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Frame-by-frame drawing in After Effects

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Chris ThomasFrame-by-frame drawing in After Effects
by on Jul 17, 2013 at 9:58:41 pm

Hi everyone! I've been searching this forever, and am amazed that I can't find (or think of) a simple solution to this:

I want to use AE to draw individual shapes with the brush tool that last for one frame only. This is easily done with the brush tool and "paint" effect.. but here's the problem:

I want to use this to draw frame-by-frame animations directly in AE, which means I need to see a shadow of the previous and upcoming frames so I can draw the motion properly. My current workflow of drawing, skipping back one frame, re-drawing, skipping backwards again, and re-drawing again is just an inefficient way to work. It'd be great if I could see a shadow of the frames before and after as I worked.

Is there a way to do this? If so, I'd love some insight.

Thanks!
Chris


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Jeff HinkleRe: Frame-by-frame drawing in After Effects
by on Jul 17, 2013 at 10:23:34 pm

Onion skinning is a common feature request (that seems to go ignored). A little searching turned up this script. I haven't used it personally but folks seem to have had success with it. Might be just what you need.

http://www.aenhancers.com/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=871

---
It is easier to destroy than to create.
More fun, too.


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Chris ThomasRe: Frame-by-frame drawing in After Effects
by on Jul 17, 2013 at 10:33:49 pm

Unfortunately the script doesn't work because all of the "painting" in AE takes place within a layer window, not a comp window. That means onion-skinning a comp would only help you after you've already drawn the animation—not while you're currently in the layer window painting it.

I think either one of two things needs to happen:

1. There needs to be a way of painting/drawing in AE without having to open the layer up in an official "layer window" (something that's incredibly annoying and should go away regardless)

2. There needs to be a way to turn on onion skinning within a layer window

Thanks for the thought though, Jeff! Anyone else out there have an idea? I feel like there should be—somewhere—a third-party plugin that utilizes the brush tool for this sort of simple thing.



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Joseph W. BourkeRe: Frame-by-frame drawing in After Effects
by on Jul 17, 2013 at 11:16:38 pm

This sounds like a job for Photoshop - you should have no trouble doing your frame by frame animation in PS in a timeline, then exporting to After Effects:
http://help.adobe.com/en_US/photoshop/cs/using/WSfd1234e1c4b69f30ea53e41001...

Photoshop was made to do this.

Joe Bourke
Owner/Creative Director
Bourke Media
http://www.bourkemedia.com


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Chris ThomasRe: Frame-by-frame drawing in After Effects
by on Jul 18, 2013 at 12:59:42 pm

Hi Joe,

Yes, I know this can be done in Photoshop.. but I still don't find the workflow ideal—

• Make a new layer
• Change opacity of layer below
• Draw a new shape
• Repeat
• Change all opacities back to 100
• Export image sequence
• Import image sequence
• Review
• Make changes
• Repeat

AE is one step off from having a beautifully simple interface which allows me to draw, hit "page down," draw again, then hit "0" when I want to watch the whole thing. It would allow for such better iteration and faster workflow.

I've been doing my animations in PS now and it's just not as simple as it could be in AE. Being able to preview what I've done after a few frames would be unbelievably helpful.

Thanks for the thought, though—
C



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Todd KoprivaRe: Frame-by-frame drawing in After Effects
by on Jul 18, 2013 at 5:27:42 am

> Onion skinning is a common feature request (that seems to go ignored).


No, not ignored. I address this here:
http://blogs.adobe.com/aftereffects/2012/12/top-feature-requests-for-after-...

... and it was a major topic in a feature planning meeting that we were having today.

If you want a feature, submit a feature request:
http://www.adobe.com/go/wish
This really helps.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Todd Kopriva, Adobe Systems Incorporated
After Effects quality engineering
After Effects team blog
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


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Chris ThomasRe: Frame-by-frame drawing in After Effects
by on Jul 18, 2013 at 1:05:14 pm

Hey Todd—

Exciting that you've addressed this issue in a meeting yesterday! Glad to hear it's on the table.

