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Tutorial: Video Game Style | 8-Bit Color Cycling in After Effects

Joey Korenman

Here's how to create a video game style color cycling.

You will constantly have to figure out ways to pull off new looks, to be more efficient, and to achieve your creative vision, and this tutorial is meant to show you how to think of After Effects as a tool to do just that. While this technique may seem very specific on the surface, you'll learn some practical tips on how to start thinking in the language of After Effects so you can bring all of your creative visions to life.Or maybe you just think that the 8-bit video game look is just cool and want to use it in your work. Either way, you'll get something out of this lesson.



Tutorial Full Transcript Below 👇:

Joey Korenman (00:17):

Hey there, Joey here at school of motion and welcome to day 13 of 30 days of after effects. Today, we're going to talk about something that's kind of one of these niche little effects that maybe is useful, maybe not, but what I really hope you learn from this video is how to approach problem solving in after effects, because that is a far more useful skill than what we're actually going to be creating, which is eight bit color cycling. If you were born in the seventies or eighties, then you have probably played computer games that used eight bit color cycling because back in the good old days of adventure games, you really could only have 16, maybe 256 colors on screen at a time. So this was a technique that programmers used back then, and it looks really interesting. So I'm going to show you how to do it in after effects.

Joey Korenman (01:02):

And hopefully you'll learn a little bit about the process of problem solving in motion design. Also, don't forget to sign up for a free student account. So you can grab the project files from this lesson as well as assets from any other lesson on the site. All right. Let's hop right in and get to it. So this is color cycling. And before I get too far into the tutorial, I want to just point out that, you know, this technique I've never actually had to use it for any sort of paid work. Um, it's, you know, I can't imagine really that many situations where you need to know how to do this. Um, so the reason I'm making this tutorial, it's not just to show you a neat trick because sometimes that's fun too. It's fun to just learn a neat trick, but what I'm hoping you'll get out of this is you'll have a little bit of a framework, um, when it comes to figuring out how to do effects that you don't know how to do that.

Joey Korenman (01:50):

You've never done before. Um, this effect I had never actually done an after effects before. Um, but I've sort of, you know, I don't know, after years of using after effects and a lot of practice and kind of banging my head against it, I've gotten pretty good at figuring out how to make effects. So I want to try and teach you guys a little bit about how my brain goes about doing that. Hopefully, uh, this'll help you when, when you have to do something like this. All right. So, uh, the, I got this idea, actually, my friend, Joe Russ, he posted something about monkey island today. And if you don't know what that is, Google it it's one of the greatest computer games ever made. Um, and it got me thinking I've seen, I had seen this website before. I can't remember when I saw it.

Joey Korenman (02:33):

Um, but I'll link to it in the, in the description and what this is, this is this artist, uh, mark Ferrari, who created this artwork and it looks like it's moving, right. But if you look at the pallet over here, you can actually see the trick that's creating the movement. Um, and here, what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna turn this cycle speed down to a quarter. And so now what you can see is that this artwork has all of these little layers to it, right? It's very deliberately created in such a way that when you cycle specific parts of the color palette, it creates this illusion of movement. And there's a whole bunch of cool examples here on this website. Um, let me turn this back up to normal speed and you can kind of see here, it looks like there, the water is moving.

Joey Korenman (03:18):

Um, if I come down here, it looks like a, you know, like a rippling pond, right? Like there's a little rain drops and this is all done with the same trick. If you look at the color palette, that's what it's doing. Okay. It's cycling the palette. And so I said, okay, well, how do I do that in after effects? Um, and so what I started with, I'm going to try and get through this part quick, cause this part is not the interesting part, but what I started with, um, was I just made a gradient. Okay. So I made a new layer. I used the generate, uh, and it's called gradient ramp. Now it's kind of the new word for it. It used to just be called ramp. So a gradient ramp, right. Just creates this gradient. And then this is the trick and the key to the whole thing really.

Joey Korenman (04:00):

Okay. And from here you might even be able to figure it out. Um, you use this effect with a silly name. It's called Colorama Colorama and this is what it does. It takes an input. Okay. And you can tell it what that input is by default it's the intensity intensity basically means the brightness of a pixel in conjunction with its transparency. So this layer has no transparency. So intensity is just how bright the pixel is basically. Okay. So here's the darkest pixel. Here's the brightest pixel. Everything in the middle is somewhere in between and it maps that to an output cycle. And if we open that up, you can see this is the output cycle. So black gets mapped to this red, right? And then as we get darker, it's slowly turns yellow, then green, then teal, then blue, then pink. And, and you can see that that's exactly what happens.

Joey Korenman (04:56):

Okay. Um, and if I move these colors around, you can see that it moves them around within this gradient. All it's doing is mapping the colors. Now the trick is, if I go back to this input phase section here, there's a phase shift and watch what happens if I cycle this. Whoa, there we go. Okay. So once I sort of figured this out, I said, okay, well that's probably, I mean, that's clearly the track, that's the trick right there, but how do you get it to look really good? Right? How do you really get it to look? You know, I mean, not, not that, not that this is like the most amazing example of color cycling ever, but it works, right. It looks like a waterfall and the ripples are working. And I want you to notice that, you know, this white part that sort of falls down the waterfall, it starts off slow.

