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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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It can be confusing to figure out exactly what Time Remapping is doing just by looking at keyframes down in the Timeline panel. I mean you can go to previous and next keyframes and look at the Time Remap value versus the Comps value, but a better tool to actually understand what's going on is to go into the Graph Editor. Once we do that, we've got some nice lines that actually show how time is progressing. This line indicates time in the source clip, versus time in the overall composition. As we go through here, we can see how time progresses, how now the slope of change of time is now more gradual.
When the slope goes downwards that indicates that time is going backwards, and going forwards again. This is looking at the default Auto-Select Graph Type, which is the value graph for time-remap: what second of the source is playing at what second of the composition. Perhaps even more interesting is to look at the Speed Graph for time remapping. This actually indicates what's going on speed-wise. The higher the line, the fast we're going. At the very beginning when we we're trying to mimic natural speed, we were going at five seconds of source per second of composition time.
Then when we slowed down, we're traveling at 0.68 seconds of source per one second on the composition, slower than the source clip. When our Time Remap graph goes below the 0 line, we're actually going backwards, minus one second of source per second of comp-- practically going backwards at 100% speed. Then we're going forwards again. If you can't decide which view you prefer, you can also go to Edit Value Graph, because this will be easier doing interpolation with other keyframe adjustments, but then Show Reference Graph, which will show a second ghosted line for what our speed is.
Okay. We're dropping quickly, and then we make a sudden shift here to going in slow motion. I'm okay with that sudden shift, so I'm going to leave that as a Linear keyframe. Then we get to this point in time where we actually turn around. And so we notice when we RAM Preview, this was kind of like a very sudden reversal in speed. This is something I prefer to do as maybe in Easy Ease keyframe, where we come to a stop, then start going backwards. So I'm going to select that keyframe, then choose my handy-dandy button for Easy Ease.
By doing so, we can see that Value Graph gradually comes into here and gradually goes back. We can also see what's happening with our velocity. We have a smoother transition from going forwards to going backwards. I'm going to RAM Preview. And now you see where we have a little bit more of a real dance going on here. If we decide that that pause is a little bit too long, we'll just shorten up these influence handles. I'll hold down the Shift key after I start dragging to keep them level, start dragging this one, hold down the Shift key, get a smooth transition through there, a Linear transition through there.
Then when we bounce here, I think I also want to have a little bit of a rounding here, rather than a sudden jump. I could easy-ease it, I can use the Auto Bezier keyframe to make it smooth, or I can hold down the Option key on Mac, Alt key on Windows, and actually pull out influence handles to go ahead and get the amount of speed change that I want and the amount of smoothing for that keyframe that I want. I'll have the Shift key to keep this level. Let's see what that looks like.
So we slow down, back up, and I think I'm going to go for a shorter influence handle here. So I'll drag, Shift, drag, Shift. I just want a little smoothing through this point. Let's try that. Cool! Now for my last trick, I think I want to keep speeding up as I approach this keyframe. So to do that, I'm going to select this keyframe, hold down Option or Alt to get my Convert Direction tool, drag out a handle, and actually drag the handle downwards, so that I actually have the Value Graph ramp up into this keyframe, which also results in the speed ramping up on this keyframe.
This is a case where I might want to go ahead and pull out my handle a little bit and drag it to smooth out my transition through here. A little bit more of the transition through there, and let's preview that and see how that looks. Hits, slows or stop-reverses, zoom! Takes off. That's a little too slow of a take off for me, so let's go ahead and make this pretty short, like around there, and preview. Okay. I think I'm going to exaggerate the speed in more, the real zip-up here.
And you know, I'm even going to move this keyframe a little bit later in time, just to exaggerate that speed change as well. Smooth that out a little bit. Let's see how we like that. So you start to get an idea of how you can use the Graph Editor to both understand what's going on with your time remapping, but also to refine your motion, smooth out transitions, and do things like a little ramp-ups. You could even do overshoots by dragging the handle in the other direction, et cetera.
You can see when you come in here, overshoot that pose, and come back a little bit there at the end. Now, truth be told, Time Remap is something you're not going to use all that often. Much more often, you'll just be going ahead and using the Stretch parameter, just to slow down or speed up a clip for its entire duration. But when you're trying to create some extra drama or just slow down a shot during a very important part of the shot, Time Remap is a great tool that After Effects offers.
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