How to Animate a Bicycle in After Effects
Hello everyone. In this tutorial, I'll show you how you can make some simple animations using the amazing vectors from Freepik.com. The designs available are really inspiring and animation friendly. We'll use two of the most intuitive softwares for this tutorial – Adobe Illustrator (AI) and Adobe After Effects (AE). So let’s jump in and take this beautiful bicycle illustration from Freepik.com as our object.
To be able to animate this design in AE, we'll have to separate the parts of the bicycle which we want to animate, like the front wheel, the back wheel, the pedals etc. in separate layers. So when we import the AI file into AE, we have the freedom to manipulate each layer/object separately. You can see that I've separated the balloons and each of the flowers in different layers as I intend to animate those as well. Just cut and paste the appropriate layers and make new ones as required.
Set your comp
Now open up After Effects and on the menu, click on Composition > New Composition. Then set the size of your comp as you wish. (Try not to make it too big as we're going to be exporting a GIF file later on) Set the frame rate preferably as 24 fps for a smooth animation. Set the time at 3 seconds (We can change this later) and your comp is ready.
Now we need to import our AI file into this composition. Go to File > Import > File. Browse the folder you saved the AI file in and select it. Do not hit open yet. Once you select it, you will see a tab ‘Import as’ at the bottom of the dialogue box. In the dropdown, select Composition + retain layer size. And then hit open.
You'll see that all the layers we had set in AI are imported exactly as they are in AE. Now this has made a comp of its own based on the AI file dimensions. So select all the layers and cut and paste them in the comp we created. You can rename the comp to ‘Bicycle_Anim’. Don’t worry if the flowers are above the Basket. We'll mask them later to be inside the Basket.
Now let’s get to the fun stuff. You'll see a small sun like button at the top of the layers. Check all the boxes for all the layers beneath it. This will continuously rasterize the layers and they'll behave as vectors irrelevant of the scaling just like in AI.
Select the Background layer and click on the little dropdown arrow in front of the layer name. Do the same inside the Transformation dropdown and change the scale values to make the BG fit in the comp as required. You can simply hit ‘S’ on the keyboard while the layer is selected to directly go in the scale values too.
Now let’s start animating the rear wheel. Select the layer and hit ‘R’ on the keyboard to bring up the rotation values. Keep your time slider at the first frame and key in the values by clicking on the little clock like button in front of the ‘rotation’. Then go ahead in the timeline to about 2 seconds and change the rotation values to ‘360’. This will rotate the wheel exactly one cycle in two seconds.
Now bring the slider just a frame previous to the last key we set and hit ‘N’ on the keyboard. This will limit the time slider to play till a frame before the last one and when you hit ‘0’(Zero) on the keyboard, it will preview render and play the animation in loop. You'll be able to see the bicycle wheel animated.
Do the same with the Front wheel and our Bicycle is moving.
Now let’s move on to animating the Pedals. Select the Front pedal crank layer (You can delete the Back pedal if you have created that layer as we'll be duplicating this one later on). Now if you rotate the layer, it will rotate from its center. We don’t want that. We want it to rotate from where it is hinged at the chain wheel. To do this, we need to move the anchor point at the joint.
Select the Pan Behind tool (Anchor point tool) from the toolbar and move the anchor point to the desired position.
Now animate the rotation of the Pedal crank just like we did for the wheels. Make sure the first and the last key has the same value for it to loop properly. Preferably, keep the pedal crank exactly 90 degrees and key at the first frame. This is to make it align with the foot rest later on.
The foot rest has to rotate with the Pedal crank but keeping its own rotation locked and consistent as it is. To do this, first we have to parent the foot rest to the pedal crank.
Grab the little spiral button (called pickwhip) in front of the foot rest layer and drop the rope on the pedal crank. So now the foot rest will follow the motion we set for the pedal crank.
But you'll notice that the foot rest tilts with the crank too. To avoid this we'll set a rotation of its own. Go to the last frame and insert ‘-1’ value in rotation. Make sure you put this value in the first section.
This will rotate the foot rest on its own and counter act the pedal crank rotation keeping it stable throughout. Our pedal animation is done.
Now let’s duplicate the whole pedal and put it behind on the other side. Select both the pedal crank and foot rest layer and press ctrl/cmd + D to duplicate the layers. Right click on both of them and click on pre-compose. Name the comp as Back Pedal.
Put this comp layer behind the cycle layer. You'll notice that it moves exactly with the front pedal. We need to offset it to make it proper. So if you just grab the layer and move/offset it in the timeline, it will work but only halfway, as we don’t have any more animation on it; that 2 seconds which we already reduced by half. We'll need to extend the animation another rotation/second.
Double click on the pedal composition to go inside. There you'll see the two pedal cranks and foot rest layers. Go to Composition settings like before and make the comp about 4 seconds long. Now our animation is of one rotation in 2 seconds. Go to the 4th second mark and again put in a value of -1 in the first value section to set one more rotation key. Now the pedal rotates for two cycles which enables us to offset the pedal in regards to the front one.
Go back to the main composition and offset the comp half a cycle. Now both the pedals will animate and our basic bicycle animation is ready.
Go ahead and animate the Balloons and the flowers rocking back and forth in the wind. Simply adjust the anchor points to the bottom of the objects like where the thread is attached to the carriage, and set three keys of rotation. The first and the last being the same to make it loop properly.
To add ease in and out for the animation, simply select the keys and press F9 on the keyboard to apply easy ease.
Offset the animation by extending it like we did before and offsetting the layers in the comp so that everything doesn't move at the same time.
Now we need to make the flowers go inside the basket.
Make sure you have pre-composed all the flowers into one comp. Now with the Flower comp selected, draw a mask using the Pen tool from the toolbar. Once you complete the mask loop you'll see that anything outside that shape is masked out.
But we need this the other way around. Simply dropdown to the masking option in the layer and in Mask 1 check the Inverted box.
This will then invert the mask and we get the desired result.
Now our animation is complete. We can add some moving clouds to give a sense of speed and displacement. Just right click in the layers tab and go to New > Shape Layer. Select the Shape tool from the tool bar and create some simple circular clouds.
Now simply position the clouds and animate them going back.
You can also make a pre-comp for the whole cycle and then again animate it a little up and down like on a bumpy road to make it more realistic. Just make sure everything is in a loop (first frame and the last has to be the same) Crop the scene as per your requirement by changing the main comp size in the composition settings.
To render the scene, go to Composition > Add to render queue or simple press Ctrl/Cmd + M.
In the Output Module settings, select Quicktime and render it on the desired path.
Now to convert the Mov into a Gif, Open up Adobe Photoshop and go to Import > Video Frames to Layers and select the rendered Mov.
Once it's imported, go to Export > Save for Web.
Select the export format as Gif and save it. (You do not necessarily need to change any other settings but feel free to play around to optimize desired file size)
So there we have it. Our little animation is complete. I hope this tutorial helped you to explore the fun possibilities in AE for your vectors.
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