Let’s Make This, Y’all!

This walkthrough will show you how make this simple diameter slide in After Effects. You can see the full segment at about 30 seconds into this video.

My storyboards

Step 1 – Before making anything in After Effects, you want to storyboard out your ideas. Your storyboards don’t have to be beautiful, but you do want to have a clear understanding of all the assets you need and all the movements you are planning.

To the right, you should see the incredibly simple storyboard I made for this slide. I have a big tree to the left that pops on to screen. I have the measurement. Finally, I have the sapling pop on to screen and have the measurement move.

Is it exactly what the final slide looked like? No, but it is pretty close and gets me all the assets and movements.

Step 2 – Let’s start with finding all the assets. The background color is a solid, created in AE. The grid on top of it is also native in AE. The measurement and additional text is also simple in AE. So the only assets we need are our 1) tree and 2) sapling.

I was able to find both of these assets on Storyblocks. I found the tree in the “Images” tab by searching for “tress isolated.” I found the sapling, which ended up just being a little seed sprout under the “Vector” tab. It was also on a white background.

For this example, I put the two files on Google Drive in “ETPBS – JobPop > AE Practice Assets.” Download them and then we will bring them into After Effects.

Step 3 – Now we’ll open up After Effects and import our assets. When you open up AE it should like the below image. Here are the major parts of interface.

  • Section A – This is the project window. All your imported and created files will go here.
  • Section B – This is the composition window. If this were Premiere, we would call it the program monitor, but it’s After Effects so composition window it is. Regardless, it is were your working file is previewed.
  • Section C – This is the timeline window. Unlike Premiere, each asset gets its own row.
  • Section D – This is the control panel, where you will be able to access everything from character changes to effects. It is very similar to the control panels in Photoshop or Illustrator.
  • Section E – If you click to the “Effect Controls” tab in the project window, you will be able to control the attributes of the effects applied in the timeline. So if you apply a drop shadow to text in the timeline, you can control the direction, opacity, etc. of the shadow via the “Effects Control” tab.
This is what After Effects look like when you launch it.

Now that we know the basic layout of After Effects, let’s start bringing in out assets and building. Importing your assets is simple. You can 1) Go to File > Import > File… and then select the files you want to bring in or 2) double click your project window (Section A) and select the files you want to import. For this example, we just need to bring in our two images.

Step 4 – Now lets make our background. This is easy. First, we are going to make the solid background color. Then we are going to make the grid on top of it. Before we can start, we have to create a composition. Click “New Composition” or go to “Composition > New Composition.” Make sure the comp is 1920×1080, make the duration 10 seconds (0;00;10;00), and name it master.

Now we can create the background color. Do this by going to “Layer > New Solid…” Then pick your color. Once you click OK, you’ll see that your solid is now on your timeline.

The next step is creating the grid. We are going to do this using the grid effect, but we need to apply it to a new layer. So go up to Layer and select New > Solid again. The color of the second solid doesn’t matter. We’ll be able to color the grid color. Your timeline should now have two solids. Now go over to “Effects & Presets” in the control panel (Section D). Search for Grid and then drag the Generate > Grid effect on to your top/second solid.

Once you have applied the effect to the layer, you can control it via the effects control panel (Section E). For the grid effect to match the original video, you will have to change the “Size From…” dropdown box from “corner point” to “width & height sliders.” Using the width and height sliders, you can’t adjust size of the grid to match the original video. You can also adjust the color, opacity, etc. in the effects control tab. In the end, you project should look like this:

Step 5 – Now, we need to add our happy trees. We have already imported them, so we’ll just need to drag them down on to our timeline, remove the background, and make them pop on to screen. Let’s start with our big tree. Drag it on to the timeline at the very beginning of our scene. You’ll see it is way too big. So first, while the tree layer is selected in the timeline, hit the “S” on the keyboard. You’ll see the scale controls drop under the tree layer. Bring the tree down to a regular size. I made mine 26%.

Now let’s get rid of the white background around the tree. In your control panel, search for “color range” and drag the effect on to the tree. In the effects panel you should see this:

Click on the top eyedropper, then click on part of the white background of the tree in the composition window. As soon as you click the white, you should see the white background disappear.

