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david van brink // Mon 2007.12.24 02:23 // {after effects}

Time Halftone

After Effects’ “Time Displacement” effect provides yet another way to perform halftoning.

Yup. I’m obsessed with variations on halftoning. Using the “Time Displacement” filter, you can use a composition as a halftone pattern. I’ll describe one possible recipe here.

1. Create a 10-second animation called “pattern”

Why 10 seconds? Well, it’s a nice round number, easy to think about. Also, it comes to 300 frames (oh yeah, make it 30fps) which is a little more than 256, which is how many grey levels we’ll be working with. (For an 8 bpc comp, anyway.)

The animation should be very simple, and, generally, go from dark to light. Also it should be small, say 100 pixels across at the most. Like this one:

2. Create a 10-second comp with a still image called “image”
That’s right. It must be at least 10 seconds long, with a single static image.

3. Drop “pattern” into “image”
Apply the “Motion Tile” effect to “pattern” so it fills the comp area, like this:

4. Add an adjustment layer

This where the action happens. Add the “Time Displacement” effect to the adjustment layer. Choose your static image for the “Time Displacement Layer”. Set the “Maximum Displacement Time” to 5. That’s plus or minus 5 seconds for black, to grey, to white. That’s our 10 second halftone pattern source.

5. Set the current time to 5:00
This is the only value that will work; our pattern is 10 seconds long only. The halftoned result looks like this:

Here’s a few more variations, shown only by the halftone pattern and final result, all from the same 10-second recipe.










And finally, a most visually confusing phenomenon, in which the overall brightness is the same in every cell. But somehow, our eyes pull the information out.



What’s next?

Well, tragically, as near as I can tell, there’s no way to use this technique on a moving image. The “Time Displacement” effect always displaces relative to the current time, so the halftone pattern is only accurate at the center of the displacement span.

But I’m putting the finishing touches on an effect plugin to do this. A primitive and occasionally-crashing version of omino halftone is already in the omino after effects suite; but I’ll post a much faster and stable version here at some point. Free of course.

Meanwhile, I’m thinking hi-res spock is gonna make a nice t-shirt. (A few clicks and $20 to iprint.com helps create a customized wardrobe. If you like lots of white t-shirts.)

And the project is here to download.

2 comments
John Thompson // Mon 2008.12.8 06:566:56 am

Hi, I’m putting together a book about Star Trek, and I thought it would be kind of fun to include your first on this page, halftone of Spock.
Might I have unrestricted permission to use it in my book?

Thanks a lot, John Thompson
PS–Might you have, or wish to include one of the Enterprise too??

david van brink // Mon 2008.12.8 08:328:32 am

Absolutely! I just sent you an email.

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