Joey Korenman (05:44):

And then it kind of feels like it speeds up as it falls. Um, and that's deliberate and I'll show you how I did that. So here's what we need to do. Let me delete this. Well, we need to do is first animate a waterfall. Um, and so, you know, I spent a lot of time, uh, you know, looking at this website, turning the cycle speed down to a quarter and just sort of analyzing what the heck a waterfall looks like. And how could I make that in a very simple way. This guy is a far, far better artists than me. So there's no way I could really recreate this, but here's what I figured out. I figured that, you know, a big sort of sheet of water falling, right. It starts off kind of shaped like, like an ellipse. Right. Um, and I don't want any strokes, let me turn that off.

Joey Korenman (06:32):

Let me turn the fill back on here. Okay. It starts off like this and then as it falls, right, it's going to sort of let me put the anchor point in the right spot here. So this makes sense. It's going to sort of fall kind of like that. Right. It's going to sort of, you see the bottom edge, ignore this top part for a minute. It's just going to sort of fall down like that. Okay. And so what I thought might work is to take an ellipse and I want it to be right, right, right. In the center of my comp to make this easier to animate. So, um, I'm going to just double click the ellipse tool and it makes the lips, the size of my comp. And then I'm going to, double-tap the U key, let me just call this waterfall. Um, I'm going to unlink the X and Y properties of the size and I'm going to shrink the X way down like this, and I'm going to shrink it way down like this.

Joey Korenman (07:24):

Okay. So this is where it's going to start. So let's put a key frame there and let's go forward. And to be honest, it doesn't really matter how far we go forward. I'll show you why in a minute, but what I'm going to, you know, I kind of want to get a sense of the timing of this. So I'm gonna go forward one second and I'm gonna stretch this way out. Okay. And again, ignore this top part for a minute. Just think about the bottom. Um, and okay, so now if we just ran preview this, right, this doesn't look like water falling. Um, when things fall, right? Let me first easy, ease these and hop into the curves editor here. When things fall, they start off not moving. Okay. And the curve is flat here. So that that's correct. Um, but then they just accelerate until they hit something.

Joey Korenman (08:10):

And this is a waterfall, so it's not really going to hit anything. Um, and so what I needed to do, I just need this curve to accelerate all the way into this last key frame. Okay. So that's what this curve is now doing. And I'm gonna pull this out a little bit so that it kind of hangs for a minute. I'm also going to just nudge this curve a little bit off of perpendicular like that. So it's never totally static. Okay. All right. So now you look at that, there's a little bit of like an acceleration to it and it doesn't feel fast enough. It's a little bit unnatural. So I might, I might scoot that key frame back a little bit. Right. And you really have to use your imagination here. This doesn't look anything like a waterfall yet. Um, but believe it or not, this is exactly how I made this thing.

Joey Korenman (08:54):

Okay, cool. So you start with that and now I want to pre compose this. I'm just going to call this oh one waterfall pre comp. And if you don't know why I'm putting this one here, uh, you should watch the tutorial in this series, which deals with pre comping. Cause I get into that. Alright. So there's my pre comp. Next thing I want to do is mask out the part of this that I don't want. Okay. So I'm going to, I'm just going to grab my mask tool here and I'm going to get approximately in the center here. I'm just going to grab the bottom like that. Okay. So now let's take a look at that. So now that's what it looks like. Okay. And that's why I pre-committed so I can easily mask it. Cool. That's great. Okay. So while we're in this, pre-com, you know, this does not look like water.

Joey Korenman (09:42):

It's like, it's so perfect. It's just perfectly round. Um, and if you were trying to make like super cartoony anime water or something, maybe that's what you'd want, but I don't want that. I want it to be a little bit, you know, turbulent like water. So what I'm going to do is add a turbulent displace effect and I could put it right on the layer. Um, but what I usually do is I'll put it on an adjustment layer. So I'm gonna make an adjustment layer. Why don't we just call this turbulent? So I know what it is. The reason it's nice to put turbulent displace, which by the way, is in the distort menu, turbulent displace. It's good to put it on an adjustment layer because what this effect does is it creates a noise field. It basically creates fractal noise, right? If you guys are familiar with that effect creates fractal noise, and then it uses the fractal noise to displace the image that it's applied to.

Joey Korenman (10:35):

And if you put turbulent displace on here, let me show you a quick example real quick. So it's going to be easier to just show you all right. Uh, make an ellipse here. Um, you know, let me just, pre-camp it cool. So now I've got this nice ellipse shape. And if I put turbulent displace on this layer and let's turn the size down a little bit, crank up the amount. If I move this around, you see how it just it's like it's displaced, but the displacement doesn't change at all. It's stuck to that layer. Versus if I add an adjustment layer, let me take this effect and just cut it, paste it on the adjustment layer. Here we go. Now, if I move that layer around underneath the adjustment layer, it will actually flow around the turbulent displace. Right. It's pretty slick. Right. So let's uh, so now we can get rid of this.

Joey Korenman (11:30):

So that's why I like to put turbulent displace on an adjustment layer. Okay. Um, so let's go back here. Here's my adjustment layer. And so let's, uh, let's crank, let's create the size down a little bit. All right. Let's turn the Mount up a little bit. Um, and I found, you know, I just sort of played with all these settings. I found that turbulence smoother kind of worked a little bit better. Right. And look at that, see, and you can see that as it falls down, the, the edge of it kind of changes, but it does it in a way that feels a little more natural because it's moving through that noise. And if I wanted to, I could also animate the evolution a little bit, but I don't really need to, um, all right. So let's leave it like that for now. Cool. So here is what I'm trying to get at.

