How to Be More Efficient in After Effects - Workflow Basics & Animating with Expressions | Sonja Geracsek | Skillshare

How to Be More Efficient in After Effects - Workflow Basics & Animating with Expressions

Sonja Geracsek, Motion Designer | Video Editor

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11 Lessons (1h 7m)
    • 1. Preview

    • 2. Set-up in Illustrator

    • 3. Set-up in After Effects

    • 4. Pre-composing the Assets

    • 5. Creating the Motion Path

    • 6. Using the Expression Pick Whip

    • 7. Animating the Snowfall Cycle

    • 8. Using the Time Expression

    • 9. Using the Loop Expression

    • 10. Rendering the GIF - Codecs & Containers

    • 11. Thank You!

13 students are watching this class

About This Class

Create a looping GIF! Be the creator, not just the consumer. Animation is a way to express your creativity through the art of movement. Expand your skill set by becoming an organised designer. 

In this class, I'll go through the process of animating a looping animation that you can render out as a GIF!

This Skillshare class will enhance your efficiency while animating and improve your workflow for streamlined edits! I will cover techniques from creating a 2D vector animation to workflow and animation basics. You will learn about expressions, naming, setting up efficiently, linking properties – and how this will improve your animations.


What You'll Learn

  • Set-up in Illustrator
    • I'll show you how to prepare your Illustrator file, with the After Effects animation in mind
  • Set-up in After Effects
    • We will import our scene from Illustrator, into After Effects and prepare our compositions for efficient animation
  • Animation using Expressions
    • I'll show you some useful expressions to automate your animations and make your life easier
  • Creating a motion path
    • I'll go through the steps of linking properties from multiple layers, across different compositions, to a motion path
  • Exporting your animation
    • I'll show you the simple process of getting your animation social media ready and how to render out a GIF

What You'll Do

You will animate a looping scene that you can share online! You will write expressions, use the pick whip tool and use slider controls. I will show you the process of a precise and efficient workflow to to get you animating faster and cleaner.

Why You Should Watch

This class is the foundation for upcoming classes. You will get to grips with more complex animation, involving animating multiple scenes, characters and shapes.

Having workflow basics in mind, we will be able to focus on animation basics and get your skills to the next level.

There is more to come, so follow me on social media to find out about upcoming classes!

Twitter - Instagram - Facebook - Dribbble - Website


1. Preview: Hi, my name is Sonja. I'm immersion graphics designer. I animate upbeat educational videos, client ads, and a whole bunch of fun videos for the web. If you spend any time on YouTube, you might have seen some of my work. In my Skillshare class, I'll be teaching you how to animate a 2D vector animation, and get you up to speed on workflow and animation basics. This class will include practical skills like creating a loop animation using expressions, as well as theory on set up and workflow. I will provide downloadable assets for this class, if you don't have your own designs ready. This class is perfect for animators who have used After Effects before and have a basic understanding, but want to learn a few tricks of the trade. By the end of this class, you will have a fully animated scene. Sign up using the link below. Ready? Let's go. 2. Set-up in Illustrator: We'll start with setting up our Illustrator file. I have provided a ready-made Illustrator file as well as a file for prepping in the downloadable assets. If you want to prep the file with me, keep watching and use the file. If you're already comfortable with setting up your layers for animation and want to jump right into After Effects, you can skip to the next chapter. Depending on where you want to post your looped animation, you might need to consider different frame sizes. We will be setting up our animation for full HD, but I have provided you with some preview panels. They will show you how the scene would look cropped to different frame sizes, layers that I don't use for animation, like these. Frames are labeled REF for reference layer. This naming will give me an indication After Effects that the layer will not be animated and is only there for visual reference. I will show you some different render presets to render out your scenes at the end of this class. Now we'll expand the layer where all of our artwork is in and we want to highlight the pass and groups within that parent layer. Click the circle next to the layer, then go to the Menu item and choose release to layer sequence. We want our layers to be at the top of the hierarchy, so we'll move it out of the parent layer and remove that empty layer. This is now put each path and group on its own layer. It is important that all moving parts are grouped sensibly before you do this step. We don't want parts that should animate independently from each other, be in the same group and then on the same layer after releasing. To save us some work, we will be animating each snowflake once. We will then animate duplicates of that in After Effects. This means we don't need every single snowflake on a separate layer. But it is good to have an idea of what you would like your completed scene to look like. For this path is I group all of the artwork, I will not be animating and move it to our reference layer. We will also label this layer REF at the start of the layer name. It's good to get used to a structured workflow even when you are working on small projects. It becomes second nature and you automatically work in a more organized manner on bigger projects, without having to change your habits. This is why I always point out the importance of a sensible naming and folder structure. I use group naming, where I use one overarching word to describe sets of layers that belong to the same category. Like these dots, this one is a small dot as we can see if we highlight it. This one is a big dot. I double-click to enter the renaming phase then name my layer. I like to use underscores to give more indication of what this layer as part of the flake group is. This flake is small, I then hit "Enter" to stop typing. If you have a lot of layers that are basically the same thing, like these stars, you don't need to give each one an individual name. Just call them star 1-6. You can name these layers manually, which in our case wouldn't be a lot of work. But consider a project that is much larger than this, with a lot more layers, you can automate this step, install the rename layer script I included in the acids by moving it to script folder in Illustrator, I will include a link in the description. After you have completed this step, you need to restart Illustrator and then I will go through the steps of creating a shortcut within Illustrator to access this script. Normally, you would have to go to File, Scripts and then you would be able to access the script, but that's quite laborious if you need to do that every time you want to rename sets of layers. What you want to do now is go to Window, open Actions. As you can see, I already have an action setup. Let's delete that for now. Then you want to create a new action, name it, Rename layers. I use a function key, F2 and also Shift. If I hit Shift and F2, this function will be called. Click "Record" and also immediately stop recording as we don't want to record the action, we want to add a menu item, insert menu item. First type Scripts, and then Rename layers, for the script you want to call. Click "Find". It has found the script. Click "Okay". Now if we hit Shift F2, a little window pops up. This is exactly what we want to happen. Now we can rename these layers. I want them to be called Stars. What the script does is it renames all the layers that have the "I"clicked. All the layers that are at the moment of visible, and it gives them a number sequence. You can start with a higher serial number, let's say five. But of course we want to start with one and we wanted to count from one to, I think it's six stars. The number length is automatically two that means it's always zero one, zero two so on. Normally this scripts names your layers from top to bottom, but I prefer bottom to top. That's completely up to you. Hit "Rename" and as you can see it stars 1-6. We can now close this. We don't need that anymore and will rename our other stars. Actually, I want these to be cold Stars black. Let's call that function again. You just need to make sure that you only have the layers highlighted that you want to rename. Of course, it's just star, but it's fine. That's that. This is our landscape and these are our boots, and that is the entire setup. Now I'd like to speak to you about the artboards. As you can see, I have two artboards over here. When inputting your Illustrator assets into After Effects, you can choose to create a composition. The composition will be the same size as your Illustrator artboard. This guy over here, the first artboard I have selected. If we only have one artboard in Illustrator, everything we place outside of this artboard will be cut off in After Effects. Which means we wouldn't be able to move objects that were placed outside of the frame in Illustrator into the frame in After Effects. At the moment, we don't really have this issue, but for example, this ground here, if this was anything else, if they were clouds or something you wanted to move across the screen, then you wouldn't be able to do that if you only had one artboard. This is why we have two artboards. The second artboard acts as an expansion and After Effects doesn't cut off the artwork. Now I've called this scene frame and spill area. Since we have two artboards, they need to be aligned otherwise we run the risk of our artwork shifting in After Effects when we move it in. We want both our artboards to be at 960 pixels times 540 pixels at the center reference point. I also make my artboard the second 17,400 pixels. You don't want this one to be too huge. If you make this second artboard too big, After Effects has to work quite hard to animate what is going on inside, especially when your animation gets more complex and it produces render errors. Don't make it the size of what is possible, but just big enough that it fits all of your artwork. That is it for the setup in Illustrator. Now we are ready to jump into After Effects. 