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A flood of flapping... things!

A flood of flapping... things!

A flood of flapping... things!

I'm pretty new to AE (done two small comps), but I'm pretty familiar with Premiere, Photoshop, etc.

I have an image from a comic book (yep, I even have permission of the artist!) of a winged thing on a fancy background.  I'd like to create a flood of these things hurling themselves across the background, disappearing into a convergence point in the distance.

I can use Photoshop and make a clean background image.  This is no problem.

I can also use Photoshop and make, oh, a 15-frame still sequence of one flap-cycle (say, FLAPA01.pct to FLAPA15.pct), each complete with its own alpha channel.  Ideally, this means the critter has two flaps a second. (I'll probably do three or four different critters, so they look more like a chaotic mess and less like a doofusy replicated effect)

So, where would I go next.  Is this on the right path?  Has anyone here done this sort of thing before?  It seems like this would use a particle generator (I have AE5.5 Production Bundle) for each flapper that has a WIDE mouth, but with the things reducing in size and converging on a single point on the horizon.  And of course, each one should be flapping...

A little guidance would be nice.  Alternately, if someone could tell me "Oh, that's way too sophisticated for AE, little man!", that would save me some time, too.



"Cut a hole in the door.  Hang a flap.  Criminy, why didn't I think of this earlier?!" -- inventor of the cat door

RE: A flood of flapping... things!

Okay, maybe that was too complicated.  Um...  How about this:

Can I fire the particle playground gun using an image of my own creation?

If so, can it be a GIF?

If so, can it be an animated GIF?

If so, how would I build an animated GIF such that the transparent frames are still transparent in After Effects?

If I can't do an animated GIF, then what about some other way of making an "animated" particle (think a butterfly, with wings flapping).

I'm trying to do a new project every night with AE, but there's an awful lot of stumbling and fumbling around that I might be able to avoid...



"Cut a hole in the door.  Hang a flap.  Criminy, why didn't I think of this earlier?!" -- inventor of the cat door

RE: A flood of flapping... things!

Hi Edward,
 I've just read some of your posts and you really seem to have flung yourself into the deep end - well done. AE can be a a hard programme to get your head around initially, but can be really rewarding once you start getting results. The more you learn about it, the more you see it all around you on TV and films. Anyway, on with the show.
 Using the particle emitter definitely sounds like a step in the right direction - however, as you mentioned, animated Gifs may not werk with it. Also, you need a machine with tons of grunt to work with and render this type of thing.
 The way I was thinking depends on whether you're werking in 2D or 3D. If the former, then you can animate your flappy thing in a composition (lots of clever ways to do this) and then nest lots of these into a new comp for animation. If 3D, then I would build it once and copy the necessary layers into the same comp. The best way to animate these is to use null layers. These are layers that dont have a 'physical' presence in the comp, but are used to drive animations and control lots of other layers. If you 'parent' a null to a number of layers, then you can use the null to move, rotate etc. all of the layers simultaneously. You can also parent a null to other nulls, so you can achieve very complex spiraling animations (not quite a flocking algorithim, but it will get you there). The layer will always move in relation to the null so if you want the grouped layers to move around a centre point at a distance, then make sure the null is offset.
 Hmmmm... I hope at least some of this insane rambling makes a bit of sense. Post back if you need anything cleared up and best of luck!

RE: A flood of flapping... things!

Hi PsiPhi,

Deep end, indeed!

I guess you could call it 2+D.  The final project is a Premiere project with multiple layers.  Each layer usually has 1-4 planes of animation.

Each "piece" is from 1-20 seconds long.

For the pieces with the nightgaunts (the flapping things), they usually have a duration of about 4 seconds each.  There's, maybe, a dozen different scenes like this, but they all use the same basic flapping image.  My current box is a 900 MHz Presario.  It'll definitely render a 4-second scene however complicated I make it (we're not talking Jurassic Park, here).  Once the scene in AE is done, I plan to export as a bunch of frames and then import those frames into Premiere.

So, can AE import an animated GIF and understand that it's an animated GIF?

In my attempts to animate rain (in Premiere, before I acquired AE), I discovered that three moving layers, as long as they were moving in more-or-less the same direction, approached a "randomish" look.  If I have to animate groups of nightgaunts in a "sheet", as if unrolling a cellophane strip, then my bottom-line quality would be simply to make a long strip and run it through at different rates and from different start- and end-points using a sereies of Image Pans.

Someone at a different location suggested investigating the "foam" effect.

If I understand you right, I can take an already-existing composition and make it, essentially, a "sub" composition, say, ten times.  Then, can I make the resultant composition into one of several more-complicated sub-compositions?  If I use, say, "wiggle", will the wiggle be random for each composition, or do I have to re-apply it for each single nightgaunt?

Thanks for putting up with my questions!



"Cut a hole in the door.  Hang a flap.  Criminy, why didn't I think of this earlier?!" -- inventor of the cat door

RE: A flood of flapping... things!

Okay, the key here seems to be extensive use of precomposition.

I can make a small nightgaunt and then precompose that and have that precomposition populate a particle playground gun.

What I haven't figured out, and I hope someone can help me with, is this:

I want this nightgaunt to start out large and end up small.  I can easily apply this effect to an image and then precompose.  However, when I use that precomposition as a layer map to a particle playground gun, what happens is that all nightgaunts produced at t=0 are at max size and eventually get smaller as expected, but nightgaunts produced at, say t=50% are half-size.  That is, they come out of the gun at the size the precomposition is when they're generated.

Okay, so in a way, this makes sense, but it doesn't achieve the destination I want.

What I would like is to know if and how I can program the particle gun to produce a nightgaunt at full size (whenever it produces one) and then have it reduce by the same rate of reduction in the precomposition.

Right now, I "cheat".  For, say, a 6-second composition, I make a 1-second piece of a nightgaunt going from large to small.  I set keyframes for size, position and rotation, but only set values for size.  Then I dup the layer six or seven times.  Then I go, layer-by-layer, and change the position of the first keyframe such that these nightgaunts all seem to be flying toward the center.  I diddle the motion curves, too.  I apply rotation where I feel like it.  Then, I apply the Wiggler to all motion and rotation paths.  Then I recollapse all the layers and grab 'em on the timeline and stagger them across the 6-second clip.

If I do this same sequence for five different nightgaunts, I pretty much get the effect I'm looking for -- except they don't flap their wings.  However, with a screen full of nightgaunts, all wiggling as they rotate, you hardly notice that they're not flapping their wings.  In fact, choosing the right nightgaunts makes it seem like they're all gliding.

So, solved part of the problem...  

Any other ideas?



"Cut a hole in the door.  Hang a flap.  Criminy, why didn't I think of this earlier?!" -- inventor of the cat door

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