Resources for animating font shapes in After Effects?
November 2, 2013 8:56 AM   Subscribe

I have been asked to animate some poem titles to be projected during a theatrical performance. I'm not having any luck finding resources. I'm not even sure what I've been asked to do is possible without doing hand-drawn animation. Anyone got any places I could look?

Because I've done video projections for this theater before, they came to me first. The production in question is a one-woman show based on a number of poems written by the playwright. She and the director want the titles of the poems to be projected onto the screen during the show, but they don't just want "fade out/fade in" transitions between titles.

I was asked to find a way to do some sort of scripty/handwriting font for the titles, and animate from one title to the next within the flow of the script. I have scoured YouTube, Video Copilot, and Creative Cow, and haven't really found what I'm looking for. Apparently it is very difficult to animate between letter shapes because the number of vertices in each letter differs greatly. I know Flash does shape animations, but it's always looked pretty bad to me.

I also know that After Effects has a "write on" effect, but that's not really what I'm looking for either. I don't want to show the words "typing" onto the screen, I want to animate between words. If that is not possible, I would also accept some other sort of shape animation where the first title changes into something amorphous and then coalesces back into the second title. I just don't know how to do that. I am middling familiar with After Effects, moreso with Flash.
posted by starvingartist to Computers & Internet (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would try copying the mask shape into the position parameter of a light, then use particular with the light as an emitter...set velocity to 0 to have the letters be legible. That way you can paste multiple masks into the lights position, or just use multiple instances of the effect.
posted by pepcorn at 9:05 AM on November 2, 2013

I know what you mean about the shape tween is ugly in Flash. Any attempt to morph one word into another is going to have the same problems, especially without manually adjusting for each and every letter.

Spit-balling ideas that might achieve whatever elusive thing the client is after:

1) Mask the titles. As you slide the mask off one title, slide it onto the other title.
2) Mask the titles but instead of animating the mask, animate one title sliding out the top and slide the other in from the bottom.
3) Matte choker to animate title out with geometric softness while other animates in.
4) If you are willing to spend time on it and the morphing aspect is important to someone, then you can apply Liquify to both titles and manually squish each to be shaped more like the other.
5) Roughen edges?
6) I know you said no typing no fading, but would it be okay with a randomized character range selector instead of in sequence?
posted by RobotHero at 9:25 AM on November 2, 2013

This sounds like it's going to be tricky. Your second option ( some other sort of shape animation where the first title changes into something amorphous and then coalesces back into the second title) sounds a bit more possible. Here's how I would do that:

-Turn the letters of the first title and the second title into masks, on different layers (google if you are not sure how to do this; I don't have AE on this computer and can't remember exact instructions, but I know there are tutorials online)
-Create one or more amorphous shapes with the same number of vertices as each letter
-For each letter (let's say the first one is A):
1- create a starting keyframe that's the mask of the letter
2-create a second keyframe however many frames later, paste in the keyframe you set for the mask that's the amorphous shape

Now you should have the letter morphing into an amorphous shape

3- Create a different layer (let's say for B)
4- Set a keyframe at the end of the transition that's just the mask of B
5- Earlier on your timeline, set a keyframe that's the amorphous shape that's the same number of vertices as B
6- Overlap your layers on the timeline so that the amorphous shapes overlap on the timeline; try to match them up as closely as possible

So what you should have is something like

B _______________|---------------------------B
A A----------------------|

(hyphens are layers, underscore is blank)
Not sure if this makes sense? This is the best way I can think of to do it.
posted by matcha action at 10:28 AM on November 2, 2013

Response by poster: That sounds like it might be a good solution if there were only a few titles to do, but we're looking at a good dozen or more slides. I doubt they can pay me for that kind of time and effort. I was hoping for something automated. Thanks for the suggestion, though.
posted by starvingartist at 10:36 AM on November 2, 2013

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