Book of Mormon Title Sequence
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For this assignment (Adobe Gen Pro Animation course, May 2015, Class 4), we were to use After Effects to create a “short animated [title] sequence for a school production or event,” based on Mark Shufflebottom’s tutorial at https://vimeo.com/94950372.
 
I do not currently teach at a school. However, I am a Mormon, so the irreverent Broadway hit musical “The Book of Mormon” immediately came to mind. I am also aware that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints places ads in the musical’s program, stating, “You’ve seen the play; now read the book.” I therefore decided to create a title sequence for the book itself.
 
The skinny: The project opens by stating what the book is not: “No Tony Awards,” “No Singing Missionaries,” “No Broadway Fame.” These “snap” in one at a time and fade to reveal a portion of the first page of the book. One more phrase fades in and states what the book is: “Just a Simple Book that can Change Lives.” All of these fade out to reveal even more of that first page. The page image fades away, and the book title (“The Book of Mormon”) swoops in and introduces the book’s cover with a flash and several other lighting effects. A glow begins to pulse around the book, the invitation “Coming soon to a neighborhood near you” appears, and the scene fades out.
Project Setup
Following the advice of other After Effects tutorials, I initially set up the main composition as HD/HDTV 720 @ 25fps. As discussed later in this post, I eventually changed the timing to 29.97fps, due to certain effects that were choppy even at 25fps.
 
I initially set the Duration to 15s, but this grew as I shaped the project. It now stands at 40s, which means 1,000 frames @ 25fps or 1,200 frames @ 29.97fps. The final MP4 file size is around 49MB.
 
For the background color, I captured the book cover’s dark blue (#090915) from a photo I took of the book.
Book Cover and Background Texture Images
The musical has made the book title famous (or perhaps infamous), but relatively few know what the book itself actually looks like. Its cover therefore plays an important role in a title sequence such as this, and including it allowed me to make the project far more interesting.
 
Google searches for reusable (CC) media turned up Book of Mormon cover images that were either warped, too light in color, or non-English. I decided instead to use my own images, which also gave me complete freedom to manipulate them as I wish.
 
I took photos of the book’s cover and first page against a sheet of white paper. In Photoshop, I then:
 
- Cut out the book cover and “straightened” the slightly skewed shot, using Edit / Fill / Content-Aware to fill in the skew “slivers” around the image. (The image was skewed just enough to be annoying; this was actually easier to fix by filling in the edges than by trying to apply an exact rotation.)
 
- Applied a Levels Adjustment to clean up the shadows (28) and highlights (228).
 
- Captured the dark blue color of the cover (#090915) and the gold color of the text (#FCF794).
 
- Cut out a small dark blue rectangle from the cover, and then filled a new 1280 x 720 image with this pattern to use as a background texture later in the timeline.
 
I also tried to find out which font the book publisher uses on the cover. I could not find a precise answer, but Palatino seemed to be a perfect match. To maintain consistency throughout the project, I used this font, along with the gold color noted above, for all text elements.
Opening Text
I wanted to announce the book by drawing on the fame of the musical.
 
I first announce what the book is not (“No Tony Awards,” “No Singing Missionaries,” “No Broadway Fame”), followed by what it is (“Just a Simple Book that can Change Lives”).
 
The first three phrases fly in and “snap” into place. For each:
 
- Tracking (distance between characters; orange curve) starts very wide, so that each phrase extends well beyond both sides of the canvas. I drop it from 100 to 0 within 1s, “snapping” the phrase into place via an “anti-easing” strategy that accelerates the end of the effect. To achieve this, I changed each ending keyframe’s Interpolation to Continuous Bezier and then manually ramped up the end of its execution curve in the Graph Editor. (Note in the first graph image above how the yellow handle on the second Tracking keyframe is straight up, rather than horizontal like the handle on the first keyframe.)
 
- Opacity (blue curve) snaps from 0% to 100% within that same 1s, and then slowly eases back to 0% after another 4s. (Note the difference in the shapes of the blue curve’s rise and fall.)
 
- The next phrase in line starts up 2s after the current phrase snaps in.
The overall effect is that each phrase flies in from nowhere, snaps into place, and then smoothly fades away while the next phrase is flying in. Furthermore, as discussed below, as each phrase fades away it leaves behind an outline through which you can see the book’s first page. This overlapping animation helps maintain viewer interest.
 
The last phrase does not fly or snap in. It instead eases in (2s) and then eases out (2s). This helps emphasize the difference from the previous phrases (what the book is versus what it is not).
Opening Text Mask
I achieve the text outline effect via text masking. For each phrase, as the gold text fades out, a text mask fades in and reveals part of the book’s first page. To set up this effect, I:
 
- Finalized the font setting and screen positions for all four phrases.
 
- Copied and pasted them, creating a duplicate set of layers.
 
- Moved the duplicate set into a Pre-Composition (“Init Txt PreC”), and moved this new layer directly under the four “main” text layers. (Note: A “Pre-Composition” acts much the same as a Symbol in Edge Animate or a Group in Photoshop. I think Adobe should decide on one name for this concept and proliferate it across all products!)
 
- Created a layer for the page image (“1 Nephi 1 TMat”), moved this layer directly under the text Pre-Comp, and assigned its TrkMat to the Alpha Matte for the text Pre-Comp. This automatically turned off the visibility of the text Pre-Comp and turned it into a mask (actually, a collection of four text masks): The page image could now peek through the grouped text elements.
 
However, just because the Pre-Comp was now being used only as a mask and was no longer “visible,” this did not mean it was dead. Although that layer only showed the page image as seen through its text masks, I could still change how much of that page image showed through by controlling each text mask’s Opacity and effects. Specifically, for each of the four text masks:
 
- Mask Opacity eases in from 0% to 100% over 1s, starting immediately after its gold “main” counterpart begins to fade away.
 
