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Using null objects

From: After Effects CC Essential Training

Video: Using null objects

Now I have to say null objects in and of themselves aren't all that astounding. After all, they're just transparent little layers. It's when you combine them with parenting that they actually kind of become the unsung hero of After Effects. To show you what I mean, let's go ahead and scrub through our null objects timeline. I'm going to click on the current time indicator and scrub, and as you can see, we have this H+ logo animated. Now, I want to move the H and the plus a little lower in the scene, so when they animate in, they're more centered.

Using null objects

Now I have to say null objects in and of themselves aren't all that astounding. After all, they're just transparent little layers. It's when you combine them with parenting that they actually kind of become the unsung hero of After Effects. To show you what I mean, let's go ahead and scrub through our null objects timeline. I'm going to click on the current time indicator and scrub, and as you can see, we have this H+ logo animated. Now, I want to move the H and the plus a little lower in the scene, so when they animate in, they're more centered.

In order to do that, I'll use my null objects. Let's go up under Layer and choose New > Null Object. Now, with the null on the top of my layer hierarchy, you can see here in the comp panel, that it actually just has control handles and it's completely transparent. If we were to render this, you wouldn't see any of these control handles, you would see nothing. Now, in order to control all of the different layers involved, in this logo animation, we need to make them the children of the Null1 object. In order to do that, we should have the parent column open. If it's not currently open, just right click or control click right next to the layer name and in columns, make sure parent is enabled. It's important to pay attention if any layers already have a parent, because you don't want to mess with those parent child relationships. But you do want their parent to actually become the child of the null. So if we were to talk through this, you would see. Layer3 has a parent, which is Layer2.

And so if we select Layer2, we can go to the parent column and grab the pick whip and specify Null1 to be it's parent. Now let's do the same thing for Layers four and five. I'm just going to click on one and shift click on the other. And now I'll just click on the pull down and specify Null1 as the control. Now, with Null1 selected in the top of our layer hierarchy, we can press P to open the position parameters, and click and drag on the Y position. As we do that, they'll move lower into the scene. I'll just drag it to around 493.

I could also click and drag in the comp panel, but I don't want to do that for now, so We'll go ahead and add a key frame for 493 once we figure out where we should place it. So let's move our current time indicator to around frame 12 because that's where the rotation starts. And we will want to move it up in the scene so we're not cutting off the word Sport. So let's go to frame 12 and we will add a position key frame for our Null1 object. Now go ahead and scrub down the timeline till we get to where sport pops in, which is frame 18.

And let's click and drag on that Y parameter and just slide our logo up into the middle of the scene. If we go ahead and enable our title and action save by clicking on the button lower left corner of the comp panel, you can see we've repositioned our logo in the center of the scene. Now as we scrub through, you can see it's lower in the scene and then it slides up. And it doesn't really look like it's moving all that much, and that's just because of the speed at which this is moving. It's actually moving on the Y axis. Now if we want to add a little bit more complexity to this, we can add yet another null object.

So, let's rename Layer1. I'm going to select Null1 and press Return and let's call this move down null. And press Return. Now I'm going to go up under the layer hierarchy and choose New No object, and this one we'll call Z move. So press Return on your keyboard and we'll say Z move. Now, since I want to move along the Z axis, I want to enable 3d for all the layers I'd like to move, so that would be layers two through six. So if you click on one and just drag down we can click down through layer six. And here I'll just deselect all the little layers. Now 3D has been enabled for all those layers. And of course we want to have 3D enabled for our Z move layer. Now let's make the Z move the parent of our move diagonal. So then I'm going to click on the pick whip then point it at the Z move layer. So, again as we scrub through you can see we've got our animation that comes in and then it's sort of turning and rotating.

Now, at this point we want the logo to start moving backwards in Z space. So just to keep a cleaner view, I'm going to turn my title and action safe off in the comp panel, and I'll press P since I already have layer 1 selected that'll open the position parameter. And let's add a key frame. Now, I'm on frame 19, that's perfectly fine. Now let's go ahead and scrub down the Timeline, maybe down to around 112, and click and drag on the Z parameter for our Z Move layer.

