Trails - Help and Documentation

Thanks for checking out Trails! You may want to give the documentation below a little read so you can get the most out of it.


Tips and Tricks

  • The point samples will increase the number of points on the Trail path created. A higher number means more calculations are being done, so careful going too high!

  • Point samples are cumulative - so if you have 4 points in your Trails layer, and your point samples are set to 50, there will be 200 calculations being done!

A good way to get smoother lines is to select your Trail paths in the Appearance group, go to Layer>Mask and Shape Path, and check 'RotoBezier' to on. Unfortunately this can only currently be set by the user!

Panels and Layers

Trails UI

trailspanel1.png

This friendly little panel will appear once you’ve loaded Trails. It’s super simple to use!

  • Click on the Trail icon at the top to create a new set of Trails layers. These will include your Trails controller layer, and a Trail point to get you started. If want to parent your first Trail point to a layer in your composition, select that layer and then hold down shift while you click the Trial icon.

  • Press the + icon to create a new trail point. Make sure you’ve got a Trails control layer selected! If you want to parent your new trail point straight to an existing layer, first select your Trails control layer and then the layer you wish to parent, and then click the + icon.

  • Press the - icon while you’ve got a Trails control layer selected to remove the most recently created point and associated paths. So if you’ve got 3 points on your Trail controller, hitting - will remove Point 3!

  • The ? icon holds some tips and your licensing info. You probably got here by clicking it!

Trails Control Panel

trails effects1-2.png

When you create a new Trails Controller, these effects will appear on it:

  • The Point Control Layer (here called Point 1 Control Layer) lets you choose what your trail will follow. By default it’s set to the Point null that’s created with your trail, but you can change it here to directly follow another layer if you so wish! When you create a new point for your Trails layer, you’ll get a second (or third, or fourth…) Point Control Layer control here.

  • The main Control Panel (OC Trails) houses all of the bits you’ll want to tinker with to create your awesome Trail. There’s more detail below in the Controls section!

Trails Layers

trailslayers1.png

When you create a new Trails layer You’ll get two new layers.

The first one is your main Trails control layer (here: OC Trails 1). It holds all of the shape layers and calculations needed for your Trails!

Inside the Contents, you’ll find two sections:

  • A. The appearance group is all you really need to play with! Use the paths created in here (Here named Point 1 Trail) to apply strokes, effects, or whatever you need to get the look you’re after.

Note: Please don’t change the name of the Trail path, or it may not be able to be deleted if you click the ‘-’ to remove a Trail point!

  • B. You should LEAVE THIS ALONE. That’s why it’s called LEAVE ME ALONE. It holds all of the calculations and base paths needed to create your trails - deleting or changing anything in here could result in expression errors and headaches!

The second layer created will be a null that you can use to create your new Trails (Here: OC Trails 1 - Point 1). Animate this or parent it to wherever you like and let the trails fly! When you create a new Trail point, you’ll get a new null to control the new Point.


Controls

Trail Length

trail-length-comparison1.gif

The Trail Length control is an easy one! The higher the number, the longer the trail. If you go into minus numbers, you can have the trail act as a leading line instead of a trail!

The longer the trail and the faster the movement of the controlling object, the more likely you are to get glitchy lines - you can fix this by raising the point samples!


Point Samples

point-samples1.gif

Essentially, Trails are created by creating points along a path. Each point is calculated with any dynamic effects to create the trail. Therefore, each point is a separate calculation.

The lower the point samples, the faster your trail will be to calculate - but the higher the point samples, the smoother and more accurate your trail will be!

To help smooth out trails, it’s recommended to change your Trail appearance path to Rotobezier mode.

To do this, select your trail appearance path (select your layer, then twirl down into Contents>Appearance>Appearance Paths and select your path (For your first path it’d be called Point 1 Trail).

Then, go to Layer>Layer and Shape Path, and click ‘Rotobezier’. Now your line will be much smoother!

Unfortunately this can’t be set by the script, so you have to do it manually. Sorry! I’ll be looking into solutions.


Offset Trail

trail-OFFSET-comparison1.gif

NEW IN 1.1

Set the offset to a positive number to detach the trail from the back of the point, or use a negative number to move the trail forward.


