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After Effects CS4: Apprentice's Guide to Key Features was created and produced by Trish and Chris Meyer. We are honored to host their material in the lynda.com Online Training Library®.
After Effects CS4: Apprentice's Guide to Key Features is a series of guided tours with Chris and Trish Meyer. It is designed as a gentle introduction to some of the major features of After Effects CS4. This quick–start course is for beginners who already know how to animate, users who are not familiar with the latest version, or those who need to get up to speed with advanced tools. Chris and Trish cover features such as text animators, shape layers, expressions, and motion tracking. These guided tours are also included with the second edition of Chris and Trish Meyer's book, After Effects Apprentice (Focal Press).
To learn the basics of animating in After Effects CS4, check out After Effects CS4 Getting Started with Chad Perkins in the lynda.com Online Training Library®. To go deeper, see Chad's After Effects CS4 Essential Training. To get an overview of the new features in After Effects CS4, watch After Effects CS4 New Creative Techniques with Chris and Trish Meyer.
To purchase After Effects Apprentice—the book—go to www.amazon.com.
In this movie we are going to show you how to animate text in After Effects. Now to start out, you go ahead and enter the text that you want to animate. Choose, for example, what font you want it to be. Maybe change the color just a little bit, there we go, maybe something in the goldish range. After you have set the type the way that you wanted it to be, you will notice that there are no animation stopwatches in the Character or Paragraph panels. Instead, you need to add text animators into After Effects. What After Effects does is pick a range of characters and then animates them by offsetting their position, scale, opacity and other Transform properties.
Just like when I edit text using the Character palette, the first thing I do is I pick what characters I want to animate. If I want to animate the entire title, I will just go ahead and select the entire layer and then all of the characters will be selected. Then I will twirl the layer down and you see next to the Text line is this button for Animate. What I want to do is pick my initial property that I wish to animate. So I will pick Animate > Position. You will see that it created an animator, which includes a Range Selector and my property Position.
The way that After Effects thinks is that it picks a range of characters, then it offsets everything inside that selection by the parameters that you've entered underneath. There are a few ways of seeing which characters are selected. There is Start and End parameters underneath the Range Selector and you will see it's 0% and 100% to begin with, the beginning and the end. You also see these special cursors inside After Effects, which show you what is inside your selection. As I go ahead and scroll Start and End, you will see those special selectors move. For example, I'll edit Start and End so just the word Dropping is included in my selection. You can also grab these directly and move them to select specifically the characters or words that you're after.
Once you've set up a selection, you can offset it with your parameters that you chose with the Animate button. You then offset it. In this case, if I offset the Y position, you will see just the characters inside my selection get offset. I will go ahead and just jam it up here for now. Then as I scroll my Start and End selections you will see the characters will move from being inside the selection, which means they are offset to outside the selection, which means they are no longer offset.
Remember, characters inside the selection pick up these offset values; characters outside the selection do not get these offsets. I will go ahead and back that up. Then you go ahead and include the entire word if you want. If I wanted to animate these characters, there are a few ways to go about it. For example, if I just wanted to animate just the word Dropping and have it drop in, you think well, it's simple, I will just animate my Position value. But if you want to make the characters fall one at a time, instead you need to animate their Range Selection.
So in this case let's go ahead and go Start at 0, End 100% and set a keyframe for Start. I will move 2 seconds later in time and then set my Start keyframe to be 100%. So in this case all of my characters are outside of my selection and no longer getting offset. I'll RAM Preview and now you see as my selection moves through the characters, they move from being offset to not being offset. The handy thing about that is all you need to do is just change your keyframes.
For example, if I want to make it happen faster I will just drag this keyframe earlier and now you will see they drop in much faster. I will go ahead and add keyframe interpolation. For example, press F9 to Easy Ease this particular keyframe and then you'll see the animation slows in towards the end where In drops in and slower pace in rest of the characters. Once you've set up an Animator Selection, you can start adding other properties to also be offset. For example, I will move my Time till I see a few of my characters. I go ahead and Add > Property > Rotation.
Now as I include my Rotation offset, for example, maybe 180 degrees or so. You see the characters outside of my selection are not rotated; characters inside of my selection are rotated. As I drag my Current Time Indicator through here, you will see that they drop in with Rotation and Position. There we go. Let's go ahead and add another parameter such as Scale. It's very common to add Scale so you make things seem to fly down from a large scale to a small scale. Go ahead and increase my character size, maybe a bit earlier so I can see what things look like and have lot of fun now as using scale down and drop down into position, rotating on their way. Here we go.