Joey Korenman (12:20):

What I want is I want an image where I see each frame of this animation, like this frame, then this frame and this frame, then this frame. And I want to see them all kind of as a gradient, all put together, going from white to black or black to white, um, where I can kind of discretely see each individual frame, if that makes sense. And the reason I want that is because then I can put a Colorama effect on that and cycle the colors. So here's the first step this right? So this is going to be, oh, to, uh, we'll call it waterfall turbulent. Cool. All right. So now we've got this pre comped, so there's a bunch of different ways to do that. What I found worked pretty well. Um, you know, I was sort of thinking, I know that there's like some time effects here, right?

Joey Korenman (13:11):

Like there's this echo effect and what the echo effect does, uh, you set the number of echoes. So let's say I want, I don't know, eight kind of in-betweens for this animation, some say eight echoes. And I want the echo time in seconds. I don't want it to echo things that have happened previously. I want it to actually look forward in time. Right. And you can see that's not working, but that's because, um, this decay is at one, uh, meaning it's actually, it's, it's not really decaying at all in what it means by decay is sort of fading out each echo. So if I lower this a little bit, there we go. You can see it starting to work. And it, and it, it kind of works, but I found the echo effect really weird. Like this is kind of what I was going after, but it's sort of not doing it in a way that makes any sense to me.

Joey Korenman (14:04):

Right? Like, I don't really understand why this numb number has to be so low. I have eight echos in there. I don't really see eight layers here. So the echo effect wasn't working for me, so I killed it. Um, and then I tried some other ones and I found this wide time effect, which has really simple backward steps. I want zero and then forward steps. I want eight steps. Right. And now I'm starting to see this actually gives me a little more control and I actually can see eight steps here. Um, now I don't see the eight steps that I want. So then the next, the next move is I need to actually speed up this animation. Um, so I need to go back in here and move this key frame back a little bit. Um, and if I was smart, I wanted to be able to move that key frame and see the result.

Joey Korenman (14:55):

What I would do is make sure that this comp is, is available down here in my timeline, lock the view or with the little lock button and then pop in here and just scoot this key frame back until I get what I want. Okay. Um, and you could see now, there we go. That's pretty much, that's pretty much it we're starting with the first frame of our animation is this white, like the brightest part. Then the second frame is a little darker and the third frame is a little darker and the third friends' little dark, and it basically gets darker and darker and darker as time goes on. Okay. And what this is. And you can see too that because I changed the animation curves so that there was acceleration throughout the animation, the shapes, uh, you know, the, the, the sort of gradiation between the shapes is it's thinner at the beginning of the animation, then it gets wider and wider and wider as time goes on.

Joey Korenman (15:52):

Okay. Um, if we jump closer and we go to full Rez, you can see that my turbulent displace is actually causing some of the second frame and the third frame to be above the first frame. Right. So I may want to, you know, with this lock still on, come here and mess with my turbulent display settings, and maybe we can try bald smoother. That was, you know, that kind of fixed most of it. Um, I could try turning the complexity down, um, or turn it up and see what that does. That's I don't like that. I like it back where it was. Um, I can mess with the evolution just to see if maybe I can find a better value for it. All right. And if we kind of zoom out and look right, not bad, and, you know, you can mess with these settings, you know, as much as you want.

Joey Korenman (16:40):

Um, that's not what I wanted to do on it to miss the amount, to get a little bit more. Right. Um, so anyway, so you mess with these until you get on. It's interesting, but, but terrible, interesting yet. Terrible. All right. So let's just say, this is what we want. I've got a little bit of variation to it. Um, and you can see we've got exactly the shape we're looking for. And so now here's the problem. If I play this animation, this is the frame we want, but it goes away very quickly. Right. And so what I thought I could do, and, you know, I'm kind of a big fan of showing you my screw ups here too. I think that's helpful. What I thought I could do was this, right? Because it's got the wide time effect on it and I could just call this oh three wide timed or something.

Joey Korenman (17:32):

Right. And what I thought I could do was just time remap it, right. Command option T enables time remap up. And before I do that, let me show you one thing. I screwed up. Let me undo all these things I just did. Um, so when I pre-com this shift C uh, you have to make sure that you are moving all the attributes into the new comp. Okay. So, oh, three wide timed. Okay. So now this wide time to pre-com does not have the effect on it. The effect is inside the pre comp. Okay. That's what we wanted. And now what I thought I could do is turn on time remapping. So command option T, and then make this a hold key frame. So hold command, hold option at the same time and click it thinking, okay, well now it's just going to hold on frame zero, and that should hold the framework.

Joey Korenman (18:22):

But as soon as I did that, you see what happened. Our beautiful gradient image went away. And I don't know why. I think it must be some sort of issue with the way the wide time effect works. Um, it just doesn't work when it's, you know, when you go up a level and you pretend you time remap it, it just stops working. So what I did, I did something I normally hate doing, but every once in a while, I have to, uh, which is, I just rendered this out where a hundred out, I just want to point out something that, um, this is not actually a darker color. Uh, if I hit the transparency grid, you could see it's actually transparent. And maybe that's hard to see, let me fill this with a color real quick, so you can actually see it. It's actually transparent.

