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After Effects Apprentice 03: Advanced Animation
Illustration by John Hersey

Interpolating in the Graph Editor


From:

After Effects Apprentice 03: Advanced Animation

with Chris Meyer and Trish Meyer

Video: Interpolating in the Graph Editor

Now, let's use the Graph Editor to refine our animation, change the keyframe interpolation and velocity, and get something different happening besides just my normal linear keyframes. I am going to go ahead and drag my rotation value here and go ahead have it finish later like I was doing earlier, and rotate more so it has a larger value range. I'll RAM-preview that. Okay, but the problem here is that that snowflake keeps spinning well after it lands and then stops. Let's say I want to ease into that final position. There is a couple of ways of doing that.

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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

Interpolating in the Graph Editor

Now, let's use the Graph Editor to refine our animation, change the keyframe interpolation and velocity, and get something different happening besides just my normal linear keyframes. I am going to go ahead and drag my rotation value here and go ahead have it finish later like I was doing earlier, and rotate more so it has a larger value range. I'll RAM-preview that. Okay, but the problem here is that that snowflake keeps spinning well after it lands and then stops. Let's say I want to ease into that final position. There is a couple of ways of doing that.

One, as you may remember from an earlier movie, you can select a keyframe, then use the Easy Ease keyframe type. You can ease both directions or just Ease into the keyframe. Once I do that, I get an influence handle that decides how it's going to interpolate into that value. I'll RAM-preview. You see now that the rotation gradually just comes to a halt here at the end of the animation. Easy Ease is just a default value; you're not stuck with it. Let's say I want an even more gradual deceleration. I'll go ahead and grab this handle and elongate it, so that I've got an even longer ease-in of more gradual slow-down.

If I'm having trouble keeping this handle even, I'll have the Shift key while dragging, and again it will be constrained. So let's try that RAM, and let's see what that looks like. That's a much more gentle landing. I kind of like that. That has a nicer feel to it. It really settles in. As I look in my curve though, I do have a little bit of a funny business going on here where it's not rotating as fast, than having to catch up as we go. If I want to confirm that behavior, I'll look at the Speed Graph to see what going on. I can indeed see that the snowflake is initially rotating faster, then slowing down, and that's the thing about editing keyframes: you're balancing time versus range of value.

They have to add up at the end of the day. So I am going to go ahead and drag this Speed Graph to go ahead and be flatter to start to get a much more constant speed, have a fast rotation here in the middle, then land into my final value. I'll RAM-preview. Now I've got a pretty constant speed at the beginning of the animation and settle nicely into the end. I'll switch back to my Auto-Select, so it shows me the value graphs. Now I've got a nice curve going into the rotation of that snowflake.

The other thing I see as wrong in this animation is this real hitch, this discontinuity in the position value for that snowflake. Let's smooth that out. By going back again to an earlier movie in this lesson, I can go ahead and select those keyframes and change them to Auto Bezier. That will automatically smooth the movement. There is a couple of ways of doing that. One is to use the handy Convert Selected keyframes to Auto Bezier button, which I showed you earlier at the bottom of the Graph Editor. But another is just to use the keyboard shortcut of holding down the Option key on Mac, Alt key on Windows and that gives me the Convert Vertex tool.

Click on the keyframe, and now I have an Auto Bezier keyframe through that point in time, which will give me a smoother animation. I'll RAM-preview, and now I don't have quite the hitch in my motion through here. Again, Auto Bezier is just a set of default values on how to smooth this out. I'll go ahead and play with this curve more, because I notice it's curving up here, coming down kind of sharply, coming under, and going back up again. I prefer that the graph be actually less complex and be smoother to give me more elegant motion. So I am going to go ahead and drag these out a little bit to get a more even movement through that keyframe.

Now you see how it's much flatter and smoother through there. Then play with my beginning and ending speeds, so I have a constant ending speed, and maybe I should have the ending speed come all the way down to zero, so that it just softly lands into place. Okay, once I drag this out, I see I need to start playing around with my timing, so I can smooth out my graph and get the sort of smooth animation I like. Getting close. Let's try that. I'll RAM-review.

Now you see the snowflake has a nice smooth constant motion and settles into place. Frankly, I think it's taking little bit too long to settle, so I'll go ahead and select that last keyframe, shorten the influence handle so it doesn't spend as much time decelerating. Pull this down to smooth out the motion. Pull it up, so that I have a hitch here at the beginning, just creates some nice smooth curves. Let's see how that looks, RAM preview. Yeah, I like that better. Settle in and bounce there at the end of the animation.

Now since I already have an easy end that I've added manually to the end of the snowflake, I can go ahead and add an automatic ease to the end of the Scale Animation and if I want the opacity. So I'll stop again, select my ending scale keyframe, and heck, let's Shift+Select the ending opacity as well, and click on the assistant Easy Ease In. See how that smoothes things out. Subtle, but a softer landing still. And I can play around with that timing, and I play around with the eases more if I want to later on. So I have a little hitch here in this curve.

Let's smooth that out even more and play around that a bit, give some more gradual speed change over time. By the way, remember how you used Option or Alt to convert vertex. I can change this back to a linear keyframe by Option+Clicking again, I'll undo, and I can break these handles by Option+Clicking or Alt+Clicking on the handle. They are joined right now. Click again, now they are separated. I'll undo to get back to my smoother animation. Now it's easy to be working on an animation and lose track of where you started. So something I did earlier is I actually duplicated my starting point for this composition and kept it here in the project as a reference.

So if I want to check whether I am actually improving my animation, I can open up the earlier reference, RAM preview it, see what it looks like. That will take a little second to build the screen and preview bar to get the frames cached into RAM. Yeah, the snowflake is not very exciting. It kind of hitches and clunks into place. Let's go back to my edited version. That's more exciting, has a smoother ending. Again, I might play around with the way it eases at the end as well. That gives you an idea of some basic things you can do to refine an animation.

Now, let's work on coordinating how multiple layers animate in relation to each other.

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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