After Effects CS5 Essential Training
Illustration by John Hersey

Animating position


After Effects CS5 Essential Training

with Chad Perkins

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Video: Animating position

Position is probably the thing that I find myself adjusting and animating more than any other single property in After Effects on a regular basis. What we're going to do here is we're going to animate on the front hill, kind of growing and then the back hill behind that, and then the sun after that. So, let's go to the Front Hill, open up the layer. Go to Position map. Matter of fact, when you just select the Front Hill layer and hit the letter P for position. Now the first thing you'll notice about Position is that it actually has two values, a left one and a right one.
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  1. 5m 40s
    1. Introduction
      1m 30s
    2. What is After Effects?
      3m 12s
    3. How to use the exercise files
  2. 28m 14s
    1. After Effects workflow overview
      2m 18s
    2. Bringing elements into After Effects
      2m 23s
    3. Adding elements to the Timeline
      1m 57s
    4. Working with layers
      3m 45s
    5. Creating animation with presets
      3m 24s
    6. Applying effects
      3m 34s
    7. Creating animation without presets
      5m 38s
    8. Previewing your work
      2m 46s
    9. Exporting content as a movie file
      2m 29s
  3. 27m 20s
    1. Touring the interface
      6m 2s
    2. How After Effects projects work
      4m 47s
    3. What is a composition?
      4m 52s
    4. Tips for adding content to compositions
      2m 49s
    5. Understanding the properties of video
      8m 50s
  4. 57m 8s
    1. Importing an Illustrator file
      4m 57s
    2. Animation basics
      7m 12s
    3. Animating opacity
      6m 40s
    4. Understanding anchor points
      4m 57s
    5. Animating position
      6m 8s
    6. Animating rotation
      4m 41s
    7. Animating scale
      7m 19s
    8. Using the Puppet tool
      7m 13s
    9. Copying and pasting keyframes
      3m 4s
    10. Animation shortcuts
      4m 57s
  5. 9m 42s
    1. Understanding precomposing
      6m 51s
    2. Navigating through compositions quickly
      2m 51s
  6. 1h 12m
    1. A showcase of effects
      2m 34s
    2. Creating a layer for effects
      3m 1s
    3. Applying effects
      4m 54s
    4. Animating effect properties
      4m 29s
    5. Using Glow
      5m 34s
    6. Creating patterns and textures
      6m 57s
    7. Creating a fireball
      7m 9s
    8. Using the Cycore effects
      5m 58s
    9. Adding blur
      5m 45s
    10. Creating a galaxy scene from scratch
      8m 38s
    11. Distorting objects with effects
      4m 7s
    12. Creating and using lens flares
      4m 21s
    13. Creating lightning bolts
      4m 3s
    14. Viewing random variations with Brainstorm
      4m 39s
  7. 30m 52s
    1. Shortening the duration of layers
      4m 23s
    2. Trimming in the Footage panel
      4m 14s
    3. Slowing and accelerating video speed
      7m 9s
    4. Applying video transitions between clips
      6m 7s
    5. Working with image sequences
      4m 47s
    6. Importing footage with an alpha channel
      4m 12s
  8. 36m 11s
    1. Brightening dark footage
      9m 12s
    2. Changing colors in footage
      6m 34s
    3. Creating cinematic color treatments
      8m 17s
    4. Creating a quick vignette
      3m 42s
    5. Colorizing black-and-white objects
      4m 50s
    6. Using adjustment layers
      3m 36s
  9. 21m 9s
    1. Creating and editing text
      7m 39s
    2. Applying text animation presets
      4m 41s
    3. Animating text manually
      4m 43s
    4. Applying layer styles to text
      4m 6s
  10. 28m 58s
    1. Let's get better
    2. Using work areas
      3m 37s
    3. Creating markers
      6m 17s
    4. Replacing layers
      2m 35s
    5. Mastering Timeline navigation
      3m 18s
    6. Aligning and distributing layers
      3m 4s
    7. Selecting layers quickly
      1m 56s
    8. Cropping layers
      3m 43s
    9. Adjusting comp resolution
      3m 51s
  11. 23m 53s
    1. Using the paint tools
      9m 35s
    2. Using the Roto Brush tool
      9m 25s
    3. Animating growing vines
      4m 53s
  12. 40m 29s
    1. Creating and using masks
      6m 42s
    2. Exploring mask options
      7m 57s
    3. Creating masks with Auto-trace
      6m 51s
    4. Masking objects with other objects
      5m 33s
    5. Making shape layers
      3m 43s
    6. Modifying shape layers
      9m 43s
  13. 30m 44s
    1. Turning 2D layers into 3D layers
      9m 22s
    2. Creating lights and cameras
      6m 14s
    3. Creating shadows
      4m 23s
    4. Using depth of field
      4m 42s
    5. Working with 3D effects
      6m 3s
  14. 18m 10s
    1. Removing a green screen background
      4m 37s
    2. Refining the matte
      4m 48s
    3. Compositing with color adjustments
      4m 50s
    4. Compositing with blend modes
      3m 55s
  15. 25m 44s
    1. Understanding spatial interpolation
      2m 5s
    2. Creating and adjusting motion paths
      3m 55s
    3. Orienting moving objects along a path
      1m 29s
    4. Drawing motion with Motion Sketch
      2m 51s
    5. Creating pauses in animation
      3m 6s
    6. Understanding temporal interpolation
      1m 56s
    7. Easing keyframes
      5m 57s
    8. About the Graph Editor
      4m 25s
  16. 12m 13s
    1. Stabilizing shaky footage
      7m 46s
    2. Tracking the motion in footage
      4m 27s
  17. 24m 58s
    1. Setting up parent layers
      5m 49s
    2. Working with null objects
      2m 31s
    3. What are expressions?
      7m 17s
    4. Modifying simple expressions
      2m 20s
    5. Using the wiggle expression
      7m 1s
  18. 6m 52s
    1. Understanding audio in motion graphics
      1m 22s
    2. Previewing and mixing audio
      3m 55s
    3. Enhancing audio tracks with effects
      1m 35s
  19. 11m 36s
    1. Adding comps to the Render Queue
      2m 30s
    2. Exploring key Render Queue settings
      4m 11s
    3. How should I export my video?
      4m 55s
  20. 7m 16s
    1. Using Photoshop with After Effects
      2m 10s
    2. Using Illustrator with After Effects
      3m 2s
    3. Using Flash with After Effects
      2m 4s
  21. 11s
    1. Goodbye

