I completely understand that expressions and scripting in After Effects can be intimidating to users of a more artistic bent. And you can certainly create great work in AE without using expressions or scripting. But every now and then – more often than you might expect – knowing just a little can save you time in creating repetitive, tricky, or precise animation. I liken them to having the ultimate unpaid intern hanging around studio. Fortunately, there are several free web resources available that allow you to dip your toe in these waters.
The latest is Ole Sturm’s XScriptorium site. It has just launched in public beta, and contains a lot of content from the AE online help file (you use Help, don’t you?), but already shows some very nice organization and a few expressions described clearly from a “so you want to do this” point of view. It is based on code contributions from users; not just Ole. He also allows you to “tip” the expression or script’s creator should you find their contribution useful. Check it out.
In this vein, make sure you also check out the established sites MotionScript.com by the friendly guru Dan Ebberts (which is as much about learning how to write expressions and scripts as it is a resource for useful expressions), and AEnhancers, a moderated forum on scripting and expressions with multiple contributors.
And of course, our own books Creating Motion Graphics and After Effects Apprentice have introductory chapters on expressions. In particular, check out the bonus chapter on CMG’s DVD-ROM which is a rather detailed resource for writing more advanced expressions, with examples.
A few hours spent learning “just enough to be dangerous” will more than repay you in time saved, I promise.