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After Effects Apprentice 03: Advanced Animation
Illustration by John Hersey

Work area tips and tricks


From:

After Effects Apprentice 03: Advanced Animation

with Chris Meyer and Trish Meyer

Video: Work area tips and tricks

In the prior lessons, Trish and I talked about how useful the work area is in After Effects. Among other things it says rather than having to preview your entire composition, which is what I'm doing now, you can go ahead and drag the beginning of the work area, the ending of the work area, and now After Effects will preview just the duration of your comp underneath that work area bar. Kind of convenient! Double-click it to reset it to being the entire length of the composition and then trim it as necessary.

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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

Work area tips and tricks

In the prior lessons, Trish and I talked about how useful the work area is in After Effects. Among other things it says rather than having to preview your entire composition, which is what I'm doing now, you can go ahead and drag the beginning of the work area, the ending of the work area, and now After Effects will preview just the duration of your comp underneath that work area bar. Kind of convenient! Double-click it to reset it to being the entire length of the composition and then trim it as necessary.

Not only does the work area control your preview duration, it can also optionally control the length of your renders and it also has some impact on some keyframes in some instances. For example, this sets the duration that we use for motion sketching. But there's a lot more you can do with this work area bar. As you may remember, the keyboard shortcuts are B to set the beginning of the work area and N for the end of the work area. If you move the Time Indicator to some point after the work area and type B, it will slide the entire work area bar intact at its current duration.

That's nice if you want to move along the comp say in 10 second increments and keep trying out different parts of it. Another trick you can use to focus on a specific area comp, let's say you have a layer that's been trimmed already to not be the entire length of your composition and you want to preview just that duration, just the duration of the selected layer or layers. Well, if you hold Command+Option on Mac or Ctrl+Alt on Windows and then type B, that shortcut for the beginning of the work area, After Effects will automatically set the work area to equal the duration of the selected layers.

To reset it, again you can either double-click it or pick a layer that's the entire duration of the comp, use the same shortcut, Command+Option+B, and now the work area will be the entire length of the comp. Let's say you have a long composition and after working with it you realize you really don't need the entire composition. You really don't need everything earlier in time and maybe you don't need things later in time as well. Well, if that's the case, set the work area to the area you want to keep and you know this is the only area you want to keep. And then either go up to the Composition menu and select Trim Comp to Work Area or right-click directly on the work area bar and select Trim Comp to Work Area.

This will automatically reduce the length of your comp and slide and trim all your layers to begin at where the work area bar previously started in the older longer composition. That's another handy thing to trim down a large scratch project you might have been working on. But this other commands you can use as well. Let's say after working for while on a particular comp you realize, you know, there is this whole dead section in the middle. It's slowing things down. I really want to just trim that out. You can do a couple of different things.

Again, I'll type B for the beginning of my work area, N for the ending of my work area. I'm going to be careful as to what layers are selected. I'm going to start by deselecting all layers. In other words, they are all equal. If I say look, I need to get rid of this whole area underneath the work area bar, I'll right-click on it and say Extract Work Area. What Extract does is say delete everything underneath the work area bar and slide up everything afterwards in time to fill the gap.

Extract and there is my new trimmed down animation. You noticed that After Effects actually had to split the layer, which made it appear to be duplicated to show one segment here, then jump to this other segment later in time. Now, it did all of the layers because I had none of the layers selected. It would have done the same thing if I had all the layers selected. However, if you have only a specific layer selected, if you say, you know, this snowboarder, it's just the beginning part here that's really dull, so I'm going to go ahead and set my work area here.

I am going to select just that Snowboarding movie, maybe set the beginning here a little bit after the start just so you can see what I'm about to do, then say Extract Work Area. Since I only have one layer selected, it's going to extract, trim out, just that portion of that movie, so now we'll have a jump between this two different sections. Well, that was handy. I'm going to Undo for now. But let's say rather than slide up all the later segments, instead I want to create a gap in my project.

Say I want to leave that gap there because I'm going to fill it with something different. Again, I'll go ahead and set my work area and let's go ahead and say put it down there for now, right-click again, instead of saying Extract, I'm going to say Lift Work Area. What Lift does is remove just the sections underneath the work area and leave everything else as it was. So I have just one layer selected. Lift Work Area. It creates a gap just in that one selected layer and now I can insert something else in that period of time. I'll Undo.

I'll deselect so nobody is selected, right- click on the work area bar, say Lift Work Area. Now you see it had created a gap in all of the layers so I can insert as much material as I need to fill in that gap later on. I'll Undo. So the work area bar is actually more powerful than you think. Rather than just control the amount of times that you are previewing, rendering, or doing something like Motion Sketch, you can also use it as an editing tool to go ahead and trim and slide up portions of the layers in your composition.

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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