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Watch the Online Video Course After Effects CS5 Essential Training
8h 39m Beginner Apr 30, 2010

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In After Effects CS5 Essential Training, author Chad Perkins discusses the basic tools, effects, and need-to-know techniques in Adobe After Effects CS5, the professional standard for motion graphics, compositing, and visual effects for video. The course provides an overview of the entire workflow, from import to export, as well as detailed coverage of each stage, including animating text and artwork, adding effects to compositions, working in 3D, and rendering and compressing footage. Exercise files are included with the course.

Topics include:
  • Understanding the After Effects workflow
  • Precomposing footage
  • Explaining the basics and beyond of animating
  • Creating glows, patterns, textures, and more with effects
  • Color correcting footage
  • Working with text
  • Manipulating video playback speed
  • Masking objects and shape layers
  • Removing backgrounds with keying
  • Compositing multiple pieces of footage
  • Integrating After Effects with the rest of the Creative Suite
After Effects
Chad Perkins

Animating position

Position is probably the thing that I find myself adjusting and animating more than any other single property in After Effects on a regular basis. What we're going to do here is we're going to animate on the front hill, kind of growing and then the back hill behind that, and then the sun after that. So, let's go to the Front Hill, open up the layer. Go to Position map. Matter of fact, when you just select the Front Hill layer and hit the letter P for position. Now the first thing you'll notice about Position is that it actually has two values, a left one and a right one.

This refers to the X position, in other words the left and right position of the layer, and the vertical position, the up and down, or Y position of the layer. Now these numbers may seem arbitrary, but they are not. They refer to the Anchor Point here and its distance from the upper left-hand corner. So basically, this is telling us this is 305 pixels over from the left edge, and 487.4 pixels down from the top.

Just like other values, we can click and drag, left and right. I am going to undo that by hitting Command+Z or Ctrl+Z. I can also do that with the Y axis as well, which is kind of what we're going to be doing here. Now one of the things I haven't talked about yet is that After Effects is actually kind of a calculator. When we have these hot text fields, notice there is four decimal points, by the way. This is super-accurate. I am just going to click in here, actually with everything highlighted. I can just type in, let's say, +13, then I hit Enter, and it goes to 500.4.

