After Effects tutorial: Animate a 'falling-to-earth' zoom effect

Use Google Earth with Adobe After Effects to make thrilling ‘falling-from- space' sequences.

Google Earth has amazed us all with its tremendous potential – but what if we want to take things one step further and make a zoom- in animation from its satellite photos?

It’s possible, and means you can bring a typical Hollywood effect straight to your desktop. To start, you’ll need ten screengrabs from Google Earth over the same area, each from a different altitude.

Yuo can download the captures used here in the right-hand column, but feel free to roll your own. The masterclass will take you through the process of setting up these photos to forge one big satellite photo that doesn’t lose quality as you zoom in.

The captures have been labelled 1.jpg, 2.jpg and so on, with 1.jpg being the highest altitude photo and 10.jpg being the lowest.

Step 1
In After Effects, create a new composition (Composition > New Composition) and name it Heaven. Select PAL D1/DV or NTSC D1 depending on your country, and set the Duration to 00:00:06:00.

Now import the ‘Footage’ folder from the CD containing the Google Earth screengrabs. (Ctrl/Cmd + I, select the folder, click on Import Folder, then OK). Select all the images that you’ve just imported (1.jpg – 10.jpg) and drag them in your composition timeline, stacking them down from 10.jpg to 1.jpg.

Step 2
To create a usable area, mask off any on-image graphics. Double-click on layer 1.jpg to open up the Layer Window and use a rectangular mask to isolate the usable area of the image. Now, hit M while leaving layer 1.jpg selected, and copy this mask to all other layers (Ctrl/Cmd + C, then select all other layers, and hit Ctrl/Cmd + V).

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