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Understanding anchor points

From: After Effects CS5 Essential Training

Video: Understanding anchor points

When you are dealing with the five basic transforms, one of the most important concepts is the Anchor Point. It is the center around which most of these transformations take place. So, let's look at that a little bit here. I am going to scroll down and again, I can do that using the wheel on my mouse. As you can probably tell us, it pays to have a three-button wheel mouse when working with After Effects. If you don't have that, you could use the scroll-bar, all the way around the right-hand side of the Timeline panel here to scroll down, and get to the Sun layer.

Understanding anchor points

When you are dealing with the five basic transforms, one of the most important concepts is the Anchor Point. It is the center around which most of these transformations take place. So, let's look at that a little bit here. I am going to scroll down and again, I can do that using the wheel on my mouse. As you can probably tell us, it pays to have a three-button wheel mouse when working with After Effects. If you don't have that, you could use the scroll-bar, all the way around the right-hand side of the Timeline panel here to scroll down, and get to the Sun layer.

Now what I want you to do is to, the left of the Sun layer you'll see this column underneath this circle, I want you to click that circle. This is the Solo button, and this allows you to solo a layer so you could see only that layer. Now right now, you're seeing this white and gray checkerboard in the background, kind of like in Photoshop. This is the Transparency Grid, letting me know that there is transparency here, but that's visually distracting to me. So, I am going to come down to the bottom of the Composition panel. You'll see a button that looks like that background. It says Toggle Transparency Grid.

Go ahead and click that to get rid of it. We'll have a nice black background. Now when you have a layer selected, you can see its Anchor Point, and that is this little circle with the plus outside of it. This is the Anchor Point. And again, this is the center point around which all transformations happen. So, when we go to rotate this, it's going to rotate around that center. Now here is the 'gotcha.' Open up the Sun layer, and open up its transforms, and we have Anchor Point here. So, you might think the best way to adjust that Anchor Point to move it somewhere else is to adjust this value, but as we do so, it seems like we're moving the layer, and not the Anchor Point. It's so screwy.

So, I am going to undo that by hitting Command+Z on the Mac, or Ctrl+Z on the PC. And I am going to move this in a much more intuitive way. I am going to select this tool, which would actually be pretty hard to guess, but it's called the Pan Behind tool. It's kind of like the Swiss Army knife of tools in After Effects. It does a lot of different things in a lot of different situations, but for now, we're going to use the Pan Behind tool to move the Anchor Point. So, what I can do is click on this and drag and move this, I don't know, any arbitrary point. But I want you to know is the difference of what happens when I change the Anchor Point here, and then adjust some other value.

Let's say I adjust Scale. You can see that now the sun scales from that Anchor Point, and when we rotate it, it rotates around that Anchor Point. If I were to move the Anchor Point back to the center, then you can see the difference when we scale, scales from that point, and it rotates from that point. Now the Anchor Point can be somewhere else entirely. It doesn't have to be on the object, even within the boundaries of the layer, this bounding box right here that tells us where the layer's extremities are.

We can even put it outside this layer, and watch what happens now when we scale. It kind of moves. It's still scaling from that Anchor Point. And when we rotate, it's rotating around that Anchor Point. So, even though you might not fiddle with the Anchor Point that often in After Effects, it is critical to know how to adjust it, so that all these other properties make sense. Now one quick tip here; it is a very important tip. I am going to undo this until our Anchor Points back in the center.

And I am going to select V for the Move tool. You can press V on your keyboard, or just go ahead and click the arrow in the upper left-hand corner of the Tools panel. This is the tool that you'll be wanting to use most of the time when you're working in After Effects that allows you to do all kinds of things that I won't get into now, but that's a very handy tool. And this is what you'll use 99% of the time when you're working in After Effects. And going all the way up here to the Toolbar, again, if you're new to After Effects, if you don't work in a production environment, that may seem like no big deal. But when you have deadlines, and you work in a professional production environment, like that is an annoyance.

So, what you could do, if you put your cursor over the Pan Behind tool, you can see the keyboard shortcut in Parentheses. That's the letter Y. So, if I were to push the letter Y, I would use that tool. That's pretty self explanatory, right? But there is a better use of that keyboard shortcut. I am going to press V on the keyboard to get back to the Selection tool. Then what I am going to do is I am going to push down the Y key, but I am going to hold it down. So, I am going to push and hold down Y. Then I can move the Anchor Point to wherever I like.

Then when I let go of Y, it goes back to using the regular Selection tool. Talk about efficient. That is a way to save you tons of time and headache. So, I hold down Y, move the Anchor Point, let go of Y, and I am back to where I was. By the way, this is referred to as a spring-loaded shortcut. You'll find these now in Photoshop as well. So, with that out of the way, we're now ready to move on and talk about Position, Rotation and Scale.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for After Effects CS5 Essential Training
After Effects CS5 Essential Training

111 video lessons · 67176 viewers

Chad Perkins
Author

 
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 5m 40s
    1. Introduction
      1m 30s
    2. What is After Effects?
      3m 12s
    3. How to use the exercise files
      58s
  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
      37s
    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
      11s

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