Basics in Controlling Text Animation in After Effects

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Text animation is everywhere in film and TV. Text controls exist in nearly every post production and image manipulation software ranging from entry level NLEs such as iMovie, to Final Cut Pro, Premiere Pro, After Effects, Nuke, Cinema 4D, Maya, Avid, and more. We will be exploring After Effects today in its ability to:

  • Create and Manipulate Basic Text Form
  • Animate Text Using Position, Scale, and Rotation
  • Additional Resources and Plug Ins

CREATE AND MANIPULATE BASIC TEXT FORM

Start by creating a new COMPOSITION. Observe on the right hand side the TAB labeled CHARACTERS.

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This CHARACTER WINDOW will be what we use to control the TEXT we write with. Starting from the top and working down, this window allows you to choose the FONT, line variation, color, size, spacing, stroke, height, and width.

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Once you have adjusted the settings to what you feel will be the best fit, go up to the tool bar and select the TEXT TOOL (CMD+T).

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Click inside your COMPOSITION and type out your text. If you find you want to make further adjustments, highlight your text and inside the CHARACTER WINDOW you can make the necessary adjustments in order to create your desired text layout.

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ANIMATE TEXT USING POSITION, SCALE, AND ROTATION

When first learning how to control text, one must learn to keyframe the text and control simple 2D functions such as Position, Scale, and Rotation. POSITION – when you have your text layer selected in the layers window, hit ‘P’ on the keyboard. Position is what controls the location of your text in the composition and how it moves throughout the timeline. In order to create a KEYFRAME, you must CLICK the STOPWATCH icon next to POSITION under your TEXT in the LAYERS WINDOW.

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Once you CLICK the STOPWATCH, a yellow diamond will appear on your TIMELINE.

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If you move further down the timeline, and then move your text’s POSITION in the COMPOSITION, you will notice another KEYFRAME appears on the TIMELINE marking the POSITION at that exact moment. As you add more keyframes in your composition, you will also notice a TRACK will be generated showing you where your text’s position is moving over time.

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SCALE – when you have your text layer selected in the layers window, hit ‘S’ on the keyboard. Scale is what controls the size of your text throughout the timeline. For instance, if you want your text to be very small and slowly grow larger over time, you would set a keyframe early in the timeline with the scale set on a lower number, move down the timeline and increase the scale number. Depending on how close or far away the keyframes are on the timeline will dictate how fast or slow the scaling will take place.

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ROTATION – when you have your text layer selected in the layers window, hit ‘R’ on the keyboard. Rotation is what controls the text’s angle throughout the timeline. If you want your text to spin and twirl as it emerges, or even simply be displayed at a 90 degree angle, then the rotation is what you need to control. Just like position and scale, rotation is controlled throughout the timeline by setting a series of keyframes. Here, rotation is measured in degrees, and as you increase the number, it will range up to 360 and then clock over to one, signifying one complete rotation, and so on.

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Stay tuned as I cover more advanced techniques of animating text, including fade on and off, opacity, and using Z space to create 3D Depth and movement.

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