Joey Korenman (19:09):

Okay. It's not darker. And that's going to come back and bite us in the bud a little bit when we jumped into the Colorama, but I'll show you how to deal with that. Okay. So what I'm going to do, let me turn this back to full Rez for a second. And I'm going to hit command option asks that's the key frame for save a steel frame. Um, you'd notice if you watch my tutorials, I hate to use these menus up here. If I don't have to, I always use the keyboard. Uh, it makes you much, much faster, so, all right. So I'm just going to save a Photoshop file. And by default, just so you guys know, um, when you save a Photoshop file, it is saving the alpha channel. So it's saving that transparency. Um, and let's save that in my color cycling folder, and we'll stick it in here. We'll just call this waterfall.

Joey Korenman (19:56):

Cool. All right. And now we've got that saved. So let's import that. Let's bring that back in there. It is. Okay, cool. So now let's make a new comp and let's bring in our, let's bring in our waterfall. Okay. So now I'm going to call this call, this comp water fall. Oh two. And what I want to do is actually make a folder here in my comms folder. Um, I'm not sure I've talked about this yet, but this is how I set up pretty much all of my after effects projects. Um, and at some point I'll, I'll get into it. And I'll talk a little bit about why, um, but for now I'm going to put all of these comps that I've used to make my waterfall. I'm going to put them all in a waterfall folder. The reason I want to do is because then what if I want to make some ripples?

Joey Korenman (20:49):

What if I want to make some splashes? Well, I've got this set up here that I could just duplicate. It's going to make it a lot easier to copy this setup and reuse it. Okay. Um, and in fact, I might as well put an O four in front of this, even though this oh four comp does not actually contain the oh three comp at least I know sort of the order, I'm supposed to do things in. Alright, so excuse me. Here's my I'm going through puberty while I do this tutorials. Here's the, uh, the waterfall image we just rendered out and now I'm ready to put the Colorama effect on there. So let's just apply color, correction, color, Romo, color Roma. There it is. All right. So that didn't work at all. See, so the reason it's not working right now is because the input phase, it's trying to get the phase from the intensity, but the problem is, uh, the intensity looks at the brightness of a pixel and these, the pixels technically I'll have the same brightness.

Joey Korenman (21:50):

Um, they do have a different alpha channel. Um, and so if I, if you, if you turn this on and you turn off this modified alpha option down in the modify section, now it'll leave the alpha channel alone. So by default, what it does is it looks at the intensity, which is the brightness and the alpha taken kind of together. But this modified alphas, uh, option that's turned on, it basically kills whatever Alpha's there, um, and, and creates a new one. All right. So if you turn that off, now you get this, which is closer to what we want. And actually, you know, if we go back into, into the web browser, we take a look at this and I turned this down, right? It's at one quarter cycle speed. And if you look really closely like looking here, you can see a lot of transparency in this image when it's playing kind of quickly, you almost don't notice it, but when it's going really slow, you can kind of see the layers that the start is built up to, to enable this waterfall to look very complicated.

Joey Korenman (22:50):

So I actually liked the idea of having some transparency here, right? If I turn this transparency grid on, I can see that, uh, you know, I've got, you know, I've got like this feathered transparency, which is cool, because what if I, you know, like layered a bunch of these right. To create a waterfall, for example, um, all right. So let's look at the Colorama's settings here. So the output cycle, right. Um, right now it's not actually doing anything except giving us red. And that's because it's getting the phase from intensity. If we switched that to get phase from alpha, now it's actually going to show us all of these colors. Okay. Um, and remember when it was getting the face from the intensity, it was looking at the color of the pixels, but the color of the pixels, they were all technically white. They just had different alpha channels.

Joey Korenman (23:40):

If I get the face from the alpha channel, since the alpha channel is now different on each one, uh, then we actually get the Colorama effect. And if I now animate the face shift, look at that here's waterfall. Okay. So, uh, the next step is to create the right colors for a waterfall. Um, and so there's all these presets. If you look in the output cycle section here, there's this used preset pallet, and there's a ton of them, they give you. And there's some really interesting ones, uh, that are actually pretty nice. This Caribbean one is not a bad starting point. Right. But you can see there's, there's like a lot of different cycles and I don't really want it to go, like from bright to dark, to dark, to bright, to dark, to really bright, you know, I don't want it to do all of that.

Joey Korenman (24:26):

So what I did is I just picked one of these simple ones here. Like, I think I picked a ramp blue, right. It starts at this like ridiculously electric blue, and it goes all the way around to black. So instead of doing that, I want it to start at white. Okay. And then pretty quickly, I want it to turn to kind of a nice lighter blue color, right. Maybe this is kind of like a Caribbean blue. And then by the time it gets to the end, I want it to be, you know, still in that family of blue, but I want it to be much darker. Okay. And then along the way, you can introduce a little bit of natural variation to it, which, which just kind of, you know, just kind of makes it a little nicer, but now when I cycle this right, you can see we're starting to get that, that effect.

Joey Korenman (25:16):

Okay. That's not working perfectly yet. Um, and so, you know, I, I'm basically just gonna play around with these colors a little bit until I get, you know, the main problem having right now is I'm not seeing enough of that white. I feel like. So I might actually click here. And basically all you do is you click around the perimeter of the circle and you can add more colors and I'll just add another white color. So now I can create a bigger band of where this should be white. There we go. Cool. All right. That's pretty cool. Awesome. All right. So now, um, here's some other settings. So first of all, if I turn off modify alpha now, because I'm using the get phase from alpha, um, you could see now it, it, it basically brought all the colors to full brightness because now there's no alpha channel.

