CAP 151 - Introduction to Computer Animation

Lesson 5 - Type and Music (part 1)


This lesson discusses text and adding music/sound to a project. Objectives important to this part of the lesson:

  1. Creating basic text
  2. Text animators

The lesson discusses adding various forms of text to your comp, using the text capabilities of After Effects. We are told that text can be added as letters, words, lines, and paragraphs. It can be vertical or horizontal. It can follow a path. The text engine of After Effects supports standard publishing features such as justification, tracking, kerning, leading, and baseline shift. These features will be familiar to those who have done desktop publishing or advanced word processing.

On page 107, the text recommends running the Guided Tour video for this lesson. (It comes on the DVD for the book.) We will look at this in class as part of the lesson.

Tutorial Notes and Questions

Work through the exercises and turn in your answers to all questions below as part of the homework for this assignment.

Tutorial 1 (Text Animators):

  1. Before beginning the tutorial, the authors caution us to use a procedure they have already shown us: start with the end result, then animate and modify backward in time. You can argue that this approach could be reversed, working forward in time instead. This is true, but we will follow their advice for now. In this way, you will be unlikely to run out of time getting to the final frame, and you will avoid leaving out any details that are forgotten along the way.
    The tutorial also starts with a plan: we will create a title that will drop into place one character (letter) at a time, and will fade up.
    Open the indicated project file and the first comp. As shown in the video, set the workspace to Text.
  2. With the text workspace selected, you will have a Paragraph panel and a Character panel, both of which are sets of controls for text. They are illustrated on page 108.
    Follow the instructions to clear any existing Paragraph and Character settings. Note that there are two center icons on the paragraph panel. You want the one on the left.
    Question 1: What procedure are you told to use for both panels?
    Set the paragraph alignment to Centered, and click the white swatch on the Character panel to set the character fill color to white.
  3. When the text says to bring a panel forward, it means to select it. Do that with the Composition panel. Follow the instructions, and actually enter the text they suggest, or your exercise won't work to their specifications. Create a new layer in the comp panel with the command Layer, New, Text.
    Type the suggested title. Note that you are in edit mode for the text until you press Enter. (Yes, they want you to press the one on the numeric keypad.)
    Once you have pressed Enter, you will be in layer mode, and can work with the whole layer. Make sure the layer is selected, not just some characters, before you go to the next step.
    You may be aware that the Helvetica font is a font without serifs that is found on all Mac computers. Arial is an equivalent font found on almost all Windows computers. Use Arial.
  4. Open the properties of the text in the Timeline. Open the Text property. Click the special arrow by Animate. Select Position, and you will have a position animator for the text.

    This would be a good time to run the Animator Guided Tour video described on page 111. The instructions are not clear without the visual aid.

  5. Open the Range Selector 1 property. Note that this is the tool that specifies what part of the text will be animated. If you select 25% as the start value, and 75% as the end value, you are telling it to animate half of the text, ignoring the first and fourth quarters. Setting a percentage for each of these properties may not be as useful as dragging the triangle markers in the comp window to set the positions visually.
  6. Step 6 is a little unclear, too. You have x-axis and y-axis values that you can set for the Position property. The authors want to point out that these coordinates are offsets, relative to the original position of the text. What do they mean by original? The position the text is placed in when it is added to the comp. This is confusing because that happens to be the position the text has us place the object in at the end of the animation. The object is in a very different position at the beginning of the animation. This goes back to the authors' theory that we should determine the final position and state of an object first, then do the animation so the object ends up there.
  7. Step 7 takes us to a set of steps we can follow. (The other steps were just to get you ready.)
    If you created an animator in the steps above, delete it so you can start over. Make a new one, as instructed, with Animate, Position.
  8. Move to the start of the comp by pressing the Home key.
    This will seem counter intuitive. Stay with it: click the stopwatch for Range Selector 1. That creates a keyframe. Note that the start value for amount of text selected is 0%. That's what you just saved in the keyframe.
    Scrub the y-axis value as instructed to place the text-object near the top of the comp screen. Note that this is independent of setting the keyframe.
  9. Go to 1 second on the timeline. Set the start value (not the end value) at 100%. You automatically get a new keyframe. Preview. Adjust if necessary, and save your copy of the project.

    To nail it down, the start and end values have nothing to do with time. The are spatial markers, setting what part of the object is selected.
  10. Another unintuitive feature comes next. Press Home, and decide to add more kinds of animation. Do not click Animator again. Instead, click the Add arrow that will be on the same line as Animator 1. Select Rotation. This adds a new animation property to Animator 1.
  11. Change the rotation value as instructed. There is no start or end for this property. Since this is part of the same animator, the same start and end apply to the text-object. Preview the animation again.
  12. The authors stretch our belief for a moment. They don't want the words on the screen at the start of the animation, so they want to make them invisible. (Personally, I think dropping them in from above the screen would be just as good.) As you did in step 10, add an Opacity property to the animator. Set the opacity for the Home position to 0%. Preview and save again.

    Assignment 6: At the end of the tutorial, you are encouraged to add more animations. Try out some of the other options you can add. Assume you did the assignment for a client who was not thrilled by it. Change it to make it your version, and show it to me in class.