If you have a moment, I'd love it if you read my specific thoughts on drawing frame-by-frame animation in AE. I'm not sure of onion skinning will only be available in the Vector Paint effect, but it would be great to have it in the normal "Paint" effect, too.

It seems as if having a way to paint frame-by-frame in AE is such a low-tech solution that it's not really addressed in the software. However, as motion graphics continues to use more and more hand-done work, it's a feature that I find myself needing more and more.

Anyways! My two thoughts. Thanks!
Chris



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Jason JantzenRe: Frame-by-frame drawing in After Effects
by on Jul 18, 2013 at 1:36:33 pm

Some of the best frame by frame animators I know use PS for their workflows and have no complaints. Here are a couple of tutorials on the subject -

https://vimeo.com/23707998
https://vimeo.com/39659667

I mean, in the meanwhile, that's probably the best way to get your looks. This is the guy who suggested those 2 videos -

https://vimeo.com/69938948

Jason Jantzen
vimeo.com/jasonj


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Chris ThomasRe: Frame-by-frame drawing in After Effects
by on Jul 18, 2013 at 1:43:29 pm

Thanks for the links! I've used both of those tutorials in the past, and they're great. Also, love the work that Daniel does—he's got a fantastic eye for frame-by-frame stuff.

I know a lot of people use PS (including me), but I still think there's a huge market for being able to do a lot of that work in AE. AE is made for motion, and PS isn't (despite their continued updates to the software). For me, I'd love to see it all happening within the software that I'm using for all the rest of my animation work.

In the meantime, PS will work for me.. I'm just throwing out a line in case anyone else feels the same way.



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Jason JantzenRe: Frame-by-frame drawing in After Effects
by on Jul 18, 2013 at 1:48:16 pm

I've never actually done any frame by frame animation, but of all the stuff I've seen, it would seem easier to me to do it in Photoshop considering all the painting tools you have vs the crude brush palette in AE.

Jason Jantzen
vimeo.com/jasonj


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Chris ThomasRe: Frame-by-frame drawing in After Effects
by on Jul 18, 2013 at 1:52:10 pm

Oh yeah—for some stuff, absolutely! But for a lot of smaller effects, having a simple 2-10 pixel hard-edged brush is all I need.. and for that, AE would be perfect.



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Jason JantzenRe: Frame-by-frame drawing in After Effects
by on Jul 18, 2013 at 1:56:58 pm

Don't get me wrong, I find having the option to onion skin in AE invaluable probably a few times a month on various projects, sometimes even more, especially with some of the style I do.

Not sure if an onion skinning type feature in AE would address this, but I've looked around in forums and such to figure it out, and hopefully it does, but when you're painting on a layer, you have to have the comp window opened alongside the layer window and use it as a reference when you paint. An example would be like an animated brush stroke on top of a bunch of other layers in your comp and you'd like to SEE those layers for reference as you paint. That right there would be really handy.

Maybe that's an adobe.com/go/wish moment ;)

Jason Jantzen
vimeo.com/jasonj


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Chris ThomasRe: Frame-by-frame drawing in After Effects
by on Jul 18, 2013 at 2:02:36 pm

I remember it taking me a while to figure out how to paint on an image or comp—it's surprisingly unintuitive. But if you:

• Precomp what you want to draw on top of
• Hit command+b to select the brush tool
• Double-click the precomp

It will open in a layer window, not a comp window.. and you can paint right on top of it. Super unintuitive.. but hey, that's what it takes.

I've never understood needing to paint in a layer window. Personally I don't see why it can't be done simply in the comp window, so you don't have to precomp the items you wish to draw on top of.



