Animation application
July 30, 2021 2:40 PM   Subscribe

I got a wild hair and am trying to make a video for my band. It's going to be animation, at least to the extent of "background layers scroll by while an 8 frame loop 'walks' in the foreground" or, "pan around a large image" type stuff. It's ok, even great, if it is a LITTLE janky. I'm not trying to be Pixar or Disney or even (although this is getting closer) '80s Hanna Barbera. What programs can I use to achieve this with the least learning curve?

I am very, very comfortable with Photoshop as an artmaking tool, and I have a good workflow for illustrations and for animated gifs. But the chasm between what I am envisioning and what can be easily done in Photoshop seems quite large.

I downloaded Adobe Animate since I already pay for Creative Cloud. I was horrified to see that it is just Flash with a rename. I can KIND of get it to do what I want, but I hate it. Maybe that's good enough and I just need to keep bashing my head against it? I am having the same issues I had with Flash back in the 90s - clunky, obtuse interface, maniacal reliance on the .swf format, low/weird quality.

Seems like After Effects might be the thing. But I don't know how to use it. Is it worth trying to figure it out to the point where can make it do what I want, or will I spend a bunch of time getting to know the program before deciding that it really isn't suitable for I want to do.

Is there something else I am missing?
posted by dirtdirt to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Fortunately, After Effects IS something that you can use to make what you want to make, as I understand what you've described. Knowing Photoshop well will help you with the AE learning curve quite a bit.

Unfortunately, the AE learning curve IS a thing, and it will take you a while to figure it out.

Fortunately, because AE is so widely used, there are many, many good tutorials that will help you figure out what you want to do.

Unfortunately, you'll have to wade through those tutorials to find what you want.

Fortunately, search terms are helpful in this case. If you pop open Youtube and do a search like "animated loop After Effects" you can often find something helpful. I often opt for shorter videos first (but not too short; 5 - 10 minutes is pretty good) to see if it's helpful.

If you already have access to a license of AE, I suggest committing a set amount of time (a few hours to a few days, to start) to just messing around with it, to see if you think you can get a handle on it. Try making that 8-frame loop.

Little, technical things you should decide on before you start, if you can:
1. Decide what aspect ratio/size you're going to work in (1920x1080? 1280x720?)
2. Decide what playback speed you're going to use (30 fps? 24 fps?)
Don't overthink these *too* much. But be aware that they ARE a thing.

Good luck! Once you get a handle on it, animating this sort of thing is fun.
posted by cleverevans at 4:05 PM on July 30, 2021 [2 favorites]

It would be possible to do this in Toon Boom Storyboard Pro. I think it has a pretty shallow learning curve. You can draw/make a looping animation layer and blur other layers for depth, play with opacity and pan elements or the camera around. It's drawing tools aren't nearly as great as photoshop but you can bring in photoshop documents and it’ll read them into layers if that's important to you. I haven’t tried the newest version yet. I understand they're still getting it compatible with the new M chip Macs. It's available as a monthly subscription.
posted by bonobothegreat at 4:41 PM on July 30, 2021 [1 favorite]

Just in case you want yet more options, this is also something you could do using Blender. Like AE, Blender has a lot of free resources and tutorials. It can pretty much do what ToonBoom or AE can do, but is free/open-source. Look up Grease Pencil and you can see a whole bunch of stuff about 2D animation/motion graphics in Blender.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 6:01 PM on July 30, 2021 [1 favorite]

I only have Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements but if you have animated .gif experience I feel that it might be _possible_ to import an animated .gif into Premiere and save it as a video
posted by TimHare at 8:14 PM on July 30, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: From what you’re describing, it sounds like what you want is pretty easy to do in AE once you’ve got the general hang of it. I animate professionally, primarily in AE — feel free to shoot me an email (in profile) with specifics if you’d like and I might be able to point you in the right direction or give you a rundown of stuff that would be helpful!
posted by caitcadieux at 2:08 AM on July 31, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Ok, so with your encouragement I've downloaded After Effects and the built-in tutorials have me feeling optimistic that I can make this do what I want. Thank you!
posted by dirtdirt at 8:13 AM on July 31, 2021

I'm another person saying simple loop animation is totally doable in A.E. with minimal time invested in the learning part. It's gets much trickier from there however. Sigh. I'm still mucking around trying really get a handle the more complicated stuff and it's been a year.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 11:34 AM on July 31, 2021

Response by poster: Well, I worked pretty hard on this for a month or two, and then tinkered with it for another month or two, and then waited yet another month or two for the song to be released. That day is today.

But yeah: here is the video for Kool, the new song by my band Bottlecap Mountain. Lead-off single for our new record Fib Factory. I play bass on the song. I did everything on the video.

The workflow was mostly Photoshop to After Effects to Premiere. I also did some stuff using Flipnote Studio 3D on a Nintendo 3DS. Like nearly every complicated project I've ever done, now that it IS done I can see lots and lots of ways it could have been better if I had been smarter about it along the way. But overall I am really pleased with how it came out, even if I have some things that bug me about it. It was really fun to do.

I'm even more awed by those of you who can do non-janky animations, whether frame-by-frame or programmatically. This was just an absolutely humiliating buttload of work and even for all that it is really only barely "animated" at all. Thank goodness it is a short song!

Anyway, thanks for the advice - it gave me the confidence to jump in with both feet, and it all worked out!
posted by dirtdirt at 4:55 AM on January 25, 2022 [2 favorites]

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