The first step to looping animation was a toy, called thomatrope which was a paper circle displayed a bird on the one side and a cage on the other. You should thread a string through the paper and when you spin it fast voilà - the bird got in the cage.
Then came the zoetrope, which produced the illusion of motion by displaying a series of drawings showing phases of motion. So you had to spin this thing and look trough the tiny windows to see the magic. That was the first time when the human eye have seen moving drawings. To perform this motion, the same picture needs to be on the first and last frame of the device so that is why we can consider them the very first looping animations.
Once upon a time, the big animators drew the keyframes and when the deadline was approaching, they hired trainee designers to fill in the gaps. Their work was usually criticised by animators because the animations were not as they have imagined, as they were composing these motions with rhythm and speed in their minds.
Nowadays, After Effects helps us with drawing these keyframes, however, this is an enormous job which needs a lot of patience. We also need to synchronize these frames with the music and create a harmony between the adjustments. I love this part of animation, but let’s be honest, it really needs a lot of concentration and fortitude.
But back to looping animation! In After Effects, the first and last keyframe must match and what happens in between, that’s totally up to our imagination!
You have a lot of choices to choose from, for example, you can use a Loop Expression which can be assigned to the selected layers or if you want to make the Loop Expression even more appropriate, use The LoopMaker, which is a free script developed by Lloyd Alvarez. With just a few clicks, this script allows you to apply custom loops to multiple layers at the same time! Cool, isn’t it?
You can still use the classic copy & paste technique of course, but knowing that this script exists, why would you?😊
It’s brilliant that we can easily solve almost anything with these tools – if we want one specific motion to loop continuously (for example a plane’s propeller) but also another thing to happen in the background, it can be done in no time!
In my opinion, the animator’s humour or significant demonstration is what makes a looping animation engaging. What about you?