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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.
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.
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