3. Set-up in After Effects: This is the scene where we're animating today. You can download the after effects project file from the downloadable assets. It's inside that folder and you can use this to set up. There's also the final animation in all of the comps and key frames and sub-comps that we'll be creating today are there for you to view, but I will take you through setting up this project file. Let's jump into it. I have a assets folder where normally I would keep my scenes in the general asset folder. I could also have audio files, video files, image files, anything you need. This is all the stuff that I will be using for the animation and the pre-comps folder is for all the scenes, we will be actually animating. Let's import the illustrator file we just set up into this assets folder. If you're using the preset-up illustrator file that's also in the downloadable assets, you can import that one. Hit Control I to open the input folder. I keep my scenes in a scenes folder. This would be the already prepped file that you could use and this is the file that we just prepped and I saved. Important is to choose composition, retain layer sizes and create composition we want this setup to import. Click Import. Now you can see this is the composition and these are our illustrator layers. We are duplicating the imported composition, I call it comp for short. If you want to retrieve the original positioning of a layer that you accidentally deleted, we can grab it from the original comp as we won't be animating inside of that one, we'll be animating in the duplicate we created. We are also moving the whole comp into what I call the main comp. It's more manageable and organized to have your animation layers in a precomposition, pre-comp for short, and have this pre-comp sitting in a main comp, especially if you're animation starts having multiple scenes, perhaps video and audio layers, it can get a little bit complex. This is what we will be doing. Now, we can jump into this comp. These are all of our layers. For feedback and immense purposes, it's a good idea to start your scene at the start of the comp, at zero on the timeline, the rendered video will show a time code starting from zero in the play of your choice. If you're watching the video back, we want the time code of our rendered video and our after effects comp to match. If we start moving layers or key frames along the timeline, two things can happen. I'll just add a few key frames just to demonstrate what I'm talking about. Let's say this is a scaling up. Let's assume we want our animation to be in full swing and perhaps even sequenced. Sequenced meaning that they don't animate at the same time like these fellows. Let's say this one starts first, a few frames later, this one, this one, this one. So you have a little bit of dynamic movements, so not everything is happening at the same time. Let's assume we want our animation to be in full swing and sequenced at the start of our scene, here at zero, this is what we want to do for the loop we will be creating. This means you will have to shift your layers or your key-frames, but I'll just grab the layers, not just the key frames and move them back in the timeline. Let's just do that very quickly. I'm pressing Alt Shift and Page up just to shift this 10 frames back and then I'll keep on doing that to create this sequencing effect. What happens here is that we can see the key frames of this first layer and the last key frame on the second layer, but no longer the first one and the first key frames of the following layers are completely gone. So in order to see and have access to all the key frames, what we could in theory do is just grab these layers and instead of moving them back, we would move them forward. In this case, we can access all of the layers, which is great. But the beginning of the scene now starts here because as we said, we don't want to see the key frames popping up or starting, we want them to be in full swing so therefore our sequence now starts here, not at zero. Now, if you render this out from this point onward, our time code and after effects wouldn't match the time code of our rendered video as we're already at frame 30, but the rendered video would start counting from this point. This would be zero in the video from this point on wards. So any feedback you might receive from clients or if you're working in a team, would be directed at the time code of the rendered video and this can cause some confusion as to where in the timeline you're actually talking about. I'll undo this and I'll show you another method of creating some leeway at the beginning of the comp. You can right click and go to composition settings. You can do the same thing over here, or you can hit command K and open the composition settings. We're animating in 60 frames per second. I'll mention in a second why that is. To avoid this issue with the zero right at the beginning of the comp, what we can do is set our start time code to 59 minutes and we'll set the duration of outcome to 11 minutes. We will jump to one hour in the timeline, which is a little bit further down. Let's find the spot, it's right here. Set this as the beginning of our scene. I will crop all of the layers, I will also trim our work area and I will set a start marker here. I'll explain more about those things in a minute. What we've created here now is a theoretical point zero. The point zero is theoretical because we are actually at one hour in the timeline, but the minutes, seconds and frames are at zero, which means we can disregard the one hour in the timeline and treat the time code as if we were working from complete zero. If we make our animation 11 minutes long, we have one minute of leeway before our scene actually starts and before we arrive at our theoretical point zero, and from that point onward, our animation is 10 minutes long, but missing a frame, but it's 10 minutes long. Now we can animate all of our layers and shift them back the way we want to without losing sight of the