Joey Korenman (26:09):

Okay. So I wanted to show you guys, this is a cool option. You know, one, uh, problem with this is now if I duplicate this waterfall layer and I moved this over, you just, it just looks like a solid, you know, shelf of water and it's not blending it all. Um, and so let me turn the Colorama's off for a second. And actually the way I had this set setup in my demo, um, let me, let me delete this Colorado effect. Let me turn this one off for a minute. Um, what I actually did was I made an adjustment layer called the color Roma, and I put the Colorado effect on that. Right. Um, and the reason I did that was because now I can just turn this off and I can actually take all of these little waterfall layers like this, and I can kind of move them around and then turn the Colorado effect on.

Joey Korenman (26:57):

And I can build a little shelves of them, you know, and little kind of pieces of them. And they're not blending together all that well right now. Um, and so I found that when you, when you have the, uh, when you have this modified alpha turned off, it gives them transparency, which is going to let them blend a little bit better. Right. Um, here, let me just do a quick, little quick little test here. Um, if I go back to the input phase and I animate the phase shift, you could see that they both kind of animate at the same time. And I want to, I want to start being able to preview this waterfall and see if it's actually looking like a waterfall. So, um, what I'm gonna do is actually key frame. I'm gonna, I'm not going to key frame it. That's ridiculous.

Joey Korenman (27:42):

Why would I do that? But I am going to animate the phase shift. Um, and whenever I have to animate something that I just want it to increase at like a constant speed, I use the simplest expression. I know which is, uh, hold option, click stopwatch, and you just type in time, times and number. All right. So let's start by putting in time times 500 and see what happens. And if I do a Ram preview, let me switch this to half Rez. So it doesn't take so long to Ram preview, but if I do a Ram preview, all right, it's animating automatically based on the time of the comp. Okay. And that's actually not a terrible speed. So let's leave it at that. Now, one thing that is bothering me little bit is they're both animating at exactly the same time, right? It just looks like a copy, right?

Joey Korenman (28:29):

It's not really, it's not, you know, it's just too obvious. So what I'd like to do is have this waterfall animated a different kind of, you know, maybe, maybe the same speed, but sort of have the animation start in a different place than this one. And I could just put the Colorado effect on each layer individually and do that. Um, but then that's going to be kind of a pain to like manually offset them and make them look the way I want. So what I did was I actually, uh, I took the Colorama effect and I put it on this waterfall layer. So let me just do that real quick, put Colorado back on there. Colorama all. Alright. Let's just tweak the settings here. So the input phase on the Colorado is going to come from the alpha. So remember, that's really all the information we have here.

Joey Korenman (29:20):

Uh, and then the output cycle, I don't want this crazy rainbow thing. Um, I'm going to use the preset pallet called an alpha ramp, uh, what the off-ramp is doing. This is kind of an interesting thing Colorama can do. It can actually ramp, not just between a bunch of different colors, but also between a bunch of different alphas. So what it's ramping here is it's the color remains white all the way around the circle, but the alpha goes from like totally opaque all the way to totally transparent, which coincidentally is what the Slayer already had on it. Right? So this Colorama effect, um, it's not really doing much the reason it does kind of change it a little bit is because by default you have a setting that says composite over layer, and I don't know why that's on by default, let's turn that off.

Joey Korenman (30:07):

And now the effect does nothing, right? Because what it's doing is it's mapping the alpha channel to a normal alpha channel. If we now face shifted, though, it's actually going to cycle the colors for us. Okay. And now that I've cycled the colors, I can turn this color Alma back on and I can actually kind of offset this, this little waterfall piece individually. Um, which is pretty cool. And so then the other thing I could do is I could maybe set both of these two screen or let's, you know, I don't know. I think I played around with screen. I think I ended up with a lighter color, um, and really all that does, you know, if you have it on normal, um, there's an alpha channels. It's not gonna make much of a difference, but you can add them together. Um, and sometimes you get different, you know, you can kind of get different, looks like the way they blend together.

Joey Korenman (31:01):

And then the Colorado is just going to act on that. So let's leave that on light. And, um, and now that I've offset this one, I have, you know, like a different timing to it. Right. And so it kind of, it adds a little bit more depth to it. Um, and you can also start to kind of play with the scale of these things. Um, and so what I, what I was thinking was, okay, this, this one here is going to kind of be the big, main piece. And then there's going to be some little kind of offshoots coming off of it, right? Maybe one over there, maybe one over here, this one's a little bit smaller and along the way, I'm going to change the input phase on each one, so that they're never perfectly in sync. Okay.

Joey Korenman (31:48):

Let me duplicate that go. And this Colorado effect, for some reason, this kind of a render hog. So just, just know that it is gonna, it is gonna work a little bit slowly for you. Um, all right. And then we can mess with this one, right. And as we start looking, right, you're starting to get that nice kind of cascading waterfall luck. Right. Pretty cool. Um, now looking at this, right. I'm thinking, all right, the, the bands here, I mean, this is pretty chunky if he, if you go back and look at this account nice and smooth and pretty, that looks, um, so what that tells me is maybe what I should have done was back in pre comps here. I should've had the wide time have a few more forage steps. So if I, if I just cranked this to like 16 instead of eight, um, and then what I need to do is go into this pre-camp and move this frame forward to at least frame 16 right now, if we look at it, you're going to get more of a gradiation to it.

