After Effects Tutorial – “Infographics that Animate Themselves”

I recently shared a time-saving expression that I cobbled together some time ago, which has saved me tons of time and keyframes over multiple projects.

Basically, it allows you to bring in tons of layers at the same time, & control them all with a few sliders on a single control layer. It’s great for adjusting the timing of a lot of layers at once. The best part is that, once you’ve created the setup, you can copy and paste this to any new composition & your layers will essentially animate themselves.

The good people at AEtuts+ have the tutorial over at their site. Hopefully it helps you as much as it has helped me.


Dug this test render/comp up from a few months ago. The robot was built for a Prolifik project and used in design elements, but I just couldn’t help scuffing him up and putting him into a scene for fun.

Here’s what he was actually used for:

3D anaglyph in Photoshop or After Effects

I’ve always been obsessed with 3D images. Even as a kid, I discovered that I could create my own 3D drawings with a red ink pen and a blue ink pen (what I wouldn’t give to find that epic Ninja Turtle battle I drew in fourth grade). So, it’s no surprise I still love creating anaglyphs (the red/blue kind of 3D) in both Photoshop and After Effects. After being asked a few times, I thought I’d share the process.

NOTE: You’ll need a pair of Red/Cyan glasses for this to work. Mine have the RED ON THE LEFT and the CYAN ON THE RIGHT. If yours are reversed, you’ll need to flip the colors at the “Levels” step.

First, you should know that – for stills – there is an iPhone app (3D Camera) that will do this all for you, extremely easily. It’s limited to the resolution of the phone, and it only works in portrait mode – not landscape – but it’s still the easiest way to make anaglyph images in no time. I love it and use it often. However, if you want to use a higher-res camera, don’t have an iPhone, or want to create anaglyphs in video or animations, this is how it’s done in both Photoshop AND After Effects* (demonstrated with Photoshop):

Take two images:

Whether with your camera, 3D software, or video camera, take two images – slightly offset left and right. Try to keep them level vertically. This is how your eyes create depth, and it’s the only way to do this correctly. For stills, you can use the same camera, but for video you’ll need two (I’ve rigged two Flip cameras side by side and had success). In 3D software, create two cameras and render them separately. Now you’re ready to open Photoshop or After Effects.

Bring in both photos and layer them on top of each other in the same document. I always put the left on top.

Desaturate the images.

3D anaglyphs can be pulled off in full color by avoiding certain hues and through color correction, but there’s a bit of a science to it, and it’s far easier to create them in black and white, so that’s what we’ll be doing.

Line up your middle ground.

Aligned images
Temporarily lower the opacity of the top layer to align the positions of a subject in the image. The spot you align will become your neutral depth plane, (the plane that will appear even with the frame of the image). Anything in front of this plane will appear to protrude out at the viewer. Anything behind it will recede back into the frame.
TIP: Try to keep anything that bleeds out of frame even with, or behind, this plane to prevent awkward results.

Add the red/blue with Levels.

NOTE: this is for glasses with RED on the LEFT and BLUE (cyan, actually) on the RIGHT. If your glasses are reversed, you’ll need to reverse the colors mentioned here.
On the right image, add a Levels filter and set the Red channel to zero. Then on the left image, set both the Blue and Green to zero

Finish with a blend mode.

Set the left (red) layer’s blend mode to Screen. Crop off any errors around the edges, and you’re done! Put on your glasses and enjoy.

The most common method of creating anaglyphs in AE is the “3D Glasses” effect. However, it only allows horizontal control over the alignment of your images. So, if your shots are even a little bit off vertically, the effect won’t work correctly. For this reason, I find that it’s more effective to use the same manual method in both Photoshop and After Effects.

If you still want to try it the other way, this is how you would use the effect: Import your two footage into AE and create a composition. Under Effects/Perspective, apply “3D Glasses” to one of your layers and set the Left View & Right View to the corresponding footage. Then, align the Convergence Offset until your images line up. That’s it.

Hopefully this has sparked some interest. If you create anaglyphs, be sure to drop a link in the comments or shoot me a message. I love looking at them.

Cinema 4D to After Effects CS5 – .aec import fix

Just a little help to any motion design readers out there. Hopefully it will save you the frustation I experienced.

