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Mastering Text Animation with Expression Controllers in After Effects

By Kyle Hamrick
After Effects

Creatively Using Text Animators in After Effects, Part 2

Thinking Further Outside the [Text] Box

If you watched the first half of our two-part series on using Text Animators in After Effects, you already understand that the Text Animator is a procedural (or, step-by-step) effector-based animator for vector shapes (and, specifically, text).
You've also practiced creating tapered strokes, path arrows, abstract dots and extruded rotating patterns.
And, as a result, you know — better than most — that this powerful, complex tool can do a lot more than add a fade to your type.
Today, follow along with Kansas City-based designer, video editor and SOM Teaching Assistant and alum Kyle Hamrick, as we take it a step further, using simple rigs and some — gasp! — Expression Controllers to (mathematically) control various elements of your text-based animation.

Mastering Text Animation with Expression Controllers in After Effects: Tutorial Video

Mastering Text Animation with Expression Controllers in After Effects: Project Files

To follow along, download the project files used in Kyle's tutorial video.
Please note: you may need to sync some fonts, but they're all free with your Creative Cloud subscription.

Thinking Outside the [Text] Box Pt2: AE Project File

Download Project File

Mastering Text Animation with Expression Controllers in After Effects: (Partly) Explained

If you want to clone your text character(s), all you need to do is use .repeat.
To try it out:
  1. Type a single character into a text layer
  2. Create an Expression in your source text by alt/opt-clicking the stopwatch, which will automatically insert "text.sourceText"
  3. Add .repeat() to the end of that line of code
  4. Inside the parentheses, insert the number of times you want your character(s) repeated; if you want to repeat it 100 times, it should look like this:
Expression 2.jpg
To avoid returning to the Expressions editor to tweak and re-tweak your hard-coded values, you can create a Slider: Effect > Expression Controls > Slider Control.
Select and delete that "100," keep your cursor between the parentheses, and then use the expression pickwhip to select the Slider.
Expression 3.jpg
Your code will update to this (unless, of course, you've renamed your Slider):
Expression 4.jpg
Now you can use this Slider control to change — or animate — the length of your text line.
Be mindful of the paragraph alignment (Left/Center/Right), as it will determine the beginning and end of your line and, thus, where your repeated characters are added.
Also included in Kyle's tutorial are several other useful Expressions features and functions, including:
  • Pickwhips/Property links
  • Basic expression math
  • time
  • speed
  • Math.abs
  • clamp
  • valueAtTime
Kyle also hand-writes a six-line Expression; and demonstrates how to create and use variables.
Text Animators and Expression Controllers are not necessarily intuitive or easy to use, but when leveraged effectively and at the initial stage of your design, they can significantly improve and expedite your workflow.

Learn More about Text Animators and Expression Controllers

If you haven't yet watched our founder and CEO Joey Korenman's Animating Type tutorial or part one of our Creatively Using Text Animators in After Effects duology, we highly recommend it.
For a collection of tutorials on using Expressions in After Effects, click here.

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