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After Effects Apprentice 03: Advanced Animation
Illustration by John Hersey

Understanding graph types


From:

After Effects Apprentice 03: Advanced Animation

with Chris Meyer and Trish Meyer

Video: Understanding graph types

A very important part of the Graph Editor is deciding what type of graphs are being drawn, and that's set by the second pop-up menu, Choose graph type and options. The default is to auto-select the graph type, show you the type of graph that makes the most sense at that given time. For example, with Snowflake most of the parameters are simple values that change over time. They're temporal keyframes. Therefore, we'd see value graphs for those parameters, and the value rule is here along the left side of the screen, from 0 to 500, and also going negative, depending on what the value is.

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

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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

Understanding graph types

A very important part of the Graph Editor is deciding what type of graphs are being drawn, and that's set by the second pop-up menu, Choose graph type and options. The default is to auto-select the graph type, show you the type of graph that makes the most sense at that given time. For example, with Snowflake most of the parameters are simple values that change over time. They're temporal keyframes. Therefore, we'd see value graphs for those parameters, and the value rule is here along the left side of the screen, from 0 to 500, and also going negative, depending on what the value is.

For example, the Snowflake is rotating from -90 degrees to 0, while opacity is starting at 0 and going to 100%. On the other hand, position is more of a spatial value. I'll select the Snowstorm Title to show that. In this case, the graph type will change to showing the velocity, how many pixels per second my layer is traveling, as opposed to a specific pixel value. And again, along this left side you can see the ruler, from 0 to 100 pixels per second and higher in the case of this particular animation.

Now if this automatic behavior is a bit confusing, you can select the type of graph you want to see. For example, let's say Edit Value Graph. Now our position has been split out to separate green and red graphs for the X and for the Y position values. This so happens that this title is not moving in axis. It's not moving left and right, so I get a perfectly flat graph, because its value is not changing over time. And contrast this to the Y dimension, where it's rising over time, moving up the comp. Just moving from being a high-pixel value, very low in the comp, to a lower- pixel value, which actually means a higher in the comp in the case of Y. This is even more fun in the case as Snowflake, because position is following a curved path.

You can see how this path curves through the Timeline panel. I'll even turn on the rulers, Command+R, so you get an idea where these values reside. And down here in the Timeline panel, you can also see the curves independently for the X dimension and for the Y dimension. And as I move my Current Time Indicator through my animation, you can see how the position of that layer follows the pixel values for those X and Y dimensions down in the Graph Editor. Now you might remember back in the normal view--I'll turn the Graph Editor off-- if you hovered the cursor over a keyframe, you received information about that keyframe: what time it was at and what its value is.

As you might have noticed already in the Graph Editor, you get that information and more. You do indeed get the time and value for individual keyframes, but also, as you hover the cursor over the graph itself, you get to see the value at each specific point in time. So you get a lot more information. You can see what values are as they interpolate between keyframes. And by the way, in After Effects CS4 and earlier, when you hover the cursor of the keyframe, you actually did not get a tooltip. They fixed value as 5, so now you get a tooltip, whether you're on a keyframe or just on a graph in between keyframes.

So these are how the values are changing over time. Let's instead see how the speed, or the velocity, of these parameters is changing over time. I'll go back down to my type, and this time select Edit Speed Graph. Now remember I've mentioned most of these keyframes were linear, which means constant speed and very sudden speed changes. You can really see that when you're looking at speed graphs. Flat lines mean constant speed. A flat line on zero means nothing is happening at all.

You can also see where in this case the Snowflake is moving faster during the first half of this animation, then moving slower, not quite as faster in the second half. I'll RAM-preview again. You can see that speed change reflected in the height of the Speed Graph in the Graph Editor. If you want to see both of these graphs at the same time, you can select one, such as Edit Value Graph, and then select Show Reference Graph. What this will do is show the unchecked or unselected graph type, like speed, as gray lines behind.

So in the case of the position of the Snowflake, this grayish pink line is how its speed is changing over time, while the red and green lines are how the actual value is changing over time. You might want to experiment with these as you get comfortable with the Graph Editor. Personally, I find that the Auto- Select Graph Type is actually what you want most of the time. Most of the time it shows you values. The difference is when it is showing position and it shows you speed. And as you may have noticed, there are other view options as well, to show a Waveform overlay, if you happen to have an audio on a particular layer, In/Out Points, Markers, Expressions.

But I'm going to show just Graph Tool Tips, this my only other option for now. As you can see here from where I've rested my cursor, when you're past the last keyframe inside a graph, you just get a dotted line, because all it's going to do is hold that constant value for the rest of the Timeline. Now, let's dive in and start editing these graphs.

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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