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How to Create Animated Maps in After Effects?

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Jun 02, 2021• Proven solutions

Animated Maps have come a long way, and their possibilities are endless. Today, we see the expansive incorporation of animated mapping in the fields of travel & tourism, education, journalism, and healthcare. They are used in videos to illustrate changes in data over a period of time. 

These maps are primarily used as a 'state-of-art' tool for geographic visualization. Viewers and readers today expect stories to have these dynamic maps.

Creating spectacular animated maps has become easier with the latest technology. This article will look at the basic steps of making 3D animation travel maps in Adobe After Effects and discuss a few popular templates alongside. 

Part 1: How to Create 3D Animated Travel Map in After Effects?

Creating a stunning travel scene via After Effects map animation is going to be easy if you follow the steps mentioned below.

In order to achieve this effect, you do not need to purchase any plugins, project files or presets. You can do it from scratch. Open Adobe After Effects to start.

Note: You can watch the video tutorial from YouTuber to check how he animated the map with AE.

Step 1: Animate your Line

  • First, create a new composition under Composition Settings. Here you can set your presets. Change the quality to full HD (1080p) and ensure that you check off the locked aspect ratio. You can change the width, if required and don't forget to rename the composition.
  • Next, import your road map. You can pre-compose it and change it from After Effects later, as needed.
  • Right-click to create a new solid layer; that'll be your Stroke. Pick any color and click 'Ok.'
  • Next, you have to decide your travel location. Before that, uncheck the new layer.
  • Check the unchecked new layer box, find the pen tool (below the toolbar) and click and drag on your current location (e.g., Belgium). Similarly, create another line on your desired area (e.g. Moscow).
  • Add Animation to your line curve- go to effects and presets, search for "stroke," and apply it. This will auto choose Mask 1 from this layer. 
  • Enable the Stroke layer & change the brush size, change your paint style, color and add spacing to the line across the map.
  • To animate the line, click on the end stopwatch in presets. You can either have a linear or easy ease animation. 

For the first, click on stop lunch and move the time forward, around 3 seconds and set the stopwatch to a 100%. Press "E" on the keyboard to make another keyframe and go back to the previous keyframe and set stopwatch to zero.

Easy-ease is slightly more complicated. Right click, go to keyframe assistance & select the easy ease option. Go to the graph editor to adjust the animation speed. 

Create map animation in AE - Lines

Step 2: Adding a Drop Shadow in After Effects Animated Map

To make it more 3D, you add a" drop shadow" to your layer. You can add a slight distance as well on the left menu.

Create map animation in AE - add drop shadow

Step 3: 3D Animation

  • Right click to create a New Camera and click on the World Map layer. 
  • Enable 3D for stroke effect and the current layer If you can't see the 3D icon, be sure to toggle the switches.

Create map animation in AE - add 3d animation

  • Next, alongside the new camera, create a "New null object" similarly with a right click. Turn 3D on for this as well. 
  • You can make the Animation even more remarkable if you click on the camera and parent it to your Null. It means the Null will be your control, i.e., the camera will follow the Null's rotation to create a better Animation than the simple pan and tilts. 
  • To view rotation, click on Null & press "R" and for position tags, hold Shift and press "P".
  • Zoom-in with "Z rotation" & go to you starting location. You can also put a stopwatch on every rotation tag. Go to the 3 seconds and rotate it to the other way.
  • To make the easy ease effect follow equally, you also need to add it on this Animation on all the keyframes. 
  • Play it back to you see the 3D Animation you just created.

Step 4: Depth of Field

If you go to the Camera settings by clicking on "camera", you will find camera options where you can enable the depth of field. You further have to change the aperture to 130, followed by playing with focus distance to sharpen your travel end point. There, you've created a depth of field look. You can repeat the same for your start point as well. 

The remaining image blur will be lesser as you lower the aperture value. 

Create map animation in AE - add depth of field

Step 5: Adding Pin Location

In your after effects map animation you can import a pin location in your travel scene. Make it another 3D layer, if needed, and reposition it to the start and finish destinations.

  • The anchor point can be moved to the beginning using the pan behind tool. 
  • Rotate the pin upwards by pressing "R."
  • To make this feature pop up in the Animation, press "S." For scale, click on the stopwatch, set the frame to zero and then click on the previous keyframe. Right-click on it, enable Easy Ease. 

Create map animation in AE - add pin location

Part 2: Best Travel MAP Animation Templates in Adobe After Effects

Note, the following travel map animation templates are from Envato, you can also find the similar map animation templates in some After Effects templates downloading sites.

1. Flight Maps:

Flight Maps is a simple template option that helps you create quick 2D animations between two cities. It offers users with pre-animated regional maps to choose from. It also allows you want to reverse the travel direction between the cities.

After Effects Templates - Flight Maps

The template gives you 6 map color themes on the dashboard. They can each be turned on and customized from the effect controls panel. Extra features like turning on clouds can add more depth to your composition. Stunning effects like dirt texture can take your design to a whole new level, allowing you to add more dynamism to the animated map. 

Suppose you want to add graphics like a car or a sailboat. For that, click on the icon layer from the template dashboard composition. Aspects like route line style and the pin is also customizable. Using Flight Maps lets you add animations in the opening by selecting a transition style layer. 

All in all, this template requires some manual work. It isn't a panel where you can easily plugin cities and doesn't move automatically. It is part of Envanto Elements travel map after effects template free download, making it super accessible. 

2. Map Connector:

After Effects Templates - Map Connector

If you want to connect 2 different cities, this is probably not a good template to go with. However, Map Connector is an excellent 2D template when it comes to illustrating metadata or other related information about various locations. 

Unlike Flight Maps, this template has no built-in templates for you to select, but you can still customize color, timing and position. Users can alter city locations by first opening the destination composition and pressing "p" to review the camera's position, which they can change to go over the location you want to show. Going back to the main composition will show that the destinations have been shifted to the new cities. 

Map Connector needs you to return to the project panel and open different positions to update the information boxes and text for these new locations.

The keyframes on this template are slightly more challenging to use for beginners. It may lack a few vital effects but, is quite easy-to-use. 

3. Place on Earth:

Do you want to show a single location using a 3D globe? In that case, this particular map template works perfectly. You can edit the location with edit composition. You need to scrub the composition until the default city tag appears and you can double click to change the city name (with an updated font, if required).

After Effects Templates -  Place on Earth

Next, click on the position layer and move the tag to correct location. When you go to the render tab, scrub through to preview the movement from point a to point b. Now, in this template you can also add a visual effect to the place you are trying to point out. 

To get the changed location better into the frame, you have to update the point 2 parameter from Effect Controls. You can play around with all the parameters here till it looks just right.

You might want to make the changes in a quarter resolution to edit faster before you decide to render. Render time can take longer because of the 3D Animation. Also, it is better to type values instead of scrubbing because these parameters are super sensitive. 

4. World Map Toolkit (Premiere Pro):

After Effects Templates -  World Map Toolkit

This template was primarily created in Adobe After Effects. However, it was exported as motion graphics template to use in Premiere Pro as a. MOGRT file. This means that you perform all the edits within Premiere Pro. Unless the file is optimized within Premiere Pro, you will continue to experience major delays while editing. 

Conclusion

Since we live in an evolved world, our brains and eyes have become wired to respond better to a moving environment. Animated maps tap efficiently into our visual processing skills. Thus, they are being used extensively off late. 

We hope our step-by-step guide and template suggestions help you create animated travel maps in Adobe After Effects and make your video content more impressive. 

author avatar
Max Wales
Max Wales is a writer and a lover of all things video.