Arrows following paths?

A place for beginners to start

Arrows following paths?

Postby Torch on 06/14/2009, 11:05 pm

First of all I want to say HI! and thanks for looking over this post to help me out here, I'm just starting to use AE, and i consider it to be a great tool + there are tons of different tuts out there to make things easier for me.
OK, right now I'm kind of stuck with a very very simple thing, I have some maps i got from google maps, and i want to make some videos on how to get from point A to point B, nothing fancy really, just a cool looking arrow that travels trough the streets and that's about it.
So i went checking out the different tuts, and i found that a suggestion to do this was to draw a path (pen tool?) through the streets i wanted to show in the vid, after that i could add a Write on effect using this path.
Also, i think it should look decent too if i could move the map (pretty big area to cover) along the same path.

Here's where i get stuck, i draw the path with the pen tool, select the mask (which makes me wonder if I'm doing it correctly from this point since it doesn't say it's a path, it says it's a mask), and just ctrl+c to copy the points on the path, select the brush position on the write on effect, and ctrl+v; It does paste the points of the mask, but the effect is in a different place, if i move forward in time, I can see it follows the path correctly, but i cannot move it to the correct position, because it just moves the first frame, and after that it just goes back to the other position and goes from there.

OK, and if I try to move the map pasting the points from the mask into the position of the map, it moves it again to a different place, and, if I play the animation, it goes backwards! it start from my end point and ends at the start, and if I try to select the frist animated frame and move it past the end point (to reverse the animation correcty) the moment i go over the last frame, i loose all the in between keyframes and im left only with a straight line between point a to point b.

Well, i hope i could make myself clear enough, english is not my first language.
Thanks for reading this, i hope i can find some help here! :D
Cheers! JZ
Posts: 3
Joined: 06/14/2009, 10:36 pm

Re: Arrows following paths?

Postby ngambles on 06/15/2009, 12:12 am


You can get it done with the 'Write On' but it does get a bit messy when you start copying paths and pasting them into position due to the shift in space and also the timing of keyframes can get all skewed as well. I think you'd have better luck working with the 'Stroke' effect. This is what I'd do...
  • import my map
  • create a new solid the same size as your map
  • turn off the visibility of the layer but keep it selected
  • use pen tool to draw the path
  • turn the visibility of the layer back on
  • apply the Stroke effect to the layer
  • set the setting at the bottom to be "On Transparent"
  • animate the start and end values to get the path to animate

I find myself using the Stroke more often than Write On but there are probably people that are the opposite out there. Whatever works. If these steps were too vague write back with questions and I'll spend more time explaining things.

Hope it helps.

Posts: 1216
Joined: 09/20/2008, 12:47 pm
Location: Colorado Springs, CO USA

Re: Arrows following paths?

Postby muckyman on 06/15/2009, 7:50 am

this tutorial may be what your looking for.
After Effects hates my ram :(
Mylenium said "in this case the problem most likely sits 50cm in front of the computer"
Posts: 875
Joined: 09/27/2008, 12:36 am
Location: UK

Re: Arrows following paths?

Postby Torch on 06/15/2009, 11:35 am

Cool!! thanks both of you guys, I working with both techniques and they both do the job, + I get some new ideas to use them in different projects!

OK, one last thing, If i wanted to add an arrow head in front of the line, that actually turns in the direction the lines are drawn, what would be the best way to do it?

Thanks again! :D
Posts: 3
Joined: 06/14/2009, 10:36 pm

Re: Arrows following paths?

Postby codemonkey123 on 06/15/2009, 12:27 pm

I think you will need to select layer, transform, orient to path. That will do it, although you may need to rotate the layer to get lined up to start with
VC Moderator
VC Moderator
Posts: 1877
Joined: 08/5/2008, 12:57 am

Re: Arrows following paths?

Postby mar_38 on 06/16/2009, 9:33 am

Hi!, it could be great if you can make a video to post , just to see how its done, and how you can move a map at the same time with the arrow...I cant make it work....
Posts: 1
Joined: 06/16/2009, 9:23 am

Re: Arrows following paths?

Postby Torch on 06/17/2009, 5:20 pm

Hi again, well, i wasn't able to make an arrow head follow the stoke path, I even tried with just a plain circle, but when i tried to select the path, it just sat there and did nothing.
Anyways, my next problem is that, i have another layer in the comp, or a precomp, it's just a bullseye rotating and fading, just to pinpoint the area were I'm supposed to show, but, i ran into this problems:

I had a camera, and in the animation, the map went from general (big) to a more particular view, (smallest) just to follow the road marked by the stroke, and reaching my destination.
Well, now if i just scale the map up, the other layer (bullseye) stays in the same position, like in 2d (yeah both layers are 3d) and if i try to move the camera, i have to animate both the position and the point of interest? isn't there an easier way to move the camera around without having to animate both parameters?
In 3d (I'm mostly a 3ds max + vray user) if I wanted to do something similar i just had to select both the camera and the target and move them around the way i wanted.
Thanks for any comments
Posts: 3
Joined: 06/14/2009, 10:36 pm

Re: Arrows following paths?

Postby gregalan on 06/17/2009, 5:28 pm

Hi torch. Don't know if this is of any help?

or this:

it is the first of a series about creating arrows.
Last edited by gregalan on 02/18/2015, 3:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Posts: 3015
Joined: 02/2/2009, 9:52 pm

Re: Arrows following paths?

Postby modio on 02/17/2015, 4:39 pm

We've created a script for After Effects that will do exactly what you're describing. It lets you attach an arrow (or any custom shape) to the front and end of an animating stroke.

Check it out:

Posts: 33
Joined: 05/10/2012, 10:05 am

Return to After Effects Fundamentals (Beginners)