key frames. Back to why we are using a frame rate of 60 frames per second. The reason is that 60 is divisible by a large amount of numbers. It also gives us a very smooth animation, especially once we start animating panoramic pans or characters. This is why I animate at 60 frames per second. You can always render out the animation at a lower frame rate later. So it's not a problem, it's not like you stuck at 60 frames. Now, I've created a start marker here, as I mentioned earlier. I do this to make it clear for rendering where our scene starts and I also tend to add an end marker for the end of the scene to indicate to myself this is where our scene will be ending. Our scene will be six seconds long. So I'll add an end marker here. You can hit Alt and the star on the numeric pad. If you don't have the full keyboard, you can also go over here to the right side of the timeline and just drag a marker out. I'll also trim the work area by hitting N and I've already trimmed all of the layers before. I do this to emphasize the start of the scene, since we have this one minute leeway before our point zero. Now, what you can also do if you don't want to search for the six seconds, if you go all the way to the beginning of your timeline, you can click into the time display over here, press plus, then 6 and then full stop, hit Enter, and that will take you six seconds later to where your play head, your time indicator was previously to this. Now, we'll jump into our main scene and we'll do the same here. I've already added a start and an end marker. But what I also want to do is add a start marker to my layer, to a trimmed comp, trim this. The reason is this, if for any reason you trim the end of your comp and accidentally move it, which can happen by just having your mouse over here and dragging, your comp can move. If you didn't have this marker, you wouldn't even know that your comp moved. This is a visual indicator that something happened. Sometimes you notice it and you can immediately click Control Z to undo your action, but sometimes it's too late to do that. This is just to visually show you if something happened. This has moved, this was not supposed to happen, let's just move this back. Now, jump back into our scene and the last thing I do to prep before I start animating is to color-code my layers and also to mark these reference layers that we've marked REF and illustrated before as guide layers, let's do that first. You right click and you choose Guide Layer. What is going to happen here is if you forget to turn off these layers before rendering, they won't render to your video because they are guide layers. Now, this symbol indicates that. I also like to set the color of the list, None, so they fade away so that we know, yeah, we don't need these. These are just here for visual reference. Let's do that. Let's choose some colors. I choose colors according to the groups. We've chosen to do group naming here. This one's dots, this one's dot, well, happens sometimes. This one also not very important for layers that are not so important, I like to use these lighter colors at crab pink sea foam. I like to color these layers just to add another additional organizational helper. You just know what belongs together, what these layers do, etc. Now we've set up everything and we are ready to animate. 4. Pre-composing the Assets: Now, we want to pre-composition or pre-compo, our first layer by hitting control shift C, will name this layer 0108A_.o1, and we will do the trimming, and the market setting as I mentioned before, we can also give this layer a color, and also color it in the project window. I also renamed our animation comp to 010_snowboots. Now, this naming convention is a good example of what I mentioned before about getting into a good workflow habit. Even though it might seem a bit complex for the scene it is worth training yourself in a neat workflow. If you projects become more complex, you won't have to adapt your habits as much. I used the VFX standards for naming scenes. It uses the 010 number sequence. If you have multiple scenes at the moment we only have one, but you might expand, and have multiple scenes in your animation. You would name your scenes 010, name of seen, 020, name of seen etc. The first 0 and the number sequence allows us to have 99 scenes within a set of scenes that arrange in a sequence in your asset folder or your project window when you sort by name. The second 0 allows it to slip in scenes, and rearrange your scene sequence if you have unexpected changes, like let us say you want another scene between 1, and 2, you give the scene that you want to slip in between those two are one. The scenes then arranged according to the number sequence. You will always have an overview of which scene follows, which additionally I add letters after the number sequence to distinguish between main scenes, and free columns nested within those scenes. Each time I nest a pre-compo within another compo, I add a letter. In this case, we will pre-compo the dots again into a parent compo to create our first snow cycle. Therefore, I added two letters after the number sequence. Instead of saying 010A, it says AA. What is also important. I did not mention this earlier. But what is also important when you pre-compo your dots, you want to choose, move all attributes into new composition. Do not choose leave all attributes in this scene. This is a very useful feature, but we won't need this for this animation. Will immediately rename this compo. Knowing where the beginning, and the end of your compo is, it helps us to animate within our parent comps. We already have the markers for the beginning of the end of the compo. What we can do is we can drag this one in as a new compo, and now, we can see these markers on top of compo, of course, you can just make these markers. But this is a handy little trick that you can just drag it back in, and the mark will show up on top of the compo layer. Now, we want to repeat the pre-compositioning, and the naming for all the rest of the snowflakes as well. The reason why we have two versions of the first dot-com will create two versions of the same snowflakes falling indifferent to different ways. I want this to be part of a different parent compo. This one will be C A, of course you can just have all of these snowflakes within one compo. But I like to distinguish it a little bit more so that I have a little bit more overview. Again, clean folder structures, but it is everybody's choice if they want to have more comps, or less comps. But this is the way I am doing it now. Put these back in, remove original trim. I do not want two versions of the medium, and the big size. We do not want many of these ones because they are quite large. What we are going to do now, we are going to optimize our workflow for easier editing later. 