After Effects Apprentice Free Video: The Wiggle Expression

This very simple expression can be used to add randomness to virtually any parameter.

As we mentioned earlier, we've been busy this year creating an extensive, multi-course video training series based on our popular beginner's book After Effects Apprentice. Each course has two or more movies that are free for all to view; we're re-posting those videos here on PVC to make sure you don't miss them. This movie demonstrates how to use one of our favorite expressions: Wiggle.

The ninth Apprentice course focuses on what we feel is one of the most powerful yet seriously underused portions of After Effects: Expressions. With expression, you can easily hook up parameters to follow each other, allowing you to keyframe just one property and have a number of other properties or layers follow along – in turn making it much easier to create complex, coordinated animations that are easy to update in response to client whims.

Many artists shy away from expressions, believing they require knowledge of programming and math. It's true that expressions are based on JavaScript – but in most cases, After Effects writes the necessary code for you. And it is true that a bit of math will help you get more out of expressions – but most of the time, we're talking elementary school level math. In After Effects Apprentice, we focus on this class of easy but highly useful expressions, getting no more difficult than typing in words like “wiggle”, “loop” and “pingpong.”

The movie above from the AEA09 video course demonstrates how to use the wiggle expression, which allows you to add a user-adjustable degree of randomization and imperfection to your animations. Wiggle auto-animates without the need for additional keyframes, and randomizes per layer allowing you to easily create swarming-type animations.

If you're completely new to expressions, a couple of years ago we posted a video overview to expressions from the second edition of our After Effects Apprentice book. If you are looking for more advanced expression applications, here is the index to our Deeper Modes of Expression series derived from our deeper Creating Motion Graphics book. Enjoy!

The content contained in After Effects Apprentice – as well as the CMG Blogs and CMG Keyframes posts on ProVideoCoalition – are copyright Crish Design, except where otherwise attributed.


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Chris & Trish Meyer founded Crish Design (formerly known as CyberMotion) in the very earliest days of the desktop motion graphics industry. Their design and animation work has appeared on shows and promos for CBS,…

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