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Positioning layers

From: After Effects CS6 Essential Training

Video: Positioning layers

This tip I'm going to show you in this video has save me countless hours in terms of positioning and moving multiple objects around in my scenes. If you can master this, I think you'll be very excited and a lot more comfortable working in 3D within After Effects. So to get started, we need to look at the Wind composition, so double-click the Wind comp and you can see I have a propeller and a base and this is a wind turbine. Now this is an Illustrator file, but it's plenty big enough for what we need, so I'm not going to worry about collapsing Transform just yet.

Positioning layers

This tip I'm going to show you in this video has save me countless hours in terms of positioning and moving multiple objects around in my scenes. If you can master this, I think you'll be very excited and a lot more comfortable working in 3D within After Effects. So to get started, we need to look at the Wind composition, so double-click the Wind comp and you can see I have a propeller and a base and this is a wind turbine. Now this is an Illustrator file, but it's plenty big enough for what we need, so I'm not going to worry about collapsing Transform just yet.

Let's go ahead and close the Wind comp and add it to a 3D comp, so drag it from the Project panel just below Layer 4, the layer Solid. Now even though this appears as though it's in 3D space, we all know it's only in 2D, so enable 3D and there we go. Now it's in 3D space, but we do have an issue. If you click on the Y control axis handle and move up in the scene, you can see the anchor point of this layer is kind of not in the right place.

When you're dealing with resetting anchor points on objects in 3D space, I recommend switching to in orthogonal view, like Front. Here, I'm just going to middle mouse click there to move down. Okay let's zoom in there, perfect. When you're in an orthogonal view, you're eliminating the need to deal with three dimensions, because you can only deal in two dimensions. So in order to reposition the anchor point here, I'm going to press A while selecting layer 4 and click and drag on the Y axis to bring the object up to the anchor point.

And now we can click and drag on the X axis and as you can see we've lined up our anchor point and it looks pretty good. Now I know this is good, again because we're in the Front orthogonal view. So let's switch back to the Active Camera and zoom out. I'm just going to press the Spacebar and move down here. And now if we just click and drag on the axis control handle, we can move our windmill down towards the bottom, okay. As I'm looking at this, I'm noticing the axis handles our pointed towards the camera.

So we need to go back up to the top of our composition and make sure that this is oriented to the object. Now when I move I know the object is not going to move anywhere. Even though the base of this is rounded, I am going to just move it down, so it's kind of intersecting the canvas. I think that looks relatively okay. If we zoom back out, you can see, okay that's pretty cool in terms of height, but I do want to kind of scale it down. So select layer 4 and press S, and the reason I want to scale this down, I just want to add several more and if I kept it that large, it would just be way too dominant.

I want to add a field of these windmills over into the left corner here, and the way we'll do that is with some pretty nifty key commands. Just so the windmills kind of stick out further than our type, making sure that our axis handles are object oriented. We can click on the Z axis and move this up in our project. Now to add a second windmill, just press Command+D with layer 4 selected and we can just click and drag on the red axis handle to slide that one over.

Now this is where things get fun because after we duplicate it and slid this over, you want to go to the Parent section of the windmill. If you don't have Parent open in your timeline, just right-click anywhere in the gray area and enable Parent, okay. We want to make layer 4 the child of layer 5. So we have the original windmill and our duplicate windmill is the Child. Let's duplicate the Child by pressing Command+D and instead of just clicking with the pick whip, I want you to click the pick whip and hold down Option and then point the pick whip for layer 4 at layer 5.

When we let go, look what happens. Let's do that one more time, I'll press Command+D with layer 4 selected, hold down Option, grab the pick whip for layer 4 and point it to layer 5. Okay now we have four windmills. I could continue doing this by offsetting another one further back and then repeating the command, but we could really start compounding this effect by pre-composing. So select layer 4 and Shift+Click to select through layer 7 and go up under Layer and choose Pre-compose.

Pre-comp 1, I'll just called this Row 1 Wind and click OK. Now you notice it automatically reset everything in 2D, so go ahead and collapse transformations, so the 3D data gets passed through. Enable 3D for this layer as well because I want to duplicate this, but still move it in 3D space. So with Row 1 Wind selected, press Command+D and just move it back on the Z axis by clicking on the Z axis and moving backwards.

Now the first time you duplicate, all you need to do is make the child, the child of the original layer. It's the second time that you want to use the Option command, so duplicate layer 4 and hold down Option, grab with your pick whip and make it the child of layer 5, and sure enough it will repeat. Let's do this one more time, Command+D and Option, make it the child. Okay, perfect. Now we have a full nice field of windmills and if we press C, let's left-click and orbit around the scene and you can see I've got quite a cool thing going on here with these windmills.

