Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
poly

Expressions. Bah! who needs em?

Recommended Posts

Oh, heh. I responded to Tomcat's pre-edited minirant. It wasn't really a rant though, it was some really good points.

 

Here's my post-edited thoughts, for myself and to share.

 

Nice, but scripting and expressions are fragile, and can blow up when projects have to be handed off.

 

...toss out the 3rd party filters that many don't have...

 

Also, some artists hate math.

 

Ok, I'm *totally* paraphrasing, but Tomcat touched on those ideas a bit.

 

By posting the project, I'm essentially doing a project hand-off, and if it doesn't open up nicely from the start, it's a Negative User Experience. So, lesson learned: next time I'll create a Zip File that includes the plugin and, and any assets. In the article I mention that the assets are optional, and where to get the plugin... but still. Opening up the project to errors and warnings is no way to build confidence!

 

As for number-crunching versus more "intuitive approaches"... For myself, the beauty of After Effects (and we do both agree on its beauty) is that I can mix my visual and analytic skills quite fluidly. Keyframing, expressions... I use whichever seems appropriate. You're right, of course, that it can make the project less maintainable, especially when handed off. But... we all need a little rotation = time * 10 and cameraPosition.wiggle(), don't we? :) Whatever it takes.

 

I'm curious how different folks feel about expressions, scripts and such. I only *really* loved AE when expressions were introduced (6.5?).

 

Lastly, a disclaimer: I've used AE for over 5 years now, but only solo or with close friends for art projects, installations and such. So, my workflow is... noncommercial.

 

Lastly lastly, thanks again Tomcat for looking this, and making me think!

Edited by poly

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It was a good project.

You put a lot of work into getting the visual qualities that we rarely see these days.

Tho I do think expressions are over-used.

 

I have many issues with expressions.

They are dangerous for real life work. They're limited and break. Projects expand and go into directions that aren't

anticipated. I saw a company budget totally f*ked because a hotshot freelancer left them with a deep project

rife with expressions. They had to redo from scratch and lost the client because of delays. It was sad.

 

Most newbies idea of working with expressions is asking a guru like Dan Ebbert for a

math formula. Then a producer needs a simple change, they do not know what in the hell to do. It took them twice as

long to come up with the right expression, and now they have a mess on their hands.

 

You can either devote your life to building motion graphics skills, or to mastering expressions. Motion graphics artists

are be better off building skills in after effects - which was created specifically to convert math to intuitive tools.

 

I think the only time they are justified is when you have reached the limits of after effects, and math is the only

solution. The problem with this is that the solution becomes proprietary.

The After Effects developers never hear about the problem to add a needed enhancement.

 

Oh, heh. I responded to Tomcat's pre-edited minirant. It wasn't really a rant though, it was some really good points.

 

Here's my post-edited thoughts, for myself and to share.

Ok, I'm *totally* paraphrasing, but Tomcat touched on those ideas a bit.

 

By posting the project, I'm essentially doing a project hand-off, and if it doesn't open up nicely from the start, it's a Negative User Experience. So, lesson learned: next time I'll create a Zip File that includes the plugin and, and any assets. In the article I mention that the assets are optional, and where to get the plugin... but still. Opening up the project to errors and warnings is no way to build confidence!

 

As for number-crunching versus more "intuitive approaches"... For myself, the beauty of After Effects (and we do both agree on its beauty) is that I can mix my visual and analytic skills quite fluidly. Keyframing, expressions... I use whichever seems appropriate. You're right, of course, that it can make the project less maintainable, especially when handed off. But... we all need a little rotation = time * 10 and cameraPosition.wiggle(), don't we? :) Whatever it takes.

 

I'm curious how different folks feel about expressions, scripts and such. I only *really* loved AE when expressions were introduced (6.5?).

 

Lastly, a disclaimer: I've used AE for over 5 years now, but only solo or with close friends for art projects, installations and such. So, my workflow is... noncommercial.

 

Lastly lastly, thanks again Tomcat for looking this, and making me think!

Edited by tomcat

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is getting a bit off topic. But, my 2 cents is this:

 

I think snubbing one's nose at expressions as mostly a skill of geekery and not for the "true artist" is naively turning the issue black and white. There is certainly a gray area where art and science exist. Hell that's where my moniker comes from.

