I’m feeling good about this project’s progress. This week I devoted some time to watching several After Effects tutorials linked in our class website, which was immensely helpful — some of the longer ones I admittedly didn’t finish, but Black Mixture’s tutorial in particular made everything click for me.
My first step was to create the individual compositions for each piece of dialogue. This seems like an easy way to keep the timeline organized, and quickly jump from one composition to another to fix small things. In my past experiences with AE, this was a total mental block for me — I always thought a composition was like a file, but it’s much more like a layer or group. I set up the plain text into those compositions, using my exported Illustrator artboards to help me place everything correctly. I used solids for the backgrounds in each composition instead of the main timeline.
Once it was all organized, my first attempt to animate was for my halftone pattern composition, instead of the text. I knew I wanted it to move continuously, so I created copies of the image at different vertical and horizontal orientations and set it to change flatly every 4 frames. It took a long time since it involved a lot of copying and pasting to reach the full length of the clip, but the result is exactly what I wanted — a bit like old film grain, moving randomly enough to not be distracting. I layered that on top of the entire main timeline as its own composition, set to 10% opacity.
After that, I started tackling the text. For these first animatics, I’m using the preset text “animation in” effects: Joan’s lines are using “Fade Up Words” and Stan’s are “Straight In By Word.” Bill and Joey’s laughter is just using position keyframes, swiping across the screen entirely. I played around with the easing as well: Joan’s lines ease in and out at 100%, while Stan’s ease in at 65% and out at 100%; Bill and Joey’s laughter uses the speed graph with a higher speed at the beginning (I get tripped up over whether that means it’s easing in or out more). For Joan and Stan, I took advantage of character tracking to trick the “by word” effect to create more nuanced animations: in “pornographic,” I added a space between each syllable but set tracking to -300 so it doesn’t look like separate words, but the animation still pauses slightly. I also did the opposite, removing the space between “It’s a” and adding 300 tracking to make the words animate together. The timing is still not exactly where I want for some of the lines, so I may have to split up the text boxes even more.
I was able to do about half of the length of the clip in this first draft (linked below) — I wanted to make sure I got to the second laugh bit so that I could test out the slow fade in the background color. I think it worked very well, and I’m excited to see how it looks for the rest of the clip where it’s used even more heavily. I’m still considering whether I should have some more sudden “drops” in color at key moments in the dialogue — maybe it would help make it more dramatic, but I don’t want it to be too distracting either. Now that I’ve gotten the hang of AE, I’m definitely looking forward to trying different things out!