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After Effects Apprentice 03: Advanced Animation
Illustration by John Hersey

Setting the anchor point


From:

After Effects Apprentice 03: Advanced Animation

with Chris Meyer and Trish Meyer

Video: Setting the anchor point

Before you start animating the transform properties for any layer, the first question you should ask yourself is where is that layer's Anchor Point? Is it in the correct place? Now you can practice this exercise with virtually any layer. If you happened to have the files that came with this lesson, open up Advanced Animation and double-click Comp 01-Anchor Point. It's blank to begin with. I'll twirl open Sources, select Flower.ai. And I'll use the keyboard shortcut of holding Command on Mac or Ctrl on Windows and typing forward slash.

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

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

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

Setting the anchor point

Before you start animating the transform properties for any layer, the first question you should ask yourself is where is that layer's Anchor Point? Is it in the correct place? Now you can practice this exercise with virtually any layer. If you happened to have the files that came with this lesson, open up Advanced Animation and double-click Comp 01-Anchor Point. It's blank to begin with. I'll twirl open Sources, select Flower.ai. And I'll use the keyboard shortcut of holding Command on Mac or Ctrl on Windows and typing forward slash.

That will center the layer in my composition and scale it to 100%. So I've got myself a nice graphical illustration of the flower, and say I want this thing to wave back and forth into breeze and maybe scale as if it's growing up in the ground. I'll twirl open the Properties for this layer, and I'll start editing say the scale. But as I scrub it, I see something that's not quite right. It's not scaling up from the bottom of the layer; it's scaling from the center of the layer. That ain't going to work. Let's try rotation. Same problem: it's not rotating from the bottom where it supposed to be rooted into the ground; it's rotating around the center of the layer.

This is for a very good reason. The Anchor Point, this little crosshair icon, defaults to the center of every layer, and the Anchor Point defines the center of rotation, scale and even the position value. So it's very important to know where that Anchor Point is in relationship to the rest of the layer. Now there are several different ways of editing the Anchor Point. One convenient way is to edit it in the Layer panel. To open up the Layer panel, double-click a layer and you'll get this alternate view.

It will be just that layer in isolation with its own timeline. The Layer panel defaults to docking to the same frame as the Composition, but quite often, you want to see these two side by side, so you'd either re-dock the Layer panel to be beside the composition. Or, if you like, you might even float it, undock it completely, Undock Panel, and now you can move it wherever you want. But position it somewhere where we see it both side by side. Now one of the reasons editing in the Layer panel is so handy is because you can focus on what you are editing.

This View pop-up defines what you are seeing and what you were editing in the Layer panel. I'll select the Anchor Point path, and now as I put my cursor over the Anchor Point in the Layer panel and start to move it towards the base of the flower, watch what's happening in the Comp panel to the right. The flower seems to be levitating up the screen. But if you look down at the Position value below, Position is not changing. What's going on here? Well, the Position value says, where is this layer in relation to the Composition? I can't define every single pixel of a layer, so it has to define where the Anchor Point is in relationship to the comp.

As I move the Anchor Point in the Layer panel, you will notice it's not moving in the Comp panel; in other words, the position is not changing. What is changing is how this layer is going to be drawn in relationship to the Anchor Point. Here I am saying draw this layer upward from where my Anchor Point position is, down at the base of the flower. Once you've done that, then you can go to the Comp panel and drag flower back to whatever position you want it to be in. I'll put it around here for now.

Now when I go scrub values like scale, it's going to behave exactly the way I expect it, growing up from the ground. And as I scrub rotation, it's going to rotate from the position where it's rooted in the ground. It's going to behave the way that I expect, but only because I moved the Anchor Point from its default position, and that's why it's so important.

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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