Flow for After Effects Review

Animate faster in After Effects.

Flow looks a lot nicer than your average tool in After Effects, but it's not just a pretty face, Flow is a powerful time saver. If you've taken Animation Bootcamp you know how important working in the graph editor is to get your animations polished to perfection.

The mad genius creators of Flow, Zack Lovatt and renderTom, built this tool to take away some of that tedium by giving you the ability to make presets of your animation curves that you can apply with the click of a button. You can even build a library of your favorite curves to share with other animators on a project.

Grab a copy of Flow here!

Flow has a lot of other powerful features that you're going to want to see in action, so don't delay another moment, check out the Workflow Show!

Want Joey's Flow preset pack?

Sign up for a free student account below and you can get Joey's After Effects project and the Flow Preset Pack he made for this lesson.
If you have any questions, click over to the Q&A tab to post them. Other students can answer you, and we'll put our team on the case to try and get you a solution ASAP.

    00:00:00,000(digital music)
    00:00:08,498- [Joey] Joey here for School in Motion
    00:00:09,714and welcome to another Workflow Show.
    00:00:11,883On this episode, we will explore a very cool
    00:00:14,094and useful extension for After Effects called Flow.
    00:00:18,233We'll look into its functionality
    00:00:19,745and talk about some pro tips for using it
    00:00:22,068that can really help you work faster.
    00:00:24,160Let's hop into After Effects
    00:00:24,993and find out how this animation tool can save you time
    00:00:27,790and speed up your workflow.
    00:00:30,652The first thing you'll notice
    00:00:31,882when you install Flow is
    00:00:33,146that it has a beautiful interface.
    00:00:35,232It's much prettier than other scripts
    00:00:36,960you might be used to using.
    00:00:38,454That's because Flow is not a script at all.
    00:00:40,457It's an extension and while
    00:00:41,577that shouldn't make any difference to you,
    00:00:43,484it does allow Flow to have an interface
    00:00:45,181that has far more bells and whistles.
    00:00:47,307It's got a responsive layout that allows you
    00:00:49,187to dock the tool in a horizontal mode, a vertical mode,
    00:00:53,140and you can adjust the way it looks by sliding
    00:00:55,764this bar back and forth.
    00:00:57,628Great, so it looks nice, but what the heck does it do?
    00:01:00,954Well, Flow lets you adjust your animation curves
    00:01:03,761inside of its beautiful interface instead
    00:01:05,997of going into After Effects' built-in graph editor.
    00:01:10,325So, on the surface, the tool basically saves you a click
    00:01:12,944or two since you can manipulate your curves
    00:01:14,918while still seeing your timeline and all your keyframes.
    00:01:17,960That's certainly helpful, but the real time saver
    00:01:20,897is the ability to apply the same easing curve
    00:01:23,439to multiple keyframes all at the same time.
    00:01:27,769If you have an animation with dozens of layers,
    00:01:29,997and you want them all to move in a similar way,
    00:01:32,271this tool saves you a silly amount of time.
    00:01:36,140Flow also lets you save and load your easing curves
    00:01:38,651as presets, which is handy for sharing animation curves
    00:01:41,772with other artists, or bringing in libraries
    00:01:44,193of curves to play around with.
    00:01:46,004Like this library you can download for free
    00:01:48,340from Ryan Summers, or this library which brings
    00:01:51,249in Google's material design presets.
    00:01:54,223This can help you be more consistent in your animation.
    00:01:56,695Plus Flow can give you exact Bezier values
    00:01:59,308for each curve which you can share with a developer
    00:02:01,833if you happen to be doing prototyping for an app.
    00:02:04,698Super handy.
    00:02:06,099Animation is tedious enough, so anything you can do
    00:02:08,809to help speed up the process is fantastic.
    00:02:11,533Here are some of the ways I like to use Flow
    00:02:13,140to speed up my work flow.
    00:02:14,918I should have written that better.
    00:02:16,453First, I recommend going into the preferences