Now as we move through the scene, you can see it animates in, rotates, and then starts to slide back, and then we'll have it spring forward really quickly. Let's go ahead and position our Current time indicator at 1:21, let's keep making that larger, here we go, minus 16 69 or minus 16 70. Okay, so now as we scrub through the scene you can see we have our logo that animates, it slides backwards and then shoots forwards.

Now in order to keep all of our vectors nice and sharp, let's just go ahead and collapse our layers here. And make sure we have continuously rasterize. So that's good for all the Illustrator layers. So let's click on layer here and shift click through layer six. We don't need to select seven because that's a background element. And then enable continuously rasterize. So let's scrub through the timeline one more time. And as we're looking at the animation it looks pretty cool. I like the added focus we created by moving the logo down and we have kind of a cool move with the z move. I think the final finishing touch we just need to enable motion blur. So make sure that switch is selected in the middle of your timeline. And let's scrub back here a little bit, and you can see, as the sport logo is zooming out, we've actually got a little motion blur. So, let's check out our final animation by loading up a RAM preview. Now that we've animated the scene, I want you to understand that null objects not only allow you to animate already-animated layers. But they in essence, save you from having to pre-compose those layers. And they also give you a little bit more flexibility, and hopefully allow you to have a little bit more creativity in your projects. Again, all using null objects.

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This video is part of

Image for After Effects CC Essential Training
After Effects CC Essential Training

