Adventures in After Effects

We’ve had a promotional video for both branches of Resolution on our todo list for months now. We finally bit the bullet and put one together last week. It’s a rock and roll promo, so turn up your volume and hit the play button. Then check out the dirty details of how the sausage was made.

A pencil and a notebook 📝

I’m a fan of writing things down before sitting down at a keyboard. I’ve found that it’s easier for me to get my thoughts down quickly and not get caught up in the minutiae of pixels and alignment.

Because of that, I’ve developed a fetish for notebooks. I’ve bought dozens, but have finally settled on Field Notes.

They are portable and disposable, which means that I don’t have any reservations about actually using them. All of the beautiful journals I’ve had in the past have been left blank because I felt that I had to have the perfect sketches, lyrics, etc. Not so with these. As an added bonus, they are made by one of our design crushes, Aaron Draplin. We have a subscription and every package from them feels like Christmas.

Here are my initial storyboard sketches. Fancy, huh? I’m not always this messy with my sketches.

Promo video storyboard 📽

I knew that I was going to animating in Adobe After Effects, and I knew that After Effects and Illustrator play nicely together, with some caveats. I also knew that I wanted to use the vector illustrations we’ve been using on the site, so Illustrator was an easy choice.

Here is the final storyboard.

Preparing to animate

After assembling the rough storyboards in one document, I exported each artboard as a separate Illustrator file for further preparation.

After Effects imports Illustrator files in a few different ways, only one of which is actually helpful. I knew that I wanted to animate different elements of each illustration, which meant that I first needed to separate each element onto separate layers.

I opened each artboard and created named layers for each element to be animated. That process is tedious and boring, but so necessary.

Once that was complete, I imported the Illustrator files as a composition retaining layer sizes and I was off to the races.

After Effects is rad

I wasn’t familiar with After Effects before this project, but I’ve always been one to jump into the river to see how tall I am. I had a decent amount of experience with timelines from my work in Flash and Premiere and figured that it couldn’t be that hard. I was mostly right.

After Effects makes it easy to keyframe properties like position, scale, and opacity. But certain things that I knew that I wanted like syncing the animation to the kick or snare of the music was beyond my capabilities. Luckily, there are extensions to After Effects that help.

I used Sound Keys to map the kick, snare, and key frequencies from the interlude onto keyframes. I was then able to give that map custom range of values and used the pick-whip to scale elements to those values. Et voila – animation that matched the music.

I wound up creating the entire video in one composition because I couldn’t figure out how to synch the audio into pre-compositions. I’ll figure that out next time. Here is half of the final timeline:

Wrapping up 💾

I posted this to socials claiming that it took me 9000 hours in MSPaint. In reality, it took about 10 hours and that included frequent research breaks. I learned a ton and have already begun a promo video for Resolution Healthcare.

Until next time, we love you! 💌