After Effects Project: The Trailer

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April 2012 
0 hours 0 minutes 
This course builds upon our extremely popular After Effects project-based courses, with a creative concept that has a bit of a laugh with some of Hollywood's current offerings. For this course, the profs and members will be creating effects, graphics, and animation for a :30 trailer promoting our fictional movie "Chutes and Ladders". As a stark contrast to giant killer robots -- or battleships -- New York City is "invaded" by giant smiling cardboard cutout characters who build ladders between buildings and run slides to the street.

Leading the course is fxphd prof Danny Princz, who is serving as co-director of the project along with the The Diamond Brothers (Jason and Josh Diamond). The course will cover a variety of subjects during the term, starting out the actual shoot as well as a discussion about the concept, since it's the creative that drives everything else down the line. Next, Jason and Danny will work through the edit and talk about prepping the files for post.

Danny will be heading up the compositing for the course, but he's brought in some friends to help with the various tasks. Michelle Higa will work through the process of character animation. Instead of using a separate 3D program, she'll be working through how to work in After Effects with the most flexibility. She'll start by building a reusable character rig in After Effects and then work on animating the character for one or more of the scenes (as time allows). She'll also work through the caveats of working in AE, such as the various angles from which we'll see the characters. Also, Lloyd Alvarez will spend several classes creating the titles for the trailer as well.

Michelle Higa started her career in the animation trio Mixtape Club. During that time, Mixtape Club directed videos for Yeasayer and J Dilla, and produced commercials for Google and Showtime. The team won an ADC Young Guns award, a “Best Music Video” award at SXSW, and appearances on “Best of the Year” lists for MTV2 and Since leaving Mixtape Club, Michelle has been working on interactive public artworks and served as the assistant editor at Motionographer.

Lloyd Alvarez is a highly demanded multi-disciplinary freelancer, from art directing and design to compositing and animation. Lloyd began scripting in After Effects to solve workflow problems for his freelance projects and soon began sharing them with the community starting with his very popular BG Renderer script. He has since released several more very popular scripts and is now the curator of, which is the destination for the best After Effects scripts from the top authors around the globe.
After Effects Project: The Trailer
Watch our overview of the course

Class Listing

Class 1: Preproduction/shoot

The concept drives the project, so Jason and Danny sit down to discuss the creative. We then travel around New York City grabbing shots from ground level as well as various rooftops.

Class 2: Character Design/Rigging

Michelle Higa takes over, covering how to build a suitable animation rig with the puppet tool and expressions. Part 1.

Class 3: Character Design/Rigging, Part 2

Character Design/Rigging, Part 2

Class 4: Creative edit and post setup

Jason works through the editing of the spot, from logging to completion. He'll be showing the creative edit process, sharing early cuts that were later tossed out or revised.

Class 5: Set up the "character reveal" shot

Camera tracking the scene, building our first "chute" and blocking out the timing for out character. We take our first look at the camera tracker in CS6 and dealing with lens distortion. We then dive into 3D extrusions with the new Raytracer renderer, system requirements to use it, and some of the benefits and limitations. We also look at a workaround to "bend" the 3d extrusions to get curved and twisty slides. Finally, we bring these together to block out our initial chute animation and character timing.

Class 6: Second look at our "character reveal"

We import and tweak our character animation, look at creating a variably sized ladder, and start bringing all these elements together in addition to dust, debris and smoke elements.

Class 7: Finalizing the look for the "character reveal" sho

Finalizing the look for the "character reveal" shot.

Class 8: Title Design part 1.

Title Design part 1.

Class 9: Title Design part 2.

Title Design part 2.

Class 10: The descending slide through clouds shot

The descending slide through clouds shot.