How To Create A Penrose Triangle in Adobe After Effects

How To Create A Penrose Triangle in Adobe After Effects from Motion Array on Vimeo.


Hey everyone, this is Owen with Motion Array and in this tutorial I’ll be showing you how to create a penrose triangle. Since a penrose triangle is an impossible object we’ll have to do some creative problem solving to make this work. Alright, let’s get started.

How To Create A Penrose Triangle In Adobe After Effects

This text has been transcribed from the video for optimal reading

You can also download the project file and follow along.  Download it here!

Begin by making a new composition (1920x1080, 29.97fps, 600 frame duration) and name it “Penrose Triangle”. Our first step here is going to be making a cube which will be the basis of the entire animation. Go to Layer > New > Shape Layer and using the add button add a Rectangle and a Fill. In the Rectangle Path settings change the size to 450. You can change the fill to whatever you like. Rename the layer “Side 1” and make it a 3D layer. Duplicate Side 1 twice so that you have two more shape layers (“Side 2” and “Side 3”). We’re only going to make 3 sides because that’s all that will be visible. Change the fill on the two new sides so that they are all different from each other. On Side 2 use the anchor point tool(Y) to move the anchor point all the way to the top of the layer (holding CMD will snap it to edges). Change the X Orientation to 90 degrees. On Side 3 use the anchor point tool(Y) to move the anchor point all the way to the right side of the layer. Change the Y Orientation to 90 degrees. Go to Layer > New > Null Object. Name the null “Control” and make it 3D. Change the Z Position of the the Control null to 225 (half of 450) so that it’s in the center of the cube. Parent all 3 sides to the Control null. On the Control null change the Y Orientation to 55 degrees and the Z Orientation to 45 degrees. Now you can see the cube! The cube is showing a little perspective warp so to combat that we’ll make a new camera that’s got a strong zoom. Go to Layer > New > Camera. In the camera settings change the type to One-Node Camera and the Focal Length to 1000mm. This will eliminate any of the perspective warp. With no layers selected use the pen tool to draw a line that follows the edges of the cube (it’ll end up being two separate paths). Name the new shape layer “Lines” and in the shape contents delete the fill. In the stroke settings set the width to 25 and change the color to whatever you like. Toggle the Preserve Underlying Transparency button on the Lines shape layer. This will make the lines only visible where the layers below it are. Now the cube is done. Highlight all the layers and go to Layer > Precompose. Name the new comp “Cube” and hit okay.

Pull up the scale of the Cube comp and change it to 40%. Pull up the position of the Cube comp and set a keyframe at frame 0 for 960, 290. At frame 100 change the position to 1255, 800. At frame 200 change the position to 665, 800. At frame 300 bring the position back to 960, 290. Highlight all the keyframes and right click on one and go to Keyframe Interpolation and under Spatial Interpolation select Linear. This will make the cube move in a straight triangular path. Select the Cube comp and go to Layer > Precompose. Name the new comp “Cube Animation” and make sure “Move all attributes…” is selected.

With the Cube Animation comp selected go to Effect > Time > Echo. In the Echo settings change the Number of Echoes to 300 and the Echo Operator to Composite in Front. This gives us the “extrusion” of the cube. Now this is where we run into the problem with an impossible object. We want the end of the animation to go behind the beginning but that’s not how it layers with the echo. To get around this we’ll have to get a little creative. Duplicate the Cube Animation comp. Rename the duplicate “Front” and right click on it and go to Time > Enable Time Remapping. At frame 75 place a keyframe on the Time Remap property. Then go to the keyframe at the end of the timeline for Time Remap and delete it. This stops the animation of the duplicate at frame 75. Now, using the pen tool draw a mask on the Front layer so that it just covers where the animation ends. Now we’ve got a full animating penrose triangle!

Now to get really fancy we’ll add some nice easing to the animation. To do this I’m going to pre render the animation. So I’ll go to Composition > Add to Render Queue. In the queue click on the word the output module (Lossless unless you’ve changed the default). Inside the output module settings under Post-Render Action select Import and then under Channels select RGB + Alpha and then hit okay. Click on the blue type next to Output To to choose where the file is saved. Once you have all that done hit Render and relax for a second! When creating this animation I ran into some issues when I just precomposed the animation and used time remapping. I was getting some weird little twitches on some of the corners. So in order to solve that problem I ended up having to pre render. Added bonus is that it’s way faster to work with the pre render!

When the render is done it should import right into your project. Drag the MOV file to the new composition button to create a new composition based on the file. Add a solid (Layer > New > Solid) that’s the same color as your edge lines to be your background and drag it below the MOV file. Right click on the MOV and go to Time > Enable Time Remapping. Move the playhead to frame 300. This is right in the center of the animation. Move the playhead back in time until you get to the frame where the triangle becomes full connected and set a time remap keyframe. Now do the same when the triangle becomes disconnected past the mid point. So now you have 4 time remap keyframes. Highlight all of them and apply and easy ease. With all the keyframes still highlighted hold option (alt) and click on the last keyframe and drag it to frame 200. Doing this “scales” the keyframes so they all move together and proportionally. The animation will be 3 time faster now. The reason we did it slow to begin with is to create a lot of frames for the time remapping to sample from which helps create a smoother animation. 

Well, that concludes this tutorial. I hope you found it helpful, if you did, please give us a thumbs up and if you’d like to see more tutorials please go ahead and subscribe because we’re making new ones all the time.  I hope you guys found it helpful.  If you did, we’ve got lots of other Premiere Pro tutorialsAfter Effects tutorials and filmmaking tutorials!

Thanks for watching and see you in the next video.

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