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Making Content for Jumbotrons | How To Animate for Multiple Screens in After Effects

Joey Korenman

Here's how to make your After Effects animations look great on big screens.

These days it's hard to go anywhere without seeing some kind of screen, and a lot of those screens are huge, especially if you have to do work for some sort of a conference or trade show. You might even have to manage an animation over multiple giant screens. So how exactly do you handle all of that? In this lesson Joey is going to show you exactly how to keep your big screen animations under control. By the end of this lesson you'll know how to work with non-standard screen sizes, deliver the right specs, and make sure that everything looks great and is ready for prime time when you deliver.

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Tutorial Full Transcript Below 👇:

Joey Korenman (00:17):

Hey there, Joey here at school motion and welcome to day 23 of 30 days of after effects in this video. What we're going to talk about are strategies you can use when you have to design something, that's going to go on multiple screens. This is sort of a motion graphics job. That's becoming more and more common because every single screen phone, televisions, computers, digital billboards, all of these things need motion, design content created for them. Sometimes there's multiple screens and you need content to go across them or be in sync across multiple screens. There's a lot of situations that you might find yourself in where this type of thing is useful. And it can be tricky if you don't have some good strategies, 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, let's hop into after effects and get started.

Joey Korenman (01:06):

This is the main building where all of the motion design classes take place at Ringling. And there's been talk rumors for years of getting some really cool screens to put on the front of the building. And, you know, it would kind of be nice, a nice advertisement for the school would also be really cool venue for student work, but it hasn't happened yet. So I took it upon myself to, uh, create this little mock-up and what I want to walk you guys through is how to set up an after effects project. If you're ever doing something like this, uh, which is becoming more and more common, um, so that you can animate it very easily, get your deliverables very easily and be able to show a client what the heck it's going to look like very easily. So let's start by pretending that this is actually just footage of, you know, the building at wrangling, right?

Joey Korenman (01:54):

These screens are not really there. I tracked them on, but, um, you know, but this is, this is the building. And if these screens were there, you'd be able to go in and take footage of them. And the reason you'd want to do that, if, you know, for example, Ringling was your client, they came and they said, Hey, let's, uh, we want you to create some content, you know, like a cool five second loop or something for the screens. Well, here's how it's gonna work. You're gonna get something like this from, from your client. And, uh, in general it looks something like this and, and really what it does is it just tells you the specs of each screen. All right. So now if you're looking at this, you can see there's 1, 2, 3, 4 screens. Okay. But looking at the specs that, that we were given, you can see that there's actually only three files that you're going to end up delivering and they all have different resolutions.

Joey Korenman (02:48):

And the third screen has this, this extra little wrinkle to it, which is you're, you're going to actually give Ringling, uh, you know, uh, basically a two K almost, uh, by two file, but only certain portions of the image in that render are going to show up on the screens. And this is actually very common. Um, when you have weird shape screens, if you, if you go to times square and you see, you know, there's probably more video screens there than anywhere else in the world. And a lot of them are weird shapes like this. And when you deliver files to play on those screens, you're generally delivering something like a square quick time or a rectangular quick time, but there's a portion of that image that will play on the screen and the rest will just be ignored. So if you were given something like this, okay, and there's another wrinkle too, which I'll talk about once we get an aftereffects little bit more, but I want you to just keep this in mind.

Joey Korenman (03:42):

These two screens here, these are easy 1920 by 10 80 1200 by 12 by 10 80. Uh, this is pretty easy. Okay. Um, and by the way, this is not drawn to scale. Um, I've made all this up, so this isn't totally accurate. Um, but these two screens would be really easy to set up in after effects because they're based on the same resolution, right? 10 80, this, this screen here is based on a different resolution, 2040. And so it's quite possible that the density of the pixels in this area are going to be different than on these two screens, which means you're going to have to do some fancy footwork to make sure that you could seamlessly have, you know, a line draw across all three of these screens, um, and still be able to deliver the correct dimensions to your clients. So it gets a little bit tricky.

