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After Effects: Principles of Motion Graphics with Ian Robinson covers some of the core principles used to create motion graphics, breaking them down into smaller groups of applied techniques in After Effects. The course explores everything from gathering inspiration to integrating traditional typography, transitional elements, animated textures, color, and more into motion graphics. Instructions for building a toolkit with templates and a style guide for future projects are also included. Exercise files accompany the course.
Cameras in AE give you an amazing amount of control, but with more control comes more things to worry about. To help make things easier to animate, I'd like to use null objects to control certain aspects of the camera. To see all the different options within a camera, go ahead and double-click on the Camera 1 layer in the Timeline. Now the first thing I want you to pay attention to is the type of camera. There are one-node cameras and two-node cameras. By default, After Effects will create a two-node camera. I want you to choose the 50-millimeter preset, because that's going to give us a pretty realistic view of what's going on in the scene.
If you choose 15 millimeter or 200 millimeter, the camera may look distorted like a wide-angle lens, or distorted like a telephoto. So let's just choose 50 millimeter, and we are going to skip over to the rest of the stuff for the time being, and just press OK. With Camera 1 selected, I want to show you exactly what makes a two-node camera. So go ahead and open up the parameters for layer 1, and you'll notice under Transform, the first thing here is the Point of Interest.
I can't see the Point of Interest in the scene, so let's go ahead and change our view to Custom View 1. I will just use my Spacebar to reposition here. Now you can see, this camera has a set of control handles tied right to the camera, and then I have this line right down the middle set to this crosshair. If I click on this crosshair and move it around the scene, notice I'm actually changing the parameters for this point of interest. If I go ahead and click and drag on the X parameter or the Y parameter of the camera controls in the Timeline here, notice that the camera is always maintaining its orientation to this point.
This is the second node. The first node, the second node. This is what makes up a two-node camera. So you guessed it. If we go ahead and double-click our Camera and change the Type to One-Node and click OK, notice we no longer have that extra parameter that's set up there. Now, let's go back and just re- enable this two-node camera. I want to show you one more thing about two-node cameras. As we click and drag the parameters in the Timeline, the camera will maintain its orientation to that Point of Interest.
But if you actually click directly on the control handles of the camera, it will move the camera and the Point of Interest as one whole object. Moving around a scene can sometimes be a little bit tedious with the default settings of your camera, so a lot of times what you will have to do is actually create some null objects like I talked about at the beginning of the video. So let's go ahead and do that. But one thing I want to stress, when you have a camera in a scene, and you've been manipulating it and changing its Point of Interest and where it actually lives, et cetera, et cetera, you'll probably want to actually not use that as the camera to set up your rigging, because it's much easier to rig a camera when it's first added to the scene because everything is set up in its default location.
So to get started, let's select Camera 1 and just press Delete on our keyboard to delete it out of this comp. I'll go up under Layer and choose New > Camera. Again, we will choose a two-node camera with a 50-millimeter preset. When we click OK, now you notice the camera is set within our scene. And if we open up its parameters, under Transform, you notice the Point of Interest is set right here at the origin, 640 x 360 at 0. And that number is just chosen because that's the middle of the resolution that we are working in.
So in order to have more control over the Point of Interest, let's go ahead and create a null object. Go up under Layer. Choose New > Null Object. Whenever you add a new null object to the scene, you want to make sure that it actually has three-dimensions turned on. That way, when we tie specific parameters together all of the different options, X, Y, and Z will be present in the null object. So select Null 2 and press P to open its Position parameter, and go ahead and press Return on your keyboard and rename it Interest Control.
I want to tie the Point of Interest to this Position parameter using an expression. So select the Point of Interest parameter in the Camera layer and go up under Animation and choose Add Expression. Now just click on the pick whip and drag that up to the Position parameter, and you'll notice now the numbers will match. Now if we click anywhere in the Timeline, we've set that script. And now if I go ahead and click on the Interest Control and drag, I'm actually moving the Point of Interest of the camera.
Now we can't see that because we can't see the camera wireframe without that layer being selected. So another thing I want you to do is actually go up to upper-right corner of your viewer and go down to the View Options. When you're working with cameras and setting up your rig initially, you want to make sure that the Camera Wireframes are actually set to On. That way when we click OK and select another layer, we can actually see, for example, as I move the Position, I can see that the Point of Interest is actually moving right along with the camera.
So I am just going to undo for a second till we get back to this 640 x 360. Now, when I reposition the camera using axis handles, everything remains oriented to this Point of Interest. But what if I want to actually have control of the camera from this general area as opposed to back here? Well, I can create another null object to give me that control. Now, since I haven't really repositioned the camera in the scene, when I create this null object, it's actually going to be in the right place.
So let's go up under Layer > New > Null Object, and this one let's rename Camera Control. And in order to actually have control over both the Point of Interest and the camera itself, all we have to do is parent both of these layers to layer 1. So select the camera layer and make sure the parent parameter is open by just Ctrl+Clicking or right-clicking anywhere in this gray bar here, making sure that parent column is selected.
So now let's go ahead and click on the parent pick whip and choose Camera Control, and don't worry about it if the camera moves like that when you select the Interest Control and do the same exact thing. We've now actually parented both to the same layer. Now, I've broken a rule here by not making sure that this null object is in three-dimensional space. So let's go ahead and make sure that the null object is set in three-dimensional space. Now if I go ahead and press P to open up my Position parameter, if I click and drag to reposition this new null object, both the Point of Interest and the camera are actually moving in unity.
Another neat feature is the fact that I can open up Rotation, and if I click and drag on X parameter or the Y parameter, I can actually spin my camera right around this specific point. This is a great way to actually spin your camera around a scene by creating this setup. So now we actually have our camera set up with a very basic set of controls controlling both the Point of Interest and the overall camera itself. Typically, with a rig like this, what I like to do is set up all the position keyframes using this main parent parented null object.
That way as I move around in the scene and that sort of thing, it's very predictable as to its movement. But I can still open up the Camera parameters and still make adjustments to its position and it's still nicely locked to that Point of Interest. So I can use the Camera Position controls for some finite adjustments. Same thing with Interest Control. If I want to leave my camera in a specific area and just go ahead and move the Point of Interest, I can just click and drag and set keyframes directly on the Position parameter for this Point of Interest.
It's important to note that there are several different kind of rigs you can set up to help you gain more control over your camera. And if you search online, there are several different scripts as well as third-party products that offer way more control. But honestly, for most graphic projects, I've found this rig to be more than enough to knock things out. You will see just exactly what I mean in the Applied Techniques chapters coming up a little later in the course.
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