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After Effects Apprentice 03: Advanced Animation
Illustration by John Hersey

Idea corner two: Independent slam


From:

After Effects Apprentice 03: Advanced Animation

with Chris Meyer and Trish Meyer

Video: Idea corner two: Independent slam

We'd like to leave you with one more idea corner to explore. Again, drawing upon and extending things you've learned earlier in this lesson. Now you might remember this animation from earlier on when we're playing around with hold keyframes. We used to hold keyframes to go ahead and slam the word Reject into various positions and poses and also use hold keyframes opacity to blink the frame that goes round the word Reject. Well, the fact that Reject came as one entire word, it did kind of limit what we can do with it. However, if we have any access or any control over how this file is created, we can make some requests such as hey, could you give me each character of that word Reject as a separate layer in Illustrator or Photoshop? Because if you do that, when I bring it into After Effects, I can animate each layer independently and create a really fun, complex slam-down animation.

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

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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 two: Independent slam

We'd like to leave you with one more idea corner to explore. Again, drawing upon and extending things you've learned earlier in this lesson. Now you might remember this animation from earlier on when we're playing around with hold keyframes. We used to hold keyframes to go ahead and slam the word Reject into various positions and poses and also use hold keyframes opacity to blink the frame that goes round the word Reject. Well, the fact that Reject came as one entire word, it did kind of limit what we can do with it. However, if we have any access or any control over how this file is created, we can make some requests such as hey, could you give me each character of that word Reject as a separate layer in Illustrator or Photoshop? Because if you do that, when I bring it into After Effects, I can animate each layer independently and create a really fun, complex slam-down animation.

Well, we've done that for you. Let's go ahead and import a layered version of this Reject. First, I am going to select the folder I want to import into. In this case, Idea Corner, and I go to File > Import > File. If you have exercise files that came with this lesson, go to Exercise Files > Sources and select Reject_split. That's with the character split onto their own layers inside Illustrator. I can ignore the Import As dialog for now, because I will get the second dialog where I decide how I'm going to import this layered file.

In this case, I want to import it as a Composition. A composition that contained each of those characters as their own layer. I get some choices about how those layers get cropped. Are they cropped based on the entire document size, or an each individual layer size? Quite often, I prefer the individual layers size. The reason is, if I crop down each character and the anchor point defaults to the center of each layer, chances are really strong that that anchor point is going to default to the middle of each of those characters, which is already going to make it much easier to animate.

So I pick Layer Size. I click OK and now I have two things. I have a comp called Reject_split, and I have a folder of each of those individual layers, R, E, J,E, C, T, and the frame. Let's go ahead and play around with this. Well, initially, when I import a layered file as a composition, the composition it creates is going to be the size of either the document size in Illustrator, or of the image itself. In this case, it's smaller than I want for true video image. That's okay.

You can edit the composition settings after the fact. I'll go to Composition Settings. Let's go back to that size we're working with, 640 x 480. I'm happy with the frame rate, remember that, and let's pick something shorter like 5 seconds for now, and the background color black is kind of boring actually. Let's go ahead and do something on white. That makes it pop a lot better. Click OK. I want to animate this down and let's go ahead and make it really exciting. I'm going to make it to slap down into positions on every three frames.

When you go ahead and set new keyframes or new poses, every certain number of frames, like every three frames, that's referred to as animating on threes. If you do it every two frames, it would be call animating on twos, et cetera. Okay, another piece of advice we've given you is sometimes your ending pose is a good place to put your first keyframe. Let's say I want to have one pose, two poses, third pose, fourth pose, and maybe a fifth pose there.

That's where I want to end up here. I'm going to select all of my layers by clicking on the first one, and then Shift+Clicking on the last one, the entire range will be selected. I'll type P to reveal their Position, Shift+S to reveal their Scale, and I could optionally animate the Rotation as well. But since I am going to have a lot going on these characters, I'm going to leave rotation out of it for now. Drag up my Timeline panel to see a bit more what's going on. Click on the animation stopwatch for one of these, Position, and just drag down the list with my mouse held down, and now I've set the keyframes for all those properties.

Life is good. Now let's have fun positioning each character. I'll go ahead and click off for now, so nobody is selected. Otherwise, I might move everybody at once. Go one, two, three frames earlier. Pick up the R. Go ahead and pick a new Scale value for him, like say around there, and he is looking fuzzy. Well, that's because the Continuous Rasterization switch did not default to being on. If this was a pixel-based layer, it'd always be fuzzy. But since it's an Illustrator file based on vectors, if I enable Continuous Rasterization, After Effects knows to render this file on-the-fly to always be sharp.

It's only works for things like fonts and other path-based objects. Click on that. Now it's sharper. Let's go ahead and do that for everybody. Click on 1, and drag down the list, until they are all selected. Great! They're all going to be sharp now. Let's go ahead and move E over to different pose say down here. This is random and I can always move these things later on. Let's go ahead and pick up the J. Fill up some space there with them. Became big and maybe they can crowd in little bit. Take the other E. You are getting the idea.

We're just kind of goofing around here, looking for some interesting balance, and also some surprises. Putting a few things you don't expect them to be, maybe even cut off a little bit. C, yeah, he is fine down here, just scrolling down, scaling. And finally T. Let's just scale him up in place to see what he looks like. Continues to fill some space over here. Scale him up a little.

