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Discover how to manipulate time in After Effects. Author Chris Meyer shows how to stop, slow, and speed up footage, and how to combine these techniques with nested compositions, expressions, and the Graph Editor. Along the way, he reveals several important yet somewhat hidden functions, such as the advanced composition setting that ensures predictable stop motion, the Frame Mix and Pixel Motion modes of the Frame Blending switch, and the Time Remap parameter.
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Now that we've placed some hit points to give us clues of important points in this slow-motion action, let's use Time Remapping to change how fast or slow the glass is moving in any point in time. Now for those who have a copy of our book After Effects Apprentice, I'm not going to be exactly following the order that we did things in the book because this is not some magic recipe you only do once to get a specific result. I want you to have fun and just learn the overall concept. One thing I'm going to do I'm going to go up here with the Info panel and re-dock it closer to my Comp panel, just so you can keep an eye on it while we work with Time Remap keyframes.
The Info panel is very helpful in showing you when you've grabbed a keyframe and how much you're moving it by. Okay, the first thing I'm going to do is select my layer, right-click, choose Time, then Enable Time Remapping. It'll start off by putting a keyframe at the very start of the clip and one frame past the end of the clip. I've also spotted these hit points through here. So I'm going to start dragging the Current Time Indicator and hold the Shift key to snap to my markers and add a keyframe there to match our marker, 02:07 in time.
Go a little bit further, hold the Shift key to snap, add a keyframe; a little bit later, snap, keyframe; and later, Shift key to snap, add a keyframe. And let's say we want this whole animation we're going to create to happen in, say, five seconds of time. I'm going to set up a work area here just so we're not RAM Previewing the whole 30-plus seconds. I've placed my Current Time Indicator, I'll press the letter N to end the work area, and I'm going to press plus on the normal keyboard to zoom in a little bit here and see a little bit better resolution in my Timeline panel.
Okay, the first thing we need to do is get rid of this dead area here; it is of no use to us whatsoever. I'm going to delete this first Time Remapping keyframe because we don't need it. It's fine if we go ahead and hold on this pose for the whole beginning of our clip. And I can either move the entire clip back earlier in time or just click on the word Time Remap to select all the Time Remap keyframes and slide them all to the point back to where they start at the comp. I'll hold down the Shift key to snap to the start of my comp. As soon as you start moving Time Remap keyframes, they will fall out of sync with your markers, just letting you know. You might want to save a copy of the layer that has these markers in place. Or if you find the markers distracting, you can right-click on any one marker and say Delete All Markers and get them out of the picture. Whichever works best for you.
Okay, the very first frame of the comp is when the glass first appears. And if we need to handle at the start, we can just drag this later in time and drag the handle this way. I'll undo. Or I could just select all the Time Remap keyframes and push them back to start later in time. This way I can add as much handle to the start of my clip as I need. I'm going to start at the very beginning here and just so I have faster RAM Previews. The first thing we want to do is speed up this drop so it appears to happen at near-normal speed.
That way we can introduce some drama as we switch from a normal-speed drop to a slow-motion hit and spill. So to do that, we need to select all of the keyframes after our first Time Remap keyframe. If you already have all the Time Remap keyframes selected, you can hold down the Shift key, click on that first keyframe to deselect it, and now I just see other ones are selected. If you don't have any keyframes selected, you can right-click on a keyframe and choose Select Following Keyframes.
That will select the current keyframe and all the ones after it. Now that we've got those as a group, I'll drag them back earlier to say, well, I'm just kind of guessing here, let's say ten frames in time. And here is where I'm looking up at the Info panel in the upper right to confirm what time I'm at right now: 10 frames. All right, let's RAM Preview and see how that looks. Cool! I'm off on a good start here. The glass is falling very quickly, then goes into slow motion as we interpolate between our second and third keyframes.
I could slow that down a little bit if I wanted to; it looks just little fast to be realistic. Let's try that. Now that's an important thing to remember: these keyframes represent points in time, and After Effects is interpolating in between those points in time, doing whatever speed tricks are necessary to pull this off. Okay, let's say I'm happy with that. Now that I have a fast-drop and then slow motion, let's say I want to really exaggerate slow motion to where we come down to a complete stop, maybe by the time we hit our final pose here.
I'm happy with these first two keyframes, so I don't move them, so I can Shift+Click to deselect that keyframe, and now this keyframe and all the ones later are selected. So I'm going to take this already slow- motion glass and slow it down a little bit more in between that initial hit and where my droplet hits. Shift+Click to deselect that keyframe because I'm happy with that and then take the final bit of motion and slow it way down, to the point where we finally hit our end pose. Note that we're defaulting to Linear keyframes initially, no interpolation.
In the next movie, we're going to use the Graph Editor to smooth out this motion. But again, let's just preview and see where we're going so far. 0 on the Numeric Keypad. Yeah, we're adding more drama to this. We've got a fast drop, slower, and even slower as we go towards our end pose here. And hopefully, we're building some anticipation as we approach this last pose. By the way, you might have noticed that we went ahead and enabled Frame Blending just normal Frame Mix mode for this milk drop, just to smooth out the motion a little bit.
And later on you can even try going into Pixel Motion mode to see how that works. Anyway, fast drop, slower, even slower still. Now let's have fun and make this glass dance, make it actually go backwards in time. I'm going to go back to my second keyframe here, which marks 4 seconds and 13 frames into the source file where we have this first impact, and copy that time.
Then let's say that as we go further here, we want to back up to that initial pose. Maybe somewhere around here we'll play around backing up. I'll do Command+V, or Ctrl+V to paste, and now we've pasted time 04:13 of the source to happen at time 03:00 of our composition. So now as we go, we have fast drop, slow towards the splash, and then we actually move backwards, and then turn around then go forwards again.
We're just doing normal interpolation: from 05:15 of the source, to 04:13 of the source, to 07:07 of the source. RAM Preview. So now we have the beginning of a sort of cha-cha-cha move as we go forward, then backwards in time. Now hopefully, this starts to give you an idea of some of the possibilities of what you can do with Time Remapping to go ahead and bend time around and make time flow forwards, backwards, fast, and slow. In the next movie what we're going to do is go into the Graph Editor and smooth out this motion to create something that has maybe even a bit more drama, or dare I say a more realistic look, and just to use linear keyframes when the motions just ping-ponging back and forth.
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