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by Chris and Trish Meyer

Chris & Trish Meyer founded Crish Design (formerly known as CyberMotion) in the very earliest days of the desktop motion graphics industry. Their design and animation work has appeared on shows and promos for CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, HBO, PBS, and TLC; in opening titles for several movies including Cold Mountain and The Talented Mr. Ripley; at trade shows and press events for corporate clients ranging from Apple to Xerox; and in special venues encompassing IMAX, CircleVision, the NBC AstroVision sign in Times Square, and the four-block-long Fremont...

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Camera Control, Part 1: Auto-Orient & Orbit

Some basic 3D camera control tricks in Adobe After Effects.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | January 09, 2006

One of the most daunting obstacles for motion graphics artists making the transition from 2D to 3D is animating the camera. In this month's column, we'll give a quick review of the two basic camera types you can animate in After Effects, plus reveal the easy-to-miss Auto-Orient Along Path option. Then we'll show you how to build a simple "camera rig" for performing perfect camera orbit and spiral moves. In the next column, we will discuss approaches to building a more complex rig that allows the user to animate each axis independently, and show how this has been made much easier in After Effects 7.0 with a special Animation Preset plus the introduction of a new Graph Editor. Read More

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Map Exploration

Exploring ways to direct a viewer around a map using effects, text animators, and other tricks using Adobe After Effects.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | November 08, 2005

A common task is navigating around a map-like image. In this column, we'll discuss three different approaches to this challenge: stroking a line, animating text elements along a path, and auto-orienting an object of your choosing along a path. These techniques use features that are spread around Adobe After Effects. Our goal is to pull them together for you, and show the different approaches and options. We'll be assuming a basic working knowledge of the program; you can also download and explore our final After Effects project (created for AE 6.5 and later) by clicking here (12.5 MB .zip file). Movies of the three techniques are included with the download. Read More

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The Hi-Def Checklist

Questions to ask and issues to consider when you tackle a high-definition graphics job.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | September 16, 2005

The darker areas to the left and right of these images show what happens when a 16:9 image is "center cut" to create a 4:3 version. Make sure information such as lower thirds survive this cut. Image courtesy Belief and HGTV.

Many motion graphics artists are tackling their first high-definition jobs. In some respects, hi-def is just like normal video; only larger. However, hi-def also comes with a number of issues which can throw some major curves at you. As with all problems in waiting, it's best to solve them before you start, rather than when you think you're almost finished. Here are a series of questions you need to ask, and what the implications are - both technical and artistic - of the answers you may get. Read More

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Visual Rhythm, Part 2: Motion & Cinema Tricks

Tricks in Motion and Cinema 4D for coordinating multiple, duplicate objects.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | August 01, 2005

In the previous column, we detailed a number of techniques for animating multiple layers in Adobe After Effects. In this column, we turn our attention to Apple's Motion and Maxon's Cinema 4D. Read More

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Visual Rhythm, Part 1: After Effects Tricks

Techniques for easily creating and coordinating multiple objects.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | July 05, 2005

Rhythm - repetition, with variation - is the backbone of many pieces of fine art, as well as motion graphic designs. However, it can be tedious to create and animate hordes of layers - and tedium is not a ticket to inspiration. In the next two columns, we'll discuss approaches to more easily creating visual rhythm. In this column we'll start with techniques that can be executed inside Adobe After Effects; in the next column we'll discuss alternate tools such as Apple Motion and Maxon Cinema 4D. Read More

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Motion + MIDI

Adding a new level of control to crafting motion graphics.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | July 01, 2005

An intriguing feature introduced in version 2 of Apple's Motion Apple's Motion is the ability to control it via MIDI: the Musical Instrument Digital Interface. This allows users to choose among a wide variety of third-party input devices to edit parameters in Motion - such as scale, opacity, rotation, or most effect parameters - either while parked on a still frame, or while previewing in real time. The user's gestures can also be recorded in real time, allowing you to "perform" parameter edits, reacting to the video or soundtrack. This capability has also caught the attention of the VJ (video jockey) market, giving them another tool to perform video transformations in real time. Read More

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The Almost Perfect Font

The Almost Perfect Font

What to do when the client loves your font choice, but asks could you just change one character?

By Chris and Trish Meyer | April 06, 2005

The LoveLetter Typewriter font had a few characters that were difficult to read (top line) until they were modified (lower line).