    00:02:18,394for Flow and turning on Auto-apply curve.
    00:02:21,168This way any updates you make in the editor
    00:02:23,276will be applied right away to your keyframes.
    00:02:25,688You can also now apply presets with one click.
    00:02:28,860This makes it insanely easy to play
    00:02:30,572with different easing curves
    00:02:31,995while letting After Effects' preview loop over
    00:02:34,270and over to see the effects.
    00:02:36,110This works on multiple keyframes simultaneously,
    00:02:38,885which is a massive time saver.
    00:02:41,107Now, the curve that Flow shows you is a value curve.
    00:02:43,935It shows you how the values
    00:02:45,280of your keyframes change over time.
    00:02:47,742If you're used to using the Value Graph in After Effects,
    00:02:50,406Flow's editor will immediately make sense.
    00:02:53,134If you're used to using the Speed Graph, however,
    00:02:55,403you may actually find
    00:02:56,369that using Flow's editor is far more intuitive.
    00:02:59,610If you have layers that move in curved motion paths,
    00:03:02,079you have to use the Speed Graph to tweak your easing
    00:03:04,675without screwing up the motion path.
    00:03:06,823But, Flow gives you a visual representation
    00:03:09,319of your ease that looks just like the Value Graph,
    00:03:11,895which, in my opinion, makes the ease
    00:03:13,764much easier to visualize.
    00:03:15,994You can also copy eases from one set
    00:03:18,112of keyframes to another.
    00:03:19,542Let's say you animate one object.
    00:03:21,597You tweak the ease a bit until you're happy
    00:03:23,802and then you move on to something else.
    00:03:26,108You can select a pair of keyframes,
    00:03:28,155click this arrow on the Flow interface,
    00:03:30,180and Flow will read the animation curve
    00:03:32,588for those two keyframes.
    00:03:34,149You can then apply that curve
    00:03:35,473to any other keyframes you want creating a consistent feel.
    00:03:39,229Now, before we get into some of the really cool things
    00:03:41,742you can do with Flow, I do need to get
    00:03:43,791on my high horse for just a second.
    00:03:45,835Flow is a great tool, but it has one enormous limitation
    00:03:49,792that you have to be aware of.
    00:03:51,622The extension only works on the Bezier curve
    00:03:53,832between two keyframes at a time.
    00:03:56,206For a lot of work, this is fine.
    00:03:57,807But when you get deeper into your animation,
    00:03:59,678and you want to start adding flourishes like overshoots
    00:04:02,119and anticipations, or if you need
    00:04:03,910to animate something more complex, like a bounce,
    00:04:06,993Flow on its own, can't really do it.
    00:04:09,122You can sort of create anticipations and overshoots
    00:04:12,309by using a curve like this one, but you're unable
    00:04:15,021to create multiple eases.
    00:04:17,108Look how the beginning
    00:04:17,945and end of this curve both slam
    00:04:20,361into the keyframe.
    00:04:21,794This creates a jerky start and stop
    00:04:24,063that you may not always want.
    00:04:26,297So, my advice is to learn how
    00:04:28,244the full graph editor works first.
    00:04:30,560Learn how to create animation curves like this one
    00:04:33,068and understand why certain graph shapes make sense
    00:04:35,594in certain situations before starting to rely
    00:04:38,180on a tool like Flow.
    00:04:40,111If you only use Flow to adjust your curves,
    00:04:42,700you're limiting your animation options very severely
    00:04:45,817and you're in danger of relying only on the presets
    00:04:47,849to find your animation instead of crafting it
    00:04:51,079to be exactly the way you want.
    00:04:53,300So, use Flow as a time saver, which it's amazing for,
    00:04:56,406but don't use it as a crutch.
    00:04:58,647Check out our Animation Bootcamp program for more info
    00:05:01,099on learning the ins and outs of animation in After Effects.
    00:05:04,609All right, rant over.
    00:05:05,695Here are some tips for using Flow
    00:05:07,670to its fullest potential.
    00:05:09,225First, know when to use certain types of curves.
    00:05:12,563This takes practice, obviously, but here's a good rule
    00:05:15,378of thumb that can help you get started when thinking
