Importing an Animate project into After Effects
Adobe built Animate and After Effects so they could easily be combined. As we’ve seen over the course of the semester the two software have a lot of similarities but also distinct strengths/weaknesses. Importing our Animate character animation into After Effects will allow us to create more complex camera movements, title sequences and effects.
While there is a camera feature in Animate, it isn’t as sophisticated as the one in After Effects, as it is limited to simple zooms, pans and tilts. This might be more than enough for certain situations (and even your walk cycle assignment), but familiarizing yourself with After Effects’ Camera tool early on will help you with more complex projects down the line.
Importing the Animate file in After Effects
For older versions of Animate and After Effects (currently in BMCC labs)
- Create a folder to store all the assets you will create for this new version.
- Make sure all your Animate layers are well organized and labeled. Get rid of any layer you don’t want to include in this version (create a copy of the file before deleting anything).
- Make sure the Advanced Layers icon is turned off. If you leave it on, the SWF file won’t play in After Effects.
- Next, we’ll export each element that we know we’ll want to control separately in After Effects into a separate SWF movie file.
- Guide layers will not be exported in the SWF file, so we can temporarily turn a layer into a guide to hide it (the regular hide feature won’t work). Right-click on the layer name and select Guide. Repeat for any layer you don’t want to include in the first SWF
- Go to File > Export > Export Movie…
- Name your file
- Set the file format to SWF (PNG sequences can also work here, but since PNG is a raster format, it won’t be as scalable as SWF which is vector-based)
- Save in the folder you created
- Repeat for each layer.
- Launch After Effects
- Go to File > Save As > Save As… name your file and save it in the same folder as the SWFs
- Go to File > Import > File… and select the SWF file(s) you just created.
- Let’s create a new composition with the SWF(s). Select the SWF(s) and drag and drop it/them onto the New Composition icon.
- When you press the Spacebar you should see your entire animation play on the screen
For Adobe Animate Adobe Animate version 19.0 and beyond and After Effects version 16.0 and beyond.
- Make sure all your Animate layers are well organized and labeled. Get rid of any layer you don’t want to include in this version (create a copy of the file before deleting anything). Also be mindful that anything outside of the Stage will not be taken into account in After Effects.
- Launch Adobe After Effects.
- Create a new project and save it.
- Go to File > Import > File and select your .fla file. Notice that a new composition as well as a folder containing individuals .swf files (one for each of your .fla layers) has been added to your library.
- Also add any other file you might be using in the project (i.e: a the background layer you created in Illustrator. Please be aware that raster files (i.e: Photoshop, Procreate, JPG, PNG etc.) will get pixelated if zoomed in… thus the preferred vector format in this case).
- In the Project panel, you will notice a new composition with the name of your fla file as well as a a folder containing the individuals swf files (one for each of your .fla layers). Double click on the composition to open it (and add any layer you’d like)
- In order to use the camera on your layers, you must convert them to 3D: Select all of them, right-click and select 3D Layer.
- If you intend to use the camera to zoom onto certain part of your swf files, you will want After Effects to scale up the vector image without pixelization. In order to do so, you need to turn on the Continuously Rasterize option checkbox (the little sun-like icon) for all the .swf files you will be zooming into.
Looping a sequence in After Effects
Sometimes, you will want to loop one of the layers/animation you imported into After Effects (our 8 – frame walk cycle, for example could be looped to last for an entire minute).
First, we will have to set the Composition settings to match the total length we wish our animation to be:
- Go to Composition > Composition Settings…
- Set the duration to your desired length
You’ll notice that the Timeline has changed, but the length of the files you previously imported hasn’t. To lengthen and loop them:
- For a static layer(.png, .jpg, .psd etc.), place your cursor over the very end of the layer bar in the timeline. It should be a horizontal double ended arrow cursor. Drag to the right to extend the layer to the end of the composition.
- For an animated layer (i.e: .swf):
- Right-click on the layer and select Time > Enable Time Remapping
- Place your cursor over the very end of the layer bar in the timeline.Drag to the right to extend the layer to the end of the composition.