5. Creating the Motion Path: Instead of animating the snowflakes themselves, we will animate two null objects that will act as motion paths. These flakes will follow. This way, we will have all of snowflakes linked to only two animations, and to those we will just duplicate that with Control D. As you see, I automatically trim all of my layers to the start of the scene, just so, we have this additional visual aid that this is where this thing starts. Now, the first motion path, we want our snowflakes to animate from about here, so I'll create a position key frame here. The end of our comp, you can either drag and hold Shift to make it snap to the next marker. Or you can hold Shift and home to jump to the beginning of your work area and Shift and to jump to the end of your work area. I'm using an extended keyboard, but you can always drag and Shift hold. That also works. We want our snowflake to end up somewhere around here. Now we don't want this snowflake to fall rigidly down. We want it to look organic. We'll add another precision key frame hold Alt, Shift and P to do that, or click on the Stopwatch over here. Use the Busier tool by hitting G, We can now drag the anchor points out. You can add another one at the start and at the end, make this key frame rove across time. We'll adapt to the busier, so now, our snowflake, our potential snowflake, will fall this way. This is what you want. This is great. Now let's grab these key frames by clicking on Position, Control C to copy, control V to paste, hit U to show the key frames. Now we'll move this the opposite way. If you use the busier tool to click your busier handles over here, you can break them, but we want them to say organic. Let's do this. Yeah, this is fine. This is what we want. Here is a little bit steep. You can switch to V to stop breaking your busier curve and you can adapt it. You can also grab the key frame, as long as you have only that one selected. You can move it to a different position, doesn't have to be at the center of the frame. As you can see, as we are moving, this center key frame is adapting on the timeline. That's the rove across time that is doing that. Maybe you want something like this. Key frames allow us, to have complete control of what a layer is doing at any frame of the animation. That's why we're not using particle effects or wiggle expressions to create a randomly generated animation of the length of our timeline. We're creating this curve because we want our snow to fall organically. 6. Using the Expression Pick Whip: Now, I'm going to show you a little trick for cross composition linking. We want to link all of these pre-comps that we've created to our motion paths. Drag the comp from the timeline next to the comp or next to the timeline of another comp, and then you can see both timelines at the same time. We want to see the position, so hit "P", and we'll hit "Alt", and click on the "Stopwatch". It opens our expression window which is here. You could theoretically write an expression in here, but we won't be doing that. We'll click on the "Pick Whip", and drag it over to the Motion Path 1. This little dot is following the motion path of the null object that we just animated. You could have animated the motion path first, and then you could have just pick whipped all of these like that. If you link properties within the same comp, you get this thing happening in your expression. It now says this comp layer which means it is linking to another object in this comp. Once you then pre-comp this, it breaks that link because now it's no longer in the same comp. Now, it's in a different comp. If we undo that and jump into this we can see it's in, it's calling comp(*01-SnowBoots*). It's calling a different comp to link to it. That's another reason we pre-comp them first, so we don't need to change the expression when it breaks. Now, we'll open the one pre-comps and we'll pick whip them to our motion path 1. You can either then click elsewhere to get out of this comp or you can hit "Enter" on your numeric keypad and we will open this. If you have a timeline selected and double-click another comp it will then open it right next to it. It's quite handy and then we'll do the same with the number 2s, but we will pick whip 2 motion path 2. So now we have two versions of the same object animating in different ways and now it create a little bit of a dynamic. Also, let's link the medium with one and big we'll link that with two. I mentioned before that when we pre-comp our snowflakes, we want to choose move all attributes into new composition instead of leave all attributes in our scene. The reason for that is we want to keep the size of our scene. If we hadn't done that, then we wouldn't be able to see the animation of our snowflake across the frame here, we would have only had a tiny square, the size of our objects, and then we would have lost sight as soon as it leaves the frame. This is why we want the same sized frame as our scene. Close these by hitting "Control W". We just close them one after the other. We jump into our scene and will now create our snow scenes. 7. Animating the Snowfall Cycle: Now, we precomp this, and this is the parent comp I was mentioning before. This is the first A, as_snow_small. As you can see, it has arranged itself in the layer sequence, so our scenes at the top, then our next nested parent comp, and then our next child comp that is nested within that comp, so that's what we want. We'll jump into this one, and actually, I want to give this a different color. Let's make this green, make the number to green instead blue. Now, what we want to do, is we will reposition the snowflakes left and right across the screen, and duplicate them as well. Let's turn toggle that transparency grid, so we can see our snowflakes gone black. Now, as you can see, we have these two fall cycles, but the animating at the same time, so we can't see more than two dots. What we do want to do, we want to shift these. We can hold Alt, Shift and Page Down to shift these 10 frames forward. Now, we have two different ones, but still boring, they are just following the same path. What we can also do, drag these comps by holding shift, so that it stays stuck on the up and down. Now, these not only come at different times, but also in a different position. Still not ideal, let's break them off a little bit, and maybe shift them forward. You can do this by hand, you don't have to shift them by 10. We now have some variety, we just need a little bit more of these. Make sure that your snowflakes are coming in from the top, and disappearing to the bottom instead of from right to left. Because I've dragged these two comps away from the side, if our snowflakes were coming in from the right, you would see them appear out of nowhere, or disappear into nowhere, if we shift them to the right instead. Another thing we want to do before we continue duplicating these dots, we want to make this scene twice as long as our main animation. Our animation is six seconds long, in order for our loop to work our first key frame and our last key frame, they