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Getting started with After Effects expressions

Adobe Employee ,
Nov 01, 2019 Nov 01, 2019

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Disclaimer: This post isn't an official expressions guide by Adobe. It's meant to help users understand the power of expressions in After Effects. Being an author of this post doesn't mean that I am an expressions guru or think that I know everything. All the content that I have included in this post helped me to understand expressions in a fun way. My idea is to curate content and put it here and I intend to improve the content on this page. If you want to contribute, please share your videos in the comments below. If you would like to work with me 1:1, send me a private message. Thanks!

 

This post is dedicated to users who want to use expressions but don't know where to start. Expressions take the functionality of After Effects to a whole new level. Expressions are mainly used by After Effects power-users and new-comers are really intimidated by using them. 

 

What is an expression?

An expression is a little piece of software—much like a script—that evaluates to a single value for a single layer property at a specific point in time. With expressions, you can create relationships between layer properties and use the keyframes of one property to dynamically animate other layers. For example, you can use the pick whip to link path properties, so a mask can take its path from a brush stroke or a shape layer object. Expressions can save a lot of time by not having you to manually key-frame every animation.

 

What can I create with expressions?

Here is a beautiful example from School of Motion's Joey Korenman to showcase how expressions can be used to animate the hour and minute hands of a clock in a few simple steps.

 

Do I have to remember all the expressions? Not at all!

You don't have to memorize every bit while writing expressions. After Effects displays a drop-down list with a set of suggestions that it pulls from the layer names of the project. Composition names, layer names, footage names, and effect names are all pulled into auto-complete and shown in the correct context. Check out the improvements to the Expression Editor from the Spring 2019 release.

 

How to use the pick whip in expressions

If you don't want to enter entire expressions yourself by manually typing them, you can create an expression with the pick whip or paste it from an example or other property.

This short tutorial will help you understand how to use the Pick Whip while using expressions.

 

Some useful After Effects expressions:

In this tutorial from Ukramedia, Sergei shows how far a simple line of text can take you in After Effects. He talks about some useful expressions like Value, Time, loopIN(), loopOUT(), wiggle() and more. You also get a project file to try these expressions.

 

This After Effects tutorial from School of Motion covers a few fantastic After Effects expressions that you may have never used before.

 

If you want to take a deeper dive:

 

- Show us what you created with your first Expressions project.

- Feel free to share other tutorials or reference material that helped you understand how expressions work.

In this After Effects tutorial we'll cover a few fantastic After Effects expressions that you may have never used before. Download the Project File: https://...
TOPICS
Expressions, FAQ, How to, Resources

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Nov 01, 2019 Nov 01, 2019

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Useful 

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Adobe Employee ,
Nov 01, 2019 Nov 01, 2019

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Thanks, Byron.

 

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Mentor ,
Nov 01, 2019 Nov 01, 2019

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That's a nice collection!

 

I want to add official Adobe AE expression language reference document:

https://helpx.adobe.com/after-effects/using/expression-language-reference.html

 

That's everything you can do with expressions. Bookmark it, read it, read it again.

 

*Martin

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Adobe Employee ,
Nov 01, 2019 Nov 01, 2019

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Thanks, Martin. 

AE Expressions Language Reference is linked at the end of the post 🙂 

 

-Rameez

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Mentor ,
Nov 02, 2019 Nov 02, 2019

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Oh! I only looked at the videos...

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Nov 04, 2019 Nov 04, 2019

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Those two School of Motion videos should be removed!!! The one on the hour clock is very poor and a waste of time - too many err ... erms and it's such a simple task! It's almost a joke. There are other much better Expression tutorials that are shorter and cover better ground - like the other tutorials you posted. Is there a reason you put said tutorial up first?

The second School of Motion tutorial has TWO huge mistakes! Firstly, the loopOut offset Expession method is incorrectly explained - He has actually explained the loopOut continue Expression, perfectly! LOLOL.

The second 'error' is with the Expression Method, clamp - he incorrectly stated that a user requires the clamp method for creating templates. This is incorrect since MoGRTs; the EGP has a built in feature for clamping property values. IT's still a good tutorial but I wouldn't share it at an official Adobe site without correct qualifications since there are other tutorials that cover the same topics correctly and if you cannot find something replaceable, then it's best to leave it out, for the moment at least.