    00:05:17,216about how to set up your animation curve.
    00:05:19,713If an object is moving from one place on screen to another,
    00:05:22,911generally, you want that object to ease both out
    00:05:25,728of its first position and into its second position.
    00:05:29,536This makes and S-shaped curve.
    00:05:31,435If the object enters from off screen,
    00:05:33,594you typically don't want it to ease out
    00:05:35,492of the first position.
    00:05:36,717So that curve looks like this.
    00:05:38,926Vice versa if the object leaves the frame.
    00:05:41,251You don't want it to ease into it's last position
    00:05:43,961and that curve looks like this.
    00:05:46,090Steepness in your curves equals speed in your layers.
    00:05:48,850So, adjust this Bezier handles to control the speed
    00:05:51,021and acceleration in a way that makes sense
    00:05:52,982for where that object begins and ends its motion.
    00:05:56,738Flow works even if you have expressions on your properties.
    00:05:59,612So, for example, if I have a wiggle expression
    00:06:02,132on my layers to give them some random movement,
    00:06:04,686I can still use Flow to adjust their overall movement
    00:06:07,782without screwing up my expression.
    00:06:10,195And here's a really cool trick.
    00:06:12,331Remember when I said that Flow can't create specific easing
    00:06:15,023between multiple keyframes?
    00:06:17,025Well, it's true, but there's sort of a hack.
    00:06:19,808Let's say I've got this layer animating in from off screen.
    00:06:23,021It overshoots a little bit,
    00:06:24,266overshoots back the other way,
    00:06:26,112and then settles.
    00:06:27,440That's three separate pieces of movement
    00:06:29,659and I would set this up using the plain old graph editor,
    00:06:32,501in this case, the Speed Graph since I haven't
    00:06:34,628separated dimensions on my position property.
    00:06:37,497I adjust the speed graph to get the easing I want
    00:06:40,102and notice how I keep the speed from hitting zero
    00:06:43,333until the very end.
    00:06:44,709This creates a little more tension in the overshoots,
    00:06:47,393which sometimes feels good.
    00:06:49,245Great, so I want to save this overall feel as a preset,
    00:06:53,214but I can't because presets only work across two keyframes.
    00:06:57,378So, here's the trick.
    00:06:58,597Select the first pair of keyframes.
    00:07:00,168Then click the arrow to read those keyframe values.
    00:07:03,135Click the star to save those values as a preset
    00:07:05,859and we'll call it Move01.
    00:07:07,972Now, grab the next pair of keyframes.
    00:07:09,887Read the values and save that as Move02.
    00:07:12,999Then, we grab Move03 and we've got three presets
    00:07:16,163that we can use together to rebuild
    00:07:18,101that same animation curve.
    00:07:20,218Now, all we have to do is select the first pair or pairs
    00:07:23,017of keyframes on our other layers, apply Move01
    00:07:25,683by clicking it.
    00:07:26,786Then select pair2, apply Move02 and, finally, Move03.
    00:07:31,674And here we are.
    00:07:32,983We now have every layer moving exactly the way we want.
    00:07:36,478But we didn't have to adjust each curve on its own.
    00:07:39,133And we can share these presets
    00:07:40,584with our animator buddies by clicking this button
    00:07:43,115to export our own Flow preset library.
    00:07:45,749In fact, if you want to,
    00:07:47,461you can download this simple preset pack if you're logged
    00:07:49,884into a free Student of Motion student account.
    00:07:53,459That's it for this episode of Workflow Show.
    00:07:55,636I hope you're pumped to check out Flow and to use it
    00:07:58,233to speed up your animation process.
    00:08:00,230But remember, it's a time saver, not a crutch.
    00:08:03,335If you don't understand animation,
    00:08:05,256then this tool won't make your work any better.
    00:08:07,780But, if you do understand it, it can save you hours,
    00:08:10,821if not days, on bigger projects.
    00:08:13,285Check out our Show Notes for links to Flow
    00:08:15,462and the preset packs we mentioned.
    00:08:17,081Thanks so much for watching.
    00:08:18,568See you on the next episode.
    00:08:20,053(digital music)