Bar Mitzvah Logo Test

I recently put this animated logo together from an .eps provided to me by the editor of the project. The main desire by the client was to get the baseball to spin. In the original design, the baseball was represented only by the red stitching of the ball. The rest was white so there wasn’t any ball THERE to spin.

Digging around on Google I found a simple baseball object and opened it up in Photoshop. Being able to work on simple 3D objects right inside of Photoshop meant that I could get something that (with a little bit of motion blur) I could make spin realistically in After Effects. The way AE handles PS 3D objects imported into the program is a little kludgey (and not multiprocessor aware), but it works well enough that I was able to create a looping spinning baseball that I could then reimport back into the composition.

I’m a big fan of pre-rendering what you can when you’re working with a complex animation. Getting some of the renders out of the way means that you can focus your processing horsepower on the actual compositing. It doesn’t ALWAYS make sense, particularly when the pieces you’d like to pre-render somehow interact with the scene in a way that it wouldn’t composite the same way if it was a movie with an alpha channel. In this case, the baseball didn’t have any filters applied to that prevented it from being pre-rendered so I went ahead and got it out of the way.

While I was rendering out the baseball I went back into Illustrator and moved the individual pieces of the logo into their own layers. I didn’t NEED to do this, but moving everything into it’s own layer means that I can solo that layer and do a select all instead of carefully selecting what I need.

With things separated, I copied each piece and created new solids in After Effects to which I pasted the layers as bezier masks. Using bevel and emboss I started to create some depth.

In order to create a little bit of a metal look without using Zaxwerks Invigorator I followed part of a tutorial by Andrew Kramer on the Video Copilot site.

In that tutorial, he used a fractal noise layer with a vector blur and a couple of other minor filters to create a texture that he could composite with the rings. Following those steps, I created a new texture then took both elements that needed to have the texture applied to it (Blue Sperling, Dark Blue Circle), duplicated them, and applied each individual element as a track matte for a texture layer. This created a texture that followed the shape of each element, a really easy composite.

At this point, after futzing around with opacity on the textures, I pre-comped the elements and started to fly them in. I tried a few different strategies but after screwing around for a while, it seemed to make the most sense to have the front elements drop in and the ball fly in from the back. I turned my three pieces (Sperling Text, Back Circle and Baseball) into 3D layers and animated them over approximately two seconds flying to their resting place. Working in 3D layers is kind of old hat now, but it was great for working on the path for the baseball because by introducing Z-space I could create a natural bezier curve that travelled along the X and Z axes. No need to fake depth by using scale. I just switched to a top down viewing mode and dragged my baseball layer back and to the left. Then grabbed the keyframe handles and dragged out a nice looking curve. I added a ease out to the beginning of the move so that it would speed up over time and did a preview render.

It looked cool but it wasn’t quite enough. I had the idea that maybe if the baseball was flying forward, it needed to dissipate it’s enegy somehow when it hit the text it was flying to. I set up some position keyframes on the top two layers and set them up so that they flew forward explosively but eased back in. so, they basically looked like this… O X O. Fast… then slow (but not too slow) drop back in.

With the movement looking good I realized the baseball wasn’t QUITE popping enough so I created a square solid and double clicked the circle mask button to automatically fill the solid with a circular mask. I scaled the mask down and duplicated it, setting it to intersect so that I could create a crescent shape. I applied a fast blur to my new shape and set the transfer mode to multiply. I parented the shape to the Dark Blue circle and pre-rendered again. While the crescent shape was ‘shadowing’ the baseball, it was hiding underneath the circle and the way the circle flies in, you weren’t able to tell that there was some extra shading that shouldn’t be there. Everything comes together so quickly that it hides reasonably well.

I found a baseball field photo on that had a really great dirt detail and a grass and sky photo that I really liked and combined them in Photoshop. I extracted the sky and moved it to its own layer so that I could scale it up and add simple left and right position keyframes to move the clouds from left to right (another really great Video Copilot tip). In a short shot like this, it doesn’t matter that the clouds don’t evolve. All that matters is the subtle sense of motion that you can’t even really see unless you’re fast forwarding. Your brain still senses that there’s something moving though.

To finish things up I created a new adjustment layer and added just a little bit of noise to the composition to make everything feel a little more connected and lively. Noise isn’t always a destructive thing. CGI and animated compositions can feel too clean if there isn’t any noise movement. Adding just a tiny bit livens everything up like a country gravy on top of a chicken fried steak.

Duration: 30

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