I'll post other Expression links that are useful. These will be links that the first and second generation AE users found helpful, then, and are still very much relevant today. And one of the reasons for their relvance; not to take away their absolute brilliance, is because we have people sharing poorly deducted and executed tutorials for AE users. YOU have a lot of expertise at your disposal but yet you choose to pretend you know it all. You're a nice guy but let's not pretend there are others working with you that can offer invaluable support.

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Adobe Employee ,
Nov 25, 2019 Nov 25, 2019

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Hi Roland, 

 

Thanks for your feedback! 

The School of Motion video about the clock is well-explained in my opinion and a lot of new users love Joey's teaching style. That's why I put it there first. It helps new users understand what can be done using expressions in a fun way! 

 

Again, thanks for pointing out the mistakes in the other tutorial. Can you share links to other video tutorials with the absolutely correct information? I'll be happy to link them to the post. 

 

I don't think I boasted or mentioned that I know it all. I am not pretending anything! As you can see, I've asked the community to share useful tutorials. I think you misunderstood the intention of this post. This post isn't the Holy Grail of expressions by any means, it's rather a basic guide curated for beginners. You're welcome to contribute and I am happy to include your suggestions. 

 

Best,

Rameez

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Community Beginner ,
Jan 25, 2020 Jan 25, 2020

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the shorter the videos I have found the more value you get 22 minutes to explain a few expressions.

 

You don't Empower people by extracting 22 minutes of their time.  There's a Chinese proverb that says say much in a few words  this could have been dwindled down to 2 minutes  

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Jan 26, 2020 Jan 26, 2020

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I agee with that. In my youtube playlist "Expressions QuickTips" I created 94 videos explaining expressions (mostly iExpressions) and almost all of them are just one or two minutes long.

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL85F1CDE16C5B2517

 

The only caveat is that if your target audience are absolute beginners (and that's the case for Joeys video, I think), then you have to explain everything in full detail and should plan for a bit more time. But that should never be an excuse for making your content long-winded.

various quick tip tutorials about the After Effects tool iExpressions more infos about iExpressions can be found at aescripts.com/iExpressions

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Adobe Employee ,
Feb 04, 2020 Feb 04, 2020

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Thanks for sharing the link to your YouTube playlist. It's great!

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Nov 04, 2019 Nov 04, 2019

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MotionScript is the home of Dan Ebberts - the undisputed guru for Expressions in Adobe After Effects; for as long as Expressions have been around.

https://www.motionscript.com/

 

JJ Gifford's site is another first generation, Expressions-centric site. The one issue you have to take note is that his site uses snake-case Expressions which was how Expressions were originally written.

Snake case Expression methods are written like this -
this_Comp

 

while more recent Expression methods are written in camel case, like this -

thisComp

 

So, use JJ Gifford's site because it is excellent - just remember to replace his snake-case Expressions with the more recent camel-case Expressions.
https://helpx.adobe.com/lv/after-effects/using/legacy-and-extend-script-engine.html

http://www.jjgifford.com/expressions/

 

FWIW, Michael Natkin, AFAIK, was mainly the mind and person behind Expressions in AE, at Adobe. 

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Adobe Employee ,
Nov 25, 2019 Nov 25, 2019

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Thanks for sharing. I will take a look and include these in the main post. 

I couldn't find Michael Natkin in Adobe's directory. Maybe he used to work at Adobe in the past. 

 

-Rameez

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Dec 09, 2019 Dec 09, 2019

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That you do not know that Michael Natkin left Adobe a long while ago and that he was known for bringing Expressions into AE is a clear case that you are way over your head and yet you somehow imagined you know more than all the experts that have volunteered their time here. That you left out Dan Ebberts is actually quite laughable. I could go on but my intent is only to ask that you seek the expertise and experience of the volunteers before you exbarrass yourself and the rest of us. I do not want to belong to a group where one or more frivolous, self-centric individual keeps providing falsely/imgined leadership.

Give yourself a break. Neither you nor I and anyONE else here is as good as the collective volunteers. So, the next time you come up with something like this - coming up with an Important Topic for Sharing; have some Common Sense and Decenvy to ask for input from the collective experience and expertise of the volunteers here, for input. I am surprised and dissapointed that you neglected the 200+ cumulative years of experience+knowledge of the volunteers here.

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Dec 10, 2019 Dec 10, 2019

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Let's not start a fight here, I think you talk about two different things. Rameez wanted to show one good way to get started with expressions. This tread is not the ultimative list of best and most famous expressions resouces. It is just one more, fresh, attempt to get people excited in expressions and I appreciate Rameez efforts in doing this.

