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After Effects Apprentice 03: Advanced Animation
Illustration by John Hersey

Working with the Smoother


From:

After Effects Apprentice 03: Advanced Animation

with Chris Meyer and Trish Meyer

Video: Working with the Smoother

In the previous movie I used Motion Sketch to go ahead and create this natural organic flight-path for this butterfly. However, there are a couple of problems. One, it's generally the right shape, but it is little bit jerky, a little bit rough here and there, and two, when I stop my preview I see that the motion path has a lot of keyframes. So if I want to do any editing I would be having to move around quite a few different points. Now the main reason it has so many keyframes is when I used Motion Sketch I set the Smoothing parameter to zero. This is because I want to make sure it captured every single intricacy of my movement to give me more options later to edit it if I want to.

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

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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

Working with the Smoother

In the previous movie I used Motion Sketch to go ahead and create this natural organic flight-path for this butterfly. However, there are a couple of problems. One, it's generally the right shape, but it is little bit jerky, a little bit rough here and there, and two, when I stop my preview I see that the motion path has a lot of keyframes. So if I want to do any editing I would be having to move around quite a few different points. Now the main reason it has so many keyframes is when I used Motion Sketch I set the Smoothing parameter to zero. This is because I want to make sure it captured every single intricacy of my movement to give me more options later to edit it if I want to.

Well, that time has come and I'm going to use Smoother to do this. Note that if you don't have anything selected, Smoother grays out. Smoother needs to have more than two keyframes selected to be able to do anything useful. To select all the keyframes for Position, I merely click on the word Position and now they all will be selected. You can tell that because they're yellow now. Up in the Smoother panel I get a choice whether it applies to the Spatial Path or the Temporal Graph. Since this is position I am dealing with a spatial property, so that is the right choice. And I get to set the Tolerance, how much I smooth out the path.

The default is one, so let's just go ahead and apply it and see what that looks like. You'll see that that's reduced the number of keyframes considerably, maybe half or so, but still quite a complex pat. That's a lot of detail to edit, which may be a good thing or a bad thing. I'm going to undo and say to myself what do I really want here? I just want the essence of my path, and I want just a few handles to edit. So I'm going to try a higher Tolerance like say 10, and this is not a precise science, so keep trying numbers to see which you like.

Higher numbers give more smoothing. I find that 10 quite up and it works well for me. So I click Apply and now I have a very simple path with just a couple handfuls of keyframes and some very simple handles to drag around. Now that I've a properly smoothed path, I can go about editing it to change the flight path around here. Note that when Smoother is done all of your keyframes are enabled, so if you were to try to move one of them you would move the entire motion path as a unit. I am going to Undo, click off to deselect the path, and now pick one individual keyframe. I want to work on this one, so I'll click just that keyframe, pull it outside a little bit further here, pull it down so I go by that little blade of grass back here, and start playing around my path a little bit.

Smooth out the path there, pull down a wider loop here, and a wider loop here, and see how much easier this is to edit than all those keyframes I had before. I also notice at the end here I have some really crazy jerky movement going on. Oh, at the start and end. I need to edit both of these. Okay, so let's delete a couple of keyframes. I'm starting at the right place. I don't mind editing up down here. This keyframe is a bit weird, so let's go ahead and pull it out a little bit and work on the Bezier handles.

It looks like one of my Bezier handles is missing. It looks like I have a strange linear path between here, so I need to pull out some handles to go to bend in this shape. I'm going to press G to temporarily switch to Convert Vertex tool and pull myself out a handle there. Pull this butterfly's path out little bit. Again, use G and pull out that handle as well. Now I've got a little handle I can deal with. I can reposition the butterfly, get the a better flight path coming off that flower. That's better.

My ending here is bit funky as well. Actually I think I have too many keyframes. So I'm going to select a keyframe, press Delete to get rid of it, put the final one into position. I think I'll get rid of this keyframe as well. Hold down G to get Convert Vertex, pull out that handle, move this over and there we go, smoother path. Looks like I might have some velocity issues here, because I see some dots are very closely spaced here and very spaced out here. I'm going to go ahead and drag this keyframe in time to balance the dots on either side of that keyframe.

Just a couple of movies from now I'm going to show you a really sleek way of dealing with this velocity, but for now this improves what I have. Okay, let's press zero and preview this again. Okay, that's a funer smoother path. I do see that out here, those are going out of frame, so let's go ahead and pull that handle in. The idea of going past that little wand was little too funky. So let's go ahead and see what we do here. Better. And I will just pull this down to round out my path. There we go.

So I started out with an organic hand -sketched path using Motion Sketch. I have now used Smoother to improve that path, but there are still a couple things wrong. One, the butterfly is just skidding around. He is not exactly flying along the path and two, I still have some speed changes. Let's addresses those two issues in the next two movies.

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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