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After Effects Apprentice 02: Basic Animation
Illustration by John Hersey

Animating position


From:

After Effects Apprentice 02: Basic Animation

with Chris Meyer and Trish Meyer

Video: Animating position

Now that we know how to edit values, let's make an animation. The first thing I'll do is turn off the rulers in the Comp panel, just to tidy things up. I can also simplify the Timeline by not displaying all of the transformation properties. For instance, since I only want to animate position right now, I can press P for position. The first letter of each transformation name is its shortcut. For instance, press A for anchor point, P for position, S for scale and R for rotation.

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After Effects Apprentice 02: Basic Animation
2h 19m Beginner Jan 25, 2011 Updated Nov 09, 2012

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Trish Meyer leads beginners through a gentle introduction to Adobe After Effects: from creating a new project and importing sources, through arranging and animating layers, applying effects, and creating variations, to rendering the final movie. However, this is no paint-by-numbers exercise. Trish demonstrates how she makes creative decisions and saves time through the use of keyboard shortcuts and smart working practices. Additional movies explain further details about how After Effects works under the hood. Her measured pace helps even those completely new to After Effects understand the program so that they can use it effectively on their own projects. Exercise files are included with the course.

The After Effects Apprentice videos on lynda.com were created by Trish and Chris Meyer and are designed to be used on their own and as a companion to their book After Effects Apprentice. We are honored to host these tutorials in the lynda.com Online Training Library®.

Topics include:
  • Starting a project from scratch
  • Building a composition
  • Arranging and transforming layers interactively and numerically
  • Animating parameters including motion paths
  • Applying and re-using effects
  • Creating variations and rendering the final movie
  • Importing layered Photoshop files
  • Understanding alpha channels
  • Avoiding common mistakes
Subjects:
Video Motion Graphics Visual Effects
Software:
After Effects
Authors:
Chris Meyer Trish Meyer

Animating position

Now that we know how to edit values, let's make an animation. The first thing I'll do is turn off the rulers in the Comp panel, just to tidy things up. I can also simplify the Timeline by not displaying all of the transformation properties. For instance, since I only want to animate position right now, I can press P for position. The first letter of each transformation name is its shortcut. For instance, press A for anchor point, P for position, S for scale and R for rotation.

The out one out is opacity. O is the shortcut to jump to the out point, so pressing O will jump to the out point of the layer, and I, will jump to the in point. The shortcut for Opacity is T. You can think of it as T for transparency. I like to think of it as T as in Opacity. Now you might want to see more than just one property at a time. So if I press P for position and I also want to see scale, I add the Shift key and go Shift+S. If I want to see opacity, Shift+T. The Shift key also subtracts.

So Shift+T subtracts opacity, Shift+S subtracts scale. Now the advantage of using these shortcuts is not only to simplify the Timeline; it's that when you have a lot of layers, you just won't have the space in the Timeline to show every property all the time. So let's animate position. The first thing I want to point out is the Current Time Indicator. As you move the Current Time Indicator left and right, you are updating the current time of the composition.

The time updates at the bottom of the Comp panel, as well as at the left-hand side of the Timeline. Now the current time is very important to After Effects. As you change values for a layer, it's always made at the current time. So I want to make my first keyframe at 0. A handy shortcut, by the way, if you add another point in time to return to 0, press the Home key on the keyboard. To make my first keyframe, I'm going to toggle on the stopwatch.

The stopwatch is to the left of the word Position. As soon as I toggle it on, it creates the first keyframe at the current point in time with the current value. Now since I want my title to animate from below the comp into position, my first keyframe should position the layer below the comp. Don't forget, as you drag the layer down to add the Shift key, so you only move in the Y axis. You can also edit the Y axis only by scrubbing the value in the timeline.

Now, notice I turned on the stopwatch first and then edited the value. I could have edited the value first and then turned on the stopwatch. It actually doesn't matter which order you things in. But what you do want to watch is for the second keyframe that you move the Current Time Indicator to a later point in time. If you don't do that and you just change the value of the layer, you are just changing the value for the first keyframe. So I am going to undo and make sure I move to a later point in time.