And the frame, I think I'll have fun scaling him to different sizes as we slam down as well. So let's just try that for now for an alternate framing. Kind of like how that bridges through there, ties these together. Okay, one, two, three frames earlier by pressing Page Up. Pick some different poses. Move the R to an unexpected part of the frame. Scroll up to where I can see him. You notice that the default path is Auto Bezier. That's okay. When I turn it into a hold keyframe for Position, it's not going to matter. Scale him up to some bigger value like there.

Take this E. Cram him up into this corner, make him bigger. Take the J. Move him down here to fill this space up and you know just to randomize things, let's scale him down rather than up. We don't need to have everyone doing the same thing. We need some variety. Repetition with variation, it's one of the main principles of art. Okay, C. Oh, the C is going to be better over here. So let's put the C there, then pick up the J, and move him over there, like that.

All right! I'm sure you've got the idea by now. So there is no need to make you watch me create the rest of these keyframes in real-time. So let's zip ahead while I create the rest of these. If you're working along with me, go ahead and pause this video, create your own keyframes, and let's get back together, set the work area, and preview our work. I go to 20. Type N to set down on my work area. As you probably remember from the earlier lesson, if I just RAM Preview this, I just have a bunch of characters sliding around, and frankly, that's not horrible.

But I want to go for that slam animation. So I'll drag a marquee around all my keyframes, right-click on any one of them, and choose Toggle Hold Keyframe. Notice how all my motion paths drained out automatically, and now I got do-do-do, slamming into position. Remember, if I want to do something with the characters or whatever later on, I can convert these ending keyframes to linear and keyframe some other animation later on. Now in fact, I think I'm going to want to do that with my frame. Let's go ahead and hold down a Command on Mac, Ctrl on Windows.

Click on the keyframes to convert them to linear. Just for fun, I'm going to move the Current Time Indicator back there. Hold Shift so it snaps. Shift+R to add Rotation, and keyframe that too so things drift over time. Get down to this point. A little bit Rotation on the frame. Just to create something fun. Scale up a little bit. I could do more Rotation. Okay, there is my drift. As I drag my Current Time Indicator, I notice something funky is going on here.

The R is actually still animating. As I scroll up my Timeline, ha, I forgot to select them and make those hold keyframes. That was a mistake on my part. But sometimes you get happy accidents. So I'm going to leave like that for now, and see if I want to change him later on. Anyway, I'm going to go back to the home, time 0, start of my comp. I've got a kind of red mess here. It's kind of an abstract. But maybe I want some ways of seeing these things more clearly.

One way to help is lift a layer off of other layers behind it and get some space and distinction is to add a drop shadow to it. I'm going to my Effects & Presets panel and search for Drop Shadow. Double-click him and he'll be added to my layer. Now you see I've got some separation between my R layer and all of the other layers. I'm going to go ahead and scrub the Distance a little bit larger to get little bit more distance and a little bit Softness, because I like the organic feel. Before, after.

Now when I don't have very much softness, you'll see that I'm losing definition on the inside of the R, because my Drop Shadow is going this direction but I don't have anything casting back in the other direction to distinguish the hold on that R. If I increase my Softness, you'll see that this shadow spread so much, it gives me a little bit of definition in there as well. So go ahead and get a little bit of outline there. Once I have one shadow that I like, I can select it, Command+C or Ctrl+C to copy it, and paste it to the other layers.

I'll go ahead and select E through T by Shift+Clicking, and then do Command or Ctrl+V to paste the shadow to them all. Click off to deselect. That's pretty cool. I don't think I'll lost any of my charm either here. So let's go ahead and preview. That's kind of fun with that R moving around, and then I've got my whole frame moving in the background. Now this is a very busy animation, and frankly I'm kind of losing out what's happening to the frame behind stuff. So let's say we let these characters have their hero day and then after they've come down in position, go three frames later and then drag my outer frame to start then in time.

After all, the fun's happen with the other characters. To slide a layer in time, I click anywhere in the layer bar, start to dragging, and notice the keyframes come along with me. I can hold the Shift key to make it snap with the Current Time Indicator, just like I could snap keyframes. Now let's see how that looks. Drag my work area to add a little bit later, to encompass my entire animation, and preview. It's a nice rhythm. The rhythm kind of carries over from the characters to the frame.

I can start it a little bit earlier. Try that. Now it's getting lost. Or start it later since more of a surprise element. Preview. Yeah, just when I think I'm done, something fun happens with that frame. I am going to go ahead and select the Drop Shadow. I had one of other layers, paste it to the frame because it's looking lonely without it. That's little bit more cohesive. Finally, since I have this R sliding around, let's say we enable Motion Blur for that R just for laughs. Peview that.

This is one of those cases when I don't think Motion Blur helped. So I turn it off for that layer, preview again, and I got an alternate slam down, and actually that's fun. That's something that will hold the viewers attention more than once. That's something we try to create. It's something called an "again" animation. Once the animation is where a viewer watches something one time, they get it, and frankly, they're going to go to the fridge and get a sandwich the next time this is on TV. However, if you create something with complexity, and subtlety, and interest, you've created an again animation where someone wants to see it multiple times, and that adds more value for your client, be it a commercial or whatever.

Anyway, that's one idea of what to do with a layered version of this particular title. If you have exercise files, we've created another idea and stored it in Idea Corner > Idea2. Here is the folder of all the individual layers and here is the comp with an alternate idea. We encourage you to go try your ideas. We don't have the only solutions. This is art. Art is somewhat subjective. Experiment on your own.

Come up with your own look and above all have fun.

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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