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Animation layers are the containers for all animation keyframes we may place on our rigs. They are very powerful versatile set of controls that allow us to store, layer up, and even blend multiple animations together. The simple truth is that without an animation layer applied in CAT, we have no way of creating animation. Let's take a look at the first Animation layer type that we will consider, which is the Absolute layer. Selecting our rig and going over to the Motion panel, let's come down to the Layer Manager rollout.
And you can see we already have an animation layer applied. As we are already in Animation mode--denoted by the Green Toggle button--we can come and scrub the Time slider and see that we already have some motion applied to our rig. Animation layers are created by coming to the Add Layer button, clicking and holding down the left-mouse button, and selecting the layer that we want to work with. While we're here, let's apply an Absolute layer.
As you can see, now if we scrub the Timeline again, an Absolute layer supersedes any previous layer's animation. In other words, with two Animation layers in the stack, only the second are top layer has any visible effect. As we have no animation on this new layer, nothing really is happening in the viewport. Unlike Photoshop's layer stack, or even Max's own Modifier Stock, CAT Animation layers are not calculated from the bottom of the list to the top, but rather from the top down.
This means the second layer in our list is now in reality the top layer. Let's turn on Auto Key and add some extra animation to our newly-created layer. A simple rotation applied to each arm bone should do nicely. I will scrub the Time slider to around about frame 30 and then switch to my Rotate tool using E key. And I'm just going to rotate the upper arm bone of each limb, like so. Once in position, I'm just going to come down and make sure I turn off Auto Key.
Now of course, when we scrub our Time slider, all we see is our newly-applied rotation motion. It is important to note at this point that we have not overwritten the animation that was already applied to our rig. We have simply layered another animation on top of it. If we were to delete this layer or disable it by simply coming back to our Layer Manager and then double-clicking on our Absolute layer, you will see that we get our previous animation back.
The Absolute layer type is the canvas on which we paint our animation with CAT. It is a basic Animation layer that has no unique or special properties but that has been designed to be the default or standard Animation layer in CAT. In our next video, we will consider two layer types that do have some unique aspects to them. These are the Relative Local and Relative World Animation layers.
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