I’ve been working on a new After Effects script (probably going to end up as a UI Panel, actually) designed to automate the process of building an animated timeline. Before you get too confused: when I say “timeline” I mean “a graphic display of years of history” not the program timeline. I work on a lot of history documentaries, and being able to snap things to years should make life a lot easier.
If the only thing you do is give it a start and end year, you get:
- Year, decade and/or 5-year tick marks
- Year and decade text labels (with optional BCE labels if you need to go back that far!)
- A snazzy controller null that lets you zoom through the whole timeline without leaving the frame window
- Display settings so you can resize elements for different looks, offset the ends of the timeline from the edges of the screen, and switch between center and bottom aligned tick marks
…and all you have to do is type in two numbers!
But wait, there’s more! Once you’ve created a timeline, there are a bunch more fun things you can add to it:
- Eras — screen-height regions that span a set of years. You can add section headers and set images or video as backgrounds
- Events — flag important events and have them automatically snap to the year they happened
- Link any layer to a year in time and have it stay in place — even if you change the start or end dates
- Auto-fade out the smaller details when you zoom out for a wider view
Would you use a tool like this? Any other features on your wishlist?