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After it falls in, split the layer. Used the Shatter effect for the explosion. It's dead simple.
I appreciate the response but if you read the whole question you'll see that what you described is exactly what I'm trying to avoid doing.
How do I keep all the text animations in one layer.
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Um, you don't. AE involves layers, typically a lot of them. If you're afraid of layers, you're afraid of AE.
Did you ever solve this issue? Let us know how you pulled it off.
I appreciate it Dave but nope. The point wasn't to get this done quickly and simply, I want to learn about the intricacies of text-animation. Anyone can split a layer - or more cleverly - make an easy to destroy pre-comp.
The point is that I want to learn how animate words coming down individually in time with the person speaking all within one text layer. In a text layer with a position animator set to 'Words' so that the words come down together, how do I make the words come down when I want them to without having separate layers.
This was how I solved it, but I wasn't happy. Dave you answer so many questions, you don't even properly read the question anymore.
Shatter is a simulation effect that uses a bunch of forces that need to be animated to adjust the timing and look. Dave gave you a simple way to do it without taking the time to learn how to use all of the dozens of controls in Shatter to accomplish your task. Splitting a layer does not cost you anything or make the project more complicated. Trying to do everything in one layer is often the least efficient and most complicated and difficult to produce an effect.
If you want to animate words individually in a single layer then you need to read up on text animators. If you want to do a bunch of things to a single text layer you may need to add more than one text animator. Text animators can give you control of individual letters, or words, or lines. You can even enable individual 3D effects for each letter, but again, you have to take the time to learn how to use text animators. The easiest way to get started with text animators is to type animate text in the search help field at the top right corner of AE. The help files are very good. The next step is to start experimenting with the text animation presets. Apply one that does something like you want to do in the first part and then select the text layer and press the U key twice to reveal all modified properties in the layer. Start playing around with the controls and options. Then move the CTI (current time indicator) down the timeline and add a second text animator and do the same thing. That's the only way you are going to get a handle on animating text in AE.