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Color Wheel

Manipulating shapes and colors using expressions

Download the After Effects project with the code!

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color wheel article

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Introduction

As an exercise to practice our expression coding skills, we would like to create a color wheel using a single shape layer and expressions. The wheel should be made with colored arcs of varying hue, saturation and lightness. We want 4 levels of tint and 12 arcs per level (subdivisions). The following figure shows the different parts of the wheel and the notation we’ll use in the expressions:

Structure of the wheel

Constructing The Base Arc

We want to create an initial arc, add expressions to it, and then duplicate that arc to construct the entire wheel. The setup consists of a shape group containing a trimmed stroked ellipse:

Setup for the base arc

Since the wheel is made of concentric circles, the size of each circle depends on the level. We apply the following expression to the ellipse size:

subdivs = 12;
idx = parseInt(thisProperty.propertyGroup(3).name.split(" ")[1]) - 1;
levelIdx = Math.floor(idx / subdivs);
strokeW = content("Arc " + (idx + 1)).content("Stroke 1").strokeWidth;
diam = 0.8 * thisComp.height - levelIdx * 2 * strokeW;
[diam,diam];

We add the following expression to the start property of the Trim Paths effector:

subdivs = 12;
idx = parseInt(thisProperty.propertyGroup(3).name.split(" ")[1]) - 1;
arcIdx = idx % subdivs;
arcIdx * (100 / subdivs);

The expression is the same for the end property, except the last line:

...
(arcIdx + 1) * (100 / subdivs);

The stroke width is set to 10% of the comp height:

0.1 * thisComp.height;

And finally we apply the following expression to the stroke color:

subdivs = 12;
numLevels = 4;
idx = parseInt(thisProperty.propertyGroup(3).name.split(" ")[1]) - 1;
levelIdx = Math.floor(idx / subdivs);
arcIdx = idx % subdivs;
h = arcIdx / subdivs; // hue
s = 1 - levelIdx / numLevels; // saturation (from high to low)
l = linear(levelIdx, 0, numLevels-1, 0.5, 0.3); // lightness (remap range)
a = 1; // alpha (doesn't affect the result here)
hslToRgb([h,s,l,a]);

This should produce something like this:

Structure of the wheel

Duplicating The Base Arc

Quite a lot of code for drawing a simple arc, but now comes the fun part. We simply press Ctrl+D (Cmd+D on Mac) to duplicate the base arc until the wheel is complete:

Duplicating the base arc

When the number of arcs reaches 48 (i.e., 4 x 12), the wheel is complete:ession to the ellipse size:

The complete wheel

Reveal Animation

As a bonus we would like to animate the construction of the wheel. To this end, we add a second Trim Paths effector to the base arc (don’t forget to remove every other arc):

Adding a second trim to the base arc

We add the following trim end expression to sequentially reveal the arcs with a short delay:

arcRevealDur = 8; // duration in frames
delay = 2; // delay in frames
subdivs = 12;
numLevels = 4;
totalArcs = numLevels * subdivs;
idx = parseInt(thisProperty.propertyGroup(3).name.split(" ")[1]) - 1;
startT = idx * delay * thisComp.frameDuration;
endT = startT + arcRevealDur * thisComp.frameDuration;
linear(time, startT, endT, 0, 100);

The expression is the same for the out tangent except the vector points in the opposite direction:

Revealing the wheel

Conclusion

Through this little exercise we have seen how we can manipulate shapes and colors using simple expressions. Hope you find it useful!

You can also check ConnectLayers PRO, a tool that create lines that are dynamically linked to the layers using powerful path expressions. No keyframes at all!

Newton 3 reviewed by Rocketstock

Here’s a review of Newton 3 by Lewis McGregor

He’s conclusion:

To some extent, Newton 3 reminds me of an open-world video game where the player’s choices can alter what will happen at any given time. While there’s usually a direct start and endpoint for many effects within After Effects, with Newton 3, you can obtain a new result, and thus a new animation, on an infinite scale. I don’t try to be stubborn with my reviews, but I most definitely won’t gloss over the downfalls of a product.

But with Newton 3? I’m just not seeing it. To import several shapes, apply real-world physic simulations with a click of a button, and then render them within a few seconds is a game changer for me. I can’t picture when I wouldn’t use this plugin for most future animations. I’ve had Newton bookmarked for so long that the original bookmark refers to the older version of the plugin. I can only wonder how great my previous videos could have been if I had purchased the plugin sooner.

