14. Add a new null object, then add a new camera with a 35mm preset. Make sure the Null Object is a 3D layer, then select the Camera layer and press P to reveal the position properties. Use the Pickwhip tool to parent the camera to the null object – individual pickwhips are found adjacent to the keyframable properties; their icon is a spiral.

15. Highlight the text layer, then double-click on the Rectangular Layer Mask tool in the toolbar. Play with the Mask Feather and Mask Expansion settings so that the edges of the lens flare are not as obvious when viewing the scene through the Custom Views. The aim is to simply feather the edges but retain the detail. Keyframe the opacity of the layer from 0 to 100% in the frames immediately before the flare appears, and the back to 0 after the particles have gone.

16. Animate the Position properties of the null object over the course of the timeline, and arrange the shorter text composition so that it appears near the middle of the timeline. Adjust the Y Rotation similarly to achieve a camera move around the revealed text. Hold Alt/Opt and click on the Position property of the camera to add an expression. Type in “wiggle(.5, 50)” to add a little life to the camera move.


Use a null object to control your camera. Although it seems counter-intuitive to add an extra layer of abstraction in this way, it opens up possibilities for easy automated camera moves by using simple scripting to move the null object relative to the individual layers in your composition. We’ll examine this in more detail next month.

Who: Sam Hampton-Smith is an illustrator and graphic designer based in Scotland. He’s a regular author of articles and tutorials for the graphic and web-design press, and also keeps a meagrely updated blog. He’s an aspiring musician and lover of good food, and a big fan of everything typography related.
Contact: www.ohwrite.co.uk
Software: Adobe After Effects
Time to complete: 1 – 2 hours