Layer By Layer: A Breakdown Of My Layer Tennis Match

August 24, 2010

There were so many questions and comments about my Layer Tennis match on Friday. So, I decided to make this breakdown video showing you my thought process, workflow and scene files from the match.

Links Mentioned
Layer Tennis
Aaron’s Site
Coudal Partners
How To Precomp in After Effects

Software and Plugins Used
Trapcode Particular
Trapcode Shine
HDRI Light Kit Pro
Nick Campbell’ Vintage Film for Looks
Cinema 4D
After Effects

Tutorial Focus:  
Software:  , ,

  • Great!
    Looking forward to watching this

  • Thanks for the breakdown man. I’m amazed what you pulled together in such short rounds. Really well done.

  • One of the most entertaining Layer Tennis matches I have followed. You have inspired me to crack open the AE and mess around. Chicago represent!

  • this is a must watch Nick.
    I really digg it, thanks.

  • I really enjoyed the finale and thanks for sharing the step by step process. I was wondering how you were going to pull it off with time for rendering.

    I always love how extreme deadlines and restrictions bring out creative work arounds and smart ways of working.

    Good job man!!

  • Nice breakdown of the process buddy. Congrats on the victory, lol.

  • ok soooooo to be a good motions designers you to starts with a good looking beard! 🙂
    For me layers 8 and 10 are my favorites!

  • Layer Tennis is such a cool concept. Thanks for sharing all the details about how you came up with each volley. Some seriously talented dudes! Will have to check that out on Fridays now.

  • Really Nice stuff.
    I just have a quick question if anyone can help me out.
    I know arron uses illustrator to do the artwork but does he scan an image in, use a graphics tablet or do it all on illustrator?
    Or if anyone knows the best way to do that style of design it would really help thanks.

  • An amazing idea just pass trough my sick brain…

    Is there some where we can organize “amateur” layers tennis match? it can be awsome no?

  • Good luck Nick for your battle you are the best, dude (Y)

  • Ur the best! .)

  • Great job Nick!! The end was very interesting! I had a guestion. What was the resolution of the animation You had to work with? Looved how wide it was!

  • thanks for the break down. awesome work. i’m really digging your vintage film for looks

  • fantastique, grand match

  • Great Breakdown thanks Nick.

    I loved the last volley, it wrapped the match up beautifully.

    I was wondering if you could explain a bit more how you textured the buttons to have the spherical logo with your face and text on it?

  • Great work!

    (The sentence “Abandon all hope ye who enter here/Lasciate ogni speranza voi ch’entrate” comes from the “Divine Comedy”, poem written by Dante Alighieri from Florence in 1300 in italian language. This words are written on the door of the hell, that Dante and Virglilio are going to visit.)
    It would have been awesome if your next layer was full of fire and a devil with your head..! 🙂

  • Hey Nick,

    About the jaggy edges on the pins: When I saw that layer for the first time, it grabbed my attention that the edges weren’t perfect. I actually enjoyed that fact, because especially when rendering 3D work, things tend to look too linear and perfect. Often times, pins are not perfect anyways, even more so when they are vintage.

    Congrats, entertaining match.

  • Great Job for 15 minutes. This expression is a must have and can help you out next time you want to bounce some bears.

    // Inertial Bounce (moves settle into place after bouncing around a little)
    n = 0;
    if (numKeys > 0){
    n = nearestKey(time).index;
    if (key(n).time > time){
    if (n == 0){
    t = 0;
    t = time – key(n).time;

    if (n > 0){
    v = velocityAtTime(key(n).time – thisComp.frameDuration/10);
    amp = .03;
    freq = 6.0;
    decay = 7.0;
    value + v*amp*Math.sin(freq*t*2*Math.PI)/Math.exp(decay*t);

    • Hi Doug I didn’t manage to use your expression it’s written there is a syntax error, is it right? Or is it because i’m running AE in french ?

    • It was on line 5 :
      n–; and not n-;

      Thanks a lot Doug
      ( found the correction on mographDOTnet)

      great expression by the way !!!!

      n = 0;
      if (numKeys > 0){
      n = nearestKey(time).index;
      if (key(n).time > time){
      if (n == 0){
      t = 0;
      t = time – key(n).time;

      if (n > 0){
      v = velocityAtTime(key(n).time – thisComp.frameDuration/10);
      amp = .03;
      freq = 6.0;
      decay = 7.0;
      value + v*amp*Math.sin(freq*t*2*Math.PI)/Math.exp(decay*t);

    • Very odd that it pasted in as n-; instead of n–; because I copied it from a current project that is n–; The blog must have interpreted it as an em dash.

