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After Effects: Principles of Motion Graphics
Illustration by John Hersey

Rigging cameras for animation


From:

After Effects: Principles of Motion Graphics

with Ian Robinson

Video: Rigging cameras for animation

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.
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  1. 3m 37s
    1. Welcome
      1m 1s
    2. Using the exercise files
      1m 4s
    3. Defining motion graphics
      1m 32s
  2. 11m 11s
    1. Workflow for creating motion graphics
      5m 7s
    2. Organizing projects for motion graphics
      4m 25s
    3. Defining a motion graphics "package"
      1m 39s
  3. 12m 58s
    1. Collecting visual inspiration
      2m 14s
    2. Listening to imagine
      3m 20s
    3. Creating elements for inspiration
      7m 24s
  4. 33m 4s
    1. Essential theories of typography
      6m 34s
    2. Understanding shortcuts for setting type in AE
      7m 27s
    3. Converting type from Photoshop
      5m 51s
    4. Importing type from illustrator
      9m 44s
    5. Creating shapes from text
      3m 28s
  5. 36m 30s
    1. Understanding the role of timing in motion graphics
      8m 1s
    2. Creating and using markers
      7m 58s
    3. Creating animation with markers
      5m 16s
    4. Using audio to create animated graphics
      5m 47s
    5. Editing techniques for graphics and video
      9m 28s
  6. 49m 27s
    1. Understanding different kinds of type in After Effects
      15m 53s
    2. Using animators with type
      7m 59s
    3. Using type presets
      7m 35s
    4. Creating custom type presets
      4m 35s
    5. Animating paragraph type
      13m 25s
  7. 45m 51s
    1. Exploring the use of color in motion graphics
      10m 40s
    2. Creating and using color palettes
      13m 45s
    3. Exploring color correction tools in AE
      6m 46s
    4. Advanced correction with Color Finesse
      8m 30s
    5. Creating custom color presets
      6m 10s
  8. 59m 6s
    1. Exploring textures in motion graphics
      8m 30s
    2. Building an animated background texture
      16m 48s
    3. Creating textures for type
      10m 19s
    4. Animating seamless textures
      15m 1s
    5. Creating custom vignettes
      8m 28s
  9. 38m 25s
    1. Understanding lighting in After Effects
      12m 57s
    2. Intro to lighting techniques
      5m 17s
    3. Using material settings to enhance lighting
      7m 36s
    4. Adding polish to a light setup
      12m 35s
  10. 50m 32s
    1. Animating swoops and swooshes
      12m 37s
    2. Creating repeating light trails with the Vegas effect
      6m 28s
    3. Repeating patterns with shape layers
      8m 11s
    4. Exploring graphic transitions
      10m 37s
    5. Exploring video transitions
      5m 16s
    6. Adding dynamic elements to a video transition
      7m 23s
  11. 22m 23s
    1. Working in 3D
      8m 36s
    2. Rigging cameras for animation
      8m 45s
    3. Working with depth of field
      5m 2s
  12. 50m 54s
    1. Creating storyboards in After Effects
      10m 20s
    2. Creating an animatic
      18m 14s
    3. Polishing the animation and timing
      8m 45s
    4. Applying the final effects
      13m 35s
  13. 47m 53s
    1. Preparing a map for animation
      7m 59s
    2. Animating and styling a map
      8m 24s
    3. Designing a lower-third graphic
      8m 22s
    4. Adding animation to the lower-third graphic
      9m 10s
    5. Creating bumper animations
      13m 58s
  14. 14m 17s
    1. Defining the toolkit
      2m 2s
    2. Preparing templates
      7m 12s
    3. Creating a style guide
      5m 3s
  15. 1m 3s
    1. Next Steps
      1m 3s

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After Effects: Principles of Motion Graphics
7h 57m Intermediate Feb 09, 2011

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

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.

Topics include:
  • Converting type from Photoshop and Illustrator
  • Creating shapes from text
  • Using markers in animation
  • Editing techniques for graphics
  • Using type presets
  • Animating type
  • Exploring color correction tools
  • Building animated textures
  • Creating custom vignettes
  • Understanding Lights and Material settings
  • Adding dynamic transitions
  • Rigging cameras for animation
  • Working efficiently in 3D space
Subjects:
Video Motion Graphics
Software:
After Effects
Author:
Ian Robinson

Rigging cameras for animation

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.

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about After Effects: Principles of Motion Graphics.


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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:

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