Now we just need to make it pop onto screen. Let’s start by placing the tree where we want it to end after it pops on screen. If the tree is selected in the composition window, you should be able to click it and drag it around the window. Here’s how mine looks:

Now we are going to use the position control and keyframes to move the tree. To get the position controls, select the tree layer and hit “P” on your keyboard. Make sure your playhead on the timeline is at the very beginning of your timeline and then click the stopwatch next to the position control. You’ll see a keyframe (the diamond) show up on your timeline. Now move the playhead one second and hit option + P. You should see a second keyframe appear on your timeline.

Now we just need to tell After Effects to move the tree from off screen to the position it’s currently at in the space between those two keyframe. This is super simple. Drag your playhead back to the beginning of the timeline (or the location of the first timeline). Then change the number for the second position value. I adjusted mine to 1490. You’ll see your tree leave the screen and then if you hit play, you see it come back onto screen.

To make this look cooler, I did three things:

  1. Made it shorter. I changed it to about 7 frames or so.
  2. Added motion blur. See picture below. On your timeline, click to toggle over to switches (A) and then click the motion blur switch (B).
  3. Add Easy Ease to keyframes. Select both keyframes and control + click then choose “Keyframe Assistance > Easy Ease.”

Now just repeat the process for the seedling.

Step 6 – Now we will create the measurement. This is actually annoying complex while being technically simple. Start by creating a new comp, name it Arm. This comp is just going to be one of the arms of our measurement (a T on it’s side). To make this we will use the pen tool. You can find the pen tool at the very top of the screen, above the project window. It works similar to the pen tools in Photoshop or Illustrator.

Once you have the pen tool selected, click once in your composition window and the hold shift and click about 100-150 pixels to the right of the first dot. You can adjust the size and color of the line by hitting the stroke controls at the top of the composition window. I made my line white and 15 pixels. Repeat this for the vertical line.

Next, we are going to create a new comp, which is going to be our final measurement. I haven’t mentioned it before, but one very important aspect of After Effects is that you can put comps within comps. We are going to do that now.

  1. Start a new comp, name it measurement.
  2. Drag your arm comp from your project window into your new comp.
  3. Drag a second instance of the arm comp into your new comp.
  4. Hit the “R” key on your keyboard and use the rotate control to rotate the second arm 180 degrees.
  5. Move the second comp so it lines up with the first arm. Make sure you leave a little space between the two arms for our measurement text.
  6. Use the text tool (right next to the pen tool) to create your measurement text.

So now you should have our simple little measurement scale. Now we just need to animate it on and then bring it into our master composition.

When you are designing comps that need to be transparent (like the measurement comp), it can be annoying to see things. So just throw a solid behind it while you are designing it. When you get done remove it.


Step 7 – We will animate our scale on using the linear wipe effect for the arms and a scale transformation for the text. So start by searching for the linear wipe effect in the control panel. Drag the linear wipe on to one of the arms. If you now hit the “U” key on your keyboard, you should be able to see the keyframes associated with the wipe and if you play the timeline, you should see the arm wipe on to screen.

The linear wipe effect wipe across the whole screen even though our arm is only part of the screen. To take care of that we can play around with our starting and ending points of the wipe via the transition complete control. To make my wipe match my arm, I adjusted the transition completion 77% at the beginning and 51% at the end. Then I shortened up the wipe to five frames.

Now I go through the same process with the other arm, except that I want the wipe’s direction to be opposite. In the effect controls panel change the wipe angle from -90 to 90 and that should reverse it.

Finally for the text we are going to use the scale control to make the text appear. Hit “S” on your keyboard to get the scale control. Using keyframes, start it at 0 and grow it to 100 over 5 or so frames. Start the movement about 3 or 4 frames into the wipe for the arms. One additional thing you can do to make this number pop on to screen is to make it snap back. To do this, use three keyframes (at Time, scale = 0; at Time + 5 frames, scale = 120; at Time + 6 or 7 frames, scale = 100).

Step 8 – Now go back to our Master composition and drag our measurement comp down to the timeline. Position it in the middle of the tree and move it on the timeline so it appears right after the tree appears on screen.

Additional Steps – From here everything else is something you have already learned. Here is what you have left:

  1. Move the measurement down and to the right. Then have the sapling appear.
  2. Add the first text. Wipe off the text. Wipe on the new text.

Finally, you export by going to File > Export > Add to Render Queue.

And here is a screen record walkthrough of the stuff above.