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After Effects Apprentice 03: Advanced Animation
Illustration by John Hersey

Working with motion control moves


From:

After Effects Apprentice 03: Advanced Animation

with Chris Meyer and