I like how this is looking in 3D space, but we need to keep things moving by actually adding some semblance of dimension and we can do that by exploring material options and then eventually adding some lights and shadows.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for After Effects CS6 Essential Training
After Effects CS6 Essential Training

78 video lessons · 57851 viewers

Ian Robinson
Author

 
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 1m 8s
    1. What is After Effects?
      1m 8s
  2. 2m 53s
    1. Welcome
      1m 40s
    2. Using the exercise files
      1m 13s
  3. 1h 8m
    1. The six foundations of AE
      5m 3s
    2. Introducing the interface and the workspace
      7m 51s
    3. Understanding compositions
      8m 48s
    4. Getting comfortable with layers
      7m 33s
    5. Getting started with animation and keyframes
      8m 30s
    6. Understanding effects
      3m 26s
    7. Moving in 3D space
      7m 41s
    8. Rendering your first animation
      8m 20s
    9. Specifying preferences and cache settings
      5m 44s
    10. Staying organized
      5m 15s
  4. 38m 6s
    1. Creating compositions
      7m 19s
    2. Importing footage and compositions
      7m 54s
    3. Preparing compositions for animation
      8m 7s
    4. Introducing renderers
      3m 15s
    5. Understanding precomposing
      7m 16s
    6. Relinking missing footage
      4m 15s
  5. 59m 58s
    1. Defining layers
      6m 23s
    2. Creating type
      5m 58s
    3. Creating layer solids and shapes with masks
      7m 55s
    4. Building shape layers
      6m 17s
    5. Understanding switches and blend modes
      8m 26s
    6. Crafting custom shapes and masks
      6m 18s
    7. Creating variable-width feathered masks
      5m 1s
    8. Rotoscoping with the Roto Brush
      8m 20s
    9. Refining with the Roto Brush
      5m 20s
  6. 1h 8m
    1. Understanding keyframes
      6m 1s
    2. Adding and adjusting keyframes
      9m 54s
    3. Interpolating keyframes
      8m 5s
    4. Adjusting keyframes in the Graph Editor
      7m 17s
    5. Understanding positional keyframes
      7m 0s
    6. Controlling animation with parenting and the pick whip
      9m 57s
    7. Understanding animation paths
      6m 27s
    8. Timing to audio
      4m 41s
    9. Trimming and sliding edits
      5m 31s
    10. Swapping images
      4m 1s
  7. 29m 7s
    1. Layering multiple effects
      9m 13s
    2. Generating graphic effects with adjustment layers
      7m 28s
    3. Building backgrounds with effects
      6m 50s
    4. Creating animated strokes
      5m 36s
  8. 40m 15s
    1. Introducing cameras
      10m 3s
    2. Working with 3D layers
      6m 37s
    3. Positioning layers
      6m 13s
    4. Adding lights and working with Material Options
      9m 21s
    5. Using 3D precompositions
      2m 5s
    6. Adjusting depth of field
      5m 56s
  9. 28m 31s
    1. Caching and prerendering
      6m 33s
    2. Understanding the alpha channels
      5m 18s
    3. Using the Render Queue
      4m 34s
    4. Rendering with Adobe Media Encoder
      7m 15s
    5. Archiving finished projects
      4m 51s
  10. 44m 27s
    1. Creating type animators
      12m 16s
    2. Animating type in 3D space
      6m 35s
    3. Composing 3D type
      8m 41s
    4. Adding and animating type on a path
      8m 45s
    5. Animating shape layers
      8m 10s
  11. 32m 45s
    1. Creating stylized video
      6m 47s
    2. Retiming video footage
      9m 31s
    3. Retouching with the Rubber Stamp tool
      10m 19s
    4. Smoothing shaky camera footage
      6m 8s
  12. 14m 19s
    1. Understanding keying
      3m 19s
    2. Creating a garbage mask
      4m 27s
    3. Getting started with Keylight
      6m 33s
  13. 15m 56s
    1. Importing Photoshop documents
      6m 11s
    2. Importing Illustrator files
      4m 24s
    3. Working With Premiere Pro projects
      5m 21s
  14. 1h 15m
    1. Adjusting ray-tracing quality
      8m 19s
    2. Tracking footage
      8m 15s
    3. Extruding shapes
      8m 39s
    4. Bending layers
      8m 38s
    5. Adjusting ray-traced lighting and materials
      9m 22s
    6. Adding environment maps
      4m 58s
    7. Beginning compositing
      8m 52s
    8. Creating render passes
      10m 17s
    9. Building a final composite
      8m 14s
  15. 1m 8s
    1. What's next
      1m 8s

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