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Dec 10, 2019 Dec 10, 2019

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Just having a friendly disagreement. 🙂

This post is a sticky - so, it's not an ordinary thread. There is good and bad in that. It's good if it's filled with great info and bad if it's got poor or deficient information.

A couple of months back there was another Sticky Thread with absolutely the worse info possible on purging cache in AE. The info provided was meant for PPro. I only read the post after it was online/Stickied for quite a long while. I then made a note/post to ask the Original Poster, an Adobe Employee to double-check the info and to have it corrected ASAP as the the info provided was really, really bad in that it was counter-productive to AE as well as providing the wrong info on how AE's cache mechanism works.

 

I too like what Rameez has done. It may look like I'm being selective on him but I'm not. I'm instead suggesting for a more collective effort on important matters - a better system in place so that users can benefit from the collective expertise and experience of the experts here, and the expertise and experience includes the Adobe Employees and how they manage the space here as well as interact with us volunteers.

So, Rameez, please continue with your effort and I apologize if I seemed harsh. I can indeed be harsh but that's just me being myself and mostly putting users first and foremost and everyone else second, and this includes myself.

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Dec 10, 2019 Dec 10, 2019

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Thanks a lot for clarifying that, Roland. Now it makes much more sense to me.  And thank you for caring so much that this forum and community is improving - I also find it frustrating in some ways at the moment.

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Guide ,
Nov 05, 2019 Nov 05, 2019

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Thanks for posting this Rameez 🙂 Can I please add my own course on Linkedin Learning which has some free tutorial movies that anyone can watch. If you're a subscriber to Linkedin Learning or Lynda.com you can download and watch the whole course 🙂

Learning After Effects Expressions

https://linkedin-learning.pxf.io/VvNNM

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Adobe Employee ,
Nov 27, 2019 Nov 27, 2019

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Hi Angie, 

 

Absolutely!  

Thanks for adding the links. 

 

-Rameez

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Dec 02, 2019 Dec 02, 2019

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Adobe Employee ,
Jan 02, 2020 Jan 02, 2020

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Thanks for sharing, Mathias_Moehl.

Appreciate it!

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Jan 02, 2020 Jan 02, 2020

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you are welcome 🙂

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Jan 04, 2020 Jan 04, 2020

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Please share more Mathias. After all, we all know that RameezKhan is the know all and decider for ALL THINGS related to AE Expressions and this is why HE SOLELY posted this STICKY on EXPRESSIONS. Never mind that RameezKhan has only provided links no older than 5 years ago and WE BOTH KNOW that AE Expressions have been around for much longer - does 15-20 years sound decent enough?

 

I applaud you RameezKhan for you confidence in know-it-all. Please continue with your exubrence.

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Contributor ,
Jan 29, 2020 Jan 29, 2020

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Hi RameezKhan, 

 

I found this: http://www.skachkov.eu/alexander/Expression_Collection.pdf

 

And I think that it´s very helpfull. 

I don´t know why I never found this before, maybe I did not search for the corrects words.

 

With all the time I spend with After Effects, I am thankfull that so many people are helping us

to understand expressions and scripting.

 

And I don´t undertand, why the help inside of AE is so limited on this topic.

 

And maybe someone can post the old adobe university live tutorial for expressions and

scripting.

 

I miss this on the list.

 

have a nice day with expressing yourself.

 

Peter  

 

 

www.eachfilm.de>specs: iMac iMac.27" 17.1 Intel Core i7 processor:4 GHz Ram :32 GB Premiere CC 14.0.1 German Version. Handle ohne zu tun; ohne Anstrengung arbeiten. Stell dir das Kleine gross vor und das Wenige als Viel. Beschäftige mit dem Schwierigen, solange es noch einfach ist. Erfülle die große Aufgabe durch viele kleine Taten. Act without doing; work without effort. Think of the small as large and the few as many. Confront the difficult while it is still easy; accomplish the great task by a series of small acts.<br>www.eachfilm.de

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Adobe Employee ,
Feb 04, 2020 Feb 04, 2020

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Thanks for sharing, Peter.

 

Re: And I don´t understand, why the help inside of AE is so limited on this topic.

The content team is actually working on revamping documentation for expressions.

 

Best,

Rameez

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