If you’ve recently upgraded to C4D 11.5 and AE CS5, you may find that importing an .aec file doesn’t work like it did before. Even after copying the proper plug-in into your AE folder, any .aec file will still be ghosted out. After some trial and error, I finally found the reason: The plug-in that shipped with C4D 11.5 is outdated.

Here’s the new plug-in at Maxon’s site. Unzip it and drop it into the Plug-ins folder inside your AE application folder, and all will be well again.

If you haven’t used an .aec (After Effects Composition) file before, it’s an exceptionally helpful way to marry Cinema4D and After Effects, by syncing up 3D environments and cameras to avoid extra renders and speed up production time. Here’s a tutorial from Maxon to get you started.

Digital Illustration Software Workflow

I’ve used a lot of different software over the years in search of a digital illustration workflow that I really like, for various reasons. I still like a sketch book, but when I’ve got tools like undo, layers, resize, and more, I actually find myself feeling a little more free from the dreaded “fear of the blank canvas” block,  and notice that my drawings exhibit more creativity.

Until recently, I had just decided that I would never be satisfied with a wholly digital process. My computer was just where my drawings ended up when it was time to color them, mainly because of weaknesses in the inking phase. Now, though, I think I’ve found something that will satisfy me in those times when pens aren’t an option.

Illustration Workflow

Here is the pipeline I’m using, with some other comments:

First of all, it kind of goes without saying that if you want to do any serious digital hand-drawn illustration, you’re probably going to want a pen tablet. Any of them will work well, with varying levels of benefit, but the real formula is just “the bigger, the better.” After working my way up through virtually every stage of tablets, the smallest to the largest (all of which were helpful), I’m finally using a Wacom Cintiq, and I’ll never look back. Even if you only get a 6″x8″ tablet, though, you’ll love it.

This one is almost a tie. I’m definitely more familiar with Photoshop, which is a plus, but I really think that Painter edges out PS in the short time I’ve used it.  All I can really say is that it “feels” better.

Another great program that I tried was Alias Sketchbook Pro. I can’t say enough about how smooth the demo was for sketching.  Honestly, if I felt like dropping the cash, I would probably use this one exclusively for penciling, but it’s hard to justify when I’ve already got multiple pencil solutions. And multiple real pencils.

This was my unicorn. I felt like I had tried everything for inking, and the only solution I mildly liked was Flash, which is a weird way to ink, but I liked the vector tools it offered.

Then I found Painter. While I still can’t stay it’s the answer to all of my prayers, the “Fine Point Pen” does give me a result with which I’m satisfied. There are some anti-aliasing issues I’m not thrilled about, but I can usually remedy them by working larger than I need and then downsizing in Photoshop.

So far, I use Essentials, the inexpensive version, which has all I need. I’m sure that the full version would offer more flexibility.

Photoshop all the way. Clipping masks are a life saver, and Photoshop’s post processing tools are hugely beneficial for giving my illustrations a little extra character.

Nothing will ever replace the feel and the look of a pencil in your hands or of real paint on a canvas – and most of the time, I try to use as many real world elements as I can – however, digital illustration offers a lot of perks, so a solid pipeline can be invaluable.

After Effects Tutorial – “Leaf-Growing” Logo Reveal


I was honored to have been asked by the TUTS+ network to create a tutorial for their AETUTS+ site. The TUTS+ network is an incredible resource for designers of all types, with resources for After Effects, Photoshop, Illustrator, 3D software, and more.

This was my first go at a recorded tutorial, so I’d love to hear your feedback…unless it’s about my Oklahoma accent, because I don’t have one.

venting through comics #1

I’ve recently discovered the practice of venting my frustration by drawing comics. It’s much better than blurting out whatever pops into my head. This way I have to think it through first…

This is one I worked up after a couple of freelance projects – and after talking to some colleagues about our history with corporate clients.

It’s amazing how things that would be completely absurd in other situations are somehow perfectly acceptable to ask of a creative – especially since it’s always assumed that it won’t cost extra.

I was hesitant to post this for fear that anyone would think that this reflects situations at, but it doesn’t. At all. I promise.