Week 13

Animating text in After Effects

While all the basic transforms (Anchor Point, Position, Scale, Rotation, Opacity) can be applied to Text Layers, they also have unique properties.  Text Layer Animator Properties allow you to control the individual characters and/or words within a layer and to create more dynamic animated text.

Adding some text

Before animating any chunk of text, you must type it in:

  1. Activate the Text tool *Keyboard shortcut: Cmd + T
  2. Make sure the Character panel is visible (Go to Window > Character) and set the font type, size and color
  3. Click once on the composition and type the text.
  4. Position the text where you’d like its final position to be (you can use the Align panel to center it on the composition.

Finding the Text Animator options

The text Animator options are listed inside the Text layer:

  1. Toggle the arrow to the left of the Text layer
  2. To the right of the Text tab, you will see an Animate menuScreen Shot 2018-08-15 at 3.23.26 PMAnimator properties (click and hold to see full list)

Using a Text Animator

There are 17 Animator Properties and each of them has several basic and advanced parameters. They are listed within the little “Animate” button to the right of the Text tab within the Text Layer. For a complete list and descriptions, you can visit the official Adobe page.  We will use the position property to demonstrate how the different parameters will affect the way the text moves:

  1. Click on the Animate menu and select the Position property. Notice that an Animator 1 tab has been added to your text layer. Rename it (i.e: position) to keep things clear in case you decide to add another animator.
  2. The two values of the Position property represent how much the horizontal and vertical position of the text will change.
  3. The Range Selector tab gives us the option to set the portion of the text layer we want the animator to affect.
    • By default, these units are set in percentages, but this can be changed to Index in the Advanced tab.
  4. The Offset lets you change the starting and ending point while keeping the same overall amount.
  5. The Advanced tab is where a lot of the interesting animation comes in:
    • Based On let’s you select wether you want the property to affect Characters, Characters but not spaces, Words or Lines.
    • Mode defines how the animator will affect the original. For example, Add means that the property will be added to the area defined within the range selector, while with Subtract it will affect everything except the area defined in the range selector.
    • Amount lets you change how much the animator is being applied.
    • Shape defines the shape After Effects uses to apply the animator. It can be very effective in creating a smooth/dynamic animation – especially when combined with Offset.
      • Square is linear. The animator is applied to the entire layer at once.
      • Ramp Up starts without the property and reaches the new value gradually.
      • Ramp Down starts at the new value and gradually goes back to the original.
      • Triangle ramps up and down to create a triangular shape.
      • Round is similar to triangular but rounded
      • Smooth is similar to round but eased in and out.
    • Ease High will ease into the new value
    • Ease High will ease out of the initial value
    • Randomizer will randomize the order in which the animator will affect the layer.
  6. By clicking on the Add menu, you can also add another Property or Selector. For example, the Wiggly selector will wiggle each unit up and down by the amount set in the Amp Amount and Min Amount options. The speed of the wiggle can be changed in the Wiggles/Second option and Correlation will charney how synchronized the wiggle is (the higher the value, the more the units will move in unison).

Nesting compositions

 I recommend that you create your title card and end credits in their respective After Effects Compositions rather that adding them to your walk animation. This means you will have 3 (or at least 2) separate compositions within your After Effects project that you will have to combine in order for your movie to render as a single file:

  1. Create a new composition *Keyboard shortcut: Cmd + N. Name it “combined” and make sue it is long enough to accommodate all your individual comps)
  2. Drag all the compositions you would like to combine into the combined composition timeline
  3. Stagger the compositions in the layers’ panel so that they appear in the correct order.

Adding sound in After Effects

While an audio editing software will give you more control and options for creating your soundtrack (Audacity is a good option if you are looking for something simple and free), you can add sounds directly in After Effects and do some basic editing within the software.

Gathering and organizing the audio

Record you own track or find royalty free sound effects and music online ( Freesound.org, Internet Archive: Audio Archive, Bensound, and Audiofarm.net are all good options). Rename the tracks and save them in the same folder as all your After Effects assets. After Effects accept with mp3, .way, and .aiff so any of these formats will work.

Importing the sound files into a composition

Import your sound files into your After Effects project panel by going to File > Import > Multiple Files and selecting the audio tracks.

Open your composition (in the case of the walk cycle, this should be the one that combines the title, credits and walk) and drag your audio tracks on the Timeline panel. You can mute individual tracks by clicking in the little speaker icon column.

Editing a track

You can edit the starting point, overall length and volume of a track in After Effects:

  • To change the starting point of a track, click and drag its color bar in the Timeline
  • To change the overall length of the track:
    • Double-click on the track (this will open it in its own window
    • Set the starting and ending point with the curly brackets
    • Go back to the main composition
  • To change the volume and/or fade in and out:
    • Click on the arrow to the left of the track layer and open the Audio tab
    • Open the Waveform tab to see the waveform
    • Click on the Audio Levels stopwatch and change the dB value overtime to create multiple keyframes. Please note that After Effects takes the original amplitude as its “0 dB” point. Use a negative value to lower the volume and a positive one to increase it.

Final project – step 8: Creating and animated title and credits for the walk cycle


Create a title and credits for your walk cycle. If you don’t have another idea, the title could simply be the name of your character. The credits should include your name (i.e: Character design and animation by FirstName LastName) and any Creative Commons resources you may have used – music track, sound effects, photo etc. (i.e: “thunderclap” by elmoustachio).

Experiment with the text animation properties described on this page. Have fun, but also make sure the typography, design and motion of your credit/title sequences fit the rest of your animated short.


Use the following composition settings: 24fps, width: 1920px | height: 1080px. Save your .aep file and export your animation to Quicktime (review rendering instructions on the week9 page). Upload your animation to Vimeo or Youtube.


Create a new post on your Open Lab portfolio. Your post should include a link to your Vimeo or Youtube video as well as a short description (what did you add/change from the previous version. Reflections on your process, challenges, goals etc. are also welcome).

This assignment is due next week. Submit the following files on the following platforms:

  • Blackboard: .aep file and all .swf and .ai files imported into it and a link to your Open Lab post.
  • Open Lab discussion board: Reply to the “Final Project: text” discussion post with a link to your Open Lab post

This is part of the final project. It will be taken into account in the final grade for the project (see full grading rubric here).


Final project : Adding sound to the walk cycle and preparing for the presentation


Create a soundtrack for your walk cycle. It should be layered and evoke the mood you want to convey through your piece/character. Here are a few ideas/things to consider: footsteps, background noise (traffic for the city, birds, wind, water etc. for nature), voice over narration, music etc.

Consider starting the soundtrack during the title and ending it after/during the credits. Use fades (see tutorial above) so that the start and end aren’t too abrupt.

Make sure any music/sound effects you use are in the public domain or under a Creative Commons license and don’t  forget to credit the original authors in your credit sequence. Here’s a list of CC/public domain resources for sound: Freesound.org, Internet Archive: Audio Archive, Bensound, and Audiofarm.net


Use the following composition settings: 24fps, width: 1920px | height: 1080px. Save your .aep file and export your animation to Quicktime (review rendering instructions on the week9 page). Upload your animation to Vimeo or Youtube.