2D Character Animation with After Effects
Illustration by John Hersey

Sequencing hand-drawn layers


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2D Character Animation with After Effects

with Angie Taylor

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Video: Sequencing hand-drawn layers

In After Effects, just like any other application, there's more than one way to approach a job. And sometimes it's not easy to know which is the best approach. Now, as I always say, there's no right or wrong way, but some ways are better than others in certain situations. So, I'm going to run through all your options for sequencing layers in After Effects. Now I'm going to just extend the timeline a big so you can see we have 13 layers here of this little dog character. And it's a walk sequence and I want to sequence those layers so that I can see them play back over time.
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Watch the Online Video Course 2D Character Animation with After Effects
2h 35m Intermediate Feb 14, 2011

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In her career as an animator, Angie Taylor has developed some powerful techniques for creating quick but compelling 2D animation, and in this workshop she shares those secrets with you. Learn how to import layered files and paths from Adobe Illustrator into After Effects and how to animate flat vector artwork in both 2D and 3D space, and explore options for outputting your animations. The videos are short, focused, and solution-oriented, and all the project files are included so you can follow along as you go.

Topics include:
  • Best practices for importing source files
  • Sorting and interpreting footage
  • Animating using traditional layer-style animation
  • Creating a grouping structure for body parts
  • Animating with the Puppet tool
  • Creating stop-frame-style animation
  • Setting up control layers
  • Animating using time remapping
  • Exporting files for Flash
  • Making movies via the Render Queue
Subjects:
3D + Animation Video video2brain
Software:
After Effects
Author:
Angie Taylor

Sequencing hand-drawn layers

In After Effects, just like any other application, there's more than one way to approach a job. And sometimes it's not easy to know which is the best approach. Now, as I always say, there's no right or wrong way, but some ways are better than others in certain situations. So, I'm going to run through all your options for sequencing layers in After Effects. Now I'm going to just extend the timeline a big so you can see we have 13 layers here of this little dog character. And it's a walk sequence and I want to sequence those layers so that I can see them play back over time.

Now at the moment the clips are two seconds long, so if I'm to sequence this, each frame of the animation is going to be two seconds long, which is too much for me. I need each of these to be one frame long each, if you get my drift. So if you've already brought the layers in and you need to trim them. Best thing to do is just click on the current time, and type in 1, which will take you to frame one. Then select all of the files, and to trim them, hold the Alt key and hit the right bracket tool, and that way you will trim them to one frame long.

So each of these now is one frame long. Now if I select them, and go to animation, keyframe assistant I can choose to use the sequence layers key frame assistant to automatically place them in sequence. Now I'm not going to overlap them. I'm just going to click OK so that they sequence. So we'll click OK and you'll see indeed they do play in sequence. But if I preview that. You'll notice he's actually walking backwards, which is not what I want. I want him walking forwards.

And that's because sequenced layers works in the order that you select them. So if you want to make sure I'm selecting from 1 up to 13, I need to click on them in that order, and then go to keyframe assistance, sequence layers. And now, if I just trim my work area to the end, by hitting the End key on the keyboard. If we preview that, you'll see that he's now walking forwards, which is much better. Okay, but, if you're bringing these layers in, and you don't want to have to go through the process of trimming in the timeline.

What you can do, is before you import them, go into the preferences which on the Mac is in the After Effects menu. On the PC is in the Edit menu, and go to the Import preferences. And in here, you can choose the length of still footage when it's brought in. It defaults to the length of the comp. So when I brought that footage in the comp was two seconds long. I can override that. i can say bring in my frames at one frame each. And I'm also going to, while I'm in there, change the sequence footage settings to 25 cause I'm in Europe so when I bring in an image sequence I want it to have 25 frames per second. Okay so that's ready to go.

And from now on, if I select files, so I'm just going to scroll down to the images folder. Now if I select the images folder and then go to File > Import File, any files that I import will go into that folder, so I want to go to the head shots folder, which is inside the images folder. And I'm going to select all of these files. So all of these Photoshop files should be selected. And then click on Open. Now you'll notice, if I just make this project panel a little bit bigger. You'll notice that all the files are selected.

And If I just bring them down to the comp. And drop them into the comp. You'll notice that they're all one frame long, okay? Or one frame in duration, rather. Now, again, if I want to sequence them, I can go to animation keyframe assistant's sequence layers. I'm not going to put overlap on. Overlap is great if you want to create a fade from one layer to another. I don't want to do that here so I'm going to click on okay. And there we have if I move through page down one frame at a time you'll see that I have a different file on each frame of my footage.

So you can also, if I drag those instead to the new comp from selection button. I can create a new composition and I can actually override the default still duration in here. So what I could do is I could I say, okay I actually want them to be one second long so I'm going to type in 1 and then period which is next to the zero key on the number pad. And again I've got sequence layers on. Click OK. And now, I have them lasting for one second each.

So lot's of different ways of controlling, how long your footage stays on screen for. So that's a little bit about sequencing layers. Of course you can bring the file in, as an image sequence. If I go to File > Import File. So if I wanted to bring this in as a sequence, because they're non alpha-numerically ordered, I would have to click on this button here. If we go back to the Images folder, and go into the Art board sequence folder. Cuz these are numbered alpha-numerically, if I select one it should detect that it's a sequence and automatically put this on. Sometimes it doesn't, so you need make sure to do that if you need to. If I wanted to bring these in as a sequence instead of bringing them in as an individual files then what I could do is select one and force it to bring it in as a sequence.

Okay. And then once I click on OK, it will import the files for me.

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