Top 10 After Effects tutorials with journalism applications

Recently, After Effects has become one of my favorite programs to play around in. I admit, I am pretty much in love with typography and infographics, so becoming enamored with AE was the next logical step. However, the majority of tutorials out there are focused on special effects for film or title screens. Here are some of my favorite tutorials that I believe could have some sort of journalism applications.

Rhythmic Motion Typography

My friend Shaminder is convinced that this is overdone, but I still enjoy the effect. You’ve seen it in everything from Ford commercials to the initial Cee Lo Green F*ck You music video (not to be confused with Skee-lo).

Animated homage to Bruce Lee

An extension of the previous tutorial, this one includes additional animation and camera moves along with the kinetic typography.

Cinematic opening title

This tutorial shows you how to utilize scripts in After Effects to pair an effect with some external file or database to create an interesting 3D fly-through effect. It could be paired with something as mundane as text from a speech, or perhaps graduating seniors and their senior quotes, or something as serious as a list of casualties from Iraq. Koci used it to great effect in his Interrupted Lives piece on Iran (the effect is just about 1:00 in).

Dynamic Bar Graphs

This one seems straightforward enough … You could use it to add a little interest/graphics to an issue story filled with numbers.

Map your destination

This tutorial has arrows jumping from point to point as you move along in your travels. I’m not sure just what I would use it for yet, but hopefully you have a story that it would be useful in. Similar to this is the Trim paths tutorial, that features an animated red dashed line instead of arrows.

Motion tracking your golf swing

I doubt you are going to be filming a golf video anytime soon, but motion tracking comes in handy for a number of things, from effects like this (if you were profiling an athlete for an all-state prep sports feature) to using it for image stabilization.

Twixtor faux-slow motion tutorial

Twixtor (a $300 plugin for After Effects) takes video shot at 60fps and slows it down to 1000 or even 2000 fps. The tutorial gives some guidelines on how best to shoot prior to importing into After Effects, and then what settings are recommended once you are using the plugin. There also exists a built-in plugin called Time Warp, though I read that its algorithms are not as sophisticated and result in more artifacting when video is slowed down.

Endlessly zoom into your own Droste Effect

This one just seems fun.

Bend flash video in After Effects

This tutorial shows you how to take a flash video and bend it around the geometry of an object that you have in a background photo. I could imagine using something like this if I was trying to build out a landing page and had some sort of looping intro video that I wanted to appear integrated into the scene.

Virtual 3D Photos

This tutorial reminds me of the sort of movements seen in the RJD2 music video for 1976 on MediaStorm … or perhaps of those NBA Where Amazing Happens commercials. It involves cutting up a still image into different layers and having them move at different speeds in relation to each other.

Making your first map

Maps are an increasingly popular tool to help add interactive content and provided added value to stories that might not lend themselves to other forms of multimedia. Unfortunately, the reality at most small market papers is that there is no budget for a web team, let alone someone who specializes in databases, code, etc. Luckily, you don’t have to be familiar with Mapnik or know your way around Google Maps API to produce an interactive map.

Google My Maps

To create your first map, load Google Maps. You will click on the My Maps link near the upper-left, and then, if you are signed in to your Google account, select “Create new map.” (If you are not signed in, there will be an introductory video, and a button to Get started.) You then select create new map to start working on your map.

Step 1

To add a point to the map, click on the Add a Placemark button on the top-left of the map area (see red arrow in image below), and then click the location on the map where you want to add the placemark. A infobox will pop up, allowing you to enter a title for the placemark (which will then show up in the left sidebar) and any additional information. As you can see below, I added three placemarks to my map, and am able to add a description to each using either plain text, rich text, or html. Using html, I can include images, embed related video, add links, etc.

Step 2

Now that we have added a few placemarks, we have the beginnings of a map that is polished enough to put with a story. However, the generic placemark icon is not that informational, and sometimes it is useful to vary the color if you have different types of locations (restaurants, parks, schools, etc.) To change a placemark, first click on a location to bring up the infobox. Then, click on the placemark icon on the upper-right corner of the infobox. The infobox should now display the default set of icons with My Maps. Select a new icon that is appropriate for the location.

Step 3 Step 4

For the most basic of maps, the default My Maps icons will be adequate. However, it is likely that you will soon find yourself looking for an icon that is not there. For that, you can go to the Google Maps icons collection on the Google code site.


To add your new custom icon to your My Map, you will need that icon’s url. Either download it from the icons collection site and upload it to your own space, or right click on the icon and copy the image location. Now, go back to your map, and select the placemark in the upper-right corner of the infobox as you did previously. This time, click on Add an icon, in the upper-right. It will ask you for a url for your icon. Paste in the location of your custom icon (either where you are hosting it, or the url that you got by copying image location from the icons collection page). You know have a map with custom icons and embedded photos, video and links … but you are not quite done yet.


The problem with My Maps is that, when you embed your map into a page, you lose the left sidebar which lists the locations you have added to the map. While this is not a problem for a map with only four entries, it can be difficult to navigate on a map with multiple entries, especially because you do not know what each location is without clicking on it.

View Garden City in a larger map

Map Channels

To remedy the problem of the missing sidebar, you can import your map into Map Channels. Once in Map Channels, you can link a Map Channels map to any number of Google My Maps. You simply enter in a map’s MSID number (found by clicking on the “Link” button on your Google map, and then copying the html link. At a certain point it will say msid= the following sequence is the MSID) to pair a Google map with a Map Channel map.

Final Cut Tutorial – Lower Thirds

The latest Final Cut screencasts cover adding a simple lower thirds to your project and creating a lower thirds template for use in multiple projects. If you know of a better way to create a lower thirds template within Final Cut (not using Motion or LiveType) please let me know. I managed to find a way to create one from my own experimenting and am not sure if it is the best way to do so.

When viewing in full screen I would recommend watching in HD in order to make out the text.

Adding lower thirds to your project:

Creating a lower thirds template: