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After Effects Apprentice 03: Advanced Animation
Illustration by John Hersey

Coordinating keyframes


From:

After Effects Apprentice 03: Advanced Animation

with Chris Meyer and Trish Meyer

Video: Coordinating keyframes

Next I am going to use the Graph Editor to coordinate animation across multiple layers, and also to coordinate keyframes with a video. Now in this case I have my Snowflake.mov all nicely easing, and I've got nice animation on it. But I've been neglecting Snowstorm title, which ends at a different point in time. I can Shift+Click to try to see both of them, but sometimes you get into trouble by deselecting a layer accidentally. So the far better way to go is to go ahead and enable Show Graph Editor Set, which means always show a particular parameter whether or not that layer is selected.

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After Effects Apprentice 03: Advanced Animation
3h 1m Beginner Jan 26, 2011 Updated Nov 12, 2012

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

In this course, Chris Meyer helps beginning After Effects artists take their animations to the next level. Chris shows how to refine animations to create elegant, coordinated movements with the minimum number of keyframes—as well as slam-downs, whip pans, and other attention-getters. Additional movies show how to reverse-engineer existing animations, create variations on a theme, and master other parts of the program. Even though this course is designed for beginners, even veterans should learn tricks that many experienced users are unaware of. Chris' friendly running commentary lets you in on his mental process as he works on an animation. 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:
  • Understanding how keyframes work under the hood
  • Controlling the Anchor Point to create more predictable animations
  • Mastering the Graph Editor for the ultimate control over keyframes
  • Animating parameters including motion paths
  • Hand-drawing motion paths to simplify complex movements
  • Applying and tweaking Motion Blur
  • Using Hold keyframes
Subjects:
Video Motion Graphics Visual Effects
Software:
After Effects
Authors:
Chris Meyer Trish Meyer

Coordinating keyframes

Next I am going to use the Graph Editor to coordinate animation across multiple layers, and also to coordinate keyframes with a video. Now in this case I have my Snowflake.mov all nicely easing, and I've got nice animation on it. But I've been neglecting Snowstorm title, which ends at a different point in time. I can Shift+Click to try to see both of them, but sometimes you get into trouble by deselecting a layer accidentally. So the far better way to go is to go ahead and enable Show Graph Editor Set, which means always show a particular parameter whether or not that layer is selected.

Now turn on the graph editors set for all of the properties I am interested in. Now it doesn't matter whether or not they are selected, I am going to see them. It becomes very easy for me to see that this second position keyframe for Snowstorm Title is landing a bit earlier than all the other ones. If I want to coordinate them, I'll just pick it up and start dragging. I'll add the Shift key to constrain so it keeps a constant speed, and now they end at the same point in time. Now the other thing I've done with all these always keyframes is I've eased them into their final value. Now when you are coordinating multiple animations, it's good that they all have the same interpolation if you want them all to seem to move together and have the same type of movement.

So with this second position keyframe selected, I can either ease in to it, or I can just go ahead and drag it down until its speed is at zero. Again, I might want to do a little bit of playing to keep just a fairly steady state speed across this animation, make sure that it keeps a constant speed starting out, and just lands into its final place. Let's press 0 to RAM preview. Now every one lands together, eases together, a nicely coordinated animation. But while I have been focusing on these layers I've been animating, I haven't really been paying attention to the video, to what's going on there, and there's some very strong action going on.

There is this guy shoveling on the right, but even more important, there is this snowboarder on the left. It'd be really cool if my landings coordinated with that snowboarder. I could do a couple of different things. One, I could slide the snowboarder layer in time so that he lands at the same time that these keyframes are. And actually there is a later lesson in this series that goes over editing layers. Or I can put the Current Time Indicator at the point where the snowboarder hits the ground and then move my keyframes to match that. So let's go ahead and drag the current time indicator and look to see when that snowboarder hits the ground.

I need to zoom out a little bit here in time to see that more, and he seems to kind of start landing right around there, and that's when he really crunches in. So I'd say he is fully hit at about this frame. The next thing I want to do is stretch my animation to go ahead and end at this point in time. Now if I only had two keyframe animations, a starting keyframe and an ending keyframe, I would just need to marquee my ending keyframes and drag them out to this point in time. However, the position has an intermediate keyframe as well.

So this is where I want to take advantage of the trick I showed you earlier, of animating all the keyframes for a particular property as a group. I'll just go ahead and marquee all of these, make sure I've got this one selected and there I have got the whole group now. Now I just press my cursor over the nubbins of this bounding box and drag the whole group out to end at the Current Time Indicator. So about right around there, and it looks like all my curves kept in nice shape. As soon as I clicked off, my display auto-zoomed. I notice I've also got this rotation keyframe, which is now landing early.

I'll drag him out, too. I hold the Shift key after I start dragging to keep same value, and now they are aligned with my Current Time Indicator. I'm going to go ahead and press Shift+1 to place a marker at point in the Timeline, just to remember where that guy landed. 0 to RAM Preview, and now everyone kind of comes in. But you know, it looks like all the layers are landing before the snowboarder is, and there is a good reason for why they don't seem to line up, even though their timings are all the same, and it has to do with interpolation.

The snowboarder is hitting the ground pretty hard. You could say he, in essence, has very little interpolation or very little influence, because we just suddenly whacks in that final value, rather than easing into it. However, all the other layers are gently slowing down to that final keyframe, so they appear to reach their final position much sooner relative to the snowboarder, just because they are slowing down as they get to that last frame. There is a couple of ways of curing this. One would be to shorten the influence handles for all these animations, just to make them hit their final position much harder, like the way the snowboarder is hitting his final position much harder.

Opacity and let's go ahead and edit scale while we're at it. Hold the Shift key to constrain, so I am on a straight path and maybe even tighten this up a little bit, too. There we go. The other thing to do would be to grab those ending keyframes and just nudge them a little bit in time. Now, since they seem to be landing early, I can go ahead and move them as a group later in time to compensate for the fact that they have more ease-in than the snowboarder does.

Let's go ahead and preview that. Now, they all come, boom! I could tweak this further in a couple of different ways. I can continue to work on the influence, for the way that the snowflake lands into position, to better echo the way the snowboarder lands into his final position. Or I can go ahead and cheat the timing a little bit, move it a frame or two earlier or later in time, until it has the right feel, and that's an important thing about animation. Don't get your head locked into numeric perfection when animating layers.

You ultimately have to preview it and see what looks right and what feels right, because things will give you different impressions depending on how they are animating, where they're coming from, and their type of movement. Tools like the Graph Editor are great to get you close, but use your intuition and your gut feeling to get it the rest of the way there.

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about After Effects Apprentice 03: Advanced Animation.


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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:

Q: This course was updated on 11/09/2012. What changed?
A: We have updated the movie dealing with Time Display to be applicable to working with different versions of After Effects (from CS4 to CS6). We also added a movie that shows our premium subscribers how to use the exercise files, including the new exercise files designed for After Effects CS6.
 
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