When planning a new project, the font you choose can lift a design to a new level, or add an all-important attitude. So when you've spent hours picking a font that the client agrees is "just perfect," panic can set in when they object to a couple of characters as being too weird or difficult to read. The more high profile the job, the fussier the client will be; after all, if they've paid millions to open their movie with the name "Zellweger," the Z better look good! Rather than picking a different font and possibly disrupting the schedule, an hour spent editing the troublesome characters can save the day. Read More

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Straight Advice on Loop-Based Music

Tips on creating better scores with loop-based composition software.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | December 20, 2004

For many years now, artists have been creating music using loops - musical phrases that can be repeated or strung together as building blocks of a song. This technique opened music creation to a large number of artists who may not be musicians themselves, but who had strong musical ideas: they could arrange these blocks into new compositions of their own without having to play all the instruments. We're not talking just hip-hop or dance music, or phrases "sampled" from other songs; this movement is supported by literally hundreds of fully-legal copyright-clean dedicated loop libraries available from musicians and producers in every genre you can imagine. Read More

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A Different Light: Gamma-Corrected Compositing

A simple introduction to gamma-corrected compositing.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | November 30, 2004

The image on the left is a normal computer crossfade; the image on the right uses linear blending - note how the bright areas are emphasized. Footage courtesy Artbeats.

Most of us have been navigating the waters of computer graphics with the assumption that the world is flat. And it's remarkable how well we've done with this fundamentally flawed assumption. However, some of you may have heard whisperings that the world is actually round - often couched in terms of how important it is to understand the subject of gamma, and to composite within a "linear light" model. Read More

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An Old Friend Returns: CC Effects

The Cycore CC effects that come bundled free with After Effects are an evolution of one of the original plug-in sets for AE.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | September 03, 2004

One of the stars of the Cycore FX set is CC Particle World, a 3D particle system that includes features such as bouncing off an imaginary floor.

When you install Adobe After Effects 6.5 or later, it's easy to miss all the goodies it comes bundled with, such as Color Finesse from Synthetic Aperture and the world-class keyer Keylight from The Foundry. But the inner child in many of us is perhaps most excited by the inclusion of Cycore FX. Read More

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Managing Moving Masks

Bringing some predictability and control to animating Mask Shapes in After Effects.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | November 05, 2003

In After Effects, each mask vertex (the yellow squares) interpolates in a straight line from old to new positions. The red lines illustrate some of these paths. The First Vertex is the largest box - in this case, the one in the upper left corner of the M and I.

Masking is one of the core features of After Effects. Most know how to create and edit Mask Shapes; fewer how to control the way these shapes animate - which is important, especially with the popularity of creating cel or Flash type animations these days.After Effects can seem to have a twisted mind of its own when interpolating between two different Mask Shapes. In reality, it has a very narrow, simple mind. However, there are some tricks you can employ to coax it down a path closer to the one you want. When you need even more precise control, you can employ the Smart Mask Interpolation keyframe assistant, included in the Professional edition of After Effects (including CS3 Professional). Read More

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A Track of the Clones

A Track of the Clones

Combining the enhanced tracking and cloning features in After Effects.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | September 05, 2003

One of the most significant but underused sections of After Effects has to be its vector-based painting engine, introduced back in version 6. One of the capabilities of this engine is the ability to clone one area of a piece of footage onto another area, including cloning from different points in time. As sexy as that sounds, in the real world cloning can quickly become tedious, especially when the object you are trying to replicate (or eliminate) is moving. Fortunately, other features in After Effects - including Expressions and its Motion Tracker - can greatly ease the pain. In this column, we'll walk through such a task. These same general techniques can probably be applied to other compositing/motion graphics programs as well. Read More

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Between Dimensions: 3D Into AE

Transfer camera data from a 3D application into After Effects to better integrate graphical elements.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | July 28, 2003

The logo was rendered in a 3D program; the walls were created in After Effects. Both use the same camera data, so their perspective shifts match as the camera moves.

