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After Effects Apprentice 03: Advanced Animation
Illustration by John Hersey

Idea corner one: Alternative camera movements


From:

After Effects Apprentice 03: Advanced Animation

with Chris Meyer and Trish Meyer

Video: Idea corner one: Alternative camera movements

Earlier in this lesson, we used the anchor point to animate a fake motion control camera move around this large photo of these cars. Well, you've learned a little bit since then so let's apply some of those ideas and techniques to make this more interesting. For example, we've been playing with Motion Blur to make very fast camera moves look interesting. We've played a little bit with Hold keyframes. Let's try out some ideas on this photo. I want to make a new composition. Before I make a comp, I should select the folder I want to put it into. Since this is the Idea Corner section, I'll select that folder.

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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

Idea corner one: Alternative camera movements

Earlier in this lesson, we used the anchor point to animate a fake motion control camera move around this large photo of these cars. Well, you've learned a little bit since then so let's apply some of those ideas and techniques to make this more interesting. For example, we've been playing with Motion Blur to make very fast camera moves look interesting. We've played a little bit with Hold keyframes. Let's try out some ideas on this photo. I want to make a new composition. Before I make a comp, I should select the folder I want to put it into. Since this is the Idea Corner section, I'll select that folder.

I go Composition > New Comp. After Effects remembers my last settings, the last comp I created. 640x480, NTSC video rate of 29.97 is fine with me. 7 seconds was the last duration I entered. I'll keep that for now. I can always change it later, shorter or longer, and give this comp a useful name like camera move 2. Click OK. I have my blank comp. Go down to my image. If you have the exercise files that came with this lesson, you can drag Auto Race into your new comp.

If you don't, just go for another photo you have that has lots of interesting things to focus on. There is my photo in my comp. Now hopefully you remember that to pan around images like this, the anchor point, A is the shortcut, is the best thing to animate. You need to animate the anchor point in the layer panel. So I'll double-click the layer to open up the Layer panel. I want to see it the same time as the comp. So I'll drag it to the side here, so I can see the two of them side-by-side. I have my magnifications set up to Fit to 100%, so I can see as much as I can as I try to maximize my displays. There we go.

Over in the Layer panel, I want to view the anchor point path, and I'm going to start off by just dragging the anchor point around the Layer panel. Watch what happens in the Comp panel, and see what I have that I might like. Well, I do like this car, and I do like the grouping of these four cars. Another nice grouping is down here. Actually, it's quite lovely, Classic Camaro Mustang Battle, and there is another grouping up here I kind of like. Yeah, that trio of cars is interesting. I have something interesting here.

Four, three, two, one. Maybe I'll make that a theme to play around with. Okay, let's start by focusing on our intro. Now I personally find this car, this Javelin, to be kind of interesting. I like this a lot. I promise that he is not big enough, so my temptation would be to scale him up. I'll type Shift, then add S to add Scale, and make him larger. Then I can go ahead and scale him up to where he is really dominating the frame. I'll actually see it right in that windshield, but the promise is I've had the scale past 100%, which is usually not a good idea for photographic or other pixel-based images because they start to get soft.

However, I learned this cool motion blur trick early on. If I do a really fast move on this image, I bet that motion blur will cover for my lack of resolution. Let's find out. I'll zoom in a bit tighter and harder on him. That's very cool. I kind of like that. Enable animation for Anchor Point and Scale. Go few frames later, like maybe about ten frames. These timings are guesses right now. I can change them later on. Scale down to something more reasonable, like maybe even 100% to see how that looks.

He is not so interesting by himself. But let's move to that group of four cars. I'm moving in the Layer panel, or watching what's going on in the Comp panel. I can scale even smaller, like around there. Now I want to make sure that none of these cars get cropped off. My wife and partner in design Trish told you back in the basic animation lesson that you can always enable the title and action safe grids just to make sure the bezel of the TV is not going to crop things off.

So I'll enable that. I see I do have a cropping problem. So I'll Scale it down just little bit smaller to make sure everyone fits in quite safely. Maybe 60% for now and do a little reframing. Okay, let's see how that slam-down looks. I'll move the Current Time Indicator just a little bit later. Type End to end my work area there, and press 0 on the Numeric Keypad to see what this looks like. Now it looks a bit strobey. I don't really mind the resolution, but it's hard to watch. But a motion blur can come to my rescue here.

I went to enable Motion Blur for the layer. Then to preview it, I'm going to enable it for the composition. Now I'll press 0 again to RAM Preview. You see it takes a bit longer to calculate, but it's a much nicer look, much smoother rather than scrubby. I like that. Okay, that's a good start to my animation. Now that I'm on this pose, I'll turn off Motion Blur just to save myself some rendering time so things are clearer. Let's say I want to just drift on that a little bit. I like that pose.

Let's just go to one second time and just drift slightly down the road here. Maybe scale a little bit. Just get the action coming towards me, just to create a little bit of interest in action and excitement. I can extend my work area by dragging its end, or move my Current Time Indicator and press the End key. Preview. Okay, that's going somewhere.

