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Ugg The Wanderer

3D splines in After Effects

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3D Spline

Overview: this technique will allow you to distribute any number of layers along the motion path of a designated 3D spline layer, and animate their distribution.


1. Create a 3D layer named spline. Animate its position along a 3D motion path over its duration. Animate its z-rotation over its duration.

2. Apply an expression control slider effect to the spline layer. Rename this effect distribute. Animate its value from 0 to 1 within the duration of the spline layer.

3. Turn off the eyeball switch for the spline layer.

4. Create a new 3D layer in this comp, stacked above the spline layer.

5. Apply this expression to this layer’s position:













6. Finally, duplicate this layer several times.




i defines the stacking order of the visible 3D layer, minus 1 so that the top layer remains unchanged

p defines the position of the spline layer’s position

s defines the value of the distribute slider

q defines the number of layers in this comp, minus 1 (because we don’t want to count the spline layer)

n defines the in-point of the spline layer

t define the out-point of the spline layer

d takes the duration of the spline layer and divides it by the number of visible layers in the comp

e takes d and multiplies it by i –– to create a correlation between each visible layer’s stacking order and a time along the spline layer’s duration –– and then multiplies it by s –– so that this correlation is animated over time

p.valueAtTime(e) assigns the position of this layer to the position of the spline layer at time e.



this could easily be modified so that the visible layers incrementally rotate on their z axis. animate the spline layer's zRotation over its duration, then apply the expression to the visible layers' zRotation. change the position to zRotation in the definition of p.



copyright sam young 2006, 2007, 2008

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