OSX Drawing with Quartz 2d for After Effects Plugins; A Quartz Composer Laces Sample Plugin

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When working on custom projects I develop a lot of single use plugins for things like data visualization. Although I’m becoming more comfortable with OpenGL, my comfort zone for drawing is really using the tools available on OSX like Quartz 2d. After Effects is my favorite compositing environment and it took a while to build a working toolkit for OSX drawing in an After Effects plugin with things like build phases, importing frameworks, Objective-C++, CGContextRef, PF_EffectWorld, PF_Handle, etc. To help folks trying to get that toolkit together I thought I’d share a starting point XCode project as well as the base drawing code for one of the data viz tools I’m working on.

The XCode project can be a useful starting point for a developer interested in these kinds of projects. It includes linked frameworks, a reasonable memory allocation scheme (I think, more experienced devs feel free to point out any gotchas), a working example of how to use both CGContextRef and NSGraphicsContext and some useful drawing code.

The sample plugin is a Quartz Composer style laces plugin which can work nicely for connecting nodes or data visualizations. The included version is pretty bare bones, but if there is interest I am thinking about developing it in to a more full featured general purpose plugin.

This setup has worked for my needs and has been cursorily checked for bugs, leaks and crashers, but if you are going to use it for production work I’d make sure to attempt some pre-renders at the size, bit depth, etc. you are using to make sure there is not something I didn’t account for.

If you end up using the code in something you release, I’d appreciate a credit in the release notes. Tip of the hat to Edouard FISCHER for the original laces drawing code. Next up is a deeper dive into OpenGL, Quartz Composer, textures, and all kinds of fast drawing GPU goodness.

Laces Plugin for OSX After Effects
Laces Plugin Xcode Project For OSX

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