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Designing with Brainstorm

Background design is often an art of subtle experimentation. Although you can certainly leave this task up to your own brain, After Effects contains an artificial intelligence solution called Brainstorm, which can create multiple temporary variants of your composition. These choices are presented to you and can be applied or selected for further modification.

The whole process relies on genetic algorithms that mutate selected properties. Simply make the properties you want to modify visible in the Timeline panel. You can select multiple items by holding down the Command (Ctrl) key and clicking. Brainstorm works on keyframes, numeric values, or options in a menu. Brainstorm can quickly modify multiple properties to create all new animations.

  1. Set the work area and region of interest for the area you'd like to preview. Use a shorter area to speed up the process.
  2. Select one or more properties or property groups you want to randomize in the Timeline panel. Then click the Brainstorm button at the top of the Timeline panel (Figure 7.27).
    Figure 7.27

    Figure 7.27 Although it's often overlooked, Brainstorm is a quick way to jumpstart the creative process.

  3. Brainstorm creates multiple variant compositions, which play inside the Brainstorm dialog box simultaneously. You can control playback with the buttons at the bottom of the Brainstorm dialog box (play, pause, or rewind).
  4. Move your mouse pointer over each preview to see controls for each variant (Figure 7.28):
    Figure 7.28

    Figure 7.28

    A Maximize Tile

    B Save As New Composition

    C Apply To Composition

    D Include In Next Brainstorm

    • Click a variant's Maximize Tile button to see a larger size. Click the Restore Tile Size button to return to the grid.
    • If you want to save a variant as a possibility, click the Save As New Composition button for that variant (the disk icon).
    • To apply a variant, click the Apply to Composition button (the check mark icon).
    • To include a variant in the next Brainstorm operation, click the Include In Next Brainstorm button for that variant (the thought bubble icon).

The beauty of Brainstorm is that you can continue to evolve your options. At the bottom of the window is a Brainstorm button. Click it to generate even more options. Any variants marked with the Include In Next Brainstorm button will carry forward and new ones will join them. If you'd like to increase the amount of randomness with each iteration, increase the Randomness or Spread slider. You can also move backward or forward through your variations by clicking the arrow buttons on either side of the Brainstorm button at the bottom of the Brainstorm dialog box.

Keep in mind that you have three choices with Brainstorm. You can save multiple variants as compositions (click the Save As New Composition button). You can apply a single variant to the selected composition (click the Apply to Composition button). Or, you can exit Brainstorm without applying changes (press the Esc key).

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