You can read the full review here: https://www.rocketstock.com/blog/newton-3-ultimate-ae-plugin-review/

Lewis also did a great tutorial: “10 Minute Crash Course: Newton 3 After Effects Plugin” of Premiumbeat.

3D Projection

Creating and projecting a 3D cube onto a shape layer using expressions

Introduction

In this exercise we would like to create a 3D spinning cube and project it onto a 2D plane. All of that using a single shape layer and expressions.

This is a port of Daniel Shiffman’s Coding Challenge #112 (code for Processing).

Download the After Effects project with the code!

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3D projection

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Setup

We want to draw the cube vertices with filled ellipses, and connect them with thin stroked lines. We would like to create a single point, apply an expression to its position, and then duplicate that point to create the other points. Once all points are created, we will draw the edges.

Creating the first vertex

Math Utils

Manipulating 3D vectors (rotation, projection) is easier with matrices. Since there aren’t any built-in matrix utilities in the expression language, we must create our own. To avoid having a too long expression, we decide to put our matrix code in an external js file (e.g., “matrix.js”). This file can be imported into our our expression at runtime.

We only need basic stuff here: multiply a matrix and a vector, multiply two matrices… Here is our matrix library:

function vecToMatrix(v)
{
   var m = [];
   for (var i = 0; i < 3; i++)
   {
      m[i] = [];
   }
   m[0][0] = v[0];
   m[1][0] = v[1];
   m[2][0] = v[2];
   return m;
}

function matrixToVec(m)
{
   return [m[0][0], m[1][0], m.length > 2 ? m[2][0] : 0];
}

function matMatMul(a, b)
{
   var colsA = a[0].length;
   var rowsA = a.length;
   var colsB = b[0].length;
   var rowsB = b.length;
   var result = [];
   for (var j = 0; j < rowsA; j++)
   {
      result[j] = [];
      for (var i = 0; i < colsB; i++)
      {
         var sum = 0;
         for (var n = 0; n < colsA; n++)
         {
            sum += a[j][n] * b[n][i];
         }
         result[j][i] = sum;
      }
   }
   return result;
}

function matVecMul(a, v)
{
   var m = vecToMatrix(v);
   var r = matMatMul(a, m);
   return matrixToVec(r);
}

Creating The Vertices

First we need to import the matrix lib (“matrix.js”) into our ellipse position expression. This is done with the following line of code:

$.evalFile("F:/Documents/JSX/matrix.js");

Then we set some design variables and retrieve the index of the cube vertex:

r = 200; // cube size
distance = 2; // affects perspective
rotSpeed = 0.06; // in radians per frame

idx = parseInt(thisProperty.propertyGroup(3).name.split(" ")[1]) - 1;

We need to determine the location of each vertex from its index. To do that we can use the following formula (taken from math.stackexchange):

p = []; // 3D vertex position at start
bs = [];
for (i = 0; i < 3; i++)
{
	bs[i] = (idx >> i) & 1;
	p[i] = 0.5 * Math.pow(-1, bs[i]);
}

Note that the above formula will position the vertices in the following order (front face: 1-2-4-3, back face: 5-6-8-7):

Traveling along the path

Now that we have found the 3D starting position of the vertices, we can dive into the main part of this exercise. We basically loop through every previous frame, setup rotation matrices based on the current angle, apply 3 successive rotations (around Y, X, and Z axis), and finally project the 3D vertex to find its 2D position inside the shape layer. Here is the beast:

angle = 0;
for (t = 0; t <= time; t += thisComp.frameDuration)
{
	// rotation matrices (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rotation_matrix#Basic_rotations)
	rxMatrix = [[1,0,0], [0,Math.cos(angle),-Math.sin(angle)], [0,Math.sin(angle),Math.cos(angle)]];
	ryMatrix = [[Math.cos(angle),0,-Math.sin(angle)], [0,1,0], [Math.sin(angle),0,Math.cos(angle)]];
	rzMatrix = [[Math.cos(angle),-Math.sin(angle),0], [Math.sin(angle),Math.cos(angle),0], [0,0,1]];

	// do rotations (the order matters, here we chose it arbitrarily)
	p3d = matVecMul(ryMatrix, p);
	p3d = matVecMul(rxMatrix, p3d);
	p3d = matVecMul(rzMatrix, p3d);

	// increase rotation angle
	angle += rotSpeed;
}
// handle perspective
z = 1 / (distance - p3d[2]);

// project 3D point
projectionMatrix = [[z, 0, 0], [0, z, 0]];
p2d = matVecMul(projectionMatrix, p3d);

// scale result
mul(p2d, r);

To create the cube vertices we just need to duplicate the first Ellipse group 7 times.

