After Effects CS5 Essential Training
Illustration by John Hersey

Setting up parent layers


After Effects CS5 Essential Training

with Chad Perkins

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Video: Setting up parent layers

In this chapter, we're going to look at powerful ways to create relationships between layers. In this video, we're going to look at a feature called parenting, which allows one layer or a set of layers to control other layers. So, we have this knight character here and here are the layers that we're seeing right now. There are actually several more that are currently not soloed. I want to keep them shy for right now, and we're going to animate the right arm here. Now there are several pieces. There's the right mid-arm.
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  1. 5m 40s
    1. Introduction
      1m 30s
    2. What is After Effects?
      3m 12s
    3. How to use the exercise files
  2. 28m 14s
    1. After Effects workflow overview
      2m 18s
    2. Bringing elements into After Effects
      2m 23s
    3. Adding elements to the Timeline
      1m 57s
    4. Working with layers
      3m 45s
    5. Creating animation with presets
      3m 24s
    6. Applying effects
      3m 34s
    7. Creating animation without presets
      5m 38s
    8. Previewing your work
      2m 46s
    9. Exporting content as a movie file
      2m 29s
  3. 27m 20s
    1. Touring the interface
      6m 2s
    2. How After Effects projects work
      4m 47s
    3. What is a composition?
      4m 52s
    4. Tips for adding content to compositions
      2m 49s
    5. Understanding the properties of video
      8m 50s
  4. 57m 8s
    1. Importing an Illustrator file
      4m 57s
    2. Animation basics
      7m 12s
    3. Animating opacity
      6m 40s
    4. Understanding anchor points
      4m 57s
    5. Animating position
      6m 8s
    6. Animating rotation
      4m 41s
    7. Animating scale
      7m 19s
    8. Using the Puppet tool
      7m 13s
    9. Copying and pasting keyframes
      3m 4s
    10. Animation shortcuts
      4m 57s
  5. 9m 42s
    1. Understanding precomposing
      6m 51s
    2. Navigating through compositions quickly
      2m 51s
  6. 1h 12m
    1. A showcase of effects
      2m 34s
    2. Creating a layer for effects
      3m 1s
    3. Applying effects
      4m 54s
    4. Animating effect properties
      4m 29s
    5. Using Glow
      5m 34s
    6. Creating patterns and textures
      6m 57s
    7. Creating a fireball
      7m 9s
    8. Using the Cycore effects
      5m 58s
    9. Adding blur
      5m 45s
    10. Creating a galaxy scene from scratch
      8m 38s
    11. Distorting objects with effects
      4m 7s
    12. Creating and using lens flares
      4m 21s
    13. Creating lightning bolts
      4m 3s
    14. Viewing random variations with Brainstorm
      4m 39s
  7. 30m 52s
    1. Shortening the duration of layers
      4m 23s
    2. Trimming in the Footage panel
      4m 14s
    3. Slowing and accelerating video speed
      7m 9s
    4. Applying video transitions between clips
      6m 7s
    5. Working with image sequences
      4m 47s
    6. Importing footage with an alpha channel
      4m 12s
  8. 36m 11s
    1. Brightening dark footage
      9m 12s
    2. Changing colors in footage
      6m 34s
    3. Creating cinematic color treatments
      8m 17s
    4. Creating a quick vignette
      3m 42s
    5. Colorizing black-and-white objects
      4m 50s
    6. Using adjustment layers
      3m 36s
  9. 21m 9s
    1. Creating and editing text
      7m 39s
    2. Applying text animation presets
      4m 41s
    3. Animating text manually
      4m 43s
    4. Applying layer styles to text
      4m 6s
  10. 28m 58s
    1. Let's get better
    2. Using work areas
      3m 37s
    3. Creating markers
      6m 17s
    4. Replacing layers
      2m 35s
    5. Mastering Timeline navigation
      3m 18s
    6. Aligning and distributing layers
      3m 4s
    7. Selecting layers quickly
      1m 56s
    8. Cropping layers
      3m 43s
    9. Adjusting comp resolution
      3m 51s
  11. 23m 53s
    1. Using the paint tools
      9m 35s
    2. Using the Roto Brush tool
      9m 25s
    3. Animating growing vines
      4m 53s
  12. 40m 29s
    1. Creating and using masks
      6m 42s
    2. Exploring mask options
      7m 57s
    3. Creating masks with Auto-trace
      6m 51s
    4. Masking objects with other objects
      5m 33s
    5. Making shape layers
      3m 43s
    6. Modifying shape layers
      9m 43s
  13. 30m 44s
    1. Turning 2D layers into 3D layers
      9m 22s
    2. Creating lights and cameras
      6m 14s
    3. Creating shadows
      4m 23s
    4. Using depth of field
      4m 42s
    5. Working with 3D effects
      6m 3s
  14. 18m 10s
    1. Removing a green screen background
      4m 37s
    2. Refining the matte
      4m 48s
    3. Compositing with color adjustments
      4m 50s
    4. Compositing with blend modes
      3m 55s
  15. 25m 44s
    1. Understanding spatial interpolation
      2m 5s
    2. Creating and adjusting motion paths
      3m 55s
    3. Orienting moving objects along a path
      1m 29s
    4. Drawing motion with Motion Sketch
      2m 51s
    5. Creating pauses in animation
      3m 6s
    6. Understanding temporal interpolation
      1m 56s
    7. Easing keyframes
      5m 57s
    8. About the Graph Editor
      4m 25s
  16. 12m 13s
    1. Stabilizing shaky footage
      7m 46s
    2. Tracking the motion in footage
      4m 27s
  17. 24m 58s
    1. Setting up parent layers
      5m 49s
    2. Working with null objects
      2m 31s
    3. What are expressions?
      7m 17s
    4. Modifying simple expressions
      2m 20s
    5. Using the wiggle expression
      7m 1s
  18. 6m 52s
    1. Understanding audio in motion graphics
      1m 22s
    2. Previewing and mixing audio
      3m 55s
    3. Enhancing audio tracks with effects
      1m 35s
  19. 11m 36s
    1. Adding comps to the Render Queue
      2m 30s
    2. Exploring key Render Queue settings
      4m 11s
    3. How should I export my video?
      4m 55s
  20. 7m 16s
    1. Using Photoshop with After Effects
      2m 10s
    2. Using Illustrator with After Effects
      3m 2s
    3. Using Flash with After Effects
      2m 4s
  21. 11s
    1. Goodbye

