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Episode 5: The Cheesy Scroll Strikes Back

An After Effects 5.x Tutorial By Stephen Schleicher
A few years ago I wrote a tutorial on how to recreate the opening title scroll for Star Wars using Adobe After Effects 4.1. In this tutorial I used the production bundle and corner pinning to force the perspective of the text so it would look like it was moving into the vast emptiness of space. Because AE 4.1 is a 2D compositing package, recreating this opening can be a challenge. With the 3D option in Adobe After Effects 5.x, I decided to revisit this effect and show another way this can be done.

Episode 5.0 The Cheesy Scroll Strikes Back

The final opening scroll using the new 3D function in AE5.x
Activating the 3D layer, allows the user to manipulate the layer in 3D space while maintaing 2D layering in other layers.
Once 3D layering is active, the comp window will show axis controls (XYZ space)
A perpective veiw showing the text layer rotating back.
Switching to a side view will help position and place the camera.
Adding in a planet and star field will help complete the effect. Add in your favorite Sci-Fi space ship to complete the opening.
Let's start by creating a new comp with the settings needed for your final project. I set my to 720x486 and a total length of 30 seconds. Yours may need to be longer or shorter depending on the length of your text.

Next import the elements into the project. If you don't have anything prepared, snag the original zip file, which contains all of the necessary elements for this tutorial. (Mac users can unstuff Zip files with Aladdin Expander, available free at http://www.aladdinsys.com.)

Drag the text roll element into your project creating a new layer. You should notice a new icon in the switches/mode column. This icon (which looks like a cube) activates the 3D layer option in AE 5.x. When the text layer is turned into a 3D layer, you will notice that axis arrows appear in the comp window. These of course represent the XYZ axis in 3D space. We want the text layer to be a 3D layer so we don't have to force perspective.

Change the select tool to the rotation tool and rotate the text layer to 270 degrees on the X-axis, making the layer flat. Why make it flat? We need to make this layer flat, because it is easier to move the layer on only one axis instead of fighting and fussing with two axes trying to get the layer to move in strait line.

Switch back to the selection tool and move the text layer down on the Z axis-it is the Z axis instead of the Y axis because of the rotation step-until it is at the bottom of the comp window. Also move the layer back on the Y axis until it is positioned out of frame. Create a position keyframe and move to a time later in the timeline where the text will have moved away from the viewer.

Switch to a side view and move the layer to its ending position. A new keyframe will automatically be created. If you scroll back through the timeline, you will notice that the words are still not readable. We can fix this by repositioning the camera. But how do you reposition the camera in 3D space? Simple. Add a camera to the scene (Layer/New/Camera).

Switch the view to a side view once more so you can see the position of the camera in relation to the text layer. (You may need to change the magnification so everything will fit in the comp view.) Move the camera up (the Y axis) and rotate it down (on the X axis) until it is positioned so you can see the text clearly.

As a side note, it is important to realize that when you add a camera to the scene you have two options to view the comp. The first is the Active Camera view; this is the default view and whatever camera is positioned highest in the timeline. The second view is the particular camera view. This will let you view the composition through the perspective of that camera. However, the final movie will only render the active camera. You can even cut between cameras by changing the duration of each of the cameras as well.

There will be a point where the text will definitely be too small to read, so you may want to fade the entire text out once it gets far enough out.

If you have done everything correctly, you should have a nice scrolling text moving off into the vastness of space. Oh, wait... We haven't added space yet. Add the star field layer into your composition and place it in the very bottom layer. Do not make this a 3D layer. This is a really nice part of Adobe After Effects 5.x. You can combine 2D and 3D layers seamlessly with very nice results. In this example, the text layer will never intersect the star field layer, so we could conceivably have the text move off into infinity. If you are using the star field that is included with this tutorial, then you may have noticed that it is about twice as long as it is high, this is so we can do some panning, so if you haven't done so already, position the star layer so that the top is just out of view a the top of the comp window.

The final element to add is the mysterious planet that we will tilt down to. Drag this element into the comp window and position it out of range and toward the bottom of the star field.

Now we are going to do something that showcases another new feature in AE5.x; parenting. Parenting allows you to create a hierarchical relationship between layers (parent/child), when you move the parent object, the child follows.

Parent the text and planet layers to the star field layer. You can do this through the drop down menu or by using the little spiral, which you click on and then drag to the layer that will be the parent.

Finally, create a position key frame at the beginning of the timeline. Move the timeline indicator toward the end of the timeline (I chose 25 seconds), and move the star field layer up. You will notice that the planet and the text move as well.

Adobe After Effects 5.x has made some fantastic improvements in this latest release. The 3D and parenting options alone are well worth the upgrade price. Hopefully you've learned a little of both in this tutorial.

Coming Soon: Holograms

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Stephen Schleicher has crossed the country several times over the last couple of years going from Kansas to Atlanta , Georgia, and Southern California. In his time traveling, he has worked as an editor, graphic designer, videographer, director, and producer on a variety of video productions ranging from small internal pieces, to large multimedia
corporate events.

Currently, Stephen shares his knowledge with students at Fort Hays State University who are studying media and web development in the Information Networking and Telecommunications department. When he is not shaping the minds of university students, Stephen continues to work on video and independent projects for State and local agencies and organizations as well as his own ongoing works.

He is also a regular contributor to Digital Producer, Creative Mac, Digital Webcast, Digital Animators, and the DV Format websites, part of the Digital Media Online network of communities (www.digitalmedianet.com), where he writes about the latest technologies, and gives tips and tricks on everything from Adobe After Effects, to Appleā??s Final Cut Pro, LightWave 3D, to shooting and lighting video.

He has a Masters Degree in Communication from Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kansas. As a forward thinker, he wrote his Thesis on how Information Islands and e-commerce would play a major role in keeping smaller communities alive. This of course was when 28.8 dialup was king and people hadnā??t even invented the word e-commerce.

And, he spends what little free time he has biking, reading, traveling around the country, and contemplating the future of digital video and its impact on our culture. You can reach him at schleicher@mindspring.com

Related Keywords:Star Wars, opening credits, title, roll, scrolling text, After Effects, After effects 5.0, after effects 5.5, stephen schleicher, digital animators, fan films


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