Joey Korenman (04:35):

And so that's why I wanted to walk you guys through something like this. So how do we start? Well, first thing we need to do is create our deliverable comps. Okay. So I'm going to, I'm going to copy our shot. I'm going to make a new, let's make a new comp here and we'll just do 1920 by 10 80, and this is going to be Ringling shot. Cool. So now we've got our clean plate in there. First thing I'm going to do is I'm gonna make a new pre-com and I'm going to make it the dimensions of the first screen. So this will be screen oh one delivery, 1920 by 10 80. Okay. And what I want to do is I want to bring in this Photoshop file. Okay. Or whatever it is, they gave you an illustrator file Photoshop sometimes to PDF, but you want to import it into after effects.

Joey Korenman (05:26):

Now you are assuming, uh, whenever you get specs like this, that the specs you are given are correct, and they're drawn to scale and stuff like that. And so, uh, this is a good way to check. All right. So I've got a 1920 by 10 80 screen. So what I want to do is take this portion of the design and I'm going to scale it up to fill an actual 1920 by 10 80 frame. All right. Just like that. And so now this tells me, okay, this actually was accurate. Take a look at that. That's fantastic. So, uh, the next thing I'm going to do is I'm going to track, so here's the comp we just made, I want to track this onto this screen and see if it looks right. So I've already gone to the trouble of, uh, tracking all of these screens in mocha.

Joey Korenman (06:21):

And if you're not familiar with mocha, if you'd like to learn more, uh, there's a tutorial in the 30 days of after effects series that deals with tracking and mocha. Um, it's an amazing tool that comes with after effects. So check it out. And I tracked three surfaces the back, which is this the side, which is this part here and the front over here. So let's start with the back. Okay. Um, so what I'm going to do is just click on the back, go down here and say export tracking data. And I want the corner pin data. So I'll copy that to my clipboard, come back in here and hit paste. And there we go.

Joey Korenman (07:01):

All right, now something's a little bit off and I think I know what it is. Um, I, my shot was actually 23.976 frames per second. And when I set up this comp, I actually made it 24 frames a second. So let me delete these key frames for a minute. And let me change this to 23 9, 7, 6, and then paste the key frames. Now it should stick perfectly. There we go. That's a little gotcha. Whenever you're dealing with video, um, you know, if you shoot with a video camera, like I'm, I'm using a Canon T3, I, they do not shoot at 24 frames a second. They shoot at 23.976 frames a second, and your tracking will happen at that speed as well. So make sure you have everything sinked up. All right. So there you go. So there's screen one. Now what's cool about this. Here is a 1920 by 10 80 comp.

Joey Korenman (07:54):

So whatever I animate in here, I could then just render this camp-out and it's the right size for the delivery specs. But in this comp I can see a preview of what it looks like on the side of the building. So that's kind of handy. So let's do the same thing with screen two. So we'll make a new comp we'll call it screen. Oh. To delivery. And this screen we know from the specs is 1200 by 10 80. So we'll make it 1200 by 10 80, and we're going to do the same thing. Uh, we're going to move, we're going to copy the screen specs into it. And since I've already scaled it up on screen one, I'm just going to copy it out of this comp and paste it. And then I'm just gonna scoot this over like this. There we go. All right.

Joey Korenman (08:38):

And you just kind of want to line it up as best you can. All right. So this screen too. So it brings screen two into this comp go into MOCA, and I'm going to grab that layer, export the tracking data, copy to clipboard, go to the first frame and paste it. All right. Now, here's the thing. When you track something in MOCA, this shot is 1920 by 10 80. So all of these surfaces that I'm tracking are also going to come through as 1920 by 10 80 surfaces. This is a problem because this layer is not actually 1920 by 10 80, it's 1200 by 10 80. So the only problem that creates is that the corner pin is correct. It's just in the wrong spot. So you just have to manually move that layer over and put it in the right spot. And now you're good.