It does the math for me. I am just going to undo that. Let's say I'm going to click here, and then on the numeric keypad, I am just going to do Forward Slash, the symbol for divide. And I'll say divide by 2. I hit Enter, and then it's twice as close to the top line here as it was. So, it cut the distance between the top-edge in half by dividing by two. I am just going to undo that here. Most properties in After Effects have that capacity. You can add, subtract, multiply, and divide in these fields, so you don't have to do all that work yourself.

Now, here is the secret for animating things kind of coming on. Let's see, for example, I want it to be onscreen and be in its final place here. I actually want to start with the end, because let's say I wanted to start like animating like right here the hill to come up. Then I might click the Position stopwatch, and then adjust the Y value. Notice I am increasing the Y value to increase the distance from the top edge, but I'll start it with it down, which is fine.

But then when I move in time, then I don't really remember exactly where it was, and that's a good way to mess up your design. So, what I am going to do is undo that until I get it back to its original spot. Then I am going to move in time to when I want it to end up. Then click the stopwatch for position. Now let's move earlier in time, and now we can click and drag to the right on the Y value to hide that behind the sign. And now the hill pops up.

Now, let's go to a little bit later in time where we want the back hill to animate on, and go to the Back Hill. Hit P for Position. Let's click the stopwatch, so that we remember where it is in time at this particular point. Then let's move a little earlier and move this up on the Y axis, so it goes down below the sign. And so now, we have this cool staggered animation. Our text fades in.

We have a hill moving up, and then the junior hill behind it moves up after the fact, as well. Now at this point, we are ready to animate the sun coming up. So, let's go ahead and go to the Sun layer. Hit P for position. Notice that sometimes it's good to have your keyframes out and exposed for other layers, so you could use that as a reference for the layer you're currently animating. You don't have to do that. And if you know exactly what you're doing, you don't really need to at all. But if you are kind of improvising, playing around a little bit, it's a good reference. So, I am going to click the Position stopwatch, and go a little earlier in time, and then again on the sun, we're going to increase the Y axis to hide it behind the front hill.

Now, what I am doing here is I am looking at the top of the layer, these little points here called the Bounding Box. And I am looking to see, because as I do this, at this point in time, the front hill has already come up. So, if were to leave it here - so it's hidden for right now - then when I back up in time, I could actually still see the sun. It's kind of hanging out there. So, what I am going to do is I am going to back to the frame that the sun is on. We'll talk more about this a little bit later in this chapter, but you want this to make sure there is a gold diamond, not a gray diamond here on the left-hand side, indicating we are, in fact, on the exact correct layer.

And I am going to increase the Y value until the top of the bounding box, these top little dots right here, submerge beneath the sign. So, they are constantly hidden throughout the duration of the animation up until this point. So, we can back this up. Hit the Spacebar. All right! Now let's back up, and actually do a RAM preview, so we could really see the timing of what's going on here. I am going to hit 0 on the numeric keypad. All right! So, kind of a fun little animation with not too much work.

Now it may take a while for you to feel comfortable with the whole X position, Y position thing, so take a minute and play with it. That's how you're going to learn. Just experiment with adjusting the X position, and then Y position. After a while it will become second nature to you. And hopefully at this point, you will start to be more familiar with using keyframes and creating your own animation. So, let's take it to the next step, and create some rotation for our sun.

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about After Effects CS5 Essential Training .

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Q: In the "Creating a fireball" movie in Chapter 6, the author showed how to make a fireball. Unfortunately, it all centered around a blob layer that he made without showing how to make a blob layer. How does one go about creating a blob layer like the one used in the video?
A: To create a blob layer, make a shape layer using the Pen tool. Animate the anchor points over time to make it move. These concepts are reviewed in depth in Chapter 4, "Learning to Animate."
Q: In the Chapter 5 video "Understanding precomposing," the exercise file provided does not seem to match up with the file the instructor uses. My file does not include a "Biker Body" layer. Is there an error in the exercise file?
A: Unfortunately, the exercise file originally distributed for this chapter was incorrect. A new file was issued in February 2011. If you downloaded the exercise files prior to then, you can download the corrected file on the Exercise Files tab of the course page.
Q: How do I transition from one piece of animated type to another in After Effects?
A: There isn't an effect that can create these types of transitions. It's really a matter of animating the type and camera, using basic keyframing and positioning.
If you understand the basics of moving the anchor point of a type layer, animating the parameters of that layer (Scale, Rotation, Position, etc.) and then separately animating the camera around the type layers, you can achieve different types of transitions.  Check out the following videos for more information:

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