Three Steps to Better Technical Rigging in After Effects

Problem: You’re working on a video series with several mograph elements. Your turnaround time ranges from 10 minutes to a few days. Lower thirds, visuals, and other elements are 100% reliant on the VO. The talk track itself might even be edited or swapped out. How do you configure your project to enable changes efficiently and accurately?

Solution: Automate. Automate. Automate. Automate ruthlessly, but intelligently.

Just in case the debate hasn’t been settled… automation is, in the context of mograph, not our enemy. It is our friend.

Automation actually frees up time for you to work on the harder, more creative aspects of your project. Animators can (and should) rig their projects, so that it’s not only easier to work on them solo, but also to pass off to fellow designers, and in some cases, even non-designers.

  1. Master Properties
  2. Responsive Design
  3. Responsive Layers

Master Properties

Master Properties is a feature in After Effects that allows you to extract variable properties in your project for adjustment at any time. It’s like an HUD panel, containing data that may have predictable and recurring changes (e.g., text, scale, position, color). It helps save you time going down the rabbit hole of comps and precomps. It’s a professional method of transferring your file/template to another animator.

Responsive Design

Responsive Design is a feature that allows you to use recurring mograph elements with variable duration. Often, after designing a bespoke element (such as a lower third) you may need to change its In/Out points. BUT, you want to keep certain segments of the layer. You want to ensure that those parts are preserved no matter how long you lengthen or shorten its duration.

Responsive Layers

As much as possible, rig your layers to respond to one another. If the end goal is interaction between elements, chances are you’ll want to automate it. You can set up manual keyframes, but making your project more procedural will save you time and energy in the long run. You should also expect that anything you build may be repurposed, if you’re designing multiple assets for a brand.

You can automate your setup in a number of ways, including:

Linear expression

Trigger animations using markers

Pins and Boxes Script

There’s no end to rigging tools and techniques. However, the concept of rigging one element to respond to another is core to animating complex projects.