Getting Started with Adobe After Effects - Part 6: Motion Blur

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Getting Started with Adobe After Effects

Getting Started with Adobe After Effects - Part 4: Creating and Animating Text

Apr 16 2013 12:00AM by jamesel   

In this lesson we will take a look at how to create and animate text. Displaying text in a visually interesting yet clear manner is very important in motion graphics.

Let’s take a look at how to create text in After Effects.

Type tool

On the toolbar we can create text using the Type Tool (shortcut control + T). When this tool is selected, the character panel lights up, this contains many settings for our text which will be discussed shortly. To create text, simply click anywhere inside a composition and begin typing. This creates a new text layer.

type tool

Once created you can edit the text by selecting the type tool, clicking on the text and typing. You can also select all text inside a layer by double clicking on the text layer on the timeline.

type tool

You can create a bounding box for text to fit inside by selecting the text tool and drawing a rectangle inside the composition. Now when you type text it will automatically fit inside the bounding box.

bounding box

You can use the Paragraph window to choose what type of alignment you’d like to use by clicking on the text layer and selecting an option from the paragraph window.

paragraph window

Remember that your windows may be in a different location to mine depending on what workspace is being used. The text workspace preset would be helpful for this lesson.

Let’s have a look at the many text options inside the Character Panel:

character panel

  1. Font: This option lets you choose what font your text will be
  2. Font style: This lets you make your font bold or italic if your chosen font support is compatible
  3. Font colour
  4. Stroke colour: If you have a stroke applied to your text (Option 9). By default text has no stroke
  5. Font size: You can increase the size of your text by increasing the font size here, or scaling the text layer.
  6. Kerning: increases the horizontal space between two characters
  7. Leading: increases the vertical space between two rows of text
  8. Tracking: increase the horizontal space between selected characters
  9. Stroke: this adds a stroke on selected characters. By default the stroke is set to 0 width (no stroking) but you can increase this value above 0 to add a stroke of different thickness
  10. Vertical scale: stretches or squashes characters vertically
  11. Baseline shift: moves the text baseline up or down
  12. Horizontal scale: stretches or squashes characters horizontally
  13. Tsume: removes the vertical space between characters so they are flush side by side.
  14. Faux style: many fonts don’t come with bold or italic styles, you can use these options to fake the effect.
  15. All caps or small caps
  16. Superscript and subscript: makes the text half height. Superscript aligns the text to the top of the row and subscript aligns it to the bottom of the row. Superscript is useful for creating trademark symbols.

Note that different selections of text within a text layer can have different character settings.

Once you’ve got your text how you want it, let’s now take a look at how to animate the text on and off. You can use the methods used in lesson 03 using transformation animation such as moving the entire layer on or off screen, changing opacity or scale.

However we have a wealth of specialized options specifically for text layers. Expand the little arrow icon until you see the Animate button. Under here we can choose to animate many text properties. For this example I’m going to select opacity first, then scale. You can choose to add as many or as little parameters as you like.

add parameters

Once scale and opacity parameters have been added, you can keyframe them if you like. However most times you will end up leaving them static. Because the goal here is to bring text on and off in a smooth manner, change the opacity to 0 and the scale to 0%. The text will disappear and that’s fine, because we are going to animate these values using the range selector. The range selector is a slider that chooses what portion of the text is selected. The text that is selected then becomes affected by our scale and opacity settings.

At the default range selector settings, all text is selected (hence the text being invisible). Scroll down on the range selector settings to reveal the 3 parameters: start, end and offset.

range selector

The start defaults to a value of 0% and the end a value of 100%. Slide the start value from 0% to 100% and you will see the text scale up and become opaque. If the start is at 100% you can remove the text from right to left by reducing the end from 100% to 0%.

Set the start back to 0% and the end to 100%. Let’s create animation by going to frame 0 and keyframing the start value at 0%. Move forward 2 seconds and set the start value to 100%. AE will interpolate between both keyframes and the text will appear gradually over the two seconds.

create animation

Preview your work, what do you think? You’ll notice how one character has to become completely opaque and full size before the next character begins animating. This is a problem in motion graphics when you need to get a lot of text on screen. We could easily reduce the time between both keyframes, but the animation will look jarring.

We can fix this problem by expanding the advanced options tab. By default the shape is set to square. Change this to something like “ramp up” and you’ll instantly notice that many characters are animating at once. However if you preview your work you’ll also see that the range selector parameters don’t mesh well with our new animation.

ramp up

Change the ease low to 100% so the animation becomes smoother and instead of animating the start parameter from 0 to 100% under the range selector, animate the offset from -100% to +100% (with the start set to 0% and the end set to 100%). Now you’ll have some very smooth animated text. Take a while to explore all the many options and combinations the text animation settings allow. These are more advanced settings, but are crucial for creating smooth motion graphics pieces.

Text layers can also have effects applied to them, such as the fill effect we used in the previous lesson.

Some of you may be familiar with Photoshop’s layer styles which allow the user an immense amount of freedom to create stunning text. After effects has similar layer styles albeit in a less intuitive user interface. To access these, right click on the text layer and click layer styles. Here you can select the styles you’d like to apply to text.

In the next lesson we’ll explore cameras inside of After Effects.

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