- A strong Mask Outer Glow (Spread 5.0%, Size: 120.0) allows the page image surrounding the text mask to show through. I start this glow at 10% Opacity and ease it very slowly to 50% over 5s.
 
The overall effect is that each gold “main” text element snaps (or fades) in; as it fades out, it subtly trades places with its mask counterpart, which slowly “grows stronger” and reveals more of the page.
 
By the time all four text masks are up, about half of the page is visible through them. I then fade out the entire masked page image over 2s while a non-mask copy takes its place...
Page Image and Vignette
I wanted a complete image of the page to fade in, while the masked image faded out, and to fill in the areas the text masks did not show. I also wanted to give this complete page image a vignette effect, similar to that demonstrated by Mark S. in his video.
 
I first set up the vignette effect. I created another Pre-Comp containing its own page image layer (“1 Nephi 1”), and I overlaid that layer with a Black Solid, Inverted Ellipse with a broad Feather (206px). After Effects treats such an Ellipse as a mask. The inverted mask allows the page image to peek through the inside of the Ellipse and fade out beyond its edges, creating the vignette effect.
 
I then set the Opacity for the entire Pre-Comp to ease in over 3s, but only up to 60% and then back out again. I also set this fade-in to start just before the text image Pre-Comp masks begin to fade out.
 
The overall effect is that the page image “softly” fills in what the text masks did not reveal, and stays just long enough to show the scriptural nature of the book.
Swooping Title
I wanted the title of the book to “swoop” from the fading page image to the canvas, where it would land on an image of the book cover and precisely overlay the title there. I wanted it to start from so close in that a single letter would fill the screen, and then zoom out on an arc coming from underneath (first down and then up), rather than from overhead (first up and then down). I also wanted the book cover to remain hidden until the title arrived, and then have the title “snap” into place at the end of the arc and reveal the whole book cover in a flash of light.
 
To create the down-up arc effect, I had to set up specialized keyframe transformations for both Position and Scale. It is not enough to start huge and then simply Scale down the text size, because that makes the text appear to travel along an up-down arc. It is also not enough to assign desired beginning and ending Scale and Position values and then expect After Effects to do what you want, because in that case the default behavior makes the text appear to travel along an arc that bounces, i.e., up, then down, then back up, then quickly down at the end. I had to manually experiment with and tweak both Position and Scale arcs to find a balance that would make the title appear to travel only down-up. I also had to experiment with the Speed Graphs (right-click on a keyframe curve and choose Edit Speed Graph) to get the arcing text to snap into place without bouncing at the end or even turning upside-down. Creating this type of effect seems to require considerable patience and artistry.
 
As to the text itself, I first set its properties so that at 100% Scale it precisely overlays the text on the book cover image. This turned out to be a font size of 52px with a paragraph “Space After” value of (-16). I then set the starting Scale to 4000%. This seemed to be just right, since higher values flattened the down-up arc too much, and lower values made the arc dip too far. I also set the Opacity to grow very slowly, from 0 to 100 over 8s, but snapping into place at the end.
 
Once the text arrives, a series of light effects announce the book cover, as described in the next section.
 
The overall effect is that as the page image fades out, the title subtly fades in. It first appears as two gigantic columns connected by a bar, all of which surround the fading page image. This structure begins to move down and reveals itself as the letter “H,” which then becomes the word “THE.” However, this word continues to drive down, even as it shrinks. THE what, you wonder? Please, tell us! The word finally starts moving upwards and reveals the answer word by word, faster and faster, until it snaps onto the canvas and triggers a flash of light, which reveals the book cover.
Text Effects and Ending
I wanted to use a variety of lighting effects to announce the book and to highlight various aspects of it.
 
Right before the swooping text lands, I fire off a fast (8 frames), high-Intensity (125.0) CC Light Wipe effect that radiates out from the center and snaps open an image of the book cover with a flash. This effect normally hides what it wipes; I turned on Reverse Transition so it would reveal the book instead of hide it.
 
At this point, I also ramped the project up to 29.97fps; even at 25fps, the Light Wipe effect was choppy due to it completing so quickly.
 
Immediately on the heels of the Light Wipe comes a CC Light Sweep. This effect passes a bar of light over its object and makes it look shiny. I kept the default diagonal angle (-30) and set its Center to start slowly from upper-right and accelerate to lower-left.
 
At the same time the Light Sweep starts, a CC Light Burst 2.5 begins to descend from above the book and continues until it eases halfway down. This effect warps its object so that it appears to emanate light. In this case, as it descends, I increase its Ray Length until it peaks at 50 and then drops back down to 0.
 
The overall effect is that the Light Sweep brings the Light Burst in its wake, highlighting all of the text on the book cover.
 
The tail end of the Light Burst eases into a CC Light Rays effect. This effect shoots out thin rays of light from a central focal point. I quickly raise its intensity to 200, start it rotating, and then over 8s complete a full 360-degree rotation and drop its intensity back to 0. I center the effect on the name of the Lord to emphasize His importance to and connection with the book.
 
While the Light Rays dwindle, I bring in an Outer Glow around the book cover image, slowly increase its Opacity up to 75%, and then set it to pulse between 75% and 50% until the end.
 
While the Outer Glow is pulsing, I ease the invitation text (“Coming soon to a neighborhood near you”) in and out.
 
The sequence ends with everything easing out to black.
Book of Mormon Title Sequence
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Book of Mormon Title Sequence

“The Book of Mormon” musical has a plethora of marketing media. What about the book itself? This project uses After Effects to create a short tit Read More
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