Joey Korenman (09:28):

So that's just something you need to be aware of. All right. So now you've got screen one and two tracked in there. It looks correct. And what's great is you've got, you've already got your deliverables set up for both screens. All right. So now let's move on to screen three, and this one's going to be a little bit trickier, just because it's a wheat. This is a weird shape. And we want to make sure that we're previewing it accurately and that we're able to, um, you know, we're actually able to manipulate this thing accurately and animate to it. So here's what I want to do. I'm going to take one step back here. Now, one thing that that would be an issue, right? If I wanted to animate something that went from this screen seamlessly into this screen, it would be a pain right now because I've got this comp I can animate something in it. And then when it gets to this side of the screen, I have to jump into this company now and, and have it come over from the left side of the screen. And that's kind of a pain. So what I actually want to do is create a gigantic comp that I can animate every single thing in. And then I can just place that comp within each of these delivery comps. So here's what I mean, I'm going to make a new comp and I'm going to call this big animate.

Joey Korenman (10:47):

All right. And, uh, the size of it, we, you know, I'm going to sort of guess, but we, you can sort of figure out at least a ballpark of what you need. You got screen. One is 1920 in width screen. Two is 1200 in width and screen three is 2000 in width. So you know what a minimum you're going to need, like a 5,000 pixel wide comp. So I'm just going to make it 6,000 just to be safe. And then for height, I'm just going to put 4,000. All right. And here's what we're going to do. We're going to drag our screen specs layer into it and scale it up really, really big, try to maximize our screen real estate here. All right, there we go. Great. Okay. So this is our, this is actually going to be the comp we animate in. Um, and I, and you can crop now because, you know, I don't need all this extra space up here and down here.

Joey Korenman (11:39):

So I'm gonna hit this button, right. Region of interest. I'm gonna hit that and I'm going to draw a box like this, and then I'm going to go up to a composition and crop comp to region of interest. Okay. So now we've ended up with a 6,000 by 2,500 comp. So why did we just do this? Well, now what we can do, let's go back to our screen one delivery comp. And instead of using the actual screen specs, let's delete this, let's grab our big animate comp and let me stick it in here. Here's our big animate comp. And now we can line up doing the exact same thing. We just did. We move the anchor point of the layer to here and then just scale it until it's the right size. And the key is that you want to make sure that you made your big animate comp big enough, so that once you drag it into your scene, one delivery fee or your screen one delivery file, you don't want to have to scale it past a hundred percent, because then you're going to get, you know, it's going to lose quality. Um, so I actually made it bigger than it needed to be in scaled it down and that's okay. So now you've got screen one delivery, and if we go back and we look at our preview here, you can see, it looks the same. Okay. Um, and so nothing's changed yet, but we've actually done something really smart. Let's do the same thing with screen two. So let me copy that big animate comp and paste it in here and scoot this over.

Joey Korenman (13:11):

Okay. All right. So if we come back here and look again, nothing's really changed yet. Um, but we are, we're building a system for ourselves. It's going to be very, very handy. So let's do the last screen now. So let's, uh, let's make a new comp and this is going to be screen three delivery. And this one is going to be 2040 by 2040, and let's drag our big animate comp into this. And now we need to line up the screen three. All right. So I'm moving my anchor point to the top left just to make it easy to scale and then match the match the right size. There you go.

Joey Korenman (13:59):

Okay, cool. So now we've got screen three. So let's bring screen three in here and let's go to MOCA and let's grab that layer, export the tracking data, copy to clipboard and go to the first frame and paste it all right now again, because this is not a 1920 by 10 80 comp. It's not going to be in the right spot. So we're going to have to drag, drag it down and line it up. Okay. Now you see, you'll see that this doesn't line up perfectly. The reason that's not lining up perfectly is because this is a much trickier thing to track. And if you look at the, uh, if you look at the actual meat, let me turn this off for a minute. We turn off the screen for a minute. Um, you know, you could see that where I actually pretended the screen was, uh, there's no, there's nothing there really to tell me like what screen is going to look like and how big it's actually going to be.

