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Parenting is a way to group multiple layers within the same composition inside After Effects. In this course, Chris Meyer shows how to set up a parenting chain, discusses what makes a good parent, and demonstrates several techniques using parenting, such as creating a title animation with a minimal number of keyframes, building a geometric construct, and bringing an anthropomorphic robot arm to life. Sidebar topics include avoiding a scaling gotcha with parenting and creating abstract backgrounds using the Fractal Noise effect.
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®.
You created this animated opening title in a movie earlier in this lesson. Well, it's okay but we can make it a lot fancier and that's what I would like to show you in this Idea Corner. Now, what I am already doing is using a null object to move all the title elements as a group from their initial position off into this corner. Since I'm done with that particular movement, I don't have a need to see that null object anymore, I am going to turn off the video switch for the null. Null objects don't render any way. They don't give you a render time hit.
They will never appear on the screen. It's just a matter of reducing clutter at our display. Next, I don't like everyone being on at the same time because I'm forcing the viewer to process all this visual information at the same time. To lead them from one item to the next, I might stagger their appearance. For example, I might decide that I do indeed want my station number and my bug to be on from the very beginning of the composition. That's fine. Then I want them to start reading about my program. Since I already have a fade out keyframed for Season Finale, I don't want to pick up and move the layer, as that would move the keyframes as well.
So in this case, I will just select it, go to the correct time, hold on Option on Mac, Alt on Windows, press the left square bracket, and trim it to start at 15 frames. Okay, maybe 15 frames or a half second after that I now want my next element to come on. When my show is going to be, so I have got them reading my station, Season Finale, day that it's on. In this case, I don't have any keyframes yet for Tomorrow, so I will just press the left square bracket without any modifier keys and now that whole layer will slide back. So, here is my stagger. The bug, Season Finale, name of show, people animate into position. Zero to RAM preview and this is what it looks like at speed.
Okay, I have given the viewer some important clues about how to read this title but now let's make things more exciting, have them animate on. I will stop my playback. Let's say I want my Season Finale to slide in from the side rather then just popping on. I want it to be all the way on by the time our next element comes on, so I'll hold down the Shift key and my time marker will snap to the start of this layer. Select Season Finale. Type Shift+P to also reveal its position. Okay, this is my at rest position. I will enable keyframing here and now let's pick an initial position for it.
Hold down Shift key and drag, snaps into position, and now I will just scrub Season Finale's position. So, it starts off screen. Now it will slam into position and then my title comes up. But it's a bit boring and a bit sudden, so let's add some sort of text animation to it. In the previous After Effects Apprentice lesson on Type and Music, you have learned how to create your own type animations but for the sake of expediency, let's go ahead and use a preset. I will select Tomorrow. I can either browse my presets in Adobe Bridge or I already know which one I want.
I am going to go down to Animation Presets > Text > Animate In and I am going to use this particular animation called Random Shuffle In. There it is. Now, before I apply an animation preset, I need to make sure my current time indicator is where I want the animation to start, because remember when you apply a preset, the first keyframe goes at your current time. So, hold down Shift and snap to beginning of my layer, make sure the Tomorrow layer is selected, and double-click Random Shuffle In to apply that animation preset.
With the layer selected, I will type UU to see what properties have changed and I will drag the current time indicator to watch the animation. Got a couple of issues here. One, the text was coming in from the left, which I guess is the same direction of Season Finale but looks a little bit messy to be honest and two, it's taking far too long. Well, it's pretty easy to edit animation presents because after all they are just normal keyframes. I will select the second keyframe. Drag it back to two seconds, which will align with the other keyframes for title parent null.
Also, I am going to play around with the Position offset for these characters. Move to point in time where my text is in transition and then start to scrub the position value to get a position that fixes animation better. Maybe shuffle in from the other side of the screen. Maybe start completely off-screen. There is my T in Tomorrow, and I will push it just off-screen. I can have it come straight on, just like Season Finale came in straight from the left, or if I want to tie the title in more to this animation above it maybe I will go ahead and raise this position so it seems to be coming...
Maybe just a little bit higher, like that. Do a RAM preview. Okay, now I have got a nice staggered sequence going on. it slides in, animation in, slides into final position. It works okay but I want my things being a little more elegant, a little more smooth. Notice that everything is defaulting to linear keyframes. We already used Easy Ease In on the parent's movement, so let's go ahead and try that on the rest of these. I am going to type Command+A on Mac, Ctrl+A on Windows to select all my layers and press U to see just their keyframes.
The first U closes everyone up, the second one reveals them, and I am going to select my second keyframes in my animations. I am not going to bother selecting Opacity because you really don't see that much of a difference when you ease in and ease out of opacity keyframes. Right-click, Keyframes Assistant > Easy Ease In. RAM preview. A little bit more elegant, but it still feels herky-jerky to me. So, maybe another approach would be to overlap these animations so they are tied together even more.
I will pause my playback and start playing around with moving some of these keyframes later in time. Right now, this frame stops animating and the next one starts animating at one second. Maybe I will press Page Down five times to move forward five frames and just back off that keyframe five frames later. Since I had this other keyframe selected, it moved by the same amount. Now, let's try that animation. That overlaps feeling a little better. Things are just little bit more tied. There's not that start and stop motion as animation. Kind of like that.
The final thing that's annoying me is everything is very strobe-y. The characters kind of go blop, blop, blop, blop, rather than sliding in. So, to cure that we'll use our old friend Motion Blur. I'll stop playback, go to my Motion Blur switch in the Timeline panel, turn it on for Nine, planet, Tomorrow, and Season Finale. I can just drag my curser down. Note that turning on Motion Blur for the parent has no effect because that would only blur the invisible null. You need to turn it on for each layer even if it's a child.
That's another thing that's not inherited by parenting. And finally, I will turn on my master Motion Blur for the whole composition. One last RAM preview. I can already see from the preview that things are sliding in much nicer here, not too strobe-y and things tie in a bit better. And there's my improved title animation aided by parenting.
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