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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.
In this movie, we have the task of moving this little figure here around the path as if she were taking a tour through the olive gardens, the olive things here. So, what we're going to do is we're actually going to select this top layer, PRECOMP person. I put it at the top of the layer stack, not because that's the best idea. Because we probably wanted to go behind the bar and that type of thing, behind the trees and whatnot, but just for the sake of easy of use, I'm going to press P for Position and put a stopwatch for Position.
I'm going to move out and time a little bit. Again, it doesn't really matter where. I'm just going to say 12 frames, and then we'll move her down the path a little bit and then we'll move over to Frame 23, let's say, and we move around. And as we move objects around Position, you'll see that a path is created for you. This is referred to as a motion path. Initially, there seems like just kind of like a guide more or less, but it actually is a very useful tool.
You see these little main points all along the path correspond to the keyframes that you set. As a matter of fact, as you see here this first keyframe that we set here is hollow and watch this keyframe here in the Timeline panel. When I select it, it goes from gray and then once I click it to select it, it becomes filled in here in the Composition panel and in Timeline panel it turns gold indicating that it is selected. So, again, we can select keyframes easily this way and visually see where our keyframes are.
More than that, these little tiny dots in between the keyframes correspond to the individual frames. So, we can use these as a reference to look at the speed of our object. If we have a lot of dots very close together, it indicates that the object is moving slowly because it's very slow to go from frame to frame. And as we have dots that are spread out far apart, then we know that the object is traveling very fast because it's going a great distance from frame to frame. Now what's even cooler about this is that we want to look at this and say you know what? Actually, I want this keyframe to be out more like this or in like this, and we could tweak it and play with it.
And we could also adjust what we were talking about in the last movie. We can adjust the spatial interpolation. We might want her to follow this path a little bit more cleanly so we can click on one of these keyframes to select it. We get these little dots. They're kind of hard to see, but they kind of extend outside of these keyframes. It kind of like Bezier handles if you're familiar with the Illustrator and Bezier paths. I can click one of these handles and drag this down so that as our character turns the corner, there's a little bit more roundness to how she follows that path.
Now, this is a little bit too far so I might want to move this up and take this handle in. So, again, we're not adjusting the keyframes per se. Actually when I clicked to drag this keyframe, I was moving the keyframe. But by adjusting these handles, we're not adjusting the keyframe. We're just adjusting how she gets from Point A to Point B. This is where a lot of the control is in motion paths, a lot of great control because imagine trying to go down the smooth curved paths without motion paths, without spatial interpolation. It would be very difficult.
So, this way, we could just kind of move in time and go out to some crazy path like that, that's not really following this curve at all, but then we can grab these little handles and move them around so then she does kind of follow the curve of the path. So, whether you want your character to follow a path like this or whether it's just like a rocket or something else you want to move in some way that's not just robotic and straightline-y. I just invented the term straightline-y, by the way. Haha.
But if you want your characters to move around in some organic smooth way, then spatial interpolation by manipulating motion pass is a way to go.
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