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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.
When creating motion paths for objects, there is an even faster and easier way to do this by using a feature called Motion Sketch. Go to the Window menu at the top of After Effects and go to Motion Sketch. Select that, and that will open up the Motion Sketch panel. What this is going to allow you to do, as the name implies, it's going to allow you click and drag with your mouse and actually sketch the motion, the path that you want your object to follow. And what it does is not only records your position but also records the speed at which you move your mouse and it makes the character move accordingly.
So, what I'm going to do is I'm going to select the PRECOMP person layer. That's our little person that's going to be moving around this path and we want to make sure that the Background layer is checked. By default, when you start doing Motion Sketch, it makes it so that there is no background and that makes it so that it can record your movements a little bit easier. It's little bit easier for the CPU to process, but that's not going to do any good for us because we need to follow this path. So, once I have Background checked, I might also want to take Smoothing up to a higher degree because as my mouse moves around it gets all jittery, as is the case when you're piloting a mouse.
Then it tends to make a really rough path. I'm just going to leave this set to 1 for right now, but just be aware of that. We'd also change the Capture speed but other than Background, we leave all these things at their defaults. So, I'm going to click Start Capture and nothing happens yet, except that my cursor does turn into a cross arrow, which represents the anchor point. Nothing starts being captured until I start clicking and dragging, but once I click and drag then you can see the Current Time Indicator starts moving, and I'm going to move very quickly around that curve and very quickly around that curve. And then you can see once we're done, we have a new motion path and I move very slowly at first. We're seeing many points here, which represent the keyframes.
And as I move fast, we see less big points and because that's why I was moving fast. We're having a motion path that's indicating how fast things are going. So, if I go back to the first frame and preview this, it's going a little bit slowly because I'm just using the Spacebar preview and the frames are being loaded into RAM, but still you can see that all of this animation was created for us very quickly and look at that speed around those corners just like I did when I was drawing. So, now those frames are cached, let's go ahead and do a RAM preview, 0 on numeric keypad, and we can see our character moving along exactly as I drew it with the mouse with the speed changes and everything, and it's looking pretty good.
Actually, it looks terrible, but it is exactly what I sketched out. So, you could imagine, especially being a new After Effects user, being able to play with time, as we'll see later on this chapter, it's tough. If it's hard to get timing of animation to look lifelike, because it's easier for you to sketch it out with your mouse then by all means use Motion Sketch. It really is a great time-saving feature.
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