But it gets kind of boring quickly. This will be a good time to pick up another pose. I have a couple of different ways I can go here. I can use Hold keyframes to suddenly jump to other poses, or I can keep this idea of constant motion going. I think I'm going to try that. Now one technique that's kind of popular is something called a whip pan. It comes from moving a camera very quickly from one point of interest to another point of interest. To fake a whip pan in After Effects, I'm going to move just, and let's just try three frames later on time to begin with.

Go back to my layer panel and move my anchor point to this new group of cars I want to focus on, that group of three there. That's fun. I want to zoom in a little bit just to get some better framing on them. Right around there is kind of nice. I like that and it's 100%. So that's a good scale. So I've got my slam down, I've got my drift, and then I've got my whip pan. You might notice that my drift is wandering a bit now. This is where keyframe handles come in.

Remember, motion paths defaults to a form a Bezier to automatically smooth your movements. The problem is that my smoothed movements are creating an undesired motion here. So I'm going to go ahead and retract these handles, convert them to linear, so that I drift in a straight line. To do that, I'll press the G key to temporarily switch to the Pen tool. I've got the Convert Vertex tool. When I hover over a keyframe, click linear keyframe. Go up here as well, click linear keyframe as well.

Now I have a much more even drift, and then there is my Whip Pan to note on pose. Okay, that's coming together. So here is my second pose. Let's hold on it for the same amount of time as before, which was 20 frames. Shift+Page Down, that's 10, 20 frames later in time. Where shall I drift too? Well, let's start going down the track. Oops! Do you see the mistake I've made? I've started panning this image in the Comp panel, which is changing the Position value. I don't want to do that.

Instead, I want to go back to this panel and move the anchor point. Oh! I see the keyframe nubbin. I am going to preemptively hold G, convert that to a linear keyframe. There we go. Now that I'm later in time, I'm going to go ahead and drift a little bit down on my road here, just a small drift. Nice! Maybe change the scale just a little bit. Don't I get too much of this car in the frame, because I want to focus on these three, but it is outside of Action Safe, so it'll probably be cut off by the television bezel. That's good.

My whip pan was three frames long before, so let's go one, two, and three. I can always adjust this timing later, and now let's move the anchor point to go focus on this group with two cars down here. But I'm traveling a lot further in that period of time. There is a chance I can give myself more frames for that pan. So first, I'm going to get my framing that I like, maybe somewhere around there, and then just for fun, move these out to be five frames.

One, two frames later in time. To see how this is coming along, I'll move my Current Time Indicator later. Press N to make a longer work area, turn Motion Blur back on, so I get an accurate idea what my whip pans look like, and preview. That's kind of fun, so I'm slamming down, drift, move, move. I might want to space these out a bit more.

Okay, but it's a start. I can always play with timing later on. 20 frames later, do a drift where I'm starting to move down the road. We're leading the eye to the direction I am eventually heading in. What I want to about Scale here? Maybe just a hair or smaller like that, then another shorter whip pan like one, two, and three. Repetition with variation, that's an important concept here in graphics. There is a nice pose in that car and again a little less scale so I can fit him in there.

Extend my Work Area and look at that. And here is our preview. And that's a lot more exciting move around this image. Since I've ended up on the green car, which was my initial pose back in the movie where we first showed the motion control camera move technique. Maybe it'd be fun to go ahead and use the rest of that lesson to create a movement that went around the road that looked at the entire field.

So a few seconds later in time, grab my anchor point to go further down the road, and just give myself a funer pose, like maybe on that part of the track around there, just to be something different. I want to curve around this section of the track. So I'm going to hold down the G key again to go ahead and pull out a handle. Let's start to come around the track. I need a handle here as well. So I'll hold G and start to pull that out. Well, I've got a Bezier, so I'm going to hold G again and break my handles.

So I can make that keyframe an arc and pull this other keyframe back down. So I've got my quick move to that frame. So now we move around the track like we did before and I'll try to do some things with scale and timing later on. But now you have an idea. We've got some exciting pans going on, and then I've ended with the move that we created back in the anchor point lesson. If you have the exercise files that came with this lesson, I've got another idea here in the Idea Corner panel, Idea1 - Motion Control, which is a variation on this quick whip pan idea.

Let me go ahead and close the layer panel for now, RAM Preview, and you see here I've used more in the way of Hold keyframes and whip pans to create a different dynamic animation around the photo. The point I'm trying to make in general is when the instructor has finished with the tutorial, it doesn't mean that you're finished. Go ahead and take the materials and keep trying out different ideas and different variations. If you hit upon a new look that you like, that's great. If you hit upon a new look that you hate, that's useful too, because now maybe you have an idea of what doesn't work as well and you can avoid wasting time going down that path on a paying job.

Regardless, experiment, have fun. Particularly when you do have free time, because when you're on deadline, you want to have this little store of ideas in the back of your head to draw on so that real jobs go faster.

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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