together, see my earlier post.

Flash + After Effects

I’ve been dying to see After Effects and Flash get together for a long time, having written a bunch of tutorials on the subject back in the day. Until now, however, the process has been powerful but a bit laborious.
With the advent of support for alpha channels in Flash video, however, you can create some slick combos. See The Flash Blog’s examples of AE-made video composited with interactive Flash elements. Groovy.