have to match. That's the first major factor. We also always want our snow to be falling in our scene. We don't want to see this type of thing, where we see the beginning of the snow falling and the end of our snow falling. If we go back into our scene, so we'll do that trick again, where we drag the scene back in, and we'll delete the original, and go crop the beginning as always. Now, we can see the start, the six second mark, and the end. We want to drag this back and hold shift, so it snaps to that guide, we'll trim next one here, duplicate it. Actually, we'll not trim that one, because the duplicated one does not need to be trimmed. Drag it forward, and so what happens now is, first of all, we can check the beginning and the end of the scene, by holding Shift and jumping to Home and End. First rule achieved, the first key frame matches the last key frame, and also now we don't have quite enough snowflakes to make it appear as if our snow was falling, but you'd never see the end. As soon as the last key frames are approaching the end of the screen, the new animation is setting in, and continuously feeding the animation cycle. Also, if you had by accident animated your flakes to come in from the side, I can make changes to this, and it would affect all of the snowflakes. These are all now adapting to this motion path. That's what I was talking about, it makes editing easier. You set everything up, and if you don't like something about this path animation, you can just make changes with one position property instead of going into every single animation, even if they were precomped, even if they all the layers were in your comp you still have to go in and change every single one. We've optimized that. We want to duplicate this enough that we have a bunch of snowflakes coming in. Holding Alt and Shift down, and shifting these back. Let's randomize this a little bit more. Also, you can move them across the screen, so there's not a very nice gap happenings, so maybe I want these to be that, and maybe I want more snowflakes over a here, maybe at this point at the very beginning,I also want more snowflakes to appear on the left side of the screen, not just over there. I don't want it to be too clumpy with these tiny dots, because we will be adding the big dots and also the snowflakes. Just be careful you're not overloading your screen. I also want these to be a little bit scattered. I'm doing this by eye, so you can just do what ever, you feel like whatever works for your screen. Just like Barbara says, this is your animation. Whatever feels good for you is how you need to animate it. We don't want to see any snowflakes passed our 12 second marker. I've dragged these all the way to the end here, let's leave that here. What we can now do, we don't have to arrange the second set, the big dots the way we've arranged these ones, we can duplicate this. Now, we have the snow big, and this is our parent comp B, and again, nicely arranges in our layer sequence. If you have soloed any layers, and you want to un-solo all layers that are at this moment soloed. Soloed means only these videos are visible. I also like to verbify nouns, so soloed. Let's turn that off, so we see everything again. We can also turn the reference off. We can just turn that on and off as we want to check if we've had enough dots, so we've had enough snowflakes for our original staging. What we'll do here is, we'll duplicate this, because we've already set this and shifted this the way we want it to be. We'll grab our snow big comp, hold Alt, and drag it onto our highlighted comps. Now, these comps have been replaced and that's great. The inside is still the same as its just duplicate of one, but we can do the same thing. Since we've changed the colors here, we'll do the same for our big comp. Actually, we would change the second one to green. The coloring is quite handy sometimes. You can click this color, select ''label group'' and it will select all of the layers that are of the same color. We'll grab big one, Alt, Alt, and replace all of those, we'll do the same with green. Done. Now, we have the same dots, but of course, these are in the same positions as our small dots, they are just overlapping. It is not something we want. We need to adjust the positioning a little bit. We'll probably need to adjust some of the timing as well, so they're not all in the same position. You can hold ''Shift and Control'' to snap it back to the original position to the frame. You can also hit P, and then right-click and reset, that will reset to the frame depending on where you anchor point is, and our anchor point is in the center of that layer. It will snap to the center of that layer. Now, let's shift this around a little bit, maybe you want less of these big ones. Also, don't want you to stop too early. Otherwise, with the overlapping scenes, with the overlapping comps of the snow scenes within our main scene, we would then have a gap between the one finishing and the ones starting again. We want all of our dots to allow snowflakes to finish at our mark over here. Because we added the start mark and the end marker for each of these snowflakes, it's easier for us to stretch or sequence them across our timeline within our snow, and know where the last key frame of that comp is happening. That was the reasoning for that. The first reason why we pre compositioned our snowflakes, is once you parent a last property like we did with the position of the snowflakes to another last property, you can no longer change the positioning of that child layer. We needed to do that in order for them to animate across the screen like this. With them being pre-compositioned or pre-comped, we now have the ability to reposition the comp across the frame to do that. Yeah this is good, I like that. I'm pleased with that. These are our dots, this is what they look like, just to compare with our reference dots apparently. Don't quote me on that. This is Typos Hampton. What am I going to tell you, matches up. That's enough dots for me. Of course, you can always shift them around later on if you, if you find that some of these dots are animating in too close to each other, they are following too closely of another dots animation, then you can go in and change that. We already have the big dots, you can get rid of these two. I'll just go ahead and do the same thing as earlier, we'll duplicate this layer, and we'll do the replacing again. We do have to change the positioning and the timing, because of course, if we leave it, they'll come in at the same time. 8. Using the Time Expression: Now I mentioned there was two reasons why we precomped these layers, because we have so many of the snowflakes. We could, if we didn't like that. This was a dot maybe to replace this object in our snowflakes precomp. That would then show in all of the precomps and all of the duplicate of precomps we have used now is seen I will seen so it would update across the entire scene. That's