What AE’s Still Missing…
...plus where to find it from third-party vendors.
By Chris and Trish Meyer | December 30, 2008
Problem: Text animators in After Effects are fun, powerful and cool. But - why do the results still seem to fall short of what comes out of Apple's Motion or LiveType? Being very text-focused, this is probably one of our biggest complaints about After Effects.
Solution: There are two reasons: Per-character effects, and layering.
A lot of Motion's "look" is the ability to treat each character of a text animation in ways beyond simple scale, rotation, and opacity. After Effects did add per-character blur, but we still don't have per-character glow or shadows. The addition of per-character 3D in After Effects CS3 did, at least, provide a workaround for per-character drop shadows: Enable per-character 3D and Casts Shadows for the text layer, add a 3D light to the scene, then enable the light's Cast Shadows parameter as well, and the characters will now cast shadows upon one another (as well as other 3D layers behind them).
Two welcome enhancements to text in After Effects has been per-character blur (left) and per-character 3D, which enabled per-character drop shadows (right). But we're still not there yet...
Another part of Motion's "look" is that when you animate text in Motion, you're actually animating multiple copies of the text at once: it's fill, it's outline, a glow copy, and a shadow copy. Each of these can be animated per character as text cascades or glides in, and each of these animations may be offset to create some lovely staggered looks - such as the example below (which also contains some of those lovely Motion particles, along with Ultra Water footage from Artbeats). Someday we'll tackle creating an animation preset with expressions to recreate a similar stack in AE...but in the meantime, it's easier to just fire up Motion.
Motion's ability to animate copies of the original text makes it easy to create lovely, echoed effects.
There are other details missing in After Effects, such as the ability to fill text with gradients (no, not the ugly Power Point kind; gradients can also be used to create subtle faux lighting effects and the such). Yes, you can apply gradients using Layer Styles, but if you then use a text animator, the characters will move through the gradient rather than the gradient being attached to each character (this also happens with normal plug-in effects such as Roughen Edges - grrrrrrr...).
Problem: Why, oh why, doesn't After Effects have a 3-way color corrector built in? Virtually every other desktop video application out there does. We get so jealous when a discrete combustion operator pulls up that color correction tab...
Solution: Actually, After Effects does have a 3-way color corrector - it just doesn't look like one. It's the Color Correction > Color Balance effect, which offers individual controls over red, green, and blue in the shadows, midtones, and highlights. Yeah, it would be a lot nicer if these were hooked up to hue wheels rather than sliders...
Stu Maschwitz also developed a nifty animation preset - Rebel CC - as a companion to his DV Rebel's Guide that also gives you significant color correction power using built-in effects...but again, without the nice user interface other programs or dedicated plug-ins have. (By the way, Stu is also The Man behind the very popular commercial color correction plug-ins from Red Giant Software, Magic Bullet Colorista and Magic Bullet Looks.)
Did you know that Adobe Premiere has a 3-way color corrector? And that you can import a Premiere timeline into After Effects? This provides a back-door way to get a 3-way color correction plug-in into AE (click here to download an animation preset for it). Alas, the nice user interface in Premiere disappears once inside AE, as shown below:
Unfortunately, Premiere's 3-way color corrector (left) loses its graphical user interface elements once imported into After Effects (above).
All of these ignore the 800 pound gorilla on your installer disk: Synthetic Aperture Color Finesse, which comes free with After Effects. This is a powerful, top-shelf color corrector that few realize they already own. Intimidated by its user interface? Click here to download a PDF tutorial with practice source file we wrote for Arbeats.com on getting started in Color Finesse.
Ah, that's more like it: Synthetic Aperture Color Finesse, free in every box of After Effects.
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