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Jason JantzenRe: Frame-by-frame drawing in After Effects
by on Jul 18, 2013 at 2:10:45 pm

Painting in the comp window? You mean like in Apple's motion? haha, I only say that to poke at the simplicity with which Motion does certain things. I haven't used it since 2010, but I'm sure it hasn't gotten worse.

Thanks for the painting tip. I like it, but I don't like being forced into a layer window like you say.

Another Motion poke - particle emitter AE!? Come on. That should be as intuitive as, if not maybe even more than, Particular and more robust than anything Apple, or Hit Film, or anyone can offer.

Sorry about that, end poking.

Jason Jantzen
vimeo.com/jasonj


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Chris ThomasRe: Frame-by-frame drawing in After Effects
by on Jul 18, 2013 at 2:15:37 pm

Glad you like the tip! It's not perfect, but it's something.

I never use the AE particle emitter; Particular is just too powerful! I probably use it in some way on every project I do.



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Joseph W. BourkeRe: Frame-by-frame drawing in After Effects
by on Jul 18, 2013 at 2:31:25 pm

The only decent implementations of frame-by-frame animation have always been in stills oriented packages - Photoshop, and (at the time) Fractal Design Painter. Painter had the ability, in addition to frame by frame animation (with onion skinning where you could choose the number of frames before and after your active frame), to record stroke by stroke, resulting in some very nice, painterly animations (hence the name, I suppose). Combustion had some cell animation capabilities, which far surpassed AD, but they also had incorporated the Paint software, another stills based package. I'm guessing that since frame by frame animation is stills based, that maybe it's an afterthought for motion based software. That's not to say that AE shouldn't have it; I'd like to have the option to use it native to AE, but it wouldn't be called for often in my work. I've done frame by frame animation on a Dubner broadcast system, in Painter, Combustion, and Photoshop, and I personally preferred Painter, but I now use Photoshop. But that said, there are effects in AE which would apply perfectly to the frame by frame style, so it would be nice to have it native (in addition to the full Photoshop brush set).

Joe Bourke
Owner/Creative Director
Bourke Media
http://www.bourkemedia.com


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Chris ThomasRe: Frame-by-frame drawing in After Effects
by on Jul 18, 2013 at 2:38:13 pm

Very nice insight, Joe.. I think you've hit the nail on the head.

I've got my fingers crossed that this functionality is added in the future. In the meantime, I'll try to find workarounds, and will update this thread if I come across anything particularly great. And, of course, if anyone else out there wants to weigh in—I'm sure we'd all love to hear from you.



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Joseph W. BourkeRe: Frame-by-frame drawing in After Effects
by on Jul 18, 2013 at 3:47:50 pm

Thanks Chris -

Let me know if you find anything - oh...I forgot to mention Artrage, a very nice, very inexpensive natural media paint package:

http://www.artrage.com/ - I don't think it has onion-skinning.

On poking around, I also found this, but it's pretty expensive:

http://www.tvpaint.com/v2/content/article/products/tvpap.php

And since we were talking about Corel Painter (or I was, anyway), it appears to be still used for this type of work, and it's on sale right now for $299. Here's a PDF with the workflow:

http://www.corel.com/content/pdf/px/tutorials/premium_Gitanjali_Rao.pdf

Joe Bourke
Owner/Creative Director
Bourke Media
http://www.bourkemedia.com


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Joseph W. BourkeRe: Frame-by-frame drawing in After Effects
by on Jul 18, 2013 at 4:08:59 pm

Oh...one more:

http://anime.smithmicro.com/anime-pro.html

This one may not fit your desired workflow at all, but it might be just what you need. Although it might look like a toy on first glance, based on the content it's creating in the demo, it's really very powerful.

And there's also CrazyTalk Animator, which I own and use. But it's a different animal altogether:
http://www.reallusion.com/crazytalk/animator/animator_videogallery.aspx

Joe Bourke
Owner/Creative Director
Bourke Media
http://www.bourkemedia.com


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