110 video lessons · 51111 viewers

Ian Robinson
Author

 
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 1m 8s
    1. What is After Effects?
      1m 8s
  2. 30m 55s
    1. Welcome
      1m 11s
    2. Using the exercise files
      1m 19s
    3. Relinking missing footage
      1m 54s
    4. Working with keyboard shortcuts
      1m 23s
    5. Updating After Effects with Creative Cloud
      1m 25s
    6. Different ways to use After Effects
      59s
    7. Exploring the interface of After Effects
      12m 0s
    8. Exploring important preferences and setting up the cache
      6m 20s
    9. Video terminology
      4m 24s
  3. 1h 0m
    1. The six foundations of After Effects
      11m 5s
    2. Understanding compositions
      10m 35s
    3. Creating and manipulating layers
      9m 49s
    4. Building animation
      6m 29s
    5. Working with effects
      7m 5s
    6. Introduction to 3D
      8m 45s
    7. Understanding how to render
      6m 48s
  4. 38m 54s
    1. Importing elements
      5m 53s
    2. Organizing projects
      3m 51s
    3. Building compositions with layers
      6m 17s
    4. Animating with keyframes
      10m 0s
    5. Adding effects and graphics
      8m 7s
    6. Output techniques
      4m 46s
  5. 44m 49s
    1. Exploring composition and project settings
      6m 48s
    2. Importing Photoshop files as compositions
      8m 39s
    3. Importing Illustrator files as compositions
      7m 41s
    4. Viewing files in the comp panel
      4m 42s
    5. Understanding Pre-compose
      4m 21s
    6. Positioning layers with snapping
      4m 55s
    7. Interpreting footage
      4m 0s
    8. Keyboard shortcuts for compositions
      3m 43s
  6. 1h 5m
    1. Defining layers
      5m 4s
    2. Creating type layers
      7m 38s
    3. Precise typesetting techniques
      5m 42s
    4. Creating layer solids and shapes with masks
      9m 6s
    5. Creating design elements with shape layers
      6m 10s
    6. Layer compositing: Masks, switches, and blend modes
      7m 35s
    7. Using track mattes
      4m 49s
    8. Precise compositing with variable-width feathered masks
      9m 24s
    9. Working smarter by swapping layers
      7m 6s
    10. Keyboard shortcuts for layers
      2m 35s
  7. 1h 27m
    1. Understanding animation
      6m 20s
    2. Adding and adjusting keyframes
      9m 52s
    3. Understanding keyframe interpolation
      6m 20s
    4. Adjusting keyframes in the Graph Editor
      8m 26s
    5. The power of parenting
      5m 26s
    6. Using null objects
      6m 46s
    7. Creating expressions with the pick whip
      6m 25s
    8. Creating and adjusting motion paths
      9m 56s
    9. Building complex graphics with Pre-compose
      4m 54s
    10. Preparing audio for animation
      8m 57s
    11. Generating graphics with audio
      9m 13s
    12. Working smarter: Navigating the Timeline
      4m 32s
  8. 58m 59s
    1. Understanding the order of effects
      5m 58s
    2. Generating backgrounds with effects
      5m 33s
    3. Generating a scribble effect
      8m 12s
    4. Animating strokes with effects
      6m 37s
    5. Using adjustment layers
      5m 52s
    6. Adding gradients and glows
      4m 30s
    7. Saving pan and scan presets
      5m 20s
    8. Fixing exposure with Levels
      3m 5s
    9. Fixing color casts with Color Finesse 3
      9m 57s
    10. Masking individual effects
      3m 55s
  9. 55m 24s
    1. Understanding 3D in After Effects
      9m 2s
    2. Intro to cameras
      7m 51s
    3. Intro to lights and material options
      8m 56s
    4. Animating cameras
      12m 39s
    5. Creating depth of field
      6m 48s
    6. Exploring the ray-traced 3D renderer
      10m 8s
  10. 1h 43m
    1. Understanding CINEMA 4D Lite and After Effects
      1m 32s
    2. 3D foundations
      10m 43s
    3. Matching CINEMA 4D Lite and After Effects projects
      8m 9s
    4. Understanding the CINEMA 4D Lite interface
      7m 31s
    5. Creating 3D projects from Illustrator files
      7m 28s
    6. Exploring modeling in CINEMA 4D Lite
      8m 8s
    7. Applying deformers
      5m 59s
    8. Understanding materials
      7m 32s
    9. Lighting your scene
      8m 14s
    10. Looking at detailed materials
      7m 51s
    11. Animating in CINEMA 4D Lite
      6m 51s
    12. Animating cameras in CINEMA 4D Lite
      5m 45s
    13. Working with CINEWARE
      9m 38s
    14. Render settings and the multipass workflow
      8m 38s
  11. 23m 35s
    1. Rendering with Adobe Media Encoder
      4m 45s
    2. Recommended settings for rendering graphics
      10m 21s
    3. Creating presets in the Render Queue
      4m 0s
    4. Prerendering with Import and Replace Usage
      3m 18s
    5. Working smarter: One render, multiple outputs
      1m 11s
  12. 29m 3s
    1. Creating type animators
      8m 52s
    2. Creating and animating type on a path
      5m 32s
    3. Animating shape layers
      8m 45s
    4. Animating brushstrokes with Paint
      5m 54s
  13. 23m 31s
    1. Retiming with Time Remapping
      8m 56s
    2. Retiming footage with Timewarp
      9m 10s
    3. Smoothing shaky camera footage with Warp Stabilizer VFX
      5m 25s
  14. 16m 6s
    1. Getting started with Keylight
      8m 43s
    2. Refining your key with Keylight
      3m 42s
    3. Cleaning up keys with masks
      3m 41s
  15. 26m 47s
    1. Rotoscoping with paths
      6m 47s
    2. Introducing the Roto Brush
      5m 58s
    3. Refining the Roto Brush
      6m 12s
    4. Using the Refine Edge tool
      7m 50s
  16. 27m 13s
    1. Creating a single point track
      7m 38s
    2. Applying motion with Warp Stabilizer VFX
      4m 29s
    3. Warp Stabilizer VFX: Reversible Stabilization workflow
      7m 47s
    4. Solving cameras
      7m 19s
  17. 6m 30s
    1. Archiving your projects
      3m 50s
    2. Removing unused footage
      1m 25s
    3. Moving compositions between projects
      1m 15s
  18. 2m 24s
    1. What's next?
      2m 24s

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