Folder or unfolding layers has become popular in After Effects and other apps in the last several years, and tutorials, scripts, and even animated typefaces have popped up to help spread the meme. All we need now is an origami plug-in.
Perhaps the easiest way to start folding or unfolding layers is using AE scripts. Paravent from Motion Boutique is a free script that “creates a controllable folding screen animation from the selected project item. You can choose the direction, the number of panels, folding decay, decay order to completely customize your animation.” It's quite easy, and should speed things.
Evan Abrams posted Video Tutorial: Unfolding Animation in Adobe After Effects, which covers folding/unfolding using position snapping, parenting, the Graph Editor, and more. There's also step by step instructions if something's unclear.
Also around the same time, Ridvan Maloku shared How To Fold Text Within After Effects, which shows you how to make bent text “in After Effects on any angle that you want. This tutorial discovers very original issue so you are going to learn a secret tip (if we can say so). Also through this tutorial you will learn how to be more organized by using Expression Controls, how you can have better control on your camera, how to setup your scene and such things. By the end of this tutorial you will be able to fold not just a text but everything that you want in After Effects.”
Shutterstock has text on Animating a ‘Paper-Folding’ Effect, by Chad Ackerman.
Frontpage Media also has text on a method, and some renders:
A few years ago, Federico Simoni posted After Effects: Folding template, an After Effects CS6 file. Another free template appears dead though, After Effects (FREE) Template Project – Folding Pixel.
At Digital Arts, Angie Taylor posted text for an “accordian” fold in After Effects tutorial: Create a 3D animation of folding paper. Project files are free with sign-in. Here's the result:
There are a bunch of animated typefaces for After Effects, including Typogami, designed by Jeroen Krielaars (original source). It has a tutorial and customizable features, including fold angle and shading. Flapfont, by Mario Brauer, is another foldie option.
Variations on the theme include swinging test, flip-flap displays, page flips, and the like. There are several tutorials, including Create a Split-Flap Type Display by Mattias Peresini and CMD 88: After Effects – Magazine Page Flip! (skip in 5 minutes to avoid church chat).
Paper crumble effects aren't folds, but might still be handy. Here are a few tutorials:
- 3D Paper Crumple with Freeform AE by Rob Birnholz
- Paper Crumple with Puppet Tool from Owen Lowery
- crumpled paper tutorial from DISC IT! PRO uses Trapcode MIR
- Crumpled Paper Logo Reveal with Mir
While not very popular, there is interest in folding and tessellation (flexagons too), as seen in the origami documentary Between the Folds. An actual origami plug-in for After Effects would probably have to be a labor of love, as are the current standalone applications that generate or mimic origami folding. Both Trapcode Mir and Rowbyte Plexus seem close enough to add folding, but that evaluation is for developers and other experts. Here's a sample from the origami doc, and a TED talk from Robert Lang, creator of the open-source origami app TreeMaker (he did a Google talk later).
By the way, if you prefer 3D, there's a Fold It Plugin for Cinema 4D at C4DZone.
Please note that this roundup is for quick review and comparison. There is almost always vital information from the originating authors at the links provided — and often free presets, plug-ins, or stock footage too.