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Paths from AI to AE (and a few other questions)

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James Lewis
Paths from AI to AE (and a few other questions)
on Mar 30, 2015 at 1:15:41 am

Okay, I'm lost, frustrated and confused. Bit of background: I've been using Motion to create whiteboard-style animations for electronic circuit tutorials. I am not a graphic artist and everything I'm doing with Motion/Illustrator/After Effects is self taught. There are two reasons I'm trying to move from Motion to After Effects. 1) I do all of my planning/drawing in Illustrator anyway and 2) Motion is so buggy I can't stand it anymore. Oh and 3) I have CC so why not consolidate.

Here's what I'm trying to achieve with Illustrator and After Effects, which I use to do in Motion. I'd start by exporting my Illustrator art as PNG, then "trace" on top of that in Motion using its shape tools. Then on each shape I would apply Motion's Write-On Behavior. I'd then use that same shape to drive the motion path of my static hand/marker image, to give the writing effect.

First, I can't seem to replicate that same workflow in After Effects. Seems like I need to be using Stroke, but not quite getting there.

I hoped I'd be able to take my Illustrator document, import into After Effects, and then apply animation effects to the paths. I seem to have drastically over-estimated the simplicity of this workflow.

So far, it has completely escaped me how to import more than a single path from Illustrator to After Effects.

Here is the illustrator file I'm testing with.

It represents the kind of Illustrator drawings I'm working from, a relatively small number of simple paths. (Note, I've come to realize applying the brush in AI doesn't seem to make sense. And I've given up hope that I can import the brush I'm using in AI into AE, so I'll have to figure that out later.)

I've watched and read countless tutorials that all kind of suggest they have a solution but boil down to:

1. Copy/Paste
To move a path from AI to AE, I copy it in AI then create a path in AE, select a "Path" element and paste. So far, I haven't found a way to do that with more than 1 path at a time.

2. Import AI in AE
When I import the AI file as "Composition - Retain Layer Sizes", I seem to get a comp that has all my layer elements broken up. None of them are a path and I can't seem to convert them back into a path.

3. Use Masks
Seems like I can paste a mask of each path, one at a time, and then use the Stroke Effect with Paint Style of On Transparent. If I make the brush size really large and key the End parameter, I can simulate what I want. This really seems kludgy and looks pretty sloppy.

I really want to do my drawings in illustrator, import them into After Effects, and apply a "write-on" effect. I didn't want to have to do it one path at a time.

Can anyone help a confused engineer?

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John Cuevas
Re: Paths from AI to AE (and a few other questions)
on Mar 30, 2015 at 1:52:01 pm

To copy and paste, you can only do one layer at a time.

If you put each path on a different layer in illustrator, you could bring the file into AE as a composition, then you could use the Layer > "auto trace" or perhaps "create shapes from vector layers". Then you could add a stroke to the shapee and use a "trim paths" to animate the stroke of the layer.

Johnny Cuevas, Editor

"I have not failed 700 times. I have succeeded in proving that those 700 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work."
---THOMAS EDISON on inventing the light bulb.

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Ken Teutsch
Re: Paths from AI to AE (and a few other questions)
on Mar 30, 2015 at 3:30:09 pm

Here is a pretty good tutorial that covers some of the gotchas when moving from Illustrator to After Effects.

If you give them your email address there's also a link to a pretty handy tip sheet.

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James Lewis
Re: Paths from AI to AE (and a few other questions)
on Mar 30, 2015 at 5:21:41 pm
Last Edited By James Lewis on Mar 30, 2015 at 5:22:50 pm

Thanks Ken, that is a great resource. The tip sheet basically confirmed everything I learned up until now, but nice to have it summarized as a reference point.

Looks like given the nature of my drawings, I'm better off just drawing in After Effects and skipping Illustrator all together. The additional work of importing them isn't going to be worth it by any means.

Thanks guys.

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