quite handy for quick edits. We do want it to be a dot in this case. Now what will do, I would like to add an additional bit of dynamic to our snowflakes. We will add a rotation to the snowflakes, but we won't add it directly to each snowflake.We will link the rotation to the motion path. We will also not be Keyframing this, but we'll automized the rotation by adding a time expression. Now, we will add a slider controller to this. For this you need to open effects and presets, and you need to get to window effects and presets then in the search bar you type in slider. With your layer selected you can double-click the slider and now it's on that layer, you hit enter, and we'll name this time one. I will set this to 70. We'll do that for both null objects actually. We will go into the first snowflake comp that stopped with small and we'll push it to the side, will open up rotation. One of the important thing, is you can either toggle this time slider by hitting E and then toggling it open this way you can see it in the timeline. Another fun thing you can do is if you have your effects controls open, you can then toggle viewer lock. This will lock the view of the X texts controls for this layer, then we will old click the rotation. Now we do need to write an expression in here. What we want to write is time, which is the start symbol, then we'll use the pick whip and we will drag it over to our time slider over here. Whatever we input into this number over here, we've done 70 right now, that's the number it will use to rotate this layer over time. The smaller the number, the slower it rotates, the higher the number, the faster it rotates. As you can see, that's super fast. I'll set this rotation to 70, and if you want some of these to rotate in another direction, you can add negative numbers. So minus 70. We do this linking for all of the 01 once for the ones that we've already created. This one that will be rotating at 70, we don't need to type that expression again, we can right-click on the property, select Copy expression only and then we can highlight that layer and can, with control V paste that expression onto that layer again. All of the ones that we want to rotate in the same direction will have that same expression. All of the ones that are using the motion path one will rotate in the same direction. Unlocked this to see the rotation for motion path two. Actually I want this one to rotate in the other direction. We can now also add that same expression that we copied earlier with hitting E-E. We can show that expression and then all we need to do is highlight everything that's after the star. We can pick whip, if we had actually toggled the viewer log, we can then take whip to choose this slider controller instead of the other one. We want this one to be Motion Path time one and the snowflake two, this is the one that we want. Since I had already copied the expression, it's now already going to motion path two, that's exactly what we want. Let's close this one as well and will open all the tools. Just highlight the layer, not the property paste E-E, that's the rotation and now it's also linking to motion path to time one and that's what we want. I think flake big doesn't have one yet. We can also just paste the expression we've already been using and just go in and just change this to motion path one. We can see that they are slightly rotating. There's some camping over here, but that's okay. Maybe some snowflakes just like each other a lot. If you feel like some of these are rotating too fast, like for instance, the big snowflake is a little bit hectic for me. You can also just add a second timer. The big snowflake is on motion path two. We can just duplicate this, we can change this to something slower. So let's say -100, which will be slower than 70. We can go then into the big snowflake and change this from time one to time two. Higher numbers mean faster, lower numbers means slower. Excuse my misspeaking, now we can see that it's rotating slower. Also at the moment our snow is coming in from behind our stars. Let's move our stars all the way back in our scene. Maybe we will want our snowflakes to also pass in front of our boots in landscapes. These ones we don't need, we've already replaced them. Let's move that up and maybe the flakes can pass in front of the landscape in something like this. Now some of these are passing in front of and behind set layers. It gives it a little bit more depth. All right, we will jump to animate the stars. 9. Using the Loop Expression: What we want to do now is animate these black stars and have them pulsate a little bit. I've hidden all of the other layers, they're not gone. I just toggle this shy switch. If you turn on this shy toggle and then turn on shy switch, all of the other layers disappears so you can focus just on the ones that you need so that's what I've done here. I want to add a scale key frame and I will set this one at 75 percent so they will start small. I'll move forward 60 frames by holding shift and page down. Then I will animate them up to 100 percent and I will highlight them by clicking and dragging and pressing F9 to easy ease or go right click on the key frames, key frame assistant and easy ease. Now, as I mentioned during setup, we can shift layers back if you want to stagger them or sequence them without losing access to the frames. Because now we have the space before our point zero and this is what we want to do. We want to shift these back, 30 frames each. You hold shift alt page up and I'm holding control to unselect the ones that I don't want to keep on shifting back. I did this because I don't want all of these to animate at the same time. I don't want them to be pulsating all at the same time. I kind of want them to stagger a little bit and just to add a little bit of dynamic to the animation. Now, we will be using a ping-pong loop expression here. That means the animation will bounce between these two frames and loop them for the rest of our animation, so we don't have to keep on adding key frames. We'll do that by alt clicking on this animation. You can also type in the expression, but we'll go into property loop out and we want to change this cycle to ping-pong, will copy expression only, highlight the layers and with control v, we will paste the expression to the other layers. Now, if we look at this we can see, let's have a closer look at that actually. We can see that the scaling up and down and kind of pulsating slightly and it's not all happening at the same time. If it was all happening at the same time, I can highlight all of these and hit hard open bracket. It will look like this. I mean, that doesn't look quite so interesting. Let's undo that. Tap the shifting and yes, because we have shifted them back, we now have access to all of the three key frames and our animation still starts at our point 0 and everything's great. Now to explain to you a little bit about these loop's cycles, we've chosen