Create Seamless Background Loops in After Effects

Learn how to create seamless background loops in Adobe After Effects.

In this After Effects tutorial, we’re going to explore how to create a custom looping background animation. It’s actually simpler to pull off than most people think, and using a few key effects makes the process even easier. This lesson is great for beginners, or anyone hungry for more After Effects knowledge.

Ready to create some loops? Well, let’s get started!


Creating a Background Tile

First, we need to create a background, then we can animate other objects and shapes on the loop later. I recommend starting with a background tile composition that’s 200×200 pixels. Then, add some texture to it with shapes, sprinkles, or even a grid pattern.

When you’re finished with that, create a new composition that’s 1920×1080 pixels. This will serve as our main composition that we’ll add everything to. For this example, our loop will be four seconds long at 24 frames per second.


CC RepeTile

Go ahead and add the background tile composition to the main composition. Now, apply the effect CC RepeTile to the background tile layer. Under the CC RepeTile effect settings, set the Right, Left, Up, and Down values to 2,000.

You should now see the background tile pattern repeated all across your main composition.


Offset

We can set the background in motion by applying the Offset effect to the background tile layer, as well. Once applied, keyframe the Shift Center To setting. You can adjust the value on the X and Y axis.

I recommend having the starting Shift Center To keyframe value be 0,0. Then, set another Shift Center To keyframe at the end of your loop. When you adjust the Shift Center To value, be sure the number you pick is evenly divisible by 200 (because our original background tile is 200×200 pixels in size). For example, set the final keyframe value at 0, 600.


Creating Group Tiles

Adding and layering other animating shapes is a similar process to what we did for the background tile. Create a new composition named Group 1, and set the composition size to 400×400 pixels. Then, add two shapes on the left side of that composition. (I recommend creating some 200×200 pixel guide layers for each shape.) You can also animate them subtly if you prefer, just make sure they end in the same position they started in for the length of the four-second loop.

Next, duplicate the Group 1 composition and name it Group 2Delete the existing shapes in the new Group 2 composition and add two new shapes on the right side.


Finalizing the Loop

To finalize your loop, go back to your main composition and add in the two new Group compositions. Apply CC RepeTile to both and expand them in all directions to 2,000 pixels. Then, apply Offset to both, and keyframe the Shift Center To setting to create your loop. (Again, make sure the end value you keyframe them by is divisible evenly by 400, because the Group compositions were 400×400 pixels.)

I added a Drop Shadow effect to both Group compositions for more of a 90s look. You can also rotate the Group compositions by 45 degrees, if you prefer.


Extra Effects

You can create all kinds of different looks by adding other effects to your finalized background loop. Add an adjustment layer above everything in your main composition and apply the effect CC Kaleida. Now, you’ll have more of an abstract, kaleidoscope loop. You can also apply glow effects to your Group compositions for a unique look.

Finally, you can make your main composition a 3D layer, and use a 3D camera to create a “macro-looking” background loop. Just set the Focus Distance to the center of your 3D layered loop, turn on the Depth of Field for the camera, and adjust the Aperture and Blur Level values.

Establishing and Maintaining a Hierarchy on a Film or Video Set

It’s impossible to run a set like a flat organization. Here’s why hierarchy matters, and how you can use it to your advantage.

Just like a tightly-run ship, for a film or video set to operate smoothly, you need to have a clear chain of command everyone is comfortable with and follows.

I remember my first day on a real film set. Not a student-produced film, not a run-and-gun corporate video shoot, but a real, by-the-book set for a feature film that had big-name actors, a recognizable director, and a large, seasoned crew that worked like a finely-tuned machine. Every person knew exactly what their role was at any given moment and worked with an ease of tenacity that was truly awe-inspiring.

While it was a meaningful experience, most of my time has been spent on the sets of the smaller indie and DIY productions that make up most of the film and video industry, outside of the major markets.

With all of that in mind, I’ll share this —  if I’ve learned one thing over the years, it’s that a clear, considerate, flexible chain of command is vital to a shoot’s ultimate success, regardless of its scale.

So, if you’re just starting off, or you’re looking for a way to get your crew running tighter, here’s the ideal set hierarchy and how to establish, maintain, and adjust it on-the-fly.


The Optimal Hierarchy on Set

I’m not a huge fan of the term “hierarchy,” as it conveys a sense of “more important” and “less important.” Plus, I’ve seen people fall into the “I’m higher on a chart, so I’m a better person” trap, and it’s awkward and counterproductive for all involved.

So, as we take a look at the simple org chart below, try to think of it less as a top-to-bottom “importance identifier” and more of a side-by-side map that outlines how all the roles work together — each just as important as the other — to get a job done.

This chart is pretty standard — except that “standard” isn’t truly applicable when it comes to set hierarchy. Because, while all film sets are similar, they’re also all unique in their needs and setups.

A corporate commercial shoot might operate differently than a major motion picture production. Filming a documentary project isn’t the same as capturing a live event. So, keep that in mind as we dive in further to the roles that make up a set hierarchy.


Producers and Directors

Let’s take a look at the names you’ll find listed first on an org chart — the producers and directors. These are the roles that make all the major decisions on set.

Executive producers are often the financial investors of a film. They have final sign-off on all budgets, contracts, and schedules. Producers are those entrusted to follow through on a project’s plan. They’re also heavily involved with the majority of pre-production work.

