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X Marks the Spot

A different take on AE’s Stroke effect By Stephen Schleicher

Arrgggh Maties! It be treasure we seek, and with the help of After Effects’ Stroke effect we can recreate our own path to pirate gold.

In previous exercises I spelled out how After Effects’ Stroke effect works to create our own travel lines, but there are variations that can be done for a totally different look.  This time around, we’ll deal with Stroke Spacing.

Step 1:  Begin by creating your treasure map in an application like Adobe Photoshop.  For this example, I found a map on one of my Hemera clip art collections, cropped it, and did a color change to make it look a bit older.

Step 2:  Launch After Effects and import your map.  Create a new composition and place the map in the Composition.

Step 3:  The next thing we need to do is use the Pen tool to create a path on the map layer that shows the location of our buried treasure.  While you can do this in the Comp Window, if you have a large map that grows beyond the edge of the frame, you will be doing a lot of dragging and moving to get your path complete. 

You can work on the entire image at once, by double clicking the layer in the Timeline and opening a Layer Window.

Use the Pen tool to create the path.  I will leave it up to you as to whether or not you want to use a Bezier curve or straight lines.  I decided to make my map a bit more fluid by using a Bezier curve.

Hint:  If you are having trouble seeing your path on your image, you can always change the color of the mask.  With the layer selected in the Timeline press the M key to bring up the Mask for the layer.  Click on the color swatch next to the word mask.

This will bring up the color picker allowing you to select a color that will work for you.

When you have created your path, you can close the Layer Window.

Step 4:  To the Map layer apply the Stroke effect (Effect>Render>Stroke).

By default Stroke will create a solid line following the path you created.  Since we are creating a pirate map, let’s change the color of the Stroke to red and increase the Brush Size so it looks appropriate for your Comp.

While it may appear that you have a solid line, it is actually a series of overlapping dots that create the illusion of a solid line.  The Spacing property controls how close or how far apart these dots are.

Change the Spacing amount to 100% and view the results.

This is looking more like it.

Step 5:  To animate the dots leading the treasure hunter from one location to the next, animate the End property from 0 to 100% over the length of your animation.

That is all there is to it in creating our pirate treasure map.  Keep in mind that even though a default effect may be cool, experiment with all of the properties to see what modifications you come up with.

Download the project file  in SIT format here. treasurehunters.sit


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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 Appleâ??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 hadnâ??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 [email protected]

Related Keywords:after effects, stroke, map, adobe, schleicher, exercise, tutorial

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