a ping-pong loop, which means the animation will bounce back and forth between the two key frames. You can also use a cycle loop. For cycle loop you need at least three key frames. The first key frame has to match the last key frame for the loop to work. For this star over here, I can copy paste as key frame and then we can see that this one is also looping, but we need an additional key frame for that so this is why I used ping-pong. If you saw in the property selection, you not only have the option of loop out, you also have the option of loop in. Our loop out will loop from the last key frame forward. Right now it's happily looping and then as we hit the last key frame, it stops. From that point onward, it does no longer loops, so it loops into the key frames. This one loops out from the key frames. Let's undo this and loop out ping-pong. If you notice, we have num key frames written over here. The command num key frames tells us how many of the key frames segments should be looped. It defines the spaces between two key frames, not the key frames themselves. If I had a whole bunch of other stuff, and then I add a one here. All of the key frames up to this point will play normally, up to the last two, and they will then loop. That's what this number means. You define the spaces that you want to loop. We only have one and we'll set this back. Okay, I'll just undo all of this, un-solo this, and that's our finished animation. You can always add more animation. Now we are ready to render our animation. I will get into the nitty-gritty of all of that in the next part. 10. Rendering the GIF - Codecs & Containers: What we want to do now is check that we have our work area set within our main comp. We know that it will be rendered correctly to what we thought up in the beginning because we have set our start and our end marker. You can hit B to crop or trim your work area, if it isn't already cropped to the right place. We want our animation to be six seconds long, and then we can send it to the Media Encoder render queue. You can do that by hitting ''Ctrl'' old in or going to composition as to Media Encoder, render queue. I always render out of Media Encoder. You can even queue multiple animations in Media Encoder and continue working within your after-effects, while rendering, your desired target determines the render settings. For example, if you want to render something for YouTube or Vimeo or Facebook, adobe has a preset ready for you. Different specs will impact on quality and size of your file. I have a few presets ready with a median codec, you have a choice of different formats. Formats are presets that will determine the codec and container of your file. The H.264 format has a H.264 codec, which will render out to a MP4 container. The MP4 file extension is what you will see after the filename. The QuickTime format has a choice of video codecs. You can see a list of them by clicking on the video codec dropped down. In the case of quick time, the format container is a MOV. The target rate of my H.264 preset is 10 megabits per second. This gives you good quality without a file that is too huge. To learn more about codecs and containers. There's a great video by David Cong about how codecs work. I will link the video in the description. I also have a bunch of presets for different GIF formats, and different target platforms. The smaller your frame rate and frame size, the smaller the video file. But of course, a lower frame rate will impact on the smoothness of your animation. I choose 25 frames per second for gifts rendered from 60 frames per seconds, and 12.5 frames per seconds. For gifts rendered from 25 frames per second animations. You can highlight your queued item and you can drag all the presets that you want onto this item. Or you can double-click a preset and that will then get added to your highlighted item. Now I have the squared presets over here. In the beginning of our tutorial, I mentioned using reference layers to visualize different frame sizes. Now we can choose how the frame will be cropped. Those reference layers was to show us how the end product would look and maybe we need to change the staging. Certain things on cut-off. Now we will be rendering out in that frame crop. From the source scaling menu, choose scale to fill. Scale to fill means, our video will fill the frame proportionally and crop anything that is outside of that scale. If you choose scale to fit, for instance, it will keep the full HD size and just add black bars to fill the frame. We don't want that, we want a crop, we'll choose scale to fill. Rendering in your desired crop at the end of your animation gives you the freedom not to have to have multiple comps with multiple frame sizes in your after-effects. Instead of having multiple comps, where you can see the crop. I chose to have different presets off. I'll animate my scene in full HD, and then I cropped with different presets for my desired format. Now we can highlight, I actually don't want the 12.5 FPS, so remove that. Do you want a video, will highlight all of these, and then we can choose where this file will be rendered too. You can have Media Encoder, render the file into the vendor folder that is already created next to your project, which is this folder over here. Or you can choose another folder. I like to have a separate render folder out here, where I can access the render very easily. Now all of these files will be added to that render folder, and to rename each of these, we have to click on them individually. We can leave them the way they are, or we can remove the main. I'd like to do that, so I'm going to go ahead and remove the word Maine. As you can see, it says Pinterest, H.264, dribble and so on. These are the preset names that are being appended to the end of my render. If you also would like that to happen. You need to get to Edit Preferences and tick append preset name to filename. Otherwise, if you don't do that, if you render them out, it'll just append a number. It will be snow boots underscore one, snow boots underscore two, so on, and this way, you already know which preset you used for each of these vendors. Now, we can hit start queue, or as it says in the brackets, hit ''Enter'' and that will start our render queue. Once your rent is finished, you'll be able to click on the output file and open the folder containing your finished render. 11. Thank You!: That's the end of our class. Today you learned how to prep an Illustrator file for animation, setup and After Effects projects, and how to animate a winter scene using expressions and cross composition linking. Congrats. Well done on completing this class. I'm glad to have taught you something new. Getting illustrate an After Effects to work together is tricky business. I'd expect you to have some unanswered questions. Feel free to leave a comment and I'll try to answer. Follow me on social media for updates on upcoming classes. Thank you for taking this class.