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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.
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.
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