Duplicating the first vertex

We obtain the following animation:

Animating the vertices

Great, our calculations seem correct. Now we need to connect those dots to finish the cube.

Creating The Edges

Since we cannot connect all vertices with a single path, we need to create multiple connecting lines. We want these lines to be constructed from the same unique expression, and control the connected vertices by specifying their indices in the shape’s group name.

Here is the first connecting path which connects the first four vertices (i.e., the front face):

Creating the first connecting path
Edges of the front face

We apply the following expression to the path property of the connection:

indices = thisProperty.propertyGroup(3).name.split("Connection ")[1].split(" ");
pts = [];
for (i = 0; i < indices.length; i++)
{
	idx = indices[i];
	pt = content("Ellipse " + idx).content("Ellipse Path 1").position;
	pts.push(pt);
}
createPath(pts, [], [], false);

For creating every other connection we duplicate the first connection and rename it with the appropriate indices list for that connection. The final timeline looks like this:

Final timeline

It’s time to press the 0 key on the numpad to preview the final animation.

Spinning cube projected onto a shape layer

Conclusion

In this exercise we have shown how to project a 3D object onto a 2D plane using expressions. We have created our own matrix library to facilitate 3D calculations, and imported it into our expression. We used it to setup and manipulate rotation and projection matrices. Hope you find it useful!

You can also check ConnectLayers PRO, a tool that create lines that are dynamically linked to the layers using powerful path expressions. No keyframes at all!

Path Anatomy

Manipulating and visualizing path properties using expression

NOTE: AE CC 2017 or later is required

Download the After Effects project with the code!

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Path Anathomy

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Initial Path

We first create a simple path animation using a shape layer. This will serve as a base path for our exercise. The position of the shape layer has been set to 0,0 in order to simplify our expressions.

Arbitrary initial path

The timeline looks like this:

Initial timeline

Recreating the path

We would like to recreate the initial path using a path expression applied to a new shape layer. This is done with the following expression:

myPath = thisComp.layer("Shape Layer 1").content("Shape 1").content("Path 1").path;
pts = myPath.points();
inTans = myPath.inTangents();
outTans = myPath.outTangents();
closed = myPath.isClosed();
createPath(pts, inTans, outTans, closed);

The initial path was using Fill only, so we use Stroke only for the replicated path. We also set the layer’s position to 0,0. The timeline looks like this:

Recreating the path using expression
The new path (black stroke) exactly matches the initial path (blue fill)

Traveling Along The Path

We would like to create a dot that travels along the path. We want the animation to span the entire comp duration: the dot should start its journey at t=0, and it should reach the end of the path at the end of the comp.

The dot is represented as a small filled and stroked ellipse:

Traveling along the path

We use the following ellipse position expression to make the dot traveling along the path:

myPath = content("Create Path").content("Path 1").path;
animDur = thisComp.duration;
travelProgress = time / animDur;
pt = myPath.pointOnPath(travelProgress);
Point on path

Visualizing Tangent Along The Path

We would like to visualize the tangent vector at the traveling point. To this end, we add two new shape groups for the in and out tangents:

Creating shapes for the in and out tangents

We add the following path expression to create the in tangent vector as a simple straight line of given length:

myPath = content("Create Path").content("Path 1").path;
animDur = thisComp.duration;
tgLen = 60; // length of in tangent in px
travelProgress = time / animDur;
pt = myPath.pointOnPath(travelProgress);
tg = myPath.tangentOnPath(travelProgress);
inTanPt = pt - tg * tgLen;
verts = [pt, inTanPt];
createPath(verts, [], [], false);

The expression is the same for the out tangent except the vector points in the opposite direction:

...
outTanPt = pt + tg * tgLen;
verts = [pt, outTanPt];
...
Visualizing the tangent along the path

Visualizing Normal Along The Path

To finish our exercise we would like to visualize the normal vector at the traveling point. We first add a new shape group:

