[2024] After Effects Rotation Expression + How To Use It

In After Effects, the rotation expression automates and controls layer rotation, eliminating the need for manual keyframing. By leveraging this expression, you can create dynamic animations, adjust rotation speed, and even link rotation to layer positions for more complex effects.

November 24, 2023
[2024] After Effects Rotation Expression + How To Use It
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Rotation Expression For Adobe After Effects

After Effects Rotation Expressions

Basic Rotation


Use this expression for a basic rotation.

Fast Rotation


Use this expression to increase the rotation speed.

Rotation Based on Position

thisLayer.transform.position[0] *.8

Rotate a layer based on its position.

What Does This JavaScript Expression Do?

The rotation expression in After Effects is a tool that allows you to automate the rotation of layers. Instead of manually setting keyframes to make a layer rotate, you can use expressions to automate and control the rotation behavior. Here's what the rotation expression does:

  • Automated Rotation: The rotation expression can make a layer rotate automatically without the need for keyframes. This is particularly useful when you want a continuous rotation or a rotation that responds to other parameters.
  • Control Rotation Speed: By using the time expression, such as "time" or "time*300", you can control how fast the layer rotates. The value you multiply with "time" determines the speed. The higher the value, the faster the rotation.
  • Rotation Based on Position: The rotation expression can also be used to rotate a layer based on its position or the position of another layer. This is useful in scenarios like animating a car wheel. As the car (layer) moves, the wheel (another layer) rotates in response to the car's position.
  • Reduce Manual Keyframing: One of the primary benefits of using the rotation expression is to reduce the need for manual keyframing. Instead of setting multiple keyframes to define a rotation, you can use a single expression to achieve the desired effect.

How To Use It

Accessing the Rotation Expression:

  1. To access the rotation expressions in After Effects, you'll want to click on the triangular menu button located on the left side of your layer.
  2. From there, open the transform effects. Within these effects, you'll find the rotation property.
  3. If you're someone who prefers keyboard shortcuts, simply select your layer and press 'R'. This action will bring up the rotation property automatically.

Starting with Expressions:

  1. Navigate to the rotation property.
  2. To the right of the word "rotation", there's a stopwatch icon. Hold ALT and click on this icon.
  3. A space will appear to the bottom right of your layer. This is where you'll be placing your expressions and coding in After Effects.

One of the most useful ways to make your animation life easier is to have layers animate autonomously. By using an expression, you can have a layer rotate by itself. Moreover, you can dictate the speed of this rotation. For instance, using the time expression, you can make a layer spin. The formula "time" will make your layer rotate. If you find the rotation too slow, you can increase the speed by multiplying time by a value, for example, "time*300". The higher the number you multiply time by, the faster the object will rotate.

Another fascinating use of the rotation expression is to rotate a layer based on its position. Imagine needing to animate a car's wheel turning. Instead of manually keyframing the wheel's rotation, you can use the rotation expression to drive the wheel's rotation based on the car's position change. An example expression for this would be "thisLayer.transform.position[0] *.8". This expression references the position of the layer you're rotating. If you want the rotation to follow another layer, you can use the expression pick-whip to select the layer's position you wish to reference.