A director, of course, is the person with the vision that’s bringing everything together. They communicate this vision to the rest of the cast and crew.

Why this is important: We’ve all been on projects where it feels like there are too many cooks in the kitchen. While multiple opinions can be helpful, ultimately, to get a project done in a timely and professional manner, all the major decisions need to come from one specific point.

Having a definitive leader on a project, whether it’s the director who wields the vision or a producer who perfectly understands the budget and schedule, can be very helpful for producing the best film or video possible.


Department Heads

From a hierarchy perspective, just below the producers and directors on a film’s org chart, we’ll usually find our department heads. On much smaller corporate and DIY indie projects, these roles might not be whole departments, but rather just individuals. But, overall, the concept remains the same.

After meeting with producers and directors, the department heads will coordinate and communicate specific plans and responsibilities with the rest of the team. If there is no team, then they are the team, and they’ll handle producer and director requests themselves.

Department heads are usually the following:

  • Director of Photography
  • Camera and Lighting (Combined with DP)
  • Grip and Electric
  • Sound and Audio
  • Production Design
  • Wardrobe, Hair, and Makeup
  • DIT and Editing

Why this is important: Because they’re managing the entire operation, producers and directors delegate the day-to-day nuts and bolts of production to department heads, who keep things moving efficiently and safely. When problems arise, they report back to the producer or director.


Individual Roles and PAs

After department heads, we have the tier comprised of the many individual roles that make up a film or video production set. The bigger the production, the bigger the crew, and the more likely it is that these individuals can actually specialize instead of wearing multiple hats.

Each of these individual roles will fall under a department head and will work under their direction. Without listing every possible film set role, here are some basic examples:

  • Casting Director
  • Assistant Director
  • Script Supervisor
  • Camera Operator
  • Key Grip
  • Dolly Grip
  • Boom Operator
  • Location Manager
  • Prop Master
  • Transpo Drivers
  • Visual Effects Supervisor
  • Colorist
  • PAs

Why this is important: Having individual roles working under department heads, and under the general vision of producers and directors, can be the best — and most professional — way for a production to run smoothly, from start to finish.

Everyone knows their role, everyone knows who to report to, and everyone is equally accountable and responsible for the overall success of a project.

Tutorials, tips and inspiration for motion graphics creation in After Effects, Cinema 4D and Motion.

Using Motion Graphics Templates for More than Lower Thirds and Titles

There’s more to .mogrts than lower thirds and titles. In this round-up, see how to implement motion graphics templates in new ways.

For plenty of video editors, motion graphics templates (.mogrt files) are synonymous with lower thirds and title cards. While that’s understandable, it’s also unfortunate —.mogrts are capable of so much more.

Let’s explore the possibilities with a look at three novel uses for motion graphics templates you may not have considered.

Take note before we continue: Since .mogrt files need to be extracted for use in After Effects, a couple of these uses will provide more of a quick-start to your project, rather than a nifty supplement. That said, depending on how you like to organize your projects, these templates can provide some tidy and time-saving utility.


1. Creating Data and Figures

Whether you’re pulling together a graphic that’s periodically updated or working on a project ahead of some key information, using templates to create charts and graphs can provide a lot of flexibility.

Depending on which values you make editable, you can make several key changes without ever needing to open After Effects. Last minute changes can be addressed in your NLE, saving time otherwise spent rendering and linking media. Additionally, sliders can be saved as editable values in your template, allowing for quick and easy adjustments.

One thing that’s especially great about using templates inside After Effects is the ability to adjust editable values inside your Essential Graphics window, just as you would in Premiere Pro.

The editable values you can set to your template are pretty versatile. As you can see above, I’ve rigged the height of each bar on this graph to a slider in the template.

Each value is listed under the Graphic Parameters FX drop-down inside Premiere Pro, just as it would appear in the Essential Graphics panel inside After Effects. With some good organization and some clever rigging, you can create a very flexible template.


2. Cameras, Lights, and Environments

If you’ve animated some dynamic camera movement that you’d like to use again, you should absolutely save it in a template. Here are three different scenes I’ve created utilizing the same camera animation, alongside the blank template for comparison.

Templatized camera and lighting setups make great time-saving quick-starts for projects, and they’ll help you create a consistent and cohesive look across your body of work.

The same can be said for environments, particularly when working with an ongoing project. Whether it be background for news slides or setting for character animation, having templates for environments you know you’ll be needing can come in handy.

Naturally, these templatized set-ups can just as easily be saved as whole After Effects project files. However, keeping a template as a .mogrt rather than an .aep can mitigate the risk of accidentally saving over your template, as well as provide a seamless start to your projects. Just be sure to rename your new .aep once you’ve extracted the template.


3. Style Guides

If you’re working on a branded project, saving a style guide to a template is a smart way to save serious time. By keeping brand colors, typefaces, vectorized logos, and notes readily available within After Effects, you’ll avoid the need to repeatedly import or reference a still image file.

Type elements can be duplicated directly from the template, and vector elements may be copied and pasted from a mask path. This is particularly useful for color, as your style guide will have been created in RGB, leaving no room for messy CMYK interpolation.

Plus, just like with camera and lighting set-ups, keeping a style guide as a .mogrt rather than .aep will prevent you from accidentally saving over your template.

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