Dynamic Effects

Velocity Trails

velocity-comparison.gif

Velocity Trails will calculate the velocity of each point along your trail, and then add that velocity to the trail! This can create some great, natural looking trails.

You can set the velocity in a range from -500 to 500. Going into negative numbers will be less accurate, but can achieve a really cool effect.

monocle1
Controls Description
Velocity Trails (Checkbox) Check this on to active velocity calculations!
Velocity Amount (-500 to 500) The amount of velocity to apply to your trails. Experiment with it!
Velocity At Start (0 to 100) How much velocity will be applied at the start of your trails. By default this is 0, as otherwise the trail will separate from the control point!
Velocity At End (0 to 100) How much velocity will be applied to the end of your trails.
Velocity X (checkbox) Disabling this will stop velocity calculations from applying on the X axis.
Velocity Y (checkbox) Disabling this will stop velocity calculations form applying on the Y axis.

Wiggler

wiggle-comparison.gif

The wiggler will apply wiggle to the points on your Trails! You can also add cohesion to the wiggler, so you can have loads of granular control over your Trail!

monocle1
Controls Description
Wiggler (checkbox) Check this on to activate Wiggler calculations.
Wiggles/Second How many wiggles a second you want. Keep this fairly low unless you want really erratic lines!
Wiggle Amount (-500 to 500) The strength of the wiggler. This will react with the Cohesion and Wiggles/Second properties, so it’s normally best used to tweak the result to the strength you want!
Wiggle Cohesion (0 to 100) How cohesive the wiggles will be across your Trails. At 0, each point is wiggling however it wants. At 100, each point will be in sync and the wiggle will happen uniformly across the whole trail.
Wiggle At Start (0 to 100) How much wiggle will be applied at the start of your trails. By default this is 0, as otherwise the trail will separate from the control point!
Wiggle At End (0 to 100) How much wiggle will be applied to the end of your trails.
Wiggle X (checkbox) Disabling this will stop wiggle calculations from applying on the X axis.
Wiggle Y (checkbox) Disabling this will stop wiggle calculations form applying on the Y axis.

Add Movement

movement-comparison.gif

Add Movement will add some linear movement to your Trails - great for adding a little extra, or for using control Points as bases to offset from - great for creating faux smoke, flags, hair, or whatever you fancy!

monocle1
Controls Description
Add Movement (checkbox) Check this on to activate movement calculations.
Movement Direction (x,y) This will let you add directional movement to the X and Y of your Trails. It offsets from the current trail point - so if you want the trail to go down, you’ll want to add positive numbers to the Y. If you want the trail to go up, you add minus numbers to the Y!
Wiggle At Start (0 to 100) How much movement will be applied at the start of your trails. By default this is 0, as otherwise the trail will separate from the control point!
Wiggle At End (0 to 100) How much wiggle will be applied to the end of your trails.

Stick Trail

stick-layer-comparison1.gif

NEW IN 1.1

Stick Trail adds a lot of cool options into Trails! Use it to tie two layers together, create a rope, tentacles, or whatever you can think up!

When you’re using Stick Trail, the parameter that will cause the most obvious changes is the Trail Length. Because the length is now set between two points, changing the length will in effect change the amount of offset applied to the trail. In the example above, you can see how drastic a change you can achieve by just changing the Trail Length.

monocle1
Controls Description
Stick Trail (checkbox) Check this on to stick your Trail to a point or a layer.
Stick Point This will let you set a 2D point in your composition to stick your Trail(s) to!
Stick to Layer (Checkbox) If this is checked, your Trails will stick to a layer of your choosing rather than the Stick Point control.
Stick Layer Choose the layer for your Trail to stick to.

Velocity Based Line Length

Velocity-checkbox-comparison_1.gif

Checking this will modify all dynamic line effects so that they will scale to match the velocity of the Control Point.

In the above example, you can see that the Add Movement effector is causing the Trail to stick out from the Control Point. Checking on ‘Velocity Based Line Length’, the Add Movement is only having an effect while the Control Point is moving!