Hey everyone, this is Owen with Motion Array and in this tutorial I’ll be showing you how to make a double helix animation. Alright, let’s get started.
How To Create A Double Helix In Adobe After Effects
This text has been transcribed from the video for optimal reading
Begin by making a new composition that’s 1920x1080 29.97. Inside the new composition create a new shape layer (Layer > New > Shape Layer) and name it “Helix”. Using the pen tool draw a line centered to the composition. Turning on the grid and snap to grid functions helps greatly with this (found in View). This will create a group within the shape layer called Shape 1, let’s change that to “Line 1”. Delete the fill that is created and move the stroke out of the group (Line 1) and drag it below the group. In the stroke settings set the width to 15 and the line cap to Round Cap. Add a Zig Zag to the shape layer and place it just above the stroke. In the zig zag settings change the Size to 125 and the Rides per segment to 2. Now add a Trim Paths and place it just above the stroke. In the trim paths settings change the End to 67%. Duplicate the Line 1 group and go into the duplicate’s transform properties and set the Y scale to -100% (this flips it vertically). Now you should have the base of the double helix.
With the base made, it’s time to start animating. We’re going to create a loop so that this can go on for as long as we need it to. At frame 0 set a keyframe on the Offset of the Trim Paths. Then at frame 30 set another keyframe with a value of 118 degrees. This is right before the path starts to loop back to the beginning. If your value is different, that’s fine. Create a new solid (Layer > New > Solid) and make it comp sized (make sure it’s a different color than your stroke). Set the opacity of the solid to 35% or so, we want to be able to see through it but also still see it for reference. Scale the solid in the X dimension so that it’s the same width as the helix and then center it to the composition. Using the solid as reference, move the position of the helix into the center of the composition at frame 30 and set a position keyframe. Move the playhead to frame 0 and repeat the process. You can delete or turn off the reference solid. Now we have our looping double helix.
Create a new shape layer and draw a vertical line centered to the comp. Delete the fill created and set the stroke width to 7. Rename the layer “Small Lines”. Move the small lines layer to the right until it’s inset from the edge of the double helix a reasonable amount (maybe 15 pixels). Add a repeater to the Small Lines layer and in the repeater’s transform properties set the X position to 28. Add copies to the repeater until it fills up the width of the helix (for me it was 34). Create a new solid that’s comp sized and move it so that it’s left edge lines up with the left edge of the helix at frame 0. Drop it’s opacity some so you can see through for reference. Name the solid “Helix Matte”. Draw a mask for the center oval created by the helix. Duplicate the mask and move the duplicates to fill in the other openings. Parent the Helix Matte to the Helix layer. Move the playhead to frame 30 and duplicate the mask one more time to fill in the newest gap created by the helix. Bring the opacity back to 100% on the Helix Matte and drag it so it’s just above the Small Lines. Set the track matte of the small lines to Alpha Matte.
The animation is all done now, but now let’s set it to loop. Select all the layers and go to Layer > Pre-compose. Name the precomp “Helix Animated” and hit okay. Right click on the Helix Animated precomp and go to Time > Enable Time Remapping. By default it sets a keyframe at frame 0 and the last frame of the comp so that time is not altered. Move the playhead to frame 30 and set a keyframe on the Time Remap property. Then delete the keyframe at the end of the layer. Option (alt) + click on the Time Remap stopwatch to add an expression. Using the add button go to Property > loopOutDuration. Now the animation will loop for as long as you need it to.
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