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How to (easily) Animate a Still Render in After Effects

This is the perfect way to escape those boring online presentations. Also, the perfect way to avoid your client from falling asleep, so the more dynamic, the better. 

Learn how to easily add animation to a still render using Photoshop and After Effects, watch the video tutorial on how we did it here, or look at the step by step below. 

Final animation

Separate elements in Photoshop layers.

Import your principal render into photoshop. It is in one compressed layer. We are going to separate the elements we want to animate, in this case, sky, birds, trees, clouds.

We imported the render ID channels just in case we needed something, so we used it to make our selections. We are going to select the sky, we want it to have a slight movement. 

With the mask tool, we mask out all of the sky, then we use the content aware fill tool, to extend the sky more than what it was. After doing this, we are going to be able to move our sky up or down. 

The original image has a lot of fog in the background, but we are going to create a new layer, and using a fog brush, we are just going to paint the fog and with the color eyedropper tool, we are going to choose the same background color, to avoid that very white fog (that will eventually turn out to look very fake)

We also want to add movement to our bird, So using the lasso tool, we are going to select it, then pressing ctrl +J we are going to separate this selection into a new layer. 

We also decided to add fog to the foreground, middle ground, and background. So using the fog brush (we found these free online) we painted the fog in.

We used the hue/saturation panel, to adjust the color of the fog, to make it blend a little bit with the background, instead of it looking like a plain white fog. 

We wanted to add some animation to some tall grass in the foreground. So using the channel ID layer, we selected the tall grass.

With the wand tool, we make the selection, after doing this, we press ctrl + J and this will separate our selection from the original render. 

After doing this, turn off that new layer with the selection and go back to the original layer, and with the clone stamp tool, you will start to “erase” or stamp out the original grass, so the grass is only in the new layer that you have created. 

We proceed to do the same thing with the tree, using the render id channel, we made our selection, then ctrl + J to separate it and the using the clone stamp tool to erase the original tree. 

After Effects

Opening After Effects, we create a new composition, it has to be the same size or proportions that the render image is in.Then we drag in our Photoshop file into After Effects.

Don’t forget to select “Editable layer styles”

After importing the file, we double click in the timeline, it will open and you will see all of the layers in the timeline. 

You can choose your own animation. We chose to change the position of the sky. So standing in the sky layer, we click on the timewatch until it turns blue, once it is blue it means that the animation will be there. So you are going to leave that position as it is, then go to the 10 second mark, you will change the position of the sky, either up or down. Once you press play, you can see the movement. 

With the willow tree in the background, we wanted a different animation, so we choose rotation. This is the same process, click on the timewatch until is blue, then drag the line to the 10 second mark and then make the movement that you want. 

For the tall grass animation, we are going to go the effects panel, we are going to select the “corner pin”

You will see the options in the upper left hand corner. And this is the same process, but if you want more of a “wind generated” movement, then you can drag the pin to the two second mark then make the movement, then to the forth second mark then make the movement, etc. 

For the fog movement, we created a pre compose folder, then once we are in that folder, we are just going to change the position of this fog, is the same process, select the second mark and make the movement. 

We want the fog to be behind the tower, so we are just going to use a mask.

We are going to animate the bird. So to make it look real, we are going to scale it down, change the position and the opacity. Is the same process, the key is to have the timewatch turn blue, then drag the line to the second mark you want and then start making the movement. 

Since the bird is moving to the right and then is going to disappear, we are going to make it smaller using the scale option and at the same time the opacity.

With the original render image, that is also in the timeline in after effects. And we are just going to add a slight movement in the scale. So pressing S in our keyboard, we just zoom a little bit. 

Final animation

What did you think of this? We know that there are some animations that you can do in Lumion or other programs. But this is just a quick way of doing some small animations to give that spark to your renders and presentations. 

Watch the video tutorial below!

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