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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.
I think way too many of us are spoiled by just how cool 3D space, lights, and cameras are in After Effects. And even though those features have been around for quite a while now, it seems like you can never have too much control when it comes to moving things around in 3D space. In this project, we're actually going to duplicate a bunch of these different paint stroke elements and reposition them in three-dimensional space. And when we do that, we're going to become very familiar with these two pulldown menus right here: the Select View layout and the Active Camera layout.
Now there are some keyboard shortcuts that you're actually going to probably want to use, and to show you those, let's go up to the View menu and go down to Switch 3D View. And you'll notice F10, F11, and F12 actually are keys that are tied to switching these individual 3D views. And if you look here, you can assign different shortcuts to switch between the views. Now if you're on a Mac, Apple has special keyboards that have multiple functions tied to these specific keys.
So in order to fix that issue, what you need to do is go up under the Apple menu and go to your System Preferences. The first place I want you to go is Expose & Spaces, because by default F10, F11, and F12 are set up to make changes in Expose. So go ahead and click on each pulldown that has an F key assigned to it and make sure that there is nothing selected, so you have these dashes, okay? And then go back to Show All and go under the Keyboard settings, and this will help with laptops as well.
Make sure to select Use all F1, F2, et cetera, keys as standard function keys. This way you won't have to use the Function key on your keyboard to actually initiate each one of these F keys. Now with those settings actually set, we can quit System Preferences. And now go ahead and make sure your Viewer is selected, and I just want you to press F10, and you should notice that the view switch to the front view, and if I press F11, it switches to custom view and F12, it switches to my active camera.
I find I use those key commands quite often. Sometimes you will want to actually have different views applied to different keys, so most of the time I leave F12 set to the active camera, and I leave F11 to this custom view because I like how I can actually see how these layers have a three-dimensional space from a slightly offset angle. But a lot of times I'll remap F10. So right now, it's set up for the front view. What I want to do is actually change this to the top view.
So if we go and change the pulldown to Top and go up under the View menu, we can go to Assign Shortcut to Top and see Replace Front. Now when we go ahead and select that, now if I press F11, we go to custom view, and when I press F10 it goes to the top view. I like the top view when I'm positioning elements in three-dimensional space because I can actually see where they are offset on the Z axis. But a lot of times just having one window in the viewer opened isn't quite enough. What you'll need to do is go over here and change to 2 Views.
Now I'm going to choose 2 Views - Horizontal, because I have more space horizontally than vertically. Sometimes you will want to use 2 Views - Vertical. Feel free to click around and see the different view options that you have. But with more than one view up, what you want to do is look for these yellow triangles in the corners of each one of these different views. That way you'll know exactly which view you have selected. So, for example, if I select the right view here and press F12, I can switch back to the active camera.
Now when I move my camera around the scene--here, let me use my scroll wheel to zoom out here a little bit, and I'll move till I get the Z axis there-- now as I move my camera around the scene, not only can I reposition it in three-dimensional space, but I can see exactly what's going on over here in real time as well. Another quick easy way to switch between these views is to actually just place your mouse over top of the pulldown menu and use your scroll wheel. If you use your scroll wheel, it will actually scroll between each of the different options as you scroll up and down.
So this is a nice, easy, fast way of switching between the views here. Now that we understand how to view objects in the scene, let's go ahead and position some objects in the scene. First thing, let's duplicate these paint stroke layers. So select layer 3, hold down Shift, and select layer 6, and press Command+D or Ctrl+D. Now, we've created a duplicate of all these layers. Since I want all these layers to be in a group, I'll just click on the topmost layer and just drag it up a little bit, till I get that black line that appears just above layer 3, and when you let go, that will snap all the layers together in one solid group.
Now, if you press R, it will open the Rotation property for all of the layers that you have selected. If we want to flip these so they're actually laying flat in the scene, all we have to do is click and drag on the X parameter for the orientation. And you notice now I'm flattening out these layers. And if we rotate around to 90 degrees here, all these layers are now facing the bottom of our scene. Now to reposition these layers, since they're all selected, all we have to do is just click on any one of the axis handles-- I'm going to click on the Z axis handle--and drag up to position these objects up in the scene.
Now, when the camera flies into the scene, I can rotate the camera up and then start flying through the layers that are up in the top of the scene. So that's one way of positioning elements in a three-dimensional scene. Just to show you exactly how this looks a little bit better, I'll go ahead and select the left side of my viewer here and switch my view to a Custom View 1 here, and you can see now I have the layers positioned directly over top of the previous layers. When you have multiple layers selected-- I'm just going to go ahead and reselect these layers here and open up my Rotation parameter again-- one of the things you may notice is the fact that each object rotates around its own orientation.
Sometimes you will want to actually just rotate all the objects as a group. I'll just press U to collapse all the parameters here. Now, the easiest way to do that is to actually parent all these layers to a null object. So go up under Layer and choose New > Null Object, and let's rename Null 1, Control Group, okay? And we'll duplicate this second group of paint strokes one more time, so Command+D or Ctrl+D, and we'll just move those up above the camera and then go ahead and click on the parent pick whip and choose Control Group.
Now when we go ahead and select the Control Group null object and open its Rotation parameter, notice all the objects are rotating as one solid object. Since I don't have this null object as a three-dimensional object, I'm not getting multiple options for rotation. So you might want to open that up there, and that way you can actually rotate on the X or the Y or what have you. I want to go ahead and rotate on the X again, and we'll just rotate this back around 270 degrees here. And just so the camera doesn't have extra depth here, let's go ahead and just move these objects up in the scene by clicking on the Z control axis, and just move them up out of the way of the camera.
This way when we fly our camera into the first group of layers, then we can fly it into the next group of layers and then back over into our last group of paint strokes. Let's go ahead and select the left view in the viewer and press the C key twice to grab the Orbit Around tool. Now as we click around, we can see exactly how the layers are oriented in three-dimensional space, and I think this is actually looking kind of cool. So I think we're pretty good, as far as positioning layers within the scene.
Now that the scene looks good, we can go ahead and just grab our Selection tool, save the project, and we're good to go. Even though we know some tips and tricks to navigating and positioning objects in 3D space, I hope you enjoy moving around in your new virtual world. Once you've got your bearings, working in 3D space can get much more exciting.
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