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Watch the Online Video Course After Effects CS5 Essential Training
8h 39m Beginner Apr 30, 2010

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

In After Effects CS5 Essential Training, author Chad Perkins discusses the basic tools, effects, and need-to-know techniques in Adobe After Effects CS5, the professional standard for motion graphics, compositing, and visual effects for video. The course provides an overview of the entire workflow, from import to export, as well as detailed coverage of each stage, including animating text and artwork, adding effects to compositions, working in 3D, and rendering and compressing footage. Exercise files are included with the course.

Topics include:
  • Understanding the After Effects workflow
  • Precomposing footage
  • Explaining the basics and beyond of animating
  • Creating glows, patterns, textures, and more with effects
  • Color correcting footage
  • Working with text
  • Manipulating video playback speed
  • Masking objects and shape layers
  • Removing backgrounds with keying
  • Compositing multiple pieces of footage
  • Integrating After Effects with the rest of the Creative Suite
After Effects
Chad Perkins

Setting up parent layers

In this chapter, we're going to look at powerful ways to create relationships between layers. In this video, we're going to look at a feature called parenting, which allows one layer or a set of layers to control other layers. So, we have this knight character here and here are the layers that we're seeing right now. There are actually several more that are currently not soloed. I want to keep them shy for right now, and we're going to animate the right arm here. Now there are several pieces. There's the right mid-arm.

There is the right shoulder. There is the sword. There is the right hand, and there is the right forearm. They are all separate layers right now. If I were to, for example, select the right shoulder layer, hit R for Rotation, and rotate this as if I wanted to move his arm, it would rotate that right shoulder only. So, what I need to do is to create a relationship between the right shoulder and the rest of the arm. I also want the sword to be part of that relationship so that when I move the right shoulder, the entire arm including the sword is raised.

So, the way that we do this is by creating a parent-child relationship. So, the shoulder would be the parent of the right mid arm layer. The right mid arm layer would be the parent of the right forearm layer, which would be the parent of the hand, which would be the parent of the sword. So, the way that this works again is that the parent object when it moves the child object follows as well. Now we could still move the child independently with the parent. But when the parent moves, the child follows. It's important that before we set up this relationship we get the anchor points for these layers where they ought to be.

