Create Some Striking Animations in No Time by Using These After Effects Expressions

If you’re new to using Adobe After Effects, you may or may not have heard of this useful feature called an expression, which essentially consists of a few lines of code (based on JavaScript) that you can use within the program to automate certain animations. For instance, rather than having to manually animate a circle to rotate randomly, you could use a simple line of code to have the computer do that for you.

By understanding this powerful feature, you can further unleash the capabilities of After Effects to enhance your visual effects workflow. Luckily for you, Jordy Vandeput from  show us five really easy animations in Adobe After Effects, all with the use of expressions.

The first trick is useful for making a move-in animation seem more dynamic and smooth (and give it a nice ‘bouncing’ effect). First, animate the scale/position of your layer to your liking using the keyframes. Afterward, press Alt then click on the stopwatch, which will open up the expression editor. Copy and paste the Bounce code, and you will end up with a simple yet appealing animation.

The next technique is useful for adding camera movement to shots that seem a bit too static, such as a cloning shot wherein the camera had to be put on a tripod for easier compositing. To accomplish this, select all the times in the composition, right click, then press the Pre-Compose button to group all the layers in the comp. Afterward, press Alt, click on the position property and then type in the Wiggle expression. Don’t forget also to zoom in to compensate for the black areas which may appear as the position changes over time.

Another interesting expression is one that is used to create a continuous squash and stretch animation, perfect for adding some emphasis to something as simple as bullet points or plain text. On the layer you want the animation to occur on (such as a circle shape layer), press Alt then click on the scale properties and paste the Squash and Stretch code.

Here’s another animation that takes advantage of the simplicity of expressions. First, animate an object to move around the composition using the position tool. Next, press Alt, click on the opacity property and paste the Motion Tail code.

Now duplicate the layer multiple times. When you playback the composition, you’ll see that the duplicate layers are acting as a tail to the original layer you initially animated. You can change the look the tail by adding/removing duplicates of the original layer.

In addition to all the other techniques listed above, here’s another useful animation technique that makes a countdown timer using expressions, without having to use any third-party plug-in. Start by creating a text layer in your composition. Afterward, press “alt” then click on the Source Text properties and paste the Timer Up or Down code.

By default, the timer will count up but if you want it to count down, pre-compose the text layer then right click on the layer, then under Time, click on Time-Reverse Layer. If you want to change the duration of the countdown, you’ll need to adjust the length of your composition.

All in all, these are just five simple ways you can use expressions in After Effects to create some slick animations. Remember, by studying how these lines of code work, you could enhance your workflow and even end up saving money by not having to pay for third-party plugins or hire a professional VFX artist for the job.


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