 

A perfect example, I was doing a piece for 4 large 1080 screens, all consisting of 100s of photos that primarily faded in and out, and did a slow scale animation. The photos had a story to tell, and had to be matched aesthetically to each other to work with color and composition. After manually keyframing the fades in and out, and the scale animations, I grew tired of this and made two expressions that do both: automatically fade in and out, and automatically scale. This left the tedious keyframing out, and allowed me to focus on the aesthetic. No trig or algebra was involved. I just needed expressions to automate a tedious task.

 

ANY project... AE, Cinema, Photoshop, Maya, etc...needs to be handled delicately when in a work group environment. Loading a project with expressions that are not flexible for the group means the artist did a poor job. Just as handing off a PSD with 100 unlabeled layers is bad form. It's not the fault of the programming language, it's a failure to plan accordingly by that artist. When I'm collaborating with other AE artists, I keep the expressions to a minimum, or if they are critical to the project I make them flexible and make sure everyone knows how to use it. I also construct them so that they visually make sense to the "moderate" expressions user. In the case of using a formula one doesn't understand, that is just like using a preset for Particular upon which one doesn't have an understanding. If the client wants it blue with less thickness on the lines, and the newbie doesn't know how to change the color and thickness of "organic lines", you have a mess on your hands due to a lack of understanding.

 

So, anyway. That's my take on it. That's why I made a training series on expressions that is ridiculously cheap for the amount of development that went into it. Everyone should be able to use them and not feel like you need to call Bill Nye or Mr Wizard when it's time to automate something that you find tedious.

 

Sorry for the rant.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

that primarily faded in and out, and did a slow scale animation. The photos had a story to tell, and had to be matched aesthetically to each other to work with color and composition. After manually keyframing the fades in and out, and the scale animations, I grew tired of this and made two expressions that do both: automatically fade in and out, and automatically scale. This left the tedious keyframing out, and allowed me to focus on the aesthetic.

 

Copy the keyframes one time, select all layers and one paste?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Copy the keyframes one time, select all layers and one paste?

 

A. This is assuming you have all photos in your timelime at once. I don't work like that.

 

B. This also assumes that the timing is the same for every layer.

 

C. This also assumes that the scale would be identical for each layer.

 

If not, then you can shift the fade out/scale out keyframes for each layer as the timing is different for each layer. Oh yeah, and select the layer, tap "i" to go the inpoint for the layer, as the keyframes paste in place. And if you want the scale to change, I guess you can lasso both the 2nd and 3rd keyframes, park the CTI on one keyframe and drag the value up. Handy!

 

Or drag a preset. You can see it in action here: http://www.graymachine.com/v3/downloads/ae...-slideshow.html

 

Look, I am seriously not looking to get into a pissing match. If you don't dig expressions, that's fine.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I have many issues with expressions.

They are dangerous for real life work. They're limited and break. Projects expand and go into directions that aren't

anticipated. I saw a company budget totally f*ked because a hotshot freelancer left them with a deep project

rife with expressions. They had to redo from scratch and lost the client because of delays. It was sad.

 

 

Umm, you don't lose clients because a freelancer decided to use expressions.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think it is very helpful for AE users to know at least some of the basics with expressions. I find that I use at least one expression on every project.

 

For the most part, though, I try not to use them wherever keyframe animation can be done efficiently. In the end, it is about what gets the job done the most efficiently, not what the most clever solution to a problem is. A lot of the more programming savy artists I've met will take days longer to complete a project than someone without that knowledge, just because they spend time coming up with a solution that solves all kinds of problems, rather than the immediate one at hand. Expressions are most effective when the need for proceduralism is important to solving a problem. Other than that, what's wrong with some good old-fashioned keyframes?

 

As with any type of project in any program, the artist should prep the file before he/she is done with the job as if any stranger may work on it next - even if he/she knows they will be the only person to touch that file again. I've had many instances where I've had to go back into a file at least a year later and have to sort through everything. The only thing that helps is to document things that are not immediately apparent. I'll usually put a notes comp in the project or a readme.txt document in the project directory. Makes life so much easier.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Copy the keyframes one time, select all layers and one paste?