You can also alter other parameters such as Color and again this is an Offset. What is the color of the characters inside of the selection? I pick Fill Color > RGB and go ahead and change that swatch to a different color such as maybe a richer, darker gold like around there. Then as my characters drop in, you will see they go back to their original color and their original scale, etcetera. I can still edit the characters inside the Character panel. For example, I can go ahead and change back to different fonts, such as Arial Narrow and I will keep all the same animation. I can go ahead and change the ending color.
For example, let's say we want to go to something more of a violet color. You see the ending color was changed in the Character palette, but the animation remains the same. I go back to Arial Black for now. Now the problem with this is you may say well, the starting point of this animation looks kind of stupid to be honest. That's why most of the animations also include the Property Opacity. Give myself a more room here, you want to start with an opacity of zero or invisible so that anything inside the selection is invisible and then as characters fall out of selection, they then become visible. This is the most common sort of animation. They come from outside of being visible to being visible.
You see that I've got some characters moving very faster and I am getting a very strong look to my animation. Another property that goes hand in hand with a lot of type animation is Motion Blur. So I will go ahead and enable the Motion Blur switch for my type layer and then also enable it for the entire composition. Now you will see that each character has a very nice blur to it as it drops into position. I will go ahead and Ram Preview that.
If I want something a bit slow more elegant, I will just drag my second keyframe out. There we go. You see they're changing color, changing scale, changing rotation as they go out of being selected and fall into their original position. Just as a reminder, Motion Blur has changed in the Composition Settings. Command+K on Mac or Ctrl+K on Windows is the shortcut to open it. Go under the Advanced Tab and you can do things like increase the Shutter Angle, the amount of blur and also increase the Adaptive Sample Limit. This is how smooth the blur will be, how many independent frames of blur you will get. When you've got particularly fast moving type, go ahead and move my keyframes closer and you get some very nice smooth animations as things drops in.
Now in this case I am using one Range Selector and having all of these Offset properties, Position, Scale, Rotation, Opacity, Fill Color, all follow this one Range Selection. There are cases where you may want to have more than one animation going on, more than one selection, treat one word differently than another word. In that case you can go ahead and animate an additional property and create a brand-new animator. But quite often most animations are just adding properties to the one existing animator hence existing Range Selector.
As you get further in these animations, there are some other cool options for your Range Selectors. For example, a popular one is Randomize Order. If you have Randomize Order enabled rather than the characters being offset from left to right, they will be offset in a random order. So I can move my one keyframe and change the timing of everybody. If you don't like this particular randomization, for example, you don't like this p being the first character, you can change to Random Seed until you get particular range which you like. Like you may like D for Dropping to be your first character on screen. So there is the D and then the rest of stuff comes in a random order.
Now you might have also noticed these characters tend to come in a very one at a time sort of animation. Another really useful parameter in here is Shape. We can go ahead and pick different shapes of how your Range Selector moves through your characters. A particular useful one is Ramp Up and Ramp Down. That way rather than picking a character at a time, you can pick a small selection of your characters and move that selection in a smooth ramp through your type. Let me give an example of that.
I want to go back here and turn off my Start and End and just pick a few characters right now to be inside my Range Selector. I will turn off Randomize Order so you can better what I am doing. There we go. We have just a few characters selected. If I change my Shape to a Ramp, I will get a smooth progression as my characters fall out of the selection, not one at a time but over a ramp from the beginning to end. In this case I animate my Offset and I get a really nice cascading animation.
This is another one of the secrets to animation. It's quite often you won't use the shape of the square; you use a shape of ramp. To do that, Start and End determine the beginning and ending of the ramp, once the range being smoothly cascaded in and then you will change the Shape to Ramp Up or Ramp down. Then you animate the Offset parameter to go ahead and move the selection through your type to get a fun animation. There is also other useful advanced parameters that you'll explore such as Units. Do you want to see Percentage or Index or Character at a time? Do you want to see Characters, Characters Excluding Spaces so there is no pause in between words or animate entire words or entire lines as one unit? It's a very powerful engine. We have written all about this in both our books 'After Effects Apprentice' and 'Creating Motion Graphics,' but hopefully this gives you a quick overview to help you get started.
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