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Parenting is a way to group multiple layers within the same composition inside After Effects. In this course, Chris Meyer shows how to set up a parenting chain, discusses what makes a good parent, and demonstrates several techniques using parenting, such as creating a title animation with a minimal number of keyframes, building a geometric construct, and bringing an anthropomorphic robot arm to life. Sidebar topics include avoiding a scaling gotcha with parenting and creating abstract backgrounds using the Fractal Noise effect.
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®.
If you have access to the Exercise Files that came with these videos, open up project AEA_Parenting_101.aep. If instead, you're following along using our book After Effects Apprentice, 2nd edition, where in Lesson 6, Parenting and Nesting, and open up project 06a-Parenting.aep. I have already queued up a RAM preview and I'll press 0 on the numeric keypad, and you see we have three simple layers. We have a background animation of these lines, we have an animation of a rotating globe, and we have a circle of text.
Our plan here is we want to make the text rotate around the globe and have the two of them scale up towards this as a unit. Now we could animate these objects independently, but a better way to go about it is to parent them together so we can treat them as a group. I'm going to press Home to return to start of my composition. I'll select Text and Shift+Click on planet, so they're both selected. I'll press S to reveal their Scale, Shift+R to reveal Rotation, and Shift+T to also reveal Opacity. Now normally, layers are completely independent from each other.
For example, if I change the Scale of one layer, it does not change the Scale of another layer. To group these layers together though I need to use something called parenting. To reveal the Parent column in the Timeline panel, I need to do one of two things. I can either right-click on a column header and choose Parent and that column will appear. I tend to drag the Parent column next to the Names of the layers, because I like to see the names side-by-side, or you can use a shortcut of pressing Shift+F4 to toggle the Parent column off and on again.
Now the next question becomes which layer to parent to the other layer? Who should be the parent? Who should be the child? Children inherit all qualities from their parents, but parents inherit no qualities from their children. It makes sense. If I know I'm going to be rotating this text, it'll be a bad idea to parent the planet to the text because it will inherit that rotation. And just to show you that example, I'll click on the Parent popup for planet layer, choose Text as its parent, and now as I go to rotate the text, you'll see the planet rotates as well.
That's not at all what I want. I'll undo, set the Parent popup back to None, and instead I'm going to use the pickwhip next to the Parent popup to say the text will be connected to the planet as its parent. Now I can rotate the text without having any effect on the globe, but if I was to do something such as Scale the globe, you'll see the text comes along for the ride. That makes it easier because I just need to set one set of Scale keyframes instead of two. And I'm going to go ahead and set up a quick animation. I'm going to enable keyframing for Rotation for the text and enable keyframing Scale for the planet.
For the text, I'll go to the end of my composition, just to make it seamless loop. I'll go one frame past the end and say rotate 2 times during with my composition. press Home to back to the start. And for the planet, I'm going to say start at a Scale of 0, go 1 second later in time, and set it back to 100%. Now when I RAM preview, you'll see the two scale up as a group and the text continues to rotate around the planet.
Children inherit most transformations such as Scale, Rotation, or Position from their parent. However, there are a couple of important properties that they do not inherit. For example, let's say I also wanted to fade up these two layers. Well, you might say Opacity is another transformation property. Planet is the parent so let's go ahead and set it to initially a 0. Here's my Keyframe Navigator to go to my Scale keyframe and go up to 100%. But you notice already that the planet is fading, but the text is not.
Opacity is not inherited from parents to children. Another important thing that's not inherited are effects. For example, if I put little bit of Blur on this planet, you notice that the text does not getting blurry. Just the planet does. Here's another example. Let's say that I wanted to tint the text, but not tint the parent, the planet. I'll select just the text layer, go Effect > Color Correction > Tint, and pick for my white point maybe one of these green continent colors from the planet.
Now my text has been tinted, but the parent has not. And in general, parents inherit nothing from their children. Children inherit just major transforms, Scale, Rotation, Position from their parents. And now there's my animation and that's literally all there is to parenting. You go ahead and choose who the child is going to be, go to its Parent popup or to pickwhip tool, and choose who that child's parent will be. And it will inherit certain properties, but not all properties from that parent.
Okay, that was simple. Now let's go into a little bit more complex of an example where I have multiple elements that I want to tie together and animate as a group.
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