Claymation Effect Help

The following article is based on the transcript of the Claymation Effect video tutorial. Note that template instructions can also be found inside the Claymation Effect template, in the "Instructions" comp, and in layer marker notes.

What is the Claymation Effect template?
Claymation Effect is an After Effects template for CS5 and up. The template allows users to transform their video footage or other media into a realistic stop-motion clay animation. After dropping in your footage, photo, text, cartoon, or logo, you can instantly export a finished claymation look. Or, you can customize the look of the claymation by using convenient slider controls.

First Step - Importing and Preparing Footage
To import your footage into After Effects, go to the File menu, then choose Import, then choose File. Locate and open your footage. In the Project panel, drag your footage clip into the comp in the Project panel named Your Footage. The Your Footage comp will open automatically, and you will see your clip. If your footage needs any brightness or color correction adjustments, do that in this comp. Keep in mind that your clay animation will look more realistic on footage that is not too busy or detailed. Simple 2D animations work especially well with the Claymation Effect.

Customizing the Claymation Effect
In the Project panel, double-click the comp named "Claymation" to open it. Your footage will appear as clay, and you can export it as it is, or you can customize the effect using the Control Layer. Select the Control Layer at the top of the timeline, then look in your Effect Controls panel to see the customization controls.

The first control, Detail Radius, allows you to set the detail level of the clay animation. Decrease the value to add more detail. The value ranges from 0-40.

The checkbox control named Stack Clay allows you to imitate multiple layers of clay stacked on top of each other. Unchecking this control will give the appearance of the layers of clay all laying flat on a single plane, and fitting together like puzzle pieces.

The Layer Position Variation control allows you to set the maximum number of pixels that each of the six clay layers can move on each frame. The clay layers randomly wiggle on every frame to add to the crude hand-made appearance.

The Texture Contrast control allows you to slightly boost the contrast of clay texture.

The Use Colors from Footage checkbox control allows you to either implement the same colors from your footage into your clay animation, or assign unique colors to each clay layer.

The Color & Threshold section of controls allow you to assign single unique colors to each individual clay layer, when the Use Colors from Footage checkbox is not checked. A Threshold control also exists for each clay layer. These controls let you expand or contract the clay areas.

The Turbulent Displace Controls allow you to apply a random warp or unevenness to the clay layers. This makes the edges of the clay layers less straight and more bumpy, making the clay animation look more crude and realistic.

The Shadows & Bevels section of controls allow you to adjust the 3D depth of the clay animation by customizing shadows and highlights on the clay layers.

Stop-Motion Effect
The third layer in the comp is the Stop Motion Effect. This effect gives the clay animation a choppy look by lowering the frame rate. It also adds subtle variation to the position, scale, rotation, and exposure of each frame, making the claymation look more handmade. To customize the effect, select the layer and adjust the controls in the Efffect Controls panel. Note that the Stop-Motion Effect is turned off by default because it can cause very long processing delays in After Effects Creative Cloud. I recommend that you leave the Stop Motion Effect layer turned off while you use the Control Layer to customize the effect, and then turn the layer on (by unhiding it) when you are ready to customize the Stop Motion Effect, or render your final video. The first frame may take a long time to load with the layer on, but after the first frame loads, the rest of the comp should load at a normal speed.