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Master Engaging Animation with Eye Tracing

By Jacob Richardson and Ryan Plummer
After Effects

Keep your audience engaged with Eye tracing, one of the most important animation principles in motion design.

Keeping your viewers engaged is a tough task, and it's even tougher if you don't know how to keep their attention.
Lucky for you there are methods of engaging your audience that have been used for decades. Keeping and directing your viewers attention doesn't have to be manipulative. In this quick tutorial we'll show you how to use an animation concept called Eye tracing. This principle is a masterful technique used to tell a story worth watching. So let's introduce you to your new found skill...

Eye Tracing Tutorial

To help illustrate this technique, we've put together this incredibly awesome quick tip tutorial with the help of our good friend Jacob Richardson. Your eyes won't be able to look away... we guarantee!
Eye tracing tutorial by Jacob Richardson

Download the Eye Tracing Project File

Jacob was super kind and gave us a project file that you can download and poke around in. This time you'll want to download the trial of Pixel Sorter 2 to get the full effect, you can find that here.

Download the Eye Trace Project File

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What is Eye Tracing in Animation?

Eye tracing involves you as the animator using movement of the main subject to influence and lead the viewers attention to where they should be looking. This process uses varying techniques of movement, framing, color, contrast and more.
As an Animator, your job is make movement "feel good". As a motion graphics artist your job is also to put your viewer's eyeballs in the right spot at the right time. This is commonly referred to as "Eye Trace," and it's one of the many qualities of great animation that separate it from the pack.
When your viewer's eyes move fluidly across the screen only to meet some cool visual right at that moment everybody wins. Your animation is more exciting and, most importantly, more effective at communicating.
Don't ever forget that you're a communicator first, and an animator second... unless you're just making abstract visuals for a concert make sure your message comes through loud and clear.

Why Should You Use Eye Tracing?

Question - How do you get someone's attention across the street?
Typically, you yell their name so that they will turn to find you. Being queued by your voice they turn to discover where the voice is leading them. And, as your voice leads them across the street, you attempt to make sure they figure out where to land their gaze. So, you queue a second way to grab their attention by waving your arms; they find you.
How would your friend have known where to look if you hadn't asked for their attention? They may not have found you if you didn't wave your arms to grab their attention.
(Above: A Great Example of Eye Tracing from our friend JR Canest)
We use eye tracing to similarly lead the viewers attention where it should go. By flashing something on screen, or using audio cues, we are simply priming the viewer to start looking for a cause. If you heard a loud bang or someone was flashing a light at you, primal instincts would kick in and you'd look for the source.
If you're looking to take someone on a journey or call their attention, this is your go to technique.

How do can you learn more about eye tracing?

If you want to continue mastering this animation technique, make sure to check out Animation Bootcamp on our courses page! In Animation Bootcamp you'll learn eye tracing and many other principles of animation that will seriously take your creations to a whole new level!
Eye Tracing Homework from Animation Bootcamp