Creating shape for the normal

Then we apply the following path expression:

myPath = content("Create Path").content("Path 1").path;
animDur = thisComp.duration;
nrmLen = 35; // length of normal in px
travelProgress = time / animDur;
pt = myPath.pointOnPath(travelProgress);
nrm = myPath.normalOnPath(travelProgress);
nrmPt = pt + nrm * nrmLen;
verts = [pt, nrmPt];
createPath(verts, [], [], false);
Visualizing the normal along the path

Conclusion

Through this little exercise we have seen all path properties available in expression. We were able to create a path by specifying its vertices and tangents, and were able to visualize tangent and normal vectors of a point traveling along the path. Hope you find it useful!

You can also check ConnectLayers PRO, a tool that create lines that are dynamically linked to the layers using powerful path expressions. No keyframes at all!

Trim Path Tricks

Attaching a layer to the end of a path using expression

NOTE: AE CC 2017 or later is required

Download the After Effects project with the code!

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trim path trick

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Start Simple

We first create a simple horizontal path using a shape layer. We make sure to set the layer’s position to 0,0 so the coordinates of the vertices will correspond to points in comp space (this will simplify a little bit our expression).

Start with a simple horizontal line

Then we add a Trim effector and create two keyframes to animate the end of the path from 0% to 100%. For the second key, we apply an Easy Ease In and multiply the influence of the incoming velocity by two (i.e., from 33.33% to 66.66%).

Now we create the layer we would like to attach to the end of the path. We make sure its position corresponds to the center of the comp (the default value) and its anchor point is located at the left hand side of the layer.

The layer to be attached to the path

The timeline looks like this:

Simple setup

To attach the layer to the path, we need to find the location (in comp space) of the end point of the path. This is done with the following position expression:

shapeGroup = thisComp.layer("Path Layer").content("Shape 1");
myPath = shapeGroup.content("Path 1").path;
trimEnd = shapeGroup.content("Trim Paths 1").end / 100;
endPt = myPath.pointOnPath(trimEnd);
The origin of the layer is “pushed” by the end of the path

Add Salt

Let’s see if we can add a small gap between the end of the path and the attached layer. Since our path is a straight horizontal line, we only need to shift the layer to the right along the x-axis. We add the following code to the previous expression:

...
gap = 15; // distance in px between the path and the layer
endPt + [gap,0];
Adding space bewteen the end of the path and the layer

Add Pepper

Now we would like to try with a more complex path, say an arbitrary Bezier path. Note that the end vertex has a non-zero tangent vector.

A more complex path

The code for the gap must be changed to take into account the direction pointed by the path (i.e., the tangent vector at the end of the path):

...
gap = 15; // distance in px between the path and the layer
tg = myPath.tangentOnPath(trimEnd);
endPt + gap * tg;
Adjusting the gap code

Add Cayenne Pepper

Now we would like to rotate the layer so it’s oriented along the path. To this end, we could use the corresponding built-in feature in AE:

Built-in auto-orientation along the path

Not that bad, but notice how the layer suddenly changes its orientation at the end of the animation. So let’s try to orient the layer using the following rotation expression (don’t forget to turn Auto-orient off before applying the expression):

shapeGroup = thisComp.layer("Path Layer").content("Shape 1");
myPath = shapeGroup.content("Path 1").path;
trimEnd = shapeGroup.content("Trim Paths 1").end / 100;
tg = myPath.tangentOnPath(trimEnd);
a = Math.atan2(tg[1],tg[0]);
radiansToDegrees(a);
Custom auto-orientation along the path

Great, the orientation looks correct now.

Cake For Dessert

For better control we could precompose our layer and make some design changes in the precomp. We don’t want the (precomp) layer to overlap the end of the path so we position the content of the precomp at the center of the precomp, and left-align the content since our path animation goes from left to right.

Working with a precomp
Using a precomp provides more control

Conclusion

We have shown how to attach a layer to the end of a path using simple expressions. Hope you find it useful!

If not, you can use or tool Connect Layers Pro to add arrow heads to your path!

A Newton mini tutorial by Joyce N. Ho

Joyce N. Ho is a Hong Kong born, Australian designer, based in New York City.

In 2019 she designed an  animated poster for San Francisco Design Week using Newton

Here’s the final video:

“I created a motion poster for @sfdesignweek this year, on the theme of “CommUNITY”. My design is inspired from the idea that we come together to comfort, collaborate and communicate with each other – to be part of something bigger than ourselves.