Joey Korenman (14:54):

I sort of just eyeballed it. So what I'm going to need to do is adjust my track a little bit. You can see the bottom right corner here. It doesn't quite line up where it needs to. So what I'm going to do is I'm going to just turn the opacity down on this layer a little bit, and you can see that it just doesn't line up very well yet. Um, and so what I want to do is just adjust the corner pin. Um, and I may actually have to adjust the scale too, because again, this is not a 1920 by 10 80 layer. And so the corner pin is not actually, you know, it's not working correctly. Um, so the first thing I'm going to do is just scale this down a little bit and see if I can get it a little closer before I start messing with the corner pin. All right. Um, and this is, you know, if you look at this edge here, where, where the yellow part of the, of the design sort of starts to come up, it still looks too big, too tall. So I'm just going to scale it down a little bit more.

Joey Korenman (15:54):

Okay. And starting to feel a little bit closer. Let me nudge it down just a little bit more. Okay. And now I'm going to adjust the corner pin a little bit, and the way you can do this, there's a bunch of ways. Here's a really easy way. So hit you bring up all your key frames and I'm going to start by adjusting the bottom. Right? So if I just click on lower right here, it's going to select every single key frame with every key frame selected. If you adjust one of these numbers, it actually adjust that number on every key frame. So you can adjust every key frame sort of equally, then I can do the upper right. And do the same thing. Okay. And you can see already, we're getting a lot closer. Okay. Um, and now I'm only lower this a little bit.

Joey Korenman (16:40):

Right. And, and, you know, if you look at this, like the upper left, you know, it's a lot of this is just kind of eyeballing. Um, but that looks pretty good. And here's the, here's the key, the key is this comp that you're looking at is really only to show your client the context of the animation that you're making and for you to be able to see the context of it, you're not actually going to deliver this, which you're going to deliver is this. So this is really the important thing. Okay. And so if it, if you can get it to look right here and now you can see it's tracking much better. Um, I may still want to adjust this a little bit more.

Joey Korenman (17:24):

There we go. All right. Uh, and, um, but as long as you can get it to look right here, then you know, this is going to be okay, and this is the key. This is what you're going to give to your client. Cool. So now we've got this kind of thing. All right. We we've basically taken our screen specs document and we've scaled it up to the size of each of these screens delivery formats. And then we've quarter pinned and tracked it onto the building. Now, remember the way we have this set setup is you have, here's your preview comp inside the preview comp, you have three screen delivery comps. And inside of each of those is this big animate comp where we've sort of cropped into just one of these screens. Here's, here's the cool thing you can do. Now, inside of this big animate comp, you can make this a guide layer and you can turn the opacity down.

Joey Korenman (18:17):

So it's not so thing. Okay. But you just want to see where the screens are and I'm going to lock that. So now, if we go back to our preview, copy, you'll see. There's nothing on the screens, but what's awesome. Is now anything I animate in here. Right? So if I just draw like a line, right, it goes up like this. If we pop back here, that line is going to now go perfectly across all three screens. Okay. And if I want to put something in this screen, I can just, I can just pull whatever I want there. And there it is. Okay. This is the, this is the power of this, because what you have now is you have this one comp with some guides showing you exactly where the screens are, and it doesn't matter what you do in here. Everything's already set up so that when you're done, all you have to do is render out these three comps and deliver them. All right. So let's just do, let's just do something really simple. Okay. So let's say that we did, um, I don't know if we made a little star here. All right. And that's a very weird looking star. Um, we should probably, we should probably make that look a little nicer. Let me delete that.

Joey Korenman (19:34):

There we go. Okay. So here's a star. All right. And all we're going to do is have it rotate a little bit and it's going to move to here, and then it's going to move up here and I don't want it to curve like that. So I'm going to go to my key frame interpolation and set that to linear. All right. And, uh, there you go. So now you've got this gorgeous animation. It really is breathtaking. Um, but what's cool is you can see exactly what it's going to look like in context. Now, one thing, uh, that we do need to do still, you can see that on screen three, right on this big section, what, you know, the, the screens are not cropped yet. So you're seeing the star outside of the screen. So let's deal with that real quick. Let's go to our screen three delivery.

