A Masterclass In Motion

Due to advances in motion technology, the creative industry has seen a big shift towards the world of video and animation. Today graphic designers are required to be experienced not only in print and digital design, but in motion too.

As a recent graphic design graduate, I am keen to expand my skills in all of these areas in order to be a well-rounded designer. Although I had never received any formal training in motion design, this was a skill that I was interested in developing and (luckily for me!) GRIN gave me the opportunity to enrol myself in the Motion Design School’s ‘Fundamentals on After Effects’ course, which enabled me to kickstart my animation training.

In this blog post, I’ll be giving a short overview of my experience with the course for any designers of animation enthusiasts who might be keen to give it a go. I’ll be documenting my progress step-by-step, to demonstrate how I’ve learnt how to navigate the After Effects interface and use its tools to create a simple piece of motion work.

Stage 1 – The Basics

As someone who had never even opened up After Effects, I found the initial lesson helpful as it covered the basics. I learnt about all the different tools in After Effects which helped me to understand how to navigate the software.
The tutorial then explained the basic animation process of using Keyframes: anchor points that help to define the start and end of an action. They can be used to animate or change the position, scale, rotation or the transparency of an object.

I was then able to put this learning into practice as I animated the very first components of a GIF, learning to add and adjust keyframes to make plant leaves slowly sway in the wind and to animate a fish to jump out of water.

Stage 2 – Utilising Expressions, Effects & Presets

It’s well known that you need to have A LOT of patience when animating, as adding and adjusting each keyframe can be a very time consuming process. However, After Effects makes use of Expressions which are small pieces of JavaScript which can help speed up the animation process. These expressions help to automatically loop the properties of different keyframes, so you don’t have to manually animate each one.

This tutorial discussed the basics of how to code and apply different expressions, which enabled me to start altering the duration and frequency of different assets to create fluid animations. The session also explained how to create more natural looking transitions through the use of the Effects & Presets library which allows you to apply pre-coded effects to different layers. This is a valuable tool in helping to speed up the animating process. I experimented using some of these expressions and effects to animate additional elements in my GIF.

Stage 3 – Character Animation

The next stage in the course was an introduction to character animation, which explained how to animate various facial expressions and body movements which helped to animate characters in a realistic way. It taught me how to link different body parts together, using pins to replicate different joints which I could then alter to make the character perform different actions.

I started to apply these ideas to the characters in my own composition, experimenting with animating different body parts to try and animate the characters as they were sat around the campfire.

Stage 4 – Stylisation

After animating all of the main components, the next lesson shows how to apply different textures and stylisation to create a more atmospheric scene. To achieve this I utilised some more of After Effects’ Stylise presets to add effects to elements of my animation. Animating these additional components helped to give the scene further visual interest through the finer details.

The Overall Experience

The course has taught me the foundations of animation and the theory behind the process and I am now able to implement these ideas into my own work. I also learned a number of helpful tips and tricks for using After Effects’ tools to help optimise my workflow. I am excited to put these skills into action and get stuck into some of GRIN’s motion projects!