Many 3D artists use After Effects as a finishing tool: tweaking colors, improving the composite, and blending other layers such as greenscreen footage into the final scene, with the goal of creating a realistic image. By contrast, our primary focus is creating abstract motion graphics, so for us the tables are turned: We use 3D programs (most often Maxon Cinema 4D plus Zaxwerks Invigorator and ProAnimator) almost as utilities, to create elements to integrate into our purely graphical worlds.In the old days, this process was somewhat separated, limiting what we could do: For example, a dramatic camera move in 3D would often look silly composited over a stationary 2D scene unless you did a lot of work to approximate the shifts in perspective. However, ever since After Effects gained its own concept of 3D space back in version 5, it has become much easier to tie these two worlds together, keeping the same shifts in perspective for both 3D and After Effects elements. For example, we might create, texture, and animate a logo in 3D, and then composite other 2D elements around it in After Effects. Read More

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More Motion, Less Control

More Motion, Less Control

For more realistic camera moves, try introducing some imperfections.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | December 17, 2002

Most of you are probably familiar with the concept of using a camera to pan and zoom around still images. Popularized by Ken Burns in his documentary on the Civil War, it is a great trick for any occasion when you don't have moving video for a scene. You can simulate this by simply animating the position of a still image in virtually any compositing or video editing program. However, there are a number of refinements that can make your life easier, and the end result more realistic. Read More

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Pulse Rays

How to make light ray effects even cooler.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | November 28, 2002

Light ray treatments, where streaks of color extend from type, a logo, or image, are popping up everywhere these days. But you've no doubt heard the saying "familiarity breeds contempt" - and we have to admit, many of those treatments are starting to look a bit...familiar.

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Gobos and Gels

Gobos and Gels

To project interesting lights, you have to cast interesting shadows.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | November 06, 2002

Finishing our tour of 3D lighting in After Effects, we'll discuss gobos and gels. For those new to lighting, a gobo is an opaque object that blocks off some of the rays cast by a light, either to more carefully control where they fall, or to give the impression of light streaming through an object such as a window blind or the leaves of a tree. A gel is a translucent object placed in front of a light, which colorizes the rays cast by it. It is generally a solid color, but can be a graphic. Here are a few different approaches to replicating these inside After Effects. Read More

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Lurking in the Shadows

Managing shadows in After Effects requires tweaking both the settings and relative positions of layers and lights.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | October 03, 2002

The second stop in our overview of 3D lighting in After Effects is the subject of shadows. In the Dark Ages (before version 5, when After Effects got 3D), in order to fake the all-important perspective clue of one layer darkening another layer behind it, we needed to use plug-ins such as the stock Drop Shadow effect, Real Shadows from Red Giant Software's Image Lounge, and CC Radial Shadow (formerly part of Cycore Cult FX; now included with After Effects). With the introduction of 3D space in After Effects back in version 5, the correct casting of shadows between layers became somewhat "automatic" - as long as you know how to set it up. Read More

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Blinded by the Light

3D lighting in After Effects can be powerful, subtle…and confusing.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | September 02, 2002

The 3D implementation in After Effects is very flexible. You can selectively place some layers in 3D space, and leave others in normal 2D. If you don't create a camera, the composition reverts to a default camera. If you do create a camera to fly around your 3D layers, you don't need to create lights - by default, the layers keep their original colors, as if perfectly illuminated. Or, you can add 3D lights to your composition.Lighting is probably the most subtle and powerful aspect of 3D in After Effects, as it can create wonderfully moody shifts in brightness and color, as well as "automatic" shadows without needing to tweak Drop Shadow effects for each layer. Lighting is also probably the least understood aspect of 3D in After Effects. Therefore, we're going to spend the next few columns discussing lighting tips and tricks, starting this column with the basics: the differences between - and uses of - diffuse, specular, and ambient lighting effects. Read More

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Mangling Music Masterfully

Going beyond the basics in editing music.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | December 18, 2001

If you are fortunate enough to have music custom-composed for all of your visual work, this article is not for you. However, if you are regularly handed music you have to make work underneath your visuals, and that music is not exactly the length you need, read on. We'll discuss how to find the best places to slice it, whether you are trying to reduce its length or need to repeat a section to make it longer. We'll then show how to cover your edit points and introduce variations. This will help you create your own custom version of the track, better suited to your needs. Click here to download source and project files you can use to follow along. Read More

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Making 3D Effects Behave Like 3D

Making 3D Effects Behave Like 3D

Making older 3D plug-ins follow 3D cameras in After Effects.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | November 05, 2001

Expressions can make "fake" 3D plug-ins such as CC Sphere track After Effects' 3D cameras.

After Effects is, at heart, a 2D program: All layers have no thickness. You can arrange them in 3D space, illuminate them with 3D lights, and fly around them with 3D cameras, but if you view the layers on-edge, you will still see that they have no thickness.A number of clever plug-in effects work around this by taking an image and the camera, rendering what it would look like if it actually had depth (such as extruded text, or an image wrapped around a sphere), and then render the result back to a flat 2D layer. Although a great stride trick, there are some limitations. Read More

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