Over the weekend an interesting challenge popped up on the After Effects mailing list. A user wanted letters to fly in, but only from four directions perpendicular to one another. Quickly I suggested using a bunch of text animators for each direction and an expression selector based on modulus operators to determine the actual number to use. Others on the list, including the great Dan Ebberts provided code snippets that solved the immediate problem, but struck me as a bit hacky. What irked me about the matter was that they kinda misused the text animators and added “hard-coded” functionality by using automatic animation or feeding in the values directly in the expression.
Since it was the hottest weekend of the year here in Germany and my brain was pretty munched and I decided to not give it further consideration, but inevitably it kept gnawing in the back of my head. While dozing in the heat on my bed I came up with a solution (yes, strangely enough most of the time the best solutions hit me when I’m actually not near a computer) and quickly implemented it. I won’t pretend it’s perfect, but do I think it’s a bit more “thorough” than what the others provided.
Not only can you now have any number of directions, but you can also control their spread and a few other things using a Controller with some cute expression controls. That, and of course since it’s a “clean” solution that builds on the already existing features of text animators, it can be easily animated with keyframes (by using a second animator that subtracts/ intersects; I called mine simply Fader), will work with other properties like rotation, color etc. and give you full control over easing behaviors. All that without ever having to edit the expression and only tweaking the text animator values and settings! I call that pretty neat! You can find it below and perhaps it’s in some way useful to you.