• Price When Reviewed: 250

  • Pros: Much faster than manual graph building, and has a huge range of controls. Reliable with large data sets.

  • Cons: Data modification difficult. Prone to crashing.

  • Expert Rating: We rate this 9 out of 10We rate this 9 out of 10We rate this 9 out of 10We rate this 9 out of 10We rate this 9 out of 10 Best Buy We rate this 9 out of 10

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An After Effects plug-in that creates charts and graphs is not the most creatively exciting effects tool you’ve ever seen, but the huge time savings that Data Animator offers over building graphs manually (in AE or Illustrator) is a great bonus for corporate work.

Data Animator includes seven plug-ins for creating Bar, Line, Pie, Range/Stock, Bubble, Polar and Timeline graphs – plus the Easy Chart plug-in (right) that provides a wizard for quickly creating graphs. Easy Chart is also a help when learning how to use the plug-in set – because all of the graph types have a huge number of parameters.

Data to build graphs is imported from tab-delimited text files, which can be exported easily from Excel spreadsheets. However, there’s no easy way to modify values within any of the plug-ins and you can’t create graphs from scratch – though it’s easy to create basic text files in Notepad or Text Edit if you’re creating meaningless graphs for symbolic purposes (for example, the computer screens in background shots in 24).

Data Animator gives you a huge amount of control over the look and animation of the graphs. This begins with the choice of whether to make a graph 2D, 2.5D/faux-3D, or true 3D with mobile lights and cameras.

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From here it’s possible to drill down to get control over almost every aspect of a graph – including the data, the grid behind it, legends, labels, colours, and more. There are also some nifty graph-specific options such as label tracking, which changes the value of a numeric label as its bar goes up or down. You also have standard AE keyframe controls over the animation of every value.
Data Animator’s only real competition is the 3D Chart engine found in Boris Red 3GL. This offers a very limited spreadsheet for data management and its output is more polished than Data Animator’s – though the plug-in offers a higher level of fine control. Both systems are prone to crashing more than AE or the rest of Boris Red. Data Animator is less stable when working with true 3D charts but is more reliable with very large data sets, even chomping through a 200-column sheet.
Boris Red 3GL offers a lot more than 3D charting for its £949, but if you just want to add charting to AE, Data Animator is a must-have.
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