Category Archives: Motion Graphics

Layer management in After Effects

Lloyd Alvarez posted this incredibly useful script at AEScripts.com. My one beef with After Effects over the years has been how difficult it is to manage layers in the timeline. Using the simple concept of tags, this script makes layer management much easier.

Mastering codecs revisited

A lot of folks were excited by the release of the Windows ProRes 422 decoders for QuickTime last week. It does solve a workflow issue for editors needing to get ProRes material into third party Windows applications, but it doesn’t allow for roundtripping.

The lack of a Windows encoder is only part of the problem with ProRes. Its lack of alpha channel support remains a dealbreaker for many editors and motion graphics pros.

Looking for a reasonable bandwidth, all I-frame mastering codec? DNxHD remains the best cross-platform mastering solution.

Visualizing data

Earlier this week the NY Times ran a piece about the experimental website Many-Eyes.com. At first glance the site is every statistician’s nightmare — the marriage of complex visual interpretation and social networking. Being a believer in the wisdom of the crowd, I don’t expect this harm public discourse in the least. As this election cycle proves, there’s really nowhere to go but up in public debate of complex issues.

As an editor and motion graphics artist, data visualization is hard to get right and impossible to do inexpensively, requiring both sides of the brain to fire on all cylinders. If it was possible to post a data set and tap the collective knowledge of the audience to parse it and visualize it meaningfully, we might be on to something.

At it’s most basic level, the tool streamlines the process of data visualization. You can take a look at this view of Olympic medals won by each country from 1896-2006.

It’s also useful as a tool to verify editorial conclusions. For example, one data set on the site created a word tree for all Obama’s references to McCain in his acceptance speech at the Democratic convention. Add some phoneme capabilities, and data visualization could be visually interesting — in real-time. Click image to see full size.

Fare thee well, Jim Tierney

Last week’s news that Digital Anarchy sold its video effects software to Red Giant is disappointing. Though I’m sure Red Giant will be a good home for some of my favorite After Effects plug-ins, I’ll sorely miss Jim Tierney and Debbie Rich in the video community.

Jim was always a good interview back in my DV Magazine days. He wasn’t a walking press release at trade shows. He’d speak candidly and on the record about the industry, his competition, and how Digital Anarchy stacked up.

Digital Anarchy will continue supporting and developing its Photoshop plug-ins and digital photography tools.

Good luck Jim and Debbie. You’ll be missed. Thanks for all the great stories and great advice when I was launching Xprove.

From the press release:

This asset sale will allow Digital Anarchy to focus on their other core market, Photoshop plug-ins for photographers and digital artists. Since 2004, the company has released tools that help professional and hobbyist photographers to uniquely create a fully digital portrait studio. The company has recently focused on software that provides custom graphic effects, and plans to release new innovative products by the beginning of Q4 2008. Digital Anarchy is also considering development for related host applications like Adobe Lightroom and Apple Aperture.

Working around QT 7.4 After Effects error

As noted nearly everywhere motion graphics artists congregate on the web including here, QuickTime 7.4 and After Effects don’t play nicely together. Apparently Apple’s movie rental DRM scheme is the culprit. Any QuickTime render from After Effects that requires more than 10 minutes will generate a permissions error.

There are two obvious options to address the issue:

  1. Downgrade to QuickTime 7.3
  2. Render an image sequence and then piece that sequence together in either QuickTime Pro or After Effects.

I’m not a huge fan of downgrading because you just never know if you’re going to break something in the process. If 7.4 is working for you aside from this pesky After Effects error, you might want to try this work around. It adds an extra step in After Effects, but it works. Follow these steps:

  1. When it comes time to render your After Effects composition, take that composition and nest it in another composition with the same settings by dragging the composition to the New Composition icon in the Project window.
  2. Select the original composition in the project window.
  3. Go to the Composition menu and select Pre-Render. The original composition has now been added to your Render Queue.
  4. In the Render Queue, edit the Output Module settings so that you are creating an image sequence. (I like .psd files for this because the file sizes are reasonable and the files are written quickly.)
  5. Now add the new sequence with the original sequence nested in it to your Render Queue. Set its Output Module to the desired QuickTime settings. Since this sequence will render in much less than 10 minutes, you should have no problem getting a valid QT movie out of After Effects without reverting to an earlier version of QuickTime.

This adds just a couple of minutes to your total render time, and you can leave After Effects to do its thing with a long render without having to manually piece the image sequence together in QuickTime Pro.

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