Joey Korenman (33:01):

Okay. Um, so let me, let me put the lock on this comp one more time and come back to this pre comp and move this key frame, turn this to half, and I'm gonna move the key frame until I get on. I'm looking for, there we go. So now we got, you know, we have a much nicer kind of flow to it. Um, and now what I need to do is command option S render that frame out. I'm just going to render right over this old one, replace it, render it. It's giving me a warning saying you're about to override something. That's fine. And then I'm just going to control, click on this and say, reload footage. And so now, if we go back to our, here we go, oh, for waterfall to, for come back here, let me unlock my comp viewer. Oh, I know what I did wrong.

Joey Korenman (33:53):

I did something really silly people. I'll tell you what I did. If we come back to this comp, I left this on half Raz. And by default, if you hold command option S it's going to render it, the current settings, uh, what you can do, you can either turn your settings to full before you render it. Or you can just switch it here to best settings instead of current settings and render over waterfall or place. There we go. And then we'll just control, click, reload, the waterfall, go back to this comp. And now our waterfall has more variation in the colors. So let's go look a little bit smoother, right. And if you're super accurate, computer game history buff, you know, you might even say, well, that was the, in the eighties, right? I mean, you only had sometimes eight colors. Um, you know, we're talking, talking CGA monitors here, people, um, you know, and then by the time you got to like super Nintendo, you had 256 colors, which was a lot better.

Joey Korenman (34:55):

Cool. So this is starting to look pretty cool. Right. All right. So, uh, I'll show you kinda the next step of this. Right? So then what I did was I, I took this, so here's my waterfall comp, um, let's make a new comp real quick and we'll just call this scene. And what I did was I got this very nice picture, um, off of the creative common search engine on flicker. And I'm just going to darken this real quick. I'm not going to do all of the compositing in this, because it would make the tutorial much, much longer than it's already going to be. I'm just going to darken a little bit, and then I'm going to take my waterfall. Pre-camp and I'm going to put it over here. Okay. Uh, and I'm just going tone back the transparency just a little bit, maybe to 80% or maybe 90%.

Joey Korenman (35:42):

Just a little. Okay. And so you could see that, you know, I can stick this wherever I want. I wanted it to kind of come over this Ridge here, but I want it to look like it's actually coming over the Ridge. Right. Um, and right now it's just got this straight line edge, which isn't gonna work. So what I, what I figured I would do is I'd use a mesh warp, which is an awesome effects in the distort group, a mesh warp. And it gives you this mesh and you can like pull points around and stuff. And the problem is you could see that the, the mesh goes all the way over, all this empty stuff that you don't need. And so if all I want to do is change this top edge, it's going to be a pain because it's like, okay, well, you know, I have all this extra garbage out here I don't need.

Joey Korenman (36:28):

So what I, what I usually do, if I'm going to do a mesh warp, let me delete that effect for a minute is I first crop the comp. So it's only what I need. So let me go back into this comp for a minute. And here's how you crop a comp and after effects, if you didn't know, uh, you click this button here, right. Region of interest. This is one of these things is like, I don't know. I, I don't even remember how I heard about it, but most people don't use it. Most people don't know about it. Uh, you set the region of interest on your comp and what it actually does is it tells after effects. This is the only part of my comp to render. Um, in new region of interest is actually a pretty big deal. But in after effects, it gets forgotten a lot.

Joey Korenman (37:06):

Once you've set that you can now go to, um, composition, crop comp to region of interest, and it crops your comp for you, which is awesome. The best part about that now is that back in my scene, that comp is only that big. And so if I add a mesh warp, the mesh warp is only that big. And so now I don't even need all these rows and stuff. Maybe we'll do the two rows with three columns, right? That's all the detail we really need. And let's scale it down a little bit. And let me turn the transparency way down for a minute and zoom in here. Right. And kind of move this roughly in a place. And then now with the mesh warp, you can just kind of grab the points of it like this. And each point has a Bezier handle. So you can kind of smooth out.

Joey Korenman (37:59):

They need to update this effect though. Boy, is it a, is it a slow moving effect? And it's kind of buggy. All right. There we go. Okay. And then I can adjust that and adjust that. And I'm just trying to roughly get this waterfall to look like it's coming over that Ridge there, there we go. Cool. And then, you know, let me zoom out here. Um, and then you can also, you know, you can use it to kind of like, just add a little more variation. Right. Um, and I know I do want the water to reach all the way down to where the ocean is, so let's pull it down there a little bit. Cool. All right. And then we'll turn this back up to 90, not a hundred, but 90. All right. And now we'll do a quick little Ram preview. We'll take a look at this.

Joey Korenman (38:56):

And so this is kind of the beginnings of your waterfall, right. And it's actually not working too, too bad. Uh, but there's not a ton of detail in it. So then, you know, what I did was I duplicated this, let's delete the mesh warp on the copy, um, and scale this one down a little bit, and actually, you know, to, to get more variation in it, maybe I'll flip it horizontally and I'll kind of move this one over here and maybe scale it. So it's a little bit wider, right? It's shorter, but it's a little bit wider. Um, and then I can play around with the transfer modes to maybe, maybe, uh, maybe lighter color, you know, I don't know. Cause then you're seeing the mountain through it. It's just leaving a normal for now. Um, and then I probably do want a little bit of a mesh warp on there and we'll just keep this simple two and two, just so I can get like a little bit of a bend to it.

