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After Effects Apprentice 03: Advanced Animation
Illustration by John Hersey

Reviewing keyframes


From:

After Effects Apprentice 03: Advanced Animation

with Chris Meyer and Trish Meyer

Video: Reviewing keyframes

We're going to start with a quick review of what keyframes look like, how to reveal them, and how to navigate between them. If you're already comfortable with this, feel free to skip to the next movie. If you have the project files that come with this lesson, open the Project AEA_Advanced Animation.aep, and we're going to be in composition 00-keyframes 101. This composition contains an animation. You can drag the Current Time Indicator through the Timeline to see how things change over time, or you can click the RAM Preview button in the Preview panel, or press zero on the Numeric keypad.

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After Effects Apprentice 03: Advanced Animation
3h 1m Beginner Jan 26, 2011 Updated Nov 12, 2012

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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

Reviewing keyframes

We're going to start with a quick review of what keyframes look like, how to reveal them, and how to navigate between them. If you're already comfortable with this, feel free to skip to the next movie. If you have the project files that come with this lesson, open the Project AEA_Advanced Animation.aep, and we're going to be in composition 00-keyframes 101. This composition contains an animation. You can drag the Current Time Indicator through the Timeline to see how things change over time, or you can click the RAM Preview button in the Preview panel, or press zero on the Numeric keypad.

The green bar shows it's caching the frames for this animation, and then we'll play back in real time. You see that we have our snowflake both moving around the screen, animating its position, and also changing in size, animating its scale. I'll press the Spacebar to start my preview. To reveal my keyframes, I can do a few different things. One, I can click on this arrow which we call a twirly, next to my source name Snowflake, and it will reveal Transform. Twirl down Transform and it will reveal all the properties for this layer.

You'll note that some of them have these little diamonds which indicate keyframes. A quicker way to reveal animated properties is to select the layer and press U on the keyboard, and that will reveal just the properties that are being animated for the selected layers. When this stopwatch next to a property's name is highlighted, it indicates that keyframing has been enabled for that property, and therefore it can change value over time. If that stopwatch is not highlighted, the value stays constant over time. Now the best way to study keyframes is to have the Current Time Indicator positioned directly on top of a keyframe.

Don't rely on just eyeballing it, because if you're off a little bit and then you start editing a value, you will just create a new keyframe rather than edit the existing keyframe. So there are a few different ways to make sure you land exactly on a keyframe. One, you can hold the Shift key while dragging, and you'll see it will snap to the nearest keyframe. Another is to use this keyframe navigator. Now unfortunately, it defaults all the way here to the left side of screen, so one of the first things we do when we open up a new copy of After Effects is we grab this A/V Switches column and drag it to the far right so it's right next to the Timeline.

That way the keyframe navigator is right next to our keyframes. These little arrows to the right and to the left can jump between keyframes for that selected property. And whenever you're directly on top of the keyframe, this yellow diamond in the middle will illuminate, indicating you are indeed on a keyframe. If I was a little bit off, you see that these are grayed out. They are not illuminated. I can click on this arrow to jump to the next keyframe for the Scale property. Notice that Position does not have a keyframe at this same point in time, so its navigator is grayed out.

There is one other handy shortcut to navigate between keyframes. If you use the J and K keys, you will jump earlier in time or later in time to the nearest keyframes, markers, starts and ends of layers, et cetera. It's another good shortcut. To focus on a specific property, you can type its shortcut key. For example, the shortcut for Position is P. Since I already have properties revealed, pressing P once will actually hide all the properties. If I press P again, it will reveal just the Position property. Now Position is a pretty interesting property, because it has two different types of keyframes.

Here in the Timeline panel, it has what are known as temporal keyframes, keyframes that have a value at a specific point in time. All properties pretty much have temporal keyframes. What's different about position and other related properties--such as anchor point, camera position, effects points, et cetera--is they also have spatial keyframes. The have keyframes in space revealed here in the Comp panel; sometimes you'll also see them in the layer panel. And you'll note that by dragging the Current Time Indicator so it lands exactly on a temporal keyframe you notice our snowflake is indeed centered right on the spatial keyframe as well.

Note that clicking on a keyframe does not immediately jump to that keyframe; it merely highlights it, both in the Timeline panel and in the case of spatial keyframes, the Comp panel. Now when you just look at a keyframe, you might assume the only thing it has is a value. Here is this frame's value, 497, 150, at this point in time. But in reality there is a lot more going underneath the hood, and that's what we'll talk about next.

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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