You are more or less already screwed because you used a wrong approach. One would create the square in a pre-comp, apply the color transition animatio and then lay out the squares in whatever pattern you desire to then stagger them in the timeline or use time-remapping and move around keyframes easily. Personally I'd probably create all of this using expressions for easy manipulation. As it is, your only hope of salvaging this situation might be to use the time displacment effect, but that would require to pre-compose your shape layer and also create a gradient map as input for the timing.
The thing is, the final composition was very easy to create in Illustrator. That's why I ended up with so many masks within a shape layer.
But If I'd first create one square in AE, animate it, copy it 400 times, time-remap it and then manually form the right shape (which is quite complex to manually do in AE) it would probably take ages? Pre-comping or not, you still have 400 different squares to deal with right?
I'm sure I might be missing something here and I really appreciate the answer but it doesn't really help me out yet.
Not looking for a "lazy" method, but I'm sure manually having to deal with 400 squares one by one, either as shapes, solids or masks can't be the fastest way.
You can easily create 400 squares with card dance and by ways of using Motion Tile and otehr tricks texture them. That still doesn't take care of your timing problem, though. For that you still need another pre-comp and if all else fails, a simple linear wipe, quantized to "blocks" using the Mosaic effect might do the trick, possibly with some additional masking and fades.
Hey there KevinC,
Sorry you had a little trouble there, but it looks like Mylenium got you back on track. If that's the case, please mark the appropriate post as the correct one. That would be awesome!