Joey Korenman (20:29):

Let's go into big animate for a second and temporarily make this a normal layer, not a guide layer. So in our screen, three delivery, what we need to do is we need to mask our, uh, our comp here. So I'm going to make a new, um, I'm gonna make a new layer, just going to call it a mask. I'm going to make an adjustment layer just so we can see through it. And then I'm going to very precisely that was sarcasm. Uh, I'm going to, uh, make a mask so we can crop out and only keep the part of the image that we want. Okay. And then I'll do, I'll make another mask here.

Joey Korenman (21:16):

Okay. And you do need to be precise with that. And then I'll just set this to be alpha matted by that pop back into big animate, set this to be a guide layer again. And so now you can see that the screens are nice and cropped. Okay. And, and frankly, you guys can stop watching the tutorial now. I mean, that is really like, that's kind of the whole deal. And what's cool is, you know, screen one and screen two are seamlessly linked. And if we now look at the screen one delivery, you'll see this part of the star. And if you look at screen two delivery, you'll see the other part of the sitar. And because we set it up in this kind of clever way, we now have perfect deliverables and a perfect comp to, you know, show our client and let them see what it's going to look like.

Joey Korenman (22:06):

So I'll talk you through a little bit of, of what I did here. Um, I mean, really this, this preview animation is set up this exact way. If you hop into each of these screens, you'll see here screen one, and then here's screen two, and then here's screen three. And that's it really simple. Um, if we go into our, uh, our preview comp, let's see here, our animate comp, um, you can see it's the exact same setup you guys have. There's a guide layer down here. Uh, and then I've got, um, you know, I made some made some little kind of space invaders, three eighties looking stars. And, um, just to, you know, what I tried to do was, was have a combination of elements that, you know, some elements are sort of work, uh, in sync across all the screens, like the colors change at the same time, but this sort of laser blast that actually travels seamlessly across all three screens and the stars travel across all three screens.

Joey Korenman (23:15):

So that's, what's awesome about having a setup like this is, it becomes very easy to mess around with having this screen and this screen be perfectly in sync because you could see both of them while you're animating, but you can also have things that travel seamlessly across all the screens. Uh, and then when you're done, you just render out your, you just render out your delivery comps. Um, you know, you got, you know, here's screen one delivery, here's screen two delivery right here and your screen three delivery, and that's it. You are good to go. So, uh, that's it, this was, I guess, kind of a quick one. Um, but super important when, you know, and I have to say that this type of motion graphics job is becoming a lot more common. It really is because, um, you know, there's, there's just screens everywhere.

Joey Korenman (24:06):

Like everything's covered in screens and, you know, I've done stuff for, for the time square billboards were literally one of the screens was a giant, like five story diagonal screen. And, but it needed to, to integrate and be in sync with some other screens that were just sort of rectangular that were on a different building. And so it's very good to be able to set up a chain of pre comps that is going to let you animate whatever you want inside of a big pre-camp transfer that into a delivery comp, which then gets put onto a preview comp. So that is a, that is the deal. And that is what I hope. Uh, I hope you guys take away from this. I hope, um, you know, I hope this was informative. I hope you guys learned something. Thank you guys so much. And I will see you next time.

Joey Korenman (24:53):

Thank you so much for watching. I hope you learned some cool stuff. This is really a useful sort of thing to understand. It may not be the sexiest thing, but if you're a working motion designer, then there's a very good chance. You're going to find yourself one day in the situation of having to design for multiple screens. And hopefully you learn some strategies to help you with that. We would love to hear from you if you use this technique on a project. So give us a shout on Twitter at school emotion and show us your work. And if you learn something valuable from this video, please share it around. It really helps us spread the word about school emotion, and we truly appreciate it. Don't forget to sign up for a free student account to access project files from this lesson, plus other amazing stuff. Thank you so much. And I'll see you next time.

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