Joey Korenman (39:52):

So it's not so perfect. All right, cool. Um, and that, I definitely want to offset the timing of it, right? So that it's not perfectly in sync with this top one. Um, and now what I might do is put a mask on it because this heart, this top edge is like such a hard edge. So I'm just going to mask it out and I'm hitting the F key. Once you draw a mask, if you hit F it brings up the mask feather property, but it also lets you click this inverted button. So now I'm only seeing what is not masked. And now I can feather that in a little bit. Right. And with that mask on there and with the feather, I can mesh warp it a little bit. And I could even come back into this, to this first one here and mesh warp this one a little bit.

Joey Korenman (40:42):

I'm just trying to blend these two pieces together. And then I don't know what the, Hey, why don't I duplicate this one and make like a really kind of small little piece of a waterfall back here and I'm going to copy and paste the mask from this layer onto this new one I just did. And then I'll, and then I'll just kind of maybe just, just play with the scale a little bit, just so it just looks like a little, like there's something extra back there. Let me stick that way in the back. There we go. And then let me offset it a little bit. So it's not, it's not perfectly in line with the other two.

Joey Korenman (41:22):

Cool. All right. So this is sort of the, the workflow and, and, um, you know, it kind of looks, it looks okay. You know, and, and really the more detail you put into it, the better, um, you know, if you look at the, if you look at this example here, there's a lot more kind of turbulence to it. And so that's one thing that, you know, might be cool to actually go back and see if we can get more turbulence out of it. Um, and here I'll just show you how quick and easy that is. Actually, if we just come back to let's see, so it's not in this comp, um, so it must be in the comp that's labeled too. Yep. There it is. Uh, and why don't we just up the amount of the displacement and we can play with the size and stuff now, what I don't want to happen, you see how we're getting all these little kind of disconnected pieces here.

Joey Korenman (42:15):

Right. And that's, and so I'm going to sort of play with the amount until that doesn't happen too much, the amount and the size, maybe, maybe a bigger size, that's better. Let me try something like that. All right. And then if we look in comp the comp three, you can see now it's a lot more turbulent looking. So now, uh, let me set this to full command option S and we'll just save over that Photoshop file, replace it, and then reload. And then we'll just go back here and now, oh boy, that is way better. That's way better. Right. And you know, some of the things that are kind of giving it away are like this hard edge here. And I don't know, it depends on kind of what your background images and how transparent the water is and other things maybe that's okay, but you can always, it's actually kind of cool.

Joey Korenman (43:11):

You can always come back into your waterfall comp and let's figure out which piece that is that looks like this piece here. Right. And you can do the same thing. I just did. You could grab a mask mask out the top, right. And you can see pewter start a chug, starting to hurt, hit F invert the mask, and then put, I don't know, put like a 25 pixel feather on there, maybe a little more, maybe 50, um, and something interesting is happening. It's not actually feathering and I'm guessing that's because whoa, there's a lot, there's an extra Colorado effect on this guy. We don't want that. Let's get rid of that. Let's make sure, oh boy, we've got extra Colorama's that we didn't need. Um, so this mask doesn't seem to be working the way I'd hoped. So let me troubleshoot that real quick. Let's turn Colorado off.

Joey Korenman (44:06):

Obviously it works with that off. Um, and I'm guessing it's because modified Alpha's turned on. If I turn it off, we're not going to get the result we want. All right. So in this case, because the Colorado is on this layer and it's interacting with the alpha channel. If I put a mask on this, it kind of screws things up. So an easy kind of solution is let's make a new layer, just command, make a new layer, temporarily, set it to just layer and then put the mask on that layer. And then let's just rename this layer mat and select the layer that you want the mask on. And just tell it to use this new layer you just made as an alpha matte. Now I can do the same thing, hit F on the mat, invert it and blur it. I don't know, 30 pixels, and now we can turn all those other layers back on.

Joey Korenman (44:59):

All right. And you can see now it's blending in there. Right. Um, so you can also do that and, and kind of blend your, your pieces together. And so you won't have these awful hard edges. Um, you know, and some of that is sort of, okay, especially if you're going for this eight bit color cycling look, because that's, you know, all those little funky visual artifacts kind of happened in, in those games. A lot of the times, um, the, you know, one of the, one of the next steps I would do is just pre comp all of this call it waterfall. And that way you can, um, you can do things like, um, you know, here, let me, let me show you, I'll show you a little bit more. Why not? I've gone this far. I'm going to add adjustment layer over this whole shebang, because now if I want to start actually comping this in there and trying to see how it's going to look, it'll be easier if I can get a better sense of what the final thing's going to look like.

Joey Korenman (45:57):

So I'm what I'm going to do is add an adjustment layer. And because we're going for pixel art here, there's great effect called mosaics and the stylized group mosaic. And by default gives you this 10 by 10 mosaic. I'm going to make it. Now, what I was originally going to do is three 20 by two 40, because that was kind of the default resolution of games. But computer monitors, a lot of people, especially if you're, you know, if you're my age, um, computer monitors, you remember used to not be rectangular shape. They were more square shape. There are four by three, like old TVs. So three 20 by two 40 would be a four by three ratio. Um, if we want 16 by nine, I think it's more like 360 by two 40 or something like that. Um, and then if you click sharp colors, it really, it basically, if you don't have this on, it's a subtle difference, but excuse me, I have a frog in my throat.

