When to Use Expressions

What Is an Expression?

Adding Expressions

The Pick Whip

Vectors and Dimensions

Ranges of Values

Interpolation Methods


Global Objects

The Default Object

Methods and Attributes

Vector Math

an example




Project Index



Finally, we’ll use some of this material to put together a simple example, using basic geometry. Just for fun, we’ll reinvent the wheel–a layer that appears to ‘roll’ when you drag it.

First, let’s take inventory of what we have, and what we’ll need. We know that we’ll apply our expression to the rotation parameter of our wheel, and that we’ll need to end up with a single scalar value. So we can start by adding an expression to the rotation parameter.

We also know that we need to start with the layer’s position, since a change in position will need to produce a change in its rotation. For our example, we’ll assume the wheel is traveling horizontally, so we’ll only need:


Common sense tells us that when the wheel has moved a distance equal to its circumference, the wheel will have ‘rolled’ one complete revolution, and the expression should produce 360°. We’ll worry about these specifics in a moment. For now, it’s only important to recognize that how large the wheel is will determine how far it moves in a single revolution. So we need to know how large our wheel is.

Assuming our wheel graphic is exactly as large as its layer (no blank space around it), we can just use:


But we can’t just use width directly. Instead, we need to use the width to figure out the wheel’s circumference–how long its edge is. From basic geometry, we know that circumference is equal to diameter times Pi. JavaScript helpfully gives us an accurate value for Pi in "Math.Pi." So we can start be defining a variable for circumference:


If the wheel is 100 pixels wide, its circumference will be about 314 pixels. But what if we scale the wheel? To be accurate, we should adjust for scale when calculating the circumference:

circumference=width*( scale[0]/100)*Math.PI;

We’ve divided scale[0] by 100 because the scale attribute returns percentage values. Here, we need scale represented as a decimal fraction, so that normal scale = 1 (instead of 100).

Next, we’ll define a variable to represent the distance the wheel has traveled. In our example, we’re going to assume that the wheel starts exactly at the left edge of the comp, and so we can use:


Finally, we can put together the core of our expression:


We simply divide the distance traveled by the circumference to find out how many circumferences we’ve traveled. Multiplying by 360 expresses the result in degrees (since 1 circumference equals 360°, as mentioned earlier above). All together, the final expression is:

circumference=width*( scale[0]/100)*Math.PI;



Now, as you drag your layer around, it will appear to roll perfectly, without ‘slipping’. This may not seem like a big deal–after all, we could’ve just done the math ourselves and set rotation keyframes–but this expression will work even if the layer is accelerating or slowing down. That’s pretty tough to do convincingly by hand.

Try applying this to individual text characters, or to objects that don’t normally roll around.


Entire contents © 2001 JJ Gifford.