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EARTH – A SIMPLE ANIMATION TUTORIAL

by Kevin Wiggers / Wednesday, 04 November 2015 / Published in Graphics, Motion Graphics, Tips & Tricks

Recently, I have had a few questions regarding how we completed the Earth animation, used on our website. You may view the animation here. As, you can see, while the animation is rather simple, it can be used to add a bit of dynamic content to your website or presentation as opposed to a still frame or image.

Below, you will find a brief tutorial on how this effect was created. Adobe Photoshop and After Effects were used in the project. If you have even a basic knowledge of either program, you should be able to follow along with relative ease. With that being said, let’s get started.

Step 1 – Compiling our textures for the globe

Before we jump into After Effects and begin creating the animation, we first need to gather our Earth textures. There are a variety of sites online where you can find quality images, Google Earth and Plant Pixel Emporium to name a couple. We will use the latter.

You will immediately notice, there are several maps to choose from. Feel free to download whichever you might want to incorporate into your own project. For this tutorial, we will use the color, and cloud transparency maps. Note: Make sure to verify that each map is the same pixel size.

Once you are finished downloading your textures, open up Photoshop

Step 2 – Editing your textures with PhotoshopEarth Tutorial Blending Options

First, we will focus on the color map. Drag the texture into your view-port. There is not much work to do here. Simply complete any color correction you may find necessary. For our project we added a Hue/Saturation and Levels adjustment layer. Feel free to adjust for your project as you see fit. Once you have made all adjustments, export the image as a .png file with transparency checked.

Next will adjust the cloud transparency map. Create a new file and place the cloud map inside. Open the blending options for your cloud layer and adjust the black slider under the “This Layer”section. Drag the slider to around 118. Now, Alt+click on the right prong of the slider and move it to around the 225 mark. Adjust as you see fit. Export/Save the file as .png with transparency checked.

Step 3 – Setting up the composition in After Effects

Open up After Effects and create a new project at a depth of 16 bits per channel. Create a new composition, name it Earth (or whatever you prefer), and use the preset: HDTV 1080 29.97 with a duration of 30 seconds. Import the textures we created and drag the textures into your composition. In the effects panel look for CC Sphere. Apply this effect to each of your images. We now need to adjust the settings of the sphere effect.

For the earth map, adjust the settings as follows: radius = 200, render = outside, shading – ambient = 4.0, specular = 8.0, roughness = .500. Leave all other settings at their default.
Now we will adjust the cloud map. First make sure the cloud map is above the earth map in the composition and change the blending mode to Screen. (If you do not see the blending mode option in your composition, press the F4 key.) Now press “T” and change the opacity to 65%. For the CC Sphere effect settings we will change the following: radius = 203, render = outside, shading – ambient: 10, roughness .500.

Make a copy of your cloud layer and place this above the previous layer. Change the opacity to 35% and the CC Sphere Radius to 204. Finally Apply a Gaussian Blur effect to the original cloud layer and change the blurriness to 2.4.

Now we will focus on the stars and background. (Alternative to the following steps, you may download a star map from Google Earth or a similar site and place this as your background).
In this project I used the effect BCC Stars from Boris FX. First, create a black solid and name it Star BG (background). This should be the last layer in your composition. Now apply the BCC Star effect. Adjust the speed, direction, density, maximum size, minimum size, and twinkle as you see fit.

Duplicate the layer and place it above the previous layer we created. Change the blending mode to screen. Adjust the previously mentioned settings to add some small variations in twinkle, size, and movement direction. You may also consider, adjusting the star color.

Step 4. – Setting up the animationBlog_earth_tutorial2

For the sake of this tutorial we will only cover the evolution of the earth. Make sure your current frame indicator is placed where you would like the animation to begin. We will key-frame the CC Sphere – Rotation for each layer that has this effect applied to it. Click the stop watch for each rotation parameter you intent to animate.

Now place the current frame indicator at the end of your composition. Change your rotation to achieve your desired result and add a new key-frame. That’s it, your animation is complete. Of course, this is just the beginning of what you can achieve. I encourage you to take some time and add additional variations to your animation.

Now simply render out your composition (ctrl+M).

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial. If you have questions on how we achieved a specific look or effect, please fee free to leave a comment. In future tutorials we will look to provide you with a video walk-through.

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