Tuesday, November 26, 2013

How to move tracking data from Autodesk IFFFS to Adobe After Effects

If you are the user of any Autodesk IFFFS (Flame, Smoke, etc.) product and you've wondered, "Gee... how can I get my stabilizer data into After Effects?"... this is your lucky day.

I wrote a Python Script to take a ADSK (Autodesk) stabilizer .ascii file and convert it into a After Effects compatible .txt file.  As this is a not-so-straight forward thing to do... I will explain it in great detail.  Probably more than most you you need... but here goes...

Most all computers (Mac, Windows, Linux) have some version of Python already installed on them.  I will explain the process using a Mac from this point on, but the differences are minimal.

  1. Download the script here.  Place the file where you can find it.  For this example, let's use Downloads.
  2. Open Terminal.  If you have no idea what that means, then press Command-Spacebar to open spotlight and start typing "terminal".  At some point the top hit will be "Terminal" which is a command line shell.  Press Enter to launch the application.  You will see a shell window open.
  3. Let's see what version of Python you are using.  Simply type "python" and press enter.  My computer is running version 2.7.3, but this script should work with anything after 2.5.
  4. To exit the Python interpreter, press Ctrl-D.  you should be returned to the shell prompt.
  5. Type "echo hello" and press enter.  See how fun this is!
  6. Type "say hello" and press enter.  Alright, alright, let's get back to why we are here.
  7. We need to change directory to where the script is.  Type "cd Downloads/adsk_to_ae/" and press enter.
  8. You may need to give permissions to the script to make it executable.  Type "chmod 777 adsk_to_ae.py" and press enter.  The adsk_to_ae.py file can be viewed in any text editor if you are curious what it is doing.
  9. Now we are ready to run the script.  Type "./adsk_to_ae.py" and press enter.
  10. You will see the built-in help instructions followed with the error that says you forgot to specify an input file.  Here you can see the optional parameters as well.  These are needed by After Effects to properly 'map" the data into your comp.
  11. Export your stabilizer data from Flame.  Be sure to export the Track, not the Shift.  Move the resulting .ascii file to the same directory as the script we are using.
  12. I included a sample .ascii file for you to play with.  Type "./adsk_to_ae.py -i pencil_track.ascii" and press enter.
  13. This will create a new text file with _for_after_effects appended to the original file name.

Now we need to get this data into After Effects.
  1. Open the .txt file using some sort of text editor (TextEdit, notepad, TextWrangler, etc.).
  2. SELECT ALL and COPY the text.
  3. Open After Effects and select the layer you are interested in pasting the data into.
  4. Press "p" to reveal the position keyframe data.  Turn off the stop watch thingie to clear out any existing keyframes (After Effects will combine them with what you paste).
  5. PASTE the data.  No, really...  just hit Command-V.
  6. The keyframes will more than likely be off screen.  Zoom the viewer out to find them.
  7. With ALL the keyframes still selected, nudge them into the correct position using the arrow keys.
If you encounter any errors or have any questions, feel free to ask.  You can download the tutorial files I used here.

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