How to Make a Flag Wave in Adobe After Effects

By Alan Donahue

A waving flag animation captures the natural aspect of flowing wind, moving light sources and keeps the flag soaring high. Using just a 2-D flag image, create your own wavy flag using Adobe After Effects. The project uses common effects in the software, such as fractal noise, displacement maps and blurs. Once complete, add your flag to a flagpole, a person's hand or use it as a general graphic.

Step 1

Import the flag image file into Adobe After Effects. Drag the file and drop it on the **Composition** icon to create a new composition.

Step 2

Click the **New Composition*8 icon to set a second composition. Select the settings you want for your final video and select **OK**. For example, select from "HD 720x486" or "Standard 4:3." Fill in the Duration with the length of time for the flag to wave using, for example, "00:00:04:00" for four seconds.

Step 3

Right-click in the new composition, select **New** and select **Colored Solid**. Press **OK** and the solid appears on the screen.

Step 4

Go to **Effects**, **Noise** and select **Fractal Noise**. A cloudy image appears on the screen to replace the colored solid. Click on the **Effect Controls** tab in the top right corner of the screen.

Step 5

Set the Fractal Type to **Swirly**. Set the Noise Type to **Soft Linear**. Click the **Invert** selection box.

Step 6

Expand the **Transform** sub-menu. Change the Height to "1600." Set the contrast to "120" and the brightness to "15." These selections add to the light reflections and shadows in the final animation.

Step 7

Click the key frame icon next to the Offset Turbulence. Drag the timeline scrubber to the end of the video. Set the **Offset Turbulence** to "5,000." Drag the scrubber back to the start and set it to "0." These choices create the wavy movement for the flag.

Step 8

Hold down the **Alt** button, and then click on the key frame icon for the **Revolution**. Type in "8xx" and press **Enter** to create the repeated animated movements to mimic recurring waviness.

Step 9

Right-click in the **Effect Controls** window. Select **Distort** and the **Turbulent Displacement** effect. Set the Type to **Smoother**. Change the amount to "50" and size to "15." Hold down the **Alt** button, and then click on the key frame icon. Type in "8xx" and press **Enter**.

Step 10

Click on **Effect**, **Blur** and select **Fast Blur**. Set the Fast Blur edge to "70."

Step 11

Create a new composition. Drag the flag composition and the fractal noise composition into the Layers window. Click on the fractal noise composition. Set the **Blending Mode** to **Hard Light**. Adjust the **Opacity** to "70%."

Step 12

Scrub through the video to see the flag waving. Click the **Render Preview** icon to watch the flag in real-time motion.