French Developer Motion Boutique Unveils a Way to Quickly Turn Your 2D Layers into Keyframed Animations

Last weekend filmmaker Stu Maschwitz wrote on his Prolost blog about a new plug-in that looked like it had finally solved a cumbersome workflow problem for those hoping to animate the layers of their comps in After Effects. “Literally a thousand years ago I wrote a post titled ‘Dear some nerd: Please port the Box2D open-source  physics engine to an Adobe After Effects Script,'” he said. Well, as Maschwitz points out, some French nerds may have done it.
Essentially, Newton turns each 2D layer in an AE comp into a rigid body within a new environment. You simply bring your comp into Newton’s OpenGL preview simulation to set and control the parameters, then hit “Solve.” So what’s the big deal? If you tried to do what Newton seems able to do in mere minutes, you’d spend hours if not days trying to replicate the same effect.

Two developers from Motion Boutique, Newton’s creators, gave a demo of the new tool on May 11 in Paris at Adobe Creative Week. Given the conference location, the demo is in the developers’ native tongue. My French is rusty, but the tool’s interface is easy to decipher from the demo and reveals a lightning-fast 2D physics solver that is intuitive to use and just as intuitive to set up. I did, however, understand from the presenters that the tool is in the final stages of beta testing and should be released shortly, possibly within a week or two.

The demo showed animations created with manipulated shapes, as well as a more complex scene involving a type treatment and textured background. Opening the plug-in within After Effects is straightforward. First, you need to create a mask on your comp and open the Composition drop-down menu; the plug-in appears at the bottom of the list. The objects in your comp appear in a list in another window below an OpenGL preview, as do scales and pop-ups for setting the object’s type, color, the magnitude and direction of its gravity, its linear and angular velocity, and its friction, bounciness and level of mesh precision. But before you fine tune, you’ll need to set the type of movement, whether static, kinetic, dynamic, dormant, dead or AEmatic movement (I defer to French speakers to decode what this means from the demo). Selecting more than one object at once groups your objects’ behaviors. Then, hit the “Solve” button and watch what Newton has just animated for you in the preview window. When you render it out to AE, the resulting animation is recreated using standard keyframes. You can also add motion blur and create a new comp from within the render dialog box.

In addition to the demo, Motion Boutique has posted a short promo on vimeo that shows you more of what this new physics engine can do:

Newton for Adobe After Effects, first tech demo. from motionboutique on Vimeo.

If this looks interesting to you, follow Motion Boutique on Twitter or subscribe to their e-newsletter (in French or English) and be the first to know when the plug-in arrives.