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Animating Adobe Illustrator Graphics

Set Your Vector Graphics in Motion--the Easy Way! By Steve Holmes
Great vector graphics can become motion graphics more easily than you might think. Logo images created in Adobe Illustrator, for example, can be rendered with dazzling visual effects in Adobe After Effects for video or Web purposes--in fact, these two software applications are the basis of many standard visual effects workflows. However, even professionals who use both applications extensively are often unaware of features in Adobe Illustrator that speed the process of creating motion graphics.

The two techniques presented here include timesaving tricks that will surprise you with their simplicity and effectiveness. Some of these tricks have been possible for some time in Illustrator and After Effects; others are new with Illustrator 10. Try them when you need to set your vector graphics in motion ... fast!

Technique #1: 'Release to Layers' speeds animated text
Animating a logo or other text is one of the quickest ways to make an eye-catching impression. In this example, we're going to burn a logo onto a metal surface, using a graphic of a racecar to "draw" some of the animation for us.

First, take text you've created in Illustrator and convert it to outlines. Once you've ungrouped it, use Illustrator's unique "release to layers" command to separate all the text characters to different layers for animation in After Effects.

At this point you can apply various Appearance settings to the characters in Illustrator. Create interesting color and stroke combinations, including transparency. The work you do here will be recognized later in After Effects.

Save the file in native, layered Illustrator 10 format.

Import the file into After Effects as Composition (not separate files), to see that the transparency, layers and appearances are all intact. If the Appearance of one or more characters needs changing, perform an Edit Original command to see how well After Effects and Illustrator are integrated for footage updating.

Use After Effects to apply keyframes for scale (100%) and rotation (0) at the start and finish of each letter. All you have to do is select all the layers (Cmd/Ctrl-A), hit S and Shift-R on the keyboard to access the Scale and Rotation properties, then click on the first property's stopwatch. Drag all the way down through the other stopwatches to apply the first keyframe immediately. Now move the time cursor to the end of the timeline, click on the first Keys box and drag down to add the second keyframe to all properties immediately.

Now use the Wiggler palette to randomly animate the values between each set of selected keyframes on each property.

Animate the characters' transparency to make letters fade in over time to spell a logo word, or for a different effect, make the letters slide in from one edge of the screen.

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