 

Ah, that's a good example.

 

Just for fun, let's assume we DO want them to be all the same, and there's lots of them. (Graymachine reasonably hints that that might lead to Bad Art, but, just as a for-instance). I would do that by having one master Fade-in/Scale/Fade-out track, disabled or off-canvas. Then I'd slave the opacity & scale of each photo to the master, offset by each photo's in-time. That way someone (anyone, not just me) could edit the master Fader track, to get the right bounce or jostle or what not that they want on the overall photo sequence.

 

I guess we all avoid what has burnt us. That's a survival skill. Me, as a software engineer, I've been burnt by copy-and-pasted code, terribly. Means you go to change something, but it's everywhere. If you need something to be the same, don't say it twice.

 

...programming savy artists I've met will take days longer to complete a project than someone without that knowledge, just because they spend time coming up with a solution that solves all kinds of problems, rather than the immediate one...

 

Been there. Mostly cured. In softwarelandia, I've heard this type referred to as the Architecture Astronaut. :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
You can either devote your life to building motion graphics skills, or to mastering expressions.

 

 

Why are those two things mutually exclusive? I would've thought that any trick/tool you have under your sleeve would be a good thing to have. At the end of the day what we do is a combination of art and technique, why not expand on your technical abilities?

 

There are MANY ways to screw up a project, not sure why you are targeting expressions in particular. Just as you talk about a particular example of a project being screwed up by bad expressions, I'm sure a lot of us can talk about projects that have been saved by expressions as well as projects that have been screwed up and had nothing to do with expressions.

 

Long story short, if there's something I can do with expressions in 2 minutes that would take me two hours doing by hand, it's time well invested in learning.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Expressions are over-used by beginners and occasional users who don't know they can do the same thing in after effects in a lot less time.

Designers I work with don't mess with them because they're more trouble than they're worth when you want to make changes.

The only time I use expressions is to alter the xyz rotation order in AE. Hopefully that has been addressed in CS4.

 

Why are those two things mutually exclusive? I would've thought that any trick/tool you have under your sleeve would be a good thing to have. At the end of the day what we do is a combination of art and technique, why not expand on your technical abilities?

 

There are MANY ways to screw up a project, not sure why you are targeting expressions in particular. Just as you talk about a particular example of a project being screwed up by bad expressions, I'm sure a lot of us can talk about projects that have been saved by expressions as well as projects that have been screwed up and had nothing to do with expressions.

 

Long story short, if there's something I can do with expressions in 2 minutes that would take me two hours doing by hand, it's time well invested in learning.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Expressions are over-used by beginners and occasional users who don't know they can do the same thing in after effects in a lot less time.

Designers I work with don't mess with them because they're more trouble than they're worth when you want to make changes.

The only time I use expressions is to alter the xyz rotation order in AE. Hopefully that has been addressed in CS4.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Funny discussion and rather pointless, I might say. It's weird that you curse expressions, when even a basic looping animation is driven by it. And I really don't buy any other of your arguments. Expressions breaking is a sign of bad code (not counting AE's own limitations in item and name tracking, of course). Artists taking forever to create them is likewise a sign of bad code, I would say. I've on occasion whipped up complex 3D trigonometry code for people on forums on the fly while writing a normal posting. So perhaps next time simply forward those millions to me? ;-) I will admit, though, that there are bad days when nothing seems to fall in place and you feel lobotomized, so things take forever. And as Harry pointed out - that organizational stuff is a rather generic problem - some projects posted on forums really make my toe nails curl due to their lack of structure, no matter whether with or without expressions. You know, try helping people by reverse-analyzing their project and each layer is called "Black Solid 1". No fun at all. More than anything else it's perhaps the failure to recognize this requirement to build your project around the expressions rather than simply plugging them on to something that never was meant to work with them.

 

Mylenium

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One thing I hate is going into other peoples projects with a million keyframes.

Take Beaver's classic Inertial Bounce

Just two keyframes and you get a nice twangy cartoon bounce with decay - replacing maybe 10 keyframes. When you are building a fiddly sequence and trying to get lots of layers to sync together with your audio and camera moves, the last thing you want is lots of keyframes. This sort of thing is a real headache saver.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Expressions are over-used by beginners and occasional users who don't know they can do the same thing in after effects in a lot less time.

