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After Effects Apprentice 03: Advanced Animation
Illustration by John Hersey

Using Motion Sketch


From:

After Effects Apprentice 03: Advanced Animation

with Chris Meyer and Trish Meyer

Video: Using Motion Sketch

After Effects has lots of ways to help you craft an animation, but sometimes the best way is to merely draw it by hand. This is where Motion Sketch comes in. If you have the exercise files that came up with this lesson, open up the Comp 05a Butterfly Flight *Starter. You can also substitute any object of your own choice, or you can even just create Llayer > New > Solid and make yourself a small solid, say something about 100 pixel square. Anyway, I've got a butterfly, so I am going to play with that for now. My goal is to have this butterfly fly around the scene. Maybe start in this flower, go around happily, and then back up on this flower.

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

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

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

Using Motion Sketch

After Effects has lots of ways to help you craft an animation, but sometimes the best way is to merely draw it by hand. This is where Motion Sketch comes in. If you have the exercise files that came up with this lesson, open up the Comp 05a Butterfly Flight *Starter. You can also substitute any object of your own choice, or you can even just create Llayer > New > Solid and make yourself a small solid, say something about 100 pixel square. Anyway, I've got a butterfly, so I am going to play with that for now. My goal is to have this butterfly fly around the scene. Maybe start in this flower, go around happily, and then back up on this flower.

It looks a little bit big for this image, so let's go ahead and type S for scale and scale him down until he looks more appropriate given the size of flower, somewhere around 60%. Next comes opening up the Motion Sketch Assistant. There are a couple of ways of doing that. I can go to window and select Motion Sketch. Another approach is to go to the Workspaces and select Animation. This will open up a selection of panels which are very useful for creating animations, including the Smoother which we'll talk about in the next movie, the Wiggler, and Motion Sketch.

Just to make sure no one has fiddled with my defaults, I'll go ahead and say yeah, reset Animation and say yes to discard. There we go. And I'll go ahead and resize this so I can view it at 100%, so I can have all the pixels to play with. Motion Sketch allows you to use your mouse or whatever cursor controlled device you may have to go ahead and drag around inside the Comp panel. It will remember that path and the timing of that path and create a set of position keyframes to try to re-create that path. I want to make sure my butterfly is selected. I need to have a layer selected for this to work.

I go to my Motion Sketch panel and look in my options. Capture speed at basically says how fast do you want the clock to be running while you're drawing around the screen. A 100% says capture real-time. If you're trying to create a particularly complex path that you may have trouble drawing in real time, you can enter a lower number here so it slows down the clock and gives you more time to draw out your path. I tend to capture in real-time. Next is Smoothing and this was added sometime later to Motion Sketch.

When you Motion Sketch a path around the screen, you are going to create a lot of keyframes. Smoothing is a way of reducing those keyframes to keep just the essence of your path. One, it's not a bad default, but personally I set this to zero to keep all of my keyframes and then I'll make a decision later about how much I want smooth this. Show has an option of Wireframe. Basically whether or not you want to see the bounding box around the outside edges of your layer as you draw. If you turn it off, you won't see anything at all.

You want to even see the layers. So I leave it on. And then Background. Background is important in case you have important context that you want to use for reference while you're drawing, and in this case I do. I want to start in this flower, I want to end in this flower, and so I definitely need to see the background. And then there is a Start Time and Duration. These are controlled by the work area inside your comp. If you are not familiar with the work area, we have a separate sidebar movie at the end of this lesson about it. Okay. Now that I am all set up I'll make sure again that the butterfly is selected.

I click on Start Capture and I don't need to panic. Motion Sketch won't start until I start dragging, so don't feel rushed. Calm down, take a breath, thing about what you want to do, and when you're ready, click and start dragging. And you'll notice the time indicator in the Timeline panel starts running as soon as I click on the object. So here is my initial path. I don't know if I got back to the flower in time before my time ran out. So let's go ahead and press zero on the numeric keypad and RAM Preview to see how it looks.

Okay, it was a little late off the mark there. Not a bad path. I wouldn't mind flying around the wider range of this comp and it looks like I indeed did not get back in time. Okay. I'll stop my preview and I can either Undo to remove all those keyframes or press U to Reveal them, press Home to make sure I'm back on my initial start position, and just turn the animations stopwatch off to remove all those keyframes. Either way. Okay, let's try again. I'll go over select Start Capture, remember that this is going to start recording at the moment I click, and now I take off and say, okay, let's take a more loopy path around the whole screen and get back here in time.

There we are, see how that works. That's a little bit more like it. Maybe that little bit ending is a little bit funky, but I'll clean it up in the next movie. Yeah, that's something I can work with. It is a little bit rough. It does have an awful lot of keyframes, particularly if I want to go in and start editing it, but again these are the things I can do with tools like the Smoother. If I wanted, I could Undo and keep trying again. Another approach is to make multiple copies of your object you want to drag around or create multiple new solids and then create different motion paths for a variety of objects allowing you to defer your decision later, as to which path you prefer best, but I want to go ahead and go with this path.

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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