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After Effects: Principles of Motion Graphics with Ian Robinson covers some of the core principles used to create motion graphics, breaking them down into smaller groups of applied techniques in After Effects. The course explores everything from gathering inspiration to integrating traditional typography, transitional elements, animated textures, color, and more into motion graphics. Instructions for building a toolkit with templates and a style guide for future projects are also included. Exercise files accompany the course.
Whether you're creating graphics that are timed out to audio or just creating different moves on your graphics, the timing says just as much about a graphic as anything else, like the color, the font, the kerning, and the leading. So if we look at our project here, you see we have a simple type treatment and a shape layer. Now, we're going to go ahead and apply a basic animation to these elements and then adjust the timing to change the overall feeling of the animation. So as we look at the layers, we have two type layers and a shape layer.
So Visual is on one, Rhythm is on another, and circle is on another. So to get started, let's animate this circle, and what I want to do is kind of give it a pulse, where it's just sort of scaling back and forth in the background, almost like it's breathing. So let's open up the options for the Circle shape layer, and we'll start by keyframing the size. If your playhead is not at the beginning of your Timeline, go ahead and make sure it's set to 0, and add your first keyframe for Size. Now, let's go ahead and have this change scale with a keyframe on every second.
So let's jump ahead to 100, and we'll just scale this up, I don't know, to around 340, okay? And now, I want the same keyframe that I had at the start to be at the next point, so I'm just going to draw a lasso around the first keyframe and Command+C or Ctrl+C to copy, and move the playhead down to 2 seconds, and Command+V or Ctrl+V to paste. Okay. Now, to quickly lay out the rest of the keyframes, let's draw a lasso around all three and copy, and then with your playhead set, go ahead and press Paste.
Even though I already had a keyframe at the specific point in time, since it had the same exact value as the one I was pasting, nothing has really changed. So to move the playhead down the Timeline keyframe by keyframe, go ahead and press K to move forwards. And we can paste yet again and K, and paste, K, K, and paste. There we go. So if I press Home, I can move my playhead back to the beginning, and let's load up a RAM Preview, and just watch what's happening.
So as you can see, it's playing back, and I'm getting this kind of unnatural pulse. I'm just going to stop playback just for one second. Now, as this was playing back, I knew it was playing back in real time, but I didn't really know, because I didn't have my Info panel up here in the upper-right. So what I want to do is change my Workspace from Text to Standard. In the Standard configuration, Info will be up here at the top. That way when your RAM Preview plays back, you can see that it's playing back in real time. Or if it's not, you'll find out exactly what framerate it is playing at.
Now, this beat was rather robotic, and that had to do with the keyframe interpolation. So the first thing I want to do is actually smooth out all of those beats. So if you just draw a lasso around all the keyframes, you can right-click and just go to Keyframe Assistant and choose Easy Ease. That adds a nice smooth in and out to every single keyframe. Now if we move our playhead back to the beginning and load up a RAM Preview, you can see it looks a little bit more organic.
I'm just going to stop playback there. Now that we have our background circle animated, let's collapse layer 3 and actually keyframe Visual and Rhythm. First thing we want to do is keyframe the fade-in. So I'm just going to press Home to move my playhead back to the beginning, and press T to open up the Opacity. Now, since I want this layer to start from black, let's change the Opacity to 0 and press the keyframe. Let's do a really slow fade. Move your playhead down to about 2 seconds in the Timeline and move the Opacity up to 100.
Now that I have my fade applied to Visual, let's copy and paste the same keyframes to Rhythm. Just draw a lasso by clicking and dragging off of any of the keyframes and draw the lasso around both keyframes. Now, if you Command+C or Ctrl+C to copy, when you select layer 2, if you choose Paste, it will automatically paste wherever the playhead is. So I'm going to press Home and choose Paste. Now, if I press T to open up the Opacity, you can see I have my Opacity fading on at the exact same time for both layers.
Since I want a little bit of an offset, all I want to do is just go ahead and move my playhead down to about a second in the Timeline, and I'll move the Rhythm layer 1 second down in the Timeline. The easiest way to move the layer's endpoint is the Left Bracket key, which is up next to your P key on your keyboard. When I go ahead and press that, that has moved the endpoint of the Rhythm layer further down the Timeline. Now let's press Home and 0 to watch our animation. Okay.
Now, when I look at that, that's rather calm. I know when I was loading up the RAM Preview, it was kind of hyper, but really that was a rather slow and calm fade-in of those words. So what I want to do is actually speed up absolutely everything and basically change the timing for this entire animation. So let's select all three layers just by clicking and dragging the lasso around all three layers, and press U for the Uber key. Press it once and it will hide all the keyframes; when you press it again it will open up all the keyframes for the selected layers.
Now, I'm going to go ahead and click and drag a lasso around all of the keyframes in this comp. Now, one of the cool things you can do, if you want to keep the same general spacing but want to compress everything, if you hold down Alt or Option and click and drag on the end keyframe, notice everything will adjust in proportion. So I'm going to drag this last keyframe down to around 4 seconds. To move my playhead to the end keyframe, I'm just going to press J to move my playhead back, and sure enough, I got that last keyframe right there on 4 seconds.
So I see a problem already, and that's the Rhythm layer. The visibility of the layer actually is trimmed off of the keyframe. So what I need to do is bring this layer's start point back to the start of the first keyframe. So I'll just go ahead and use my arrow keys on that layer to move my playhead back to the beginning of layer 2. I'll deselect all the layers and reselect layer 2, and now, instead of pressing just the Left Bracket key, hold down Alt+Left Bracket key, or Option+Left Bracket key, and what that will do is extend that layer back.
Now, I'm getting this little kind of checkerboard pattern. That's just letting me know that this technically would be backwards, or a part of the layer that didn't exist before this point in time, but since this is a static graphic, that's perfectly fine. If you saw this on a video layer, you probably would want to check it out and see if you can just move the layer down the Timeline and then slide the keyframes right back up. But that's enough for now. So let's go ahead and jump back to the beginning and check out our RAM Preview with our new timings.
So it's considerably faster, but I hope you can see with this new timing we've actually changed the overall feel of the animation. So I implore you, as you continue to build animated graphic elements to use in your projects, make sure to thoroughly explore the role that timing takes when creating each of those elements. You won't be disappointed.
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