    • Wow, it looks like it did it again above. Just to be clear for everyone, line 5 should have 2 dashes after the n. Not an em dash —

  • Oh snap! I know it! Nick is actually a breakdancer. XD

  • hell yeah i really liked your match, you kicked his hairy ass.

  • You have mentioned that you have used a projection tag for texturing that badge. Have you made a tutorial on that already? Is that the one with big “HOUSE” text thing which bounces an has a camera movement an all going around?

  • Great Battle Nick, it was enjoyable to fallow!
    My question would be:
    In which format did you render all your work out, considering good quality but low file size? What setting did you use for that?

    Keep rockin’ like that Mister!! 🙂

  • Hey Nick!

    Really cool stuff. I’m wondering how you use the particle emitter and the cloner object together. How are they connected? Could you possibly share the scene file so I can poke around??


  • I’ve never heard of Layer tennis or knew anything. Looks like good fun…
    Congrats to your victory…really like your work and your tuts…I’m absolutely new in C4D stuff (5 weeks, only 3D I’ve knew before was Rhinoceros for Nurbs modeling) and your tuts really help me with C4D which I need for my motion graphics…so thx you Gorilla

  • nice one nick congrats, match was fun. did you had 15min for animation render and upload? how big were the files you uploaded? another question i have is about rsmb did you used motion vectors? i always have a problem with rsmb on one hand it gives me bad artifacts when i crank the values up on the other hand when the values are normal you barley can see the motion blur. what im doing wrong?

  • hey nick
    could you please let me know where you got the acc film damage effect from? thanks in advance and congratulations to your victory 🙂

  • Congrats! Very impressive.
    Many thanks for the breakdown.

  • I love this idea and this type of working together! You both were very cool, and I enjoyed the match. Next time, I wanna be volleyin’ 🙂



  • you would have lost had it not been for such an awesome layer 10. niiiice

  • Isn’t it cheating if you worked on your final round outside of teh 15 minutes you get?
    This contest reminds me of the old 3d Fight Club, cant wait to see more.

    • Not really. A lot of layer tennis match artists have repurposed their existing art from other projects. You’re really judged on congruency from volley to volley and how you follow up. I believe the original serve (layer 1) the artist can take quite a bit of time (more than 15 minutes) in advance to create too.

  • I’m from china,I feel really worships you.
    In china,lots of foreign sites can not be seen.
    Every time,I must use some method to see the video.OK.That I want to say is I’m support you.

  • Hey gorilla,
    i was wondering…

    What format did you have to export?
    You just had to upload a movie file and then they would make it flash?

    I think it would be great if you could make a video or tut maybe, showing some ways to create flash files into after effects…

    I tried a lot of times but i had some color and way big files issues :/

    what do you think?

  • Awesome! Well worth watching, if not just for the behind the scenes look… it’s always fun to see what worked and what got cut. I think that “beards for president” tag would have worked if you had a Scamihorn button as well (but then you couldn’t close it out and secure a victory!).

    It’s always really fun “remixing” others work, especially super talented artists when you put your own imprint on something but still it’s recognizable to the original artist. Scamihorn’s style really lent itself to that grungy, vintage look. Those clean vector lines you can really push hard.

  • They should put two motion graphics guys against each other and give a little more time to set aside for renders.

  • Hi Nick please check the link.And please Tell me How can i make this type of work.Sorry about my English.

  • Hi Nick,

    Sorry to resuurect this old post but can you explain why you had a cloner object with the button in and an emitter? Could th ebadge not just be used as the partical?


    • I assume he did it so that he could apply the mograph rigid body that the button be dynamic..
      hope that helps…although its a little late respond..:)

  • hey Nick sorry for my english and i dont understand very clear what you say but if you wonder wave things on poster. its easy with blend tools in illustrator.

  • I stumbled across your vimeo today, which led me to your website. I have to say the content is awesome, and I look forward to going through all your work!

  • Great work Nick. I gave the badges a little go –

    Not overly complicated but so beautifully executed and I have no idea how you managed to get it made and rendered in such a small time frame!

    Also after watching the (old) interviews from Siggraph you have on here I’ve been attempting to recreate the room that Anthony Scott Burns made in the last half of his MTV “memory bank” video.. and I am truly stumped, I thought it would be an basic job of cloning a bunch of lights behind a semi transparent plane, but no joy, I cant seem to get close to the lighting he achieved. I feel there must be an easy answer to this. Any ideas? If not I’ll have to come back to it after my frustration boils away.

    Keep it up!

  • Edit on my previous comment (although i’m sure its under the radar as this is such an old thread) I stuck a the under floor lighting and came up with this. Not 100% happy but its pretty good. Thanks for the Daft Punk helmets!!

  • Nick – Please stop adjusting the position of the application windows while you talk!

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