After Effects - Animated Infographic Video & Data Visualisation

Setting up your software & project for data visualization in After Effects

Daniel Walter Scott

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So we're going to begin our first project. I am going to hit Play on this project and we're going to listen to it, and watch it all the way through. This is what we're going to be making for the first part of this course. Icon animations, all sorts of amazing Infographic type things. Let's give it a watch, and at the end we'll hit Stop, and we'll go off and create our new document, and get started.

'The Value of Sleep for Creatives'. Now there is an ongoing debate in our household about the value of sleep. My wife, a solid 8-hour night lady is forever reminding me to get more sleep. I on the other hand, I'm certain, all I need to perform at my best is just 5-6 hours. So as long as I'm in bed by 1 a.m. I'm good to go by 06.30. Now my problem is that I love to work in the quiet of the night. When the whole world is asleep, when nobody can get me. For me there's something about that slight hint of exhaustion, feel by with a bit of caffeine that makes me excited and creative at that time of the night.

So what is it about sleep deprivation or insomnia that heeds to aid my creativity? Okay, simple enough, but some cool techniques we're going to learn in here. So let's now jump in, and make our first document. So we've opened up After Effects. Now it's time to create our first file. They call them Projects. And inside of these Projects, we have something called a Composition, or referred to as Comps. The project really doesn't do anything. Click 'New Project', and you get this kind of blank window. So think of a Project as just like an empty place holder. Comps that you put inside of it, think of them as pages in a document. You can have a document, but without any pages, it's not really helpful. So a Project is not very much without any Comps.

So we're going to create our first Comp. You think you'll go to 'File', 'New', bragh, no. Under 'Composition', 'New Composition'. There's two ways of creating a Comp. You go 'Composition', 'New Composition', like we are here, you give your Comp a name. This is going to be 'My First Comp'. In here, there's a lot of settings but pretty much all you need to do is, go down to these presets and pick 'HDTV 1080 25'. That's going to be HD resolution, at 25 frames per second. That does most of the work most of the time. Occasionally if you need to go to TV, and you're in the US, you got to use '29.97'. It doesn't really matter, especially if you're going out to say social media, YouTube, Vimeo, your website it doesn't matter, these two here, there are negligible differences. It goes up to '24', but nobody picks that, just pick this one here. 'HDTV 1080'. 1080 is the pixel height of your video, and the width is 920. When somebody says 1080p, they mean the height of the video. 720p is standard definition. And that is the pixel height of the video we're making, 4K.

Down here, you could be working on 4K if you've got the footage for it. The only problem with 4K is that the file sizes are quite big. YouTube accepts it, you might do it, no problems with that but it gets pretty hard on your system when we start animating things. I've got a pretty good MacBook Pro, it's only a few months old and I got all the optional extras, and working in 4K just kills it. So I don't work in 4K because it's just too hard now. And people watching it, I don't know who's going to see my Web Animation Infographics on a 4K monitor.

'Square Pixels' perfect, 'Frame Rate', don't change. This, 'Resolution', stick it up to 'Full'. All that means is that this can change occasionally in case you're going to export a video, and it's going to export a 'Quarter' quality. So I change the Resolution way down, let the Quality be at 'Full'. The 'Duration', it's up to you. I think the default, I can't remember, 10 secs, I think. And this is, how many Frames? So, 10 secs is this second one here, that's the one you need to remember. So, how long is this going to be? It's hard at the beginning especially if you're not working on live action. Live action is going to have a Start and an End so you know how long it is. But if you're working in your own kind of time you're like, "How long should this thing be?" take a guess. It's easy to shorten it up than to extend it.

We're going to start with 10 seconds. Background color here, I wouldn't change it here because it doesn't really matter what you change the color to, when you export, it's going to be black. Weird, huh? So if I go like this, and say "Actually I'm going to use one of these colors over here" you think the background color is going to be, yes, red, but when it renders it goes out black. It's just kind of a place holder color. You actually have to draw a big red box in the background for that to actually export. So now we can start working.

The other way to create a Comp, and this happens a lot, especially if you've got footage you're working to. In my case, we're working to a pre-existing mp3 with some dialogue on it but we're going to be animating our infographics too. So it's a set piece, it's a certain amount of seconds long. We could open the mp3, work out how long it is, and try match the Comp. There's an easier way, so I'm going to bin this thing here. And what I'm going to do, in my project window here, this is where all my files go for my project, anything that we import videos, sound effects, shades from Illustrator, anything goes in here. So we're going to 'File', 'Import', go to 'File'. If you haven't already, download the exercise files. Mine is here, on my Desktop. We looked at how to download those in the previous video. Go check that out.

So in here, I'm going to go into it. Our first project is going to be, there's one called 'Icon Pop', open it up, and we're working through this 'Value of Sleep mp3'. So I'm going to bring that in, we're going to use that. And because that has a certain time, it's 29 seconds, and 7 frames long. So what we can do is, just right click it and say 'Make Comp from Selection'. The cool thing about it is that it's matched my 1080p, you can kind of see, it's at the top here. The right Frame Rate, but it's matched the link with it, perfect because there's no need for it to be any longer. So the big things when you are getting started-- if you are good at After Effects, you can skip through the next video but let's go look at little things here.

That's the mp3 we brought through, and now magically, this is the Comp, it's using the same name as this. So what we're going to do is, let's rename it to say, we're going to add Comp to the end, we'll do this while we're learning just so that we know that's a Composition. The reason we know it's a Composition is mainly because of this icon here. See this little film reel with some bits on it, that is the Comp, and these are the important things. These are the things we'll export at the end. They're the pages in my document. Remember, project is this overall empty space. These are the things that you need, you need at least one. You can have multiple pages, lots of different animations, lots of separate animated Infographics, or Data Visualizations in here, but we're just going to have one for the moment. Your Comp appears down here in the Timeline.

There it is, 'Value of Sleep' Comp. And it's automatically put my mp3 on the Timeline. So there's my little Playhead, I can drag that back and forth, my CTI. If I hit Space bar on my keyboard… it's me talking to myself. So that's the mp3 playing. It's going to be along the bottom there, just doing its thing. We're going to lock it, see this little locking icon here. And you'll notice that these little tags in here, I added these when I was first putting together these project photos. I did these with something called Markers, we'll look at them later on but it's just going to help us know when these Infographics are meant to appear.

Now one thing we'll do just before we move on, go up to 'Window', go to 'Workspace', and click on 'Default'. And then, go back into there, 'Workspace', and then go to 'Reset Default', just to get everything looking the same as me. If you do find, during the class, you end up dragging that over there, and that becomes there, and it's all mixed up, just go back to 'Window', 'Workspace'. It's still on 'Default', but we're going to 'Reset Default'. Go back. It's a good way to get yourself unlost. All right, let's go to the next video.