And she also created the very interesting Newton mini tutorial to reveal the technical process behind the animated poster!

As an example, she create a null object that will control the gravity with random values inside Newton!
She also used the magnet system and different simulations assemble in a final composition.

Very interesting!

Thank you Joyce!

Want to ask something? Contact us!

apply a mask on an Illustrator layer in After Effects

Dealing with Illustrator files and shape layers in Newton

You may know that you can use Adobe Illustrator files with Newton for Adobe After Effects. You can do this by using different techniques like converting them into shape layers.

It’s important to know that the more your objects are complex, the slower your simulation will be.
Also, you won’t get better results if you use complex objects in your simulation. And by complex, we mean plenty of path vertices and detailed Bezier curves.

So, what are the best practices?

Use a mask

 

You can apply a mask to your Illustrator layer so Newton can interpret its outline correctly.
You can also use the auto-trace function of Adobe After Effects.
If you copy/paste the path from Illustrator, you should use before the “Simplify” and “Cleanup” function in Illustrator to have the most optimized shape.

Note that here, what’s inside the robot has been removed since we don’t need it for the simulation. The mask only cover the outline of the artwork.

apply a mask on an Illustrator layer in After Effects

Converting your Ai files to shape layers

 

You can convert your Ai file to shape layers.
But be sure to ONLY send to Newton what’s needed. You can simply hide the path or the groups that you don’t want to use in Newton and unhide them after the simulation is complete.
In this example, mouth and eyes are not needed for the simulation and will be unhidden after the simulation is complete.

Also, always try to simplify the transformation applied to your shapes. In most cases it is recommended to have the inner transform  of a shape (transform properties of groups for example) set to the default values and use layer’s transform instead.

Watch for self-intersecting shapes!

 

Newton prevents to load shapes and masks that have self-intersecting path or orphan vertex. It will warn you if one of the paths cannot be correctly interpreted. You’ll then have to manually modify it.
Be careful when working with paths created using tools like the cutter tool in Ai!

Creating proxy version
of your objects

 

Best pratice to use complex Ai vectors is to replace them by a less complex version of them and simply parent them to the original ones.
Just like in this breakdown.

Need more tips and tutorials?
Check our Learn page!

Color Wheel

Manipulating shapes and colors using expressions

3D Projection

Creating and projecting a 3D cube onto a shape layer using expressions

Tutorial: Textless effect

A tutorial to achieve the amazing effect where the content of a sign is falling drove by physics.

Newton2 and macOS 10.5 Catalina fix

So, you have upgraded to the last version of macOS 10.5 Catalina. But suddenly when you launch After Effects you get that message that tells you that you cannot run Newton.

Now, the bad news:  support has been dropped for Newton2.
The good news, you can still use it with macOS 10.5 Catalina, here’s how!

→You can use aescripts manager to install it and register

→Or you can go to your security preferences into macOS to allow Newton2 to run it (more info here):

– You have to launch Adobe After Effects and macOS will say that Newton2 is not signed.
-Click cancel
-Go to your security preference.
-MacOS will ask you if you want to run Newton2.
-Click Open Anyway

Fixed!

Note that if you have the same message with Newton3, you just need to download and update to the last version.

Or you can upgrade Newton and get up-to-date features!

 

Need more tips and tutorials?
Check our Learn page!

Tutorial: Textless effect

Remember the amazing “Textless” short by Gareth Smith & Jenny Lee?
Well, here’s our own tutorial that recreates the workflow to achieve this amazing effect where the content of a sign is falling drove by physics.
We are going to use Adobe After Effects, Mocha AE to track the sign and Newton3 for the physic simulation. Adobe Illustrator to vectorize the artwork and Adobe Photoshop to clean up the sign using the content aware tool.
That’s a lot of tools for an amazing result. But don’t worry, everything is going to be quite easy to do.

“Textless” by Gareth Smith & Jenny

If you need more in depth about the tracking with Mocha AE, check the great tutorial of Mark Christiansen at School Of Motion:

Get Newton for Adobe After Effects: https://aescripts.com/newton/

Link to the video used in this tutorial .

Get Rift for Adobe After Effects: https://aescripts.com/rift/

Music: Otis McDonald.

Want to ask something? Contact us!