Overlap, a script for After Effects
by Kevin Burke


One of my longest-running dreams is to do character animation for narrative cinema & music video. In 2013/2014 I took some online character animation courses with Animation Mentor to learn the basics. In my first class, I was introduced to the fundamentals of animation. I learned about Disney’s Nine Old Men, the book ‘The Illusion of Life,’ and the 12 Principles of Animation. For homework, we did some animation exercises aimed at cementing the principles and the one that really grabbed my attention was our pendulum exercise illustrating ‘Follow-through and Overlapping Action.’

The reason it was so interesting to me is it was amazing how simple it was to bring something to life with fluid motion. We would take one curve in the Graph Editor that we thought got the weight right, copy/paste it to all of its moving parts, and offset them in time.

A few months later, a motion design colleague of mine had been poking around Dan Ebberts’ Motion Script site and showed me some animations he’d made where many objects were moving without keyframes. ‘What is this magic?,’ I thought. I studied the expression myself and realized that it was doing the exact thing I’d been doing by hand in my Animation Mentor classes…mimicking motion and offsetting it in time.

Adding expressions to a few layers’ properties was one thing, but I thought it would be better to find an after effects script that would automate the whole process…and produce dynamic controls for getting the motion perfect. I tried a lot of the existing tools out there, but none of them were as robust as I’d imagined:

  • The scripts/plugins were often limited to Transform properties
  • None that I found worked with Shapes within a Shape Layer
  • Many would only overlap one object
  • Lots added nulls/precomps and things to my project (I like keeping things tidy & efficient)
  • It was amazing how bogged down my project got when tons of expressions were added, rather than just the few properties that I needed.

So I set out to making an after effects script that did all I was hoping to find. I also thought the experience would also make me better informed on the Follow-through and Overlapping Action principle. I have a full time job, so I had to work on the script after hours. The work began in November of 2014 and version 1.0 of the script went on sale in the aescripts web site in mid-April 2015. I came up with the initial version of the script pretty quickly and the rest of the time was working out bugs, creating training, and designing the user interface.

overlap UI

This was my second After Effects script for the aescripts site and it definitely feels significant. I believe the script will become a tool that a majority of After Effects animators will have in their toolkit. It was built to be reliable and efficient with what it does. Please visit aescripts.com and give the demo a try.

Kevin Burke is on the Motion Graphics Team at Google and a proud i-X2 owner. There’s only one thing he loves more than Animation: His hometown New Orleans. There’s only one thing he loves more than New Orleans: Music. Curiosity piqued? Come see him groove at www.blastframe.com.