Since I don't really know how fast I want this layer to move, I will just move it to 2 seconds for now. I can change the timing of the keyframe later. To make the second keyframe, all I need to do is to change the value for the current point in time. Again, I can do that by dragging the layer in the Comp panel, by scrubbing the value, or by clicking and typing a precise value. And notice I did not have to turn on the stopwatch or turn on the keyframe icon in the keyframe navigator or do anything else except change the value.

By changing the value, it automatically made a second keyframe for me. Once I have made two keyframes at different points in time with different values, you will notice a motion path appears between the two keyframes. This motion path is a series of dots. Each dot indicates where that layer will be at each frame in the Timeline. Now the motion path is only visible when the layer is selected. So if you deselect the layer, and you don't see the motion path, just select the layer again.

The spacing between the dots is also a good indication of how fast or slow your layer is moving. If the dots are very close together, it's probably moving pretty slow. If they are very spaced apart, it may be moving quite quickly. To preview the layer's animation, the first thing you might want to do is just drag the Current Time Indicator. That gives you a general sense of whether or not the layer is moving the way you intended. However, to see it moving in real time, you will have to initiate a preview.

There are two types of preview. The Standard Preview you initiate a clicking Play or by clicking the Spacebar. Now the Standard Preview shows you the motion path and the layer handles and there are a couple of other interface items, and that can be useful. But it's more usual to initiate a RAM Preview. At the right-hand side of the Preview panel, click the RAM Preview button. Since I had already done a standard preview; it didn't take After Effects anytime at all to do a RAM Preview. You will notice that it's a clean preview.

It doesn't show you the motion path, and it tends to be better optimized. Normally, the RAM preview will always play in real time, unless your composition is very large and your computer is very slow. If that's the case, it will display what frame rate it's currently playing back at. Now I can see that my animation is a little slow. I might like to speed it up. For instance, if I drag the second keyframe earlier in time, that will make the animation go faster. You will notice now when I RAM-preview, the first time it cached the frames it actually played faster than real time.

That's because it's a very simple animation. Normally, the first time you RAM-preview, it will go slower than real time as it's caching the frames. Now I feel it's going a little fast. As you are moving the second keyframe, there are two ways of knowing what time it'll be at. You can drag it and then in the Info panel, it will update the keyframe time. The method I like to use is to move the Current Time Indicator to the position I'd like the keyframe to be at.

And then as I drag the keyframe, I add the Shift key, and it will snap to the Current Time Indicator. The Shift key makes everything snap to everything else. For instance, the Current Time Indicator will snap to the keyframe if I add Shift. So I will RAM-preview again, and I think I like this tempo. Now, I also wanted to point out the keyframe navigator. This exists on the left-hand side, underneath the AV features column. The AV features is the video switch, audio switch, solo switch, and lock switch.

I like to drag this column to the right-hand side, so that the keyframe navigator appears right beside the keyframes. Now, why is this useful? Well, the keyframe navigator allows you to click an arrow to jump amongst your keyframes. You can go to the next keyframe or the previous keyframe. It's very important when you're editing values to make sure you're parked directly on the keyframe. If you just drag the Current Time Indicator and get a little sloppy and end up one frame off, when you edit this value, you will actually just create an extra keyframe that you don't want. Let me undo.

So another reason to add the Shift key is to make sure that when you land on a keyframe, you actually park directly on top of the keyframe. You will notice that when you are parked on a keyframe, the keyframe navigator will be lit up in yellow. When you're in between keyframes, it will be grayed out. So use the keyframe navigator to jump between keyframes and make sure you're parked directly on top of the keyframe before you edit its value. So now that I'm happy with my animation, I am going to save it, and we will move on.

In this case, I'll do Increment and Save. This will update version 2 to version 3, and will save the project in the same folder as version 2.

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about After Effects Apprentice 02: Basic Animation.


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Q: This course was updated on 11/09/2012. What changed?
A: We added new movies on using the exercise files that come with this course, and working with the Global Performance Cache in After Effects CS6. We have also added exercise files designed for After Effects CS6.
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