In this tutorial we’re taking a different approach altogether to create procedural motion graphics from an audio layer. It’s a little bit more work, but it gives you a wonderfully organic look that responds visibly to the audio and can work as the basis for many motion-graphics projects.

Instead of using a filter to get the audio levels, we’re going to create keyframes from the audio source and use these to power a couple of other effects; you won’t need any software beyond the standard After Effects filter tools to complete the project.

You will need to choose an audio file from your own library to work with however. We suggest something with a wide dynamic range for best results – Sam Hampton-Smith used AC/DC’s Thunderstruck for his version of the project.

Step 1
Create a new composition and import an audio file of your choosing. It’s worth looking for a file that has a good wide dynamic range; periods of silence between drumbeats work especially well with this effect. Once your audio file is imported into the project, drag it down into the composition layers.

Step 2
Highlight the layer and choose Animation > Keyframe Assistant > Generate Audio Keyframes. You’ll see three slider-effect controls added to a null layer, and if you scrub along the timeline you’ll be able to observe the slider values changing to match the levels of audio output from the track you’ve chosen. Delete the Left and Right channel sliders – we don’t need them.

Step 3
Create a new solid layer by choosing Layer > New > Solid. Choose any colour you like, but make sure you set the solid to be the same size as the composition. In the Effects & Presets panel, find the Wave World effect and drag it onto your new solid layer. Change the Effect View property to Height Map.

Step 4
The Wave World effect simulates water. We’ll set the amplitude of the waves that are generated from the audio levels we’ve output from our music file. The amplitude is the height of the wave. You can change the frequency of the waves, but to begin with Alt/Opt + click on the Amplitude property under Producer 1 and reveal the effect properties.