Episode 5: The Cheesy Scroll Strikes Back
A few years ago I wrote a tutorial on how to recreate the opening title scroll for Star Wars using Adobe After Effects 4.1. In this tutorial I used the production bundle and corner pinning to force the perspective of the text so it would look like it was moving into the vast emptiness of space. Because AE 4.1 is a 2D compositing package, recreating this opening can be a challenge. With the 3D option in Adobe After Effects 5.x, I decided to revisit this effect and show another way this can be done.
Episode 5.0 The Cheesy Scroll Strikes Back
Next import the elements into the project. If you don't have anything prepared, snag the original zip file, which contains all of the necessary elements for this tutorial. (Mac users can unstuff Zip files with Aladdin Expander, available free at http://www.aladdinsys.com.)
Drag the text roll element into your project creating a new layer. You should notice a new icon in the switches/mode column. This icon (which looks like a cube) activates the 3D layer option in AE 5.x. When the text layer is turned into a 3D layer, you will notice that axis arrows appear in the comp window. These of course represent the XYZ axis in 3D space. We want the text layer to be a 3D layer so we don't have to force perspective.
Change the select tool to the rotation tool and rotate the text layer to 270 degrees on the X-axis, making the layer flat. Why make it flat? We need to make this layer flat, because it is easier to move the layer on only one axis instead of fighting and fussing with two axes trying to get the layer to move in strait line.
Switch back to the selection tool and move the text layer down on the Z axis-it is the Z axis instead of the Y axis because of the rotation step-until it is at the bottom of the comp window. Also move the layer back on the Y axis until it is positioned out of frame. Create a position keyframe and move to a time later in the timeline where the text will have moved away from the viewer.
Switch to a side view and move the layer to its ending position. A new keyframe will automatically be created. If you scroll back through the timeline, you will notice that the words are still not readable. We can fix this by repositioning the camera. But how do you reposition the camera in 3D space? Simple. Add a camera to the scene (Layer/New/Camera).
Switch the view to a side view once more so you can see the position of the camera in relation to the text layer. (You may need to change the magnification so everything will fit in the comp view.) Move the camera up (the Y axis) and rotate it down (on the X axis) until it is positioned so you can see the text clearly.
As a side note, it is important to realize that when you add a camera to the scene you have two options to view the comp. The first is the Active Camera view; this is the default view and whatever camera is positioned highest in the timeline. The second view is the particular camera view. This will let you view the composition through the perspective of that camera. However, the final movie will only render the active camera. You can even cut between cameras by changing the duration of each of the cameras as well.
There will be a point where the text will definitely be too small to read, so you may want to fade the entire text out once it gets far enough out.
If you have done everything correctly, you should have a nice scrolling text moving off into the vastness of space. Oh, wait... We haven't added space yet. Add the star field layer into your composition and place it in the very bottom layer. Do not make this a 3D layer. This is a really nice part of Adobe After Effects 5.x. You can combine 2D and 3D layers seamlessly with very nice results. In this example, the text layer will never intersect the star field layer, so we could conceivably have the text move off into infinity. If you are using the star field that is included with this tutorial, then you may have noticed that it is about twice as long as it is high, this is so we can do some panning, so if you haven't done so already, position the star layer so that the top is just out of view a the top of the comp window.
The final element to add is the mysterious planet that we will tilt down to. Drag this element into the comp window and position it out of range and toward the bottom of the star field.
Now we are going to do something that showcases another new feature in AE5.x; parenting. Parenting allows you to create a hierarchical relationship between layers (parent/child), when you move the parent object, the child follows.
Parent the text and planet layers to the star field layer. You can do this through the drop down menu or by using the little spiral, which you click on and then drag to the layer that will be the parent.
Finally, create a position key frame at the beginning of the timeline. Move the timeline indicator toward the end of the timeline (I chose 25 seconds), and move the star field layer up. You will notice that the planet and the text move as well.
Adobe After Effects 5.x has made some fantastic improvements in this latest release. The 3D and parenting options alone are well worth the upgrade price. Hopefully you've learned a little of both in this tutorial.
Coming Soon: Holograms