That tutorial can be found here.
More recently I was working on some videos for our demo reel, and I wanted to add some life to this image so it could be showcased with the rest of the animations. The following tutorial will demonstrate how I added motion to this image using Adobe After Effects. The intent was to make it look like an animation without actually rendering any 3d footage.
Here is a basic look at my AE setup.
The base layer is just my original image with some depth of field blurring applied. If you render a nice a ZDepth channel of your scene, the blurring is easy to do in post. We use an AE plugin called Frischluft. If you don't have it, I highly recommend it. It is cheap, easy and effective. The only weak link on this project was my ZDepth, which was not very clean. You can see my settings for Frischluft in the image above, but really it will be unique to every scene. The settings are very easy to adjust and figure out.
After the blurring was figured out, I started adding animated content to the image. I searched the web for some basic flame animations. Of course, you can always just buy stock photo of it too. I ended up finding a candle animated on a black background. I took this video into AE, copied it several times on top of itself, and then changed the timing and transforms of each layer to make them unique from each other. Using this technique I was able to get something that looks like a little fire. You can see the results and settings below.
As you can see, I precomposed the fire layers (Ctrl+Shift+C), which created a separate comp for my fire that I could then place back into the overall scene comp. This just made more organized for me. With the fire composition complete, I was then able to place it on top of my snow scene as a linear dodge layer. The result is seen here.
Next I added a simple solid color layer that was bright orange, like the color of the fire. I masked it out everywhere except where the fire is, and then feathered the mask significantly. This creates the glow from the fire. For added realism, you can put a wiggle expression on the opacity of this layer to make it "dance" with the fire. Here are the settings for the layer, plus the results.
For the animated snow, I did another precomp to create a separate composition of snow that could be overlaid later. I used the CC snow effect built right into AE. Below are some of my settings.
This is just one of the many snow layers I used (4 in all). I tried to create depth by using several layers of snow on top of each other. The ones that represent snow that is further away had smaller flakes, and fell at a slower pace. Snow in the foreground was just the opposite. The snow that was really close to the camera had a blur applied to it so that it wasn't distracting, but also because it would be outside of the focus range of the camera. The resulting comp looked like this:
Overlaid on the scene it looked like this:
With animated snow and animated fire added to the scene, the only thing I had left was mimicking a camera. In important step in doing this was setting up null layer. I did all my transforms on the null layer and then linked all my other layers to it, so that they would all follow each other.
In order to mimic camera movement I used wiggle expressions on the transforms of the null object. I then linked the wiggle variables to a slider. This can be done by selecting the variables you want to link, and then using a pick whip to drag to the slider. This will write a small piece of code that will link that variable to the slider, like so:
Once this is done, you can keyframe the slider. In my case, I just made the camera shake fade from a lot to a little. For more detailed info about how to do this with expressions, see here. Also, here is a little snippet from the Adobe website about expressions:
"With expressions, you can create relationships between layer properties and use the keyframes of one property to dynamically animate other layers. For example, you can use the pick whip to link path properties, so a mask can take its path from a brush stroke or a shape layer object.
In addition the the camera shake, I also added a slow pan and scale (linked to a different slider). Again, all this was built into my null object, so everything was moving/scaling together. The only other thing I did was add some overall blur to the scene that was meant to fade in and out, kind of like the camera was trying to focus. This should be kept quick and subtle. A few curves adjustments, and viola!
Below you can see the raw precomp, before I chopped it up even more to put it into our demo reel.