 

 

as are third party plugins, presets, poor techniques and who knows what else. Point is, poor use of ______ doesn't mean that _______ is bad and not worth learning.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A filter isn't destructive. Expressions are.

Nothing makes me more contemptuous than to have to mop up in a project where they were used senselessly.

 

as are third party plugins, presets, poor techniques and who knows what else. Point is, poor use of ______ doesn't mean that _______ is bad and not worth learning.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
A filter isn't destructive. Expressions are.

Nothing makes me more contemptuous than to have to mop up in a project where they were used senselessly.

 

Can you provide some concrete examples of these destructive expressions? What was the solution you had to provide?

 

I don't ask to keep up the rock-em-sock-em robots debate. I ask as this forum becomes a reference for many, and I hate to see misleading statements added and uncontested.

 

In short, expressions rarely should take over the value of a property. One should have the ability to control or switch off most expressions, as well as keyframe the original property. Again, we end up at the original point. You are the victim of sloppy expressions, not expressions themselves.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

long story short, if you don't like expressions, then don't use them. But going to the extreme of villifying (however that's spelled) sounds more like a personal issue to me. A lot of us use them, and will continue to use them, and when asked a "how to" question, if the most efficient way is to use an expression, well, that's what we'll suggest.

 

We all have features, methods and techniques we won't use or come near to, but if they work for someone else well, who are we to preach against them?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
long story short, if you don't like expressions, then don't use them. But going to the extreme of villifying (however that's spelled) sounds more like a personal issue to me. A lot of us use them, and will continue to use them, and when asked a "how to" question, if the most efficient way is to use an expression, well, that's what we'll suggest.

 

We all have features, methods and techniques we won't use or come near to, but if they work for someone else well, who are we to preach against them?

 

 

Think of it this way, if you've ever lost a document because the computer crashed or you accidentally saved over it, do you wish computers never existed and we were still using typewriters? This is how I am interpreting your statement about expressions. They are newer and more complex than just using keyframes but their potential are exponentially larger than what you can achieve with keyframes alone.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My bet- the expression haters are those who don't understand expressions.

 

I use every part of after effects. Every tool. Expressions often make it easier to adjust things when changes must be made. So I use them when they are more convenient than keyframing.

 

As for the comment about handing off projects to others- where do we draw the line? We can't anticipate the level of skill the next artist may have. They might not understand 3d layers, should we stop using those as well?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow . . . why would you not want to use expressions? Easily controlled complex animation with a slight bit of code OR tons O keyframes. I think I will take the expressions. I never have had a problem with them (at least not one that was not fixed here in less than a few hours) and also never had a problem using them with revisions. And there are always revisions or redesigns.

 

I would agree that those you say they are a waste and would rather manually keyframe, dont know how to properly use them. Best of luck with those manual keyframes.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Sao_Bento

I can't stand keyframe interpolation. To me, if you're not specifically setting an individual keyframe for every single parameter on every single frame, you're asking for trouble.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Some are incredibly easy and useful to use .. I love the loop out expression .. and Ease&Wizz comes in handy a lot of times as well. Just depends .. use the right tools for the job. Sometimes they're a huge help .. other times excessive. Why limit yourself to one way of thinking?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I can't stand keyframe interpolation. To me, if you're not specifically setting an individual keyframe for every single parameter on every single frame, you're asking for trouble.

 

Mograph cynicism at its finest. Seriously though if you understand how and why you are using an expression there is no reason not to use them, i would hesitate to use them if i did not know what they were doing and was unsure of how to make the adjustments. As far as delivering them in a project, it is not your fault if some one at the shop does not know how to make changes to it. Provided everything is labeled clearly, notes in a time line are a great way to dummy proof a project. either A, they figure it out, or B, they pay you to make the changes instead of them trying to make them, it seems like a simple solution.

 

...It's ok, let it out...embrace expressions :D

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I can't stand keyframe interpolation. To me, if you're not specifically setting an individual keyframe for every single parameter on every single frame, you're asking for trouble.

 

Keyframes?? You had keyframes??

 

All I had were three registration pins, a leaky super 8 camera, and a few dried up magic markers...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...