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After Effects Apprentice 07: Parenting
Illustration by John Hersey

RoboTV: Finishing touches


From:

After Effects Apprentice 07: Parenting

with Chris Meyer and Trish Meyer

Video: RoboTV: Finishing touches

Next, let's put in the backgrounds so we have something more interesting than black to look at. I'm looking at this so I'm seeing a lot of plywood on this ramp, a lot of plywood on this street circuit, and a lot of the squares and things have been put together. I'm seeing squares in the plots of land underneath and of course squares in the robo frame as well. So some background layer or texture that echoes this square pattern maybe appropriate. I'm going to go to my stock footage collection or I can go ahead and create something in After Effects using one of its plug-ins like Fractal Noise.

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After Effects Apprentice 07: Parenting
1h 39m Intermediate May 25, 2011 Updated Nov 20, 2012

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

Parenting is a way to group multiple layers within the same composition inside After Effects. In this course, Chris Meyer shows how to set up a parenting chain, discusses what makes a good parent, and demonstrates several techniques using parenting, such as creating a title animation with a minimal number of keyframes, building a geometric construct, and bringing an anthropomorphic robot arm to life. Sidebar topics include avoiding a scaling gotcha with parenting and creating abstract backgrounds using the Fractal Noise effect.

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:
  • Preparing files
  • Making parenting connections
  • Arranging the frame and arm
  • Using null objects
  • Crafting anthropomorphic-style animations
  • Avoiding problems with non-uniform scaling
  • Animating Fractal Noise
Subjects:
Video Motion Graphics Visual Effects
Software:
After Effects
Authors:
Chris Meyer Trish Meyer

RoboTV: Finishing touches

Next, let's put in the backgrounds so we have something more interesting than black to look at. I'm looking at this so I'm seeing a lot of plywood on this ramp, a lot of plywood on this street circuit, and a lot of the squares and things have been put together. I'm seeing squares in the plots of land underneath and of course squares in the robo frame as well. So some background layer or texture that echoes this square pattern maybe appropriate. I'm going to go to my stock footage collection or I can go ahead and create something in After Effects using one of its plug-ins like Fractal Noise.

It just so happens I have already made a couple of layers I think might be appropriate, but at the very end of this lesson I'll show you how I made these backgrounds. One thing I have created is this animated blocky pattern. We'll play for you that. And I thought that might be appropriate, given the square patterns and all the videos I'm playing around with and then the frame itself. I have a second layer like that I call a lighting layer. I like things that have smooth, amorphous shadows and highlights because those help to add mysterious lighting onto any background or any piece of footage. So I am going to drag blocky behind everybody into the video edit.

It's kind of boring and gray so let's give it a tint. I'm going to go to Effect > Color Correction, and not use the Tint effect, but use the Tritone effect. Tint changes your black and your white points. Since any color you pick is probably going to be lighter than black or darker than white, the results tend to be washed out. I prefer Tritone for this sort of tinting, because it can keep black and white the same and just change the Midtone. Just for starters I am going to go ahead and pick something off to this robot arm.

Maybe some desaturated blue as a starting point. That's not too bad actually. Maybe little darker. Maybe a little more saturated just to make it sit down there, around there. So there is my animated square pattern in the background. Kind of cool. But it could always be more exciting. So let's go ahead and go back and choose that lighting layer I created. Put that on top of my blocky background. Since it's a pattern of blacks and whites averaging by 50% gray, in cases like this I really like to use modes like Overlay, Soft Light, and Hard Light.

They help to increase the intensity, saturation, or contrast of an image balanced round 50% gray. So I'll start with the Overlay mode. I will now have some more intense dark and bright areas on my video. This is without. This is with. Let's go and RAM preview again. (Whir, whir, whir) I think it's little too distracting. So I think I'm going to make this darker.

I can either play around with the darkness of my mid-point color or I can even play levels to this and play around with the gamma. But this gives me a starting point. Finally, I'm having some readability issues. This type just isn't standing up so well, particularly when the robot arm is interacting with it. I'd like to make the type stand out more. There is a couple of ways of doing it. One is to use drop shadows, which I'm sure you're familiar with. You might have noticed that drop shadows have already been added to these individual robot arm pieces. That's how one piece is standing out from another piece and giving it the illusion of depth.

I also put a drop shadow on this robot frame when I created it so any video inside has a nice depth as its inset. But I have not applied drop shadows to my type yet. So let's choose that. I can either use Effect > Perspective > Drop Shadow or I actually prefer the look of Layer > Layer Styles > Drop Shadow. It gives me more options on how I adjust this particular shadow. For example, I want to center it. I am going to put its Distance down to 0, but I do want to increase its size a little bit.

So it does fit out a little bit more and a little bit more darkness. So it gives me little more contrast to sit away from the background and sit on top of that arm. Without. With. Subtle glow, but it helps. I'll select my Drop Shadow layer style, copy. I select my other text layers and paste. Now they all have a nice drop shadow. That helped the readability. The text now seems to float off the background, but I still think it can be more distinguished.

So another thing I'm going to try out is actually to add a stroke to my text. I normally don't like big obvious strokes. They tend to look a bit heavy-handed, to be honest. But simple black stroke, one pixel, and Fill Over Stroke so the stroke is very thin just around the edges can do a lot just to help give that little stroke to text make a look nice. So now I'm going to have stroke that I like, I can go ahead and pick multiple layers and give them all the same treatment. Black stroke, 1 point, Fill Over Stroke.

And now my type is a lot more readable. Now I'm pretty much done. The only thing left is a little bit of bookkeeping just before I hand this off to another animator. I'm going to change the Composition Settings' name to something that's a little bit better sense, like RoboTV composite. The last thing I'm going to do is select all my text and also parent that to the robot arm frame. The reason I'm doing that is now the text and the arm positions are very intertwined.

If some wanted to pick up and move this frame later on, you'd want the text move along with it. Otherwise, things might become misaligned. Speaking of misaligned, my videos is not moving with the frame. Well, that's easy to fix. I am going to parent that to my frame as well and now it can all be picked up and moved as a group. This is particularly handy if someone changes a video format, a client comes along and says scale down a little bit smaller, scale it up larger, etcetera. Grouping it altogether gives an animator just one object to have to manage to free arrange the layout in the whole frame. There you go! That's one set of adjustments to make this video look better.

If you're curious to see what I did on another occasion, you can go to Comps-Finished and here is a different video sequence and a different RoboTV that I have created when I was in different mode. I used some different text. I spaced the text out more. I had some different arm movements. They had a little bit more character to them. I had a much more extreme scale going on. Again, there is no one right solution. However, there are some principles about interest, readability, and elegance that do apply almost no matter what you're trying to do.

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Q: This course was updated on 11/20/2012. What changed?
A: We added new movies on using the exercise files that come with this course, and added an additional set of exercise files designed for After Effects CS6.
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