Representation | After Effects

5 / 5 A short diary of five introductory software sessions, covering Rhino (two parts), ArcGIS, 3D Scanning and Adobe After Effects. Delivered via The University of Greenwich as part of the Landscape Representation module within the Master of Landscape Architecture program.

The Task

A 3 hour guided demonstration through the main functionality of Adobe After Effects. The time focused on two exercises: first looking at more simple commands to move a balloon across the screen; secondly animating a series of aisles in a shopping centre.

Key Notes

The principle of animation is keyframing.

The older style – e.g. that Disney used – was an additive process, called stop frame. Digital animation does away with that and is interpretive. The aim is to strip it back to base functions e.g. twist, size, move, rotate…. Need to boil the actions down to principles.

Some basics

  • Composition > new composition > select Preset (PAL Widescreen Square Pixel)
  • Everything in top half is SD whereas below is HD
  • Window > workspace > standard (although this is likely the default)
  • Option of no. of views > 1 View is best (should be default)
  • File > import > file > select option to retain all layers > and make editable
  • Drag and drop the layers you want into the layer edit panel (bottom left)

Exercise 1

  • Scale balloon either manually, or open up the arrow options > Scale
  • Drag in the second layer (6) need to move to top, and then change position of ball
  • To set your first keyframe > on the active layer next to the principle e.g. Position, start at 0’ > click the stopwatch (indicates keyframe start)
  • Move to 10’ > click the diamond i.e. setting second keyframe > at the second keyframe of 10’, alter the variables of the principle i.e. move the object’s position to where you want it to be.
  • Repeat for any other principles e.g. Scale, Rotate. This is the approach for all work in this software: keep setting keyframes.

Exercise I

Exercise 2 – File Preparation

  • Photoshop > Turn image into a series of layers > create 8 layers > add a fill for the background > keep some pixels at the top and bottom so the software can use this as reference
  • After Effects > drag in all 8 layers and select the small cube option (3D) (if this isn’t an option, toggle between switches/modes)
  • Layer > Camera Settings > 35mm > Open up 2 Views (like Rhino) and have Top and Active Camera (you won’t be able to have these options if 3D is not switched on)
  • From layer 2, in Position, change the 0 setting to 500 pixels (moving it back); add 500 pixels per layer so by layer 8 it’s 3500 pixels back. Careful not to change anchor point instead……
  • Then scale each of the 8 layers so they are the same size. You can tell you’ve done it right in the Top view: the “cone of vision”!
  • In camera, change Field of Vision to 3500 (z axis) (i.e. the depth of pixels of the furthest away layer). You can then click on the camera and ‘fly around’.

Exercise II Creating Cone of Vision

Exercise 2 – Applying Animation

  • Camera layer/view > move from left to right > zoom in and down to play with the angle and avoid seeing the edges of the image > all using keyframes
  • Z rotation will tilt the camera. Play with the camera options – treating it like a real camera.
  • Test depth of field > top view > change focus distance > exaggerate aperture (bigger the aperture is will look like miniature). Try starting in focus at front 0’ then moving to back at 10’.

Exercise 2 – Applying Effects

  • Select layer > right click > Effect > Colour Correction > black and white (will change only layer 2); this is like Photoshop. You can drag and drop the effects. This is only layer by layer: could copy and paste the settings.
  • In order to apply effects to all layers, shift > select all including camera > Layer > Pre-compose > move all attributes > open new composition. Any actions now affect the whole image, but you can still have the original version folder to edit.
  • Effect > Distort > CC Lens = fish eye, will default to very extreme setting, but you can subtly round the corners
  • Noise & Grain > Noise > 3% is a nice subtle emulation of actual filmed footage, slightly changes what you see every frame and therefore tricks you into high reality
  • Window > Wiggler > will replicate a slight shake/wobble > edit this in Camera layer > shift and select both keyframes > Wiggler will be in bottom right > 3 per seconds > magnitude 0.5-1 i.e. barely perceptible > apply settings (makes it seem like a human natural wobble)
  • Puppet Tool > Select layer > select puppet pin icon > place on the drawing, making a joint > first at top of pillar > second at bottom > click back on first pin (Puppet Pin 1) and with arrow can play with the whole layer. Add loads of pins in order to reduce movement. Unpack Puppet Pin 1 > will find a stopwatch > can apply same method to animate. Could realistically use for e.g. someone waving in an aisle.

Exporting Animations

  • File > Export > Add to Render Queue > amend the three options in blue
  • Output module > format Select QuickTime file > Format options Ideal – H264 (what you see on screen comes out exactly as render)
  • Never use animation as = huge files



  • At any time you can go back and edit the variables
  • The stopwatch always activates the keyframe, however pressing the stopwatch a second time will delete all the set keyframes
  • Rotate principle: if you just alter rotate it will rotate from the centre > can change anchor point > move the part of the image you want to anchor > the anchor spot (just by eye is fine) > move image back to the original spot > play with rotate and it will rotate from e.g. bottom left
  • Use Graph Editor to smooth out keyframes: diamonds will now show as egg timers to let you know you have made edits
  • Avoid too much movement in animating as it will look fake: perspective will be overly distorted: the ideal point will be the middle where the camera is
  • The more axis you animate over the more dynamic it will feel: try sweeping across, out and in all in one go

landscape architecture



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