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Explode and collapse layers like a 3D Rolex

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Nathan Carlton
Explode and collapse layers like a 3D Rolex
on Mar 4, 2015 at 3:44:27 pm

Hello, this is my first post to Creative Cow! I've been visiting occasionally and finally could not easily find an answer -- I'm sorry if it's been answered elsewhere. I think what I'm looking for might be an expression.

Working on some animation for a music video / video teaser, using the release's album art.

We have an AE comp with dozens of layers imported from the AI "flat" file. For the purpose of this question, the "flat" AI file should be the final position of all layers.

Assuming that final position is some number of seconds into the comp (timing should be flexible, maybe by key framing a slider?), I'm looking for a way to fly a camera around the layers "exploding" and "collapsing" in 3D Z space.

I was able to use an expression applied to all layers beneath the first layer, to effectively "spread" each subsequent layer a uniform position in Z space away from its predecessor. Then I could fly a camera through these. It was pretty cool, but the layers never arrive at the "final" or "flat" position. They are always spread out, like they are fixed in space, and the camera can only ever see them in "exploded" view.

What I'm looking for is probably more like the classic 3D gears of a wristwatch animation, where it starts as a nice watch, then explodes all the gears, then returns to the assembled wristwatch... So I'm thinking an expression applied to all layers (except layer 1?), possibly with a slider or maybe parented to a null...?

I'm still beginning and couldn't find this anywhere.

Here's the expression I was able to use to "spread" all the layers relative to each other in Z space (but they always stay the same distance from each other, which isn't a complete solution for what we're looking do to).

thisComp.layer(index-1).position + [0,0,-500]

Also, I'd hope to build in some sort of easy "offset" of group the positions into the phases of collapse ... what I'd like to do ultimately is split up the dozens of layers in to three groups... one batch will "flatten" in Z space creating an abstract image -- like blobs of paint and each layer is a differently colored splat -- then some of the album art text will fly in (as though it was offset already by some amount, maybe like the hands of the wristwatch example) and finally a third group with pieces of a logo and the release number will fly in and collapse on top of everything else (maybe like the cover of the wristwatch and final components), completing the "flat" image that will be seen on iTunes store etc.

Once I get all these layers expanding and collapsing in groups (and can control timing to the match the music) I think I can handle the camera flying and so on.

Thanks so much for any help or references you can provide!

Flying in the "blobs" little by little...
When they are static and the camera is the only thing moving, the blobs just keep disappearing into Z space and never "land" on our imaginary canvas:

Final positions, including text, should look more like this:

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Nathan Carlton
Re: Explode and collapse layers like a 3D Rolex
on Mar 24, 2015 at 10:55:12 pm

Found the answer here:

For my example using this code:

offset = thisComp.layer("Null 1").effect("Slider Control")("Slider");
value+ [0 , 0 , index * offset]

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