- Click on the Property pick whip icon (the little swirl on the right)
- Toggle the Time Remap arrow
- Click the Expression language menu (the little circle with the arrow in the center) and select Property > LoopOut.
Camera in After Effects
Adobe After Effects allows you to add a Camera layer to your Compositions. This can add dynamism to your scene by using a variety of shots, zooming, panning etc.
By default, Solid, Text and Shape layers in After Effects are 2-dimensional. This means they have an X(width) and Y(height) axis. This is also true of .swf, .png, .jpg and any other raster files you may be importing into your project. However, the camera needs 3-dimensional information in order to move properly – this means it needs an added Z (depth) axis.
Before adding a camera to your composition, you must transform all the layers you want to include into your camera-enhanced scene into 3D layers: This can be done by right-clicking on the layer and selecting 3D Layer or by toggling the box in the 3D column. While these layers aren’t exactly 3-dimensional (your characters, props, backgrounds etc. are still 2-dimensional drawings), the layers are placed into a 3-dimensional space and can be moved on the Z axis. This effect is often referred to as 2.5D (in-between 2D and 3D).
Adding a Camera layer
A Camera is a layer (just like Solids, Text and Shapes). It will be added to your Timeline. In order to add one:
- Go to Layer > New… > Camera
- You can change the type of camera and lens, but we’ll keep the default setting:
- Type: One-Node Camera
- Preset: 50mm
- Units: Millimeters
- Measure Film Size: Horizontally
- Deselect Enable Depth of Field (or you might get a blurred image when zooming very close to your swf file).
- Once you hit OK, you’ll notice that a Camera layer has been added to the Timeline.
Previewing and controlling the camera
A second/bird’s eye view of the composition is useful when positioning elements in 3-dimensional space. Let’s change the view of our Composition window:
- Set the view layout dropdown to 2 Views – Horizontal
- Click on the new view (on the left) and make sure 3D view dropdown is set to Top
The Camera layer has its own Animation properties. Toggle the Transform tab to see them. For now, we will focus on the first two properties:
- Position: There is a number for each of the 3 axis, X(width), Y (height) and Z (depth). You can type in numbers, hover click and drag on them or control the position visually in the Top view.
- Orientation: This refers to the angle of the camera. The first value can be used to tilt the camera (up – down), the second to pan it (left – right) and the third to rotate around the scene
Just like any property, you must set a first keyframe (by clicking on the stopwatch icon) in order to change them over time. For a zoom or pan, you can use regular keyframes. If you wish to “cut” from one camera position to another, use a Hold keyframe (right-click on the keyframe and select Toggle Hold Keyframe).
I am keeping these steps fairly simple for the sake of time, but this article from School of Motion is a great resource if you want to learn more about cameras in After Effects.
Saving, moving and submitting your After Effects project
When you import assets into your After Effects library, you must include all the files you used when moving or sharing your project. If you only save/submit your .aep file it won’t be able to load the .swf and .png files and will send an error message saying it can not locate them.
In order to avoid this issue, keep your work organized into a single folder, and include the entire folder in your submissions/when moving your file form one computer to another.
Final project – step 5: adding a background and applying After Effect’s camera to the walk cycle
If you haven’t yet, create a background for your walk cycle. You can create it in Animate (as a separate layer on your walk cycle file), or Illustrator (saved as .ai) or your favorite vector digital imaging software (Photoshop, Procreate and other raster programs can be great for backgrounds, but they will get pixelated if zoomed into). Whatever tool you use, make sure the background is on its own layer . It should be the same height as your walk cycle (1080px), but considerably wider (at least: 4000px). The reason for this larger width is that we will move the background to give the impression of the character moving across the screen.
Import your Animate animation into After Effects (review the steps above). Follow the same steps to import your background Illustrator file if you decide to use this software rather than a separate Animate layer.
Use After Effects’ Camera tool to recreate the shots outlined in your storyboard.
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: camera” 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).