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Easy Animated Trails with Expressions

By Zack Lovatt
After Effects

Harness the power of expressions to easily create trails that follow an object in After Effects.

Admit it. You love expressions. It's alright... you're among friends, nothing to be ashamed of. The truth is, most After Effects artists want to learn the dark art of expressions, but they don't really know where to start. Lucky for you, Zack Lovatt is on the case.
In this tutorial, Expression Session co-instructor Zack Lovatt will be showing you a simple expression that you can use to create "follow" animations with ease. He also shows you how to build a flexible rig for your new animation rig.
If you're looking for an easy intro to the power of expressions, look no further.

Easy Animated Trails with Expressions

​​Download the Footage & Project Files

Zack was kind enough to hook you up with the project file for the animation you see at the end of this video. Download it for free here, and follow along as you watch. You can also see exactly how Zack created his rig by exploring his project file.

Grab the free project files and expressions rig from Zack!

Download Now

​​What are you going to learn in this tutorial?

This tutorial is a short intro to the power of expressions. It's aimed at After Effects artists who may be aware of expressions, but who haven't gotten comfortable with them yet. You'll be building a simple, but incredibly useful animation rig.

The basics of valueAtTime()

This simple piece of code gives you the power to travel through time! (sort of)

How expressions reference properties in After Effects

Don't fear the code... the expression language is actual pretty simple once you learn a few things about how it works.
Pickwhip yourself up a nice property link.

Using layer indexes to automate calculations

Learn how After Effects numbers your layers so that you can create flexible rigs that scale automatically.

Adding expression controls to your rig

You'll feel like a wizard after you add some simple controls to your rig that give you the ability to change things with a flick of your wacom stylus.

How to think when creating expressions

The key to mastering expressions is to learn to think like a coder. Zack is amazing at teaching the principles behind everything, so get ready to be enlightened.
The value of valueAtTime() cannot be overstated. Or can it?

Master Expressions in After Effects

If you enjoyed diving into the world of code, there is plenty more where that came from in our new course, Expression Session. In just 12 weeks, we'll teach you how to approach, write and implement expressions in After Effects. Helping you go from rookie to seasoned coder.
Expression Session is jam packed with best-practices, coding examples, and real-world challenges featuring amazing artwork from some of the best designers in the industry. Our teaching-assistants are standing by to help you debug your code and to high-five you (virtually) when you succeed. See you in class!