So, I'm going to select the right shoulder and the anchor point looks about right. I might hold down the Y key and move that over just a little bit. We want this to be at the joint that they will bend and move. I'll select the right mid arm next. I am going to hold the letter Y on the keyboard and move this to about right here. That's where I believe we want that joint to move as well. We'll select the right forearm. We're going to hold the letter Y and move the anchor point to about that elbow, and then for the right hand we want the anchor point to be about where the wrist would be.

And for the sword, we will hold the letter Y and move it to about where the hand is. So, now with the anchor points in place, we're ready to create the parenting relationship. The way that we do this is that we start with the child and then determine its parent. So, I'm going to start with the sword and then we want to make sure that the Parent column is showing. If its not, you could right-click at the top of this bar of the Timeline panel, go to Columns and show Parent. If it is showing, what I'm going to do is click this little pick whip. It looks like an inverted at sign, and I'm going to select it from the sword layer and click and drag this pick whip to the right hand layer.

So, now the right hand is the parent of the sword. So, the sword still moves independently, and I want to undo that with Command or Control+Z, but when I click and drag on the hand and I move that around, the sword goes along for the ride, very cool. Let's just undo that again and let's go ahead and select the right hand that we want to parent the right hand and the parent the right hand to be the right forearm. I want the parent of the right forearm to be the right mid arm. So, I'm going to click the pick whip as it's called and drag it to the right mid arm.

By the way, if you get a little squiggly line, for example if you drag a pick whip to an incorrect layer or somewhere in a blank space like this, you will get this little spaghetti thing and that just indicates that it is not a valid parent relationship. So, you might need to choose another layer or be more accurate with your pick whip selection. Next, I'm going to parent the right mid arm to the right shoulder and if everything is correct, then we should have a correct parenting relationship. The right shoulder we could parent to the body.

We're not going to take it to that step. I'm just going to rotate now the right shoulder, and that's exactly what I wanted to happen. So, now all the layers have this relationship between them and they're all doing what the parent is doing. And since the right shoulder is the parent of this layer, which is the parent of this layer, which is the parent of this layer, which is the parent of the sword, then they are all following suit. So, if I were to now take this back, I could go and select the right mid arm press R for Rotation and rotate this a little bit and then rotate the right forearm. Press R and rotate the right forearm there and maybe R for the right hand, rotate this.

So, now we could see that we have a parent-child relationship with all of these layers. They are connected and they will be much easier to animate and control. Now the parenting relationship controls four attributes. So, if I were to go to the right shoulder-- Actually let's close up the other layers so this is less confusing here. If you go to the right shoulder, and I press S for Scale. You notice that Scale controls the others as well. So if I scale up the right shoulder, all those other layers also scale. If you want to give him mega-right arm. I could also hit P for Position and then they are controlled by Position as well and if I hit A for Anchor Point if I adjust the Anchor Point, it adjusts all of them also.

So, those four attributes: Position, Anchor Point, Scale and Rotation, all of those were controlled and affected by the parenting relationship but no other attributes. For example, if I were to select the right shoulder layer and press T for Opacity and I reduce the opacity of the shoulder, you see that none of the other layers fade out as well. Same thing with effects. There's no way to affect child layers other than those four core attributes we talked about: Position, Anchor point, Rotation and Scale. Later on in this chapter, we will talk about expressions, which is a way that will allow you to connect other properties of different layers.

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about After Effects CS5 Essential Training .

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Q: In the "Creating a fireball" movie in Chapter 6, the author showed how to make a fireball. Unfortunately, it all centered around a blob layer that he made without showing how to make a blob layer. How does one go about creating a blob layer like the one used in the video?
A: To create a blob layer, make a shape layer using the Pen tool. Animate the anchor points over time to make it move. These concepts are reviewed in depth in Chapter 4, "Learning to Animate."
Q: In the Chapter 5 video "Understanding precomposing," the exercise file provided does not seem to match up with the file the instructor uses. My file does not include a "Biker Body" layer. Is there an error in the exercise file?
A: Unfortunately, the exercise file originally distributed for this chapter was incorrect. A new file was issued in February 2011. If you downloaded the exercise files prior to then, you can download the corrected file on the Exercise Files tab of the course page.
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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