After Effects: Creating a Digital Diorama

Starting off strong

Starting off this project I had to decide on a theme, a style, and an idea of what it would be about. I had a 15-second time frame to work with so I had to be able to fit a good amount of storytelling into a short clip made in After Effects with enough personality to be an interesting piece. My first thought was to base it on Dungeons and Dragons since it is something that I’m very passionate about and I thought I could do something fun!

Style and Inspiration

I wanted to go with D&D as the subject of the project but had no idea what style to go with at the beginning, and after searching for art references that would be simple enough to animate in a 15-second sequence while still fitting a stylized enough look to be an interesting sequence. Then it hit me, South Park, a show that has been very influential on me throughout my life, I wanted to try and make my own take on the South Park style, so I went on to sketches.

Screenshot from early South Park episode to showcase the early stop motion style with paper texture


Sketching is where the process starts off with any project so I began trying to design my South Park-styled characters. I wanted something simple and short that could have a good amount of character. I knew that I wanted to capture the textured feel so I went to a local crafts store and bought a bunch of paper with as many different textures as I could find resulting in sparkly, rough, textured papers that I thought would have very a very neat look!

Moving to Illustrator

Looking back on this project I definitely should’ve done the characters in Photoshop due to the large size of the texture images, but it managed to work in the end, and I got my desired look so I was happy with it. I started by recreating the simple characters that I had created using the pen tool as well as some of the basic shape tools. I did this and then had to move on to the actual textures. This was when Illustrator really started to hit its limit, it started getting slower and slower with every new image but eventually, I was able to get everything in place.

Asset Creation

This project consisted of a LOT of textured assets that took somewhere around 6 hours of work time. On top of making a simple almost child-like style the biggest setback was the speed of the illustrator and how slow it started to get when I reached multiple textures at once.


This is basically a collection of my sketches with additional arrows added to show which direction things will be moving, as well as a basic script of what I will be saying and which sound effects I’ll use throughout the piece. (Some changes are made during the process)

Setting up the composition in After Effects

After Effects is where the real project really started, animating in AE’s (After Effects) 3D workspace is very cool, it has been updated considerably from when their 3D tools had first been implemented. They partnered up with the folks from Cinema 4D and made the movement and camera space nearly identical, making the process fairly easy to work with since I just did Cinema 4D work recently.

Voice Recording

I like to use the program Descript to get my voice recordings done, it is very easy to chop up audio as well as transcribe your audio in real-time allowing you to easily have subtitles for videos. This process went by pretty quickly considering I only needed 2 audio files for this video.

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THe final product!

Overall, this was an enjoyable project and I could put together an end result that captured the exact look I wanted, somewhat of an old school project look, like it was made by some kids trying to do something fun, I hope you enjoyed learning a little something about my process!

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