Joey Korenman (46:52):

If you don't have this on it's, it looks like it's doing some filtering to the image and it sort of softens it. If you turn that back on, it makes it very crisp and hard, like an old computer game. Um, and you can see that already. It's sort of giving that waterfall a more computer. He looks, if I turn that adjustment layer off, it's nice and smooth. And if I turn it back on, it looks very pixely. Um, on top of that, what I'm gonna do is I'm going to go to stylize and hit poster eyes. Okay. And that's gonna take away a lot of the color. So right now what it's doing, it's only allowing seven colors to exist, basically. Um, and that's not enough, let's set that to 16. All right. And so that's sort of 16, I believe is like super Nintendo level.

Joey Korenman (47:40):

Um, and back in the day, I got to tell you that was pretty cutting edge. So then, uh, you know, now that the waterfalls all on one layer, you can grab your mask tool. You can mask it out, oh boy, computer starting a computer, starting to feel pain. And in this, in this situation, part of the reason that it's chugging is also because I'm screen recording at the same time, but, uh, it's not a bad idea once you get your waterfall exactly how you want it, you can, pre-render it. And if you don't know how to do that, maybe I'll show you guys how to do that in a note tutorial. Um, so let me take the mask. I just drew now, uh, I'm gonna select it. I'm just gonna hit shift in the down arrow and just nudge it down. So it's kind of closer to the water there and I'll feather the edge a little bit, but I'm not terribly concerned with it because, um, you know, I knew going in, I was gonna create some ripples.

Joey Korenman (48:30):

I was going to create some of that splash and I did all of that stuff exactly the same way. And you can see it's so funny whenever I make these tutorials, I do it first. And then I'll show you guys how to do it. And it always looks better. I think when I show you, cause it's the second time I've done it. Um, I think that looks way better. So yeah, there you go. We're getting something now, people. Um, so you can see though with like the combination of the pixelization and the post arising, um, layering these things and maybe feathering some of the layers into each other, you're getting a pretty good result. Um, and this is just one layer of stuff happening. This doesn't, it doesn't even have our, uh, you know, our little ripples down here and kind of the steam coming off the water, the splash.

Joey Korenman (49:17):

Um, and of course I did a lot of other things. I, I, you know, I call it corrected the mountains and, um, I added a different sky because the sky kind of looks like crap when you post your eyes. It, um, but this waterfall is way better. So anyway, I hope through all of my rambling and creating this sort of, one-off almost useless in the real world effect. I hope that you, you could kind of get a little glimpse, uh, you know, at least the way my brain works with how I approach creating an effect I've never created before. Um, I swear to you, I did not know how to do this before I did it today to come up with this tutorial and, and it's really just learning how to observe other people's work and breaking it down into small pieces that you do know how to do.

Joey Korenman (50:05):

You know, if you look at, if you look at this, you know, just all by itself, it's the first time you see it, it's kind of overwhelming. It's like, I have no idea how you would even approach that, but I slowed it way down. Luckily, this artist was nice enough to create these buttons, so you could slow things down. And I really looked at the palette and I just stared at it. And I said, oh, look, it's the same color. Just cycling. Hey, what, what effect? And after would let me do that, oh my gosh, there's a Colorama effect in, and I just built on it and built on it until you get something like this. Um, and one other thing I completely forgot to mention, um, which is just a quick thing, is let's go back to this comp here and let's look at the color Rama effect here.

Joey Korenman (50:48):

Um, and one thing that's kind of cool. So if I just ran preview this, right, you'll notice that if you look at the white part, which is sort of the foamy leading edge of the water, that, that shows you that it's moving, there's only one on each piece at a time. And that's because if you go to the output cycle, the default setting for this output cycle is there's one repetition, but you can increase that. You can make that as many as you want. I just increased it to five and that's too many, let's increase it to two. And so what that's going to do is it's going to create more than one of these edges, and it's going to sort of, it's going to kind of increase the S like the speed of it, but it's also going to increase the frequency of those colors, um, which, which could be interesting. It might make it look a little bit more turbulent. You can also set this to less than one, right? And so then it sort of spreads the colors out more. Right? And so now it, it may be slows down the animation a little bit.

Joey Korenman (51:50):

Cool. And for a waterfall who knows, I mean, maybe, maybe that's what you want. And the great thing is you can always just do that and then come here and Ram preview it and see what it looks like, you know? And, and, um, you know, that, that's one of the things I love about after effects is that it's just, it's pretty easy to, to set up this complex chain of things that you just go back, a few comps change, one thing, and now you get something like this. So anyway, I'll stop talking now. Thank you guys so much for hanging out and I hope this was cool. I hope you learned some tricks and, and maybe, I don't know. I bet a bunch of you have never used Colorama before. So hopefully now, you know what it does. Um, and you're not afraid of it.

Joey Korenman (52:29):

And, uh, on top of that, I want to, you know, I want to say that I hope you guys experiment with aftereffects and try to figure out how to do things you've never done before. So thank you guys so much. I will see you next time. Thank you so much for watching. I hope that was cool. And maybe eight bit color cycling will actually come in handy, but hopefully what you really learned are some strategies on how to troubleshoot and figure out new things in after effects. If you have any questions or thoughts about this lesson, definitely let us know. And if you learned something valuable from this, please share it around. It really helps us spread the word about school emotion, and we appreciate it. More than words. Don't forget to sign up for a free student account to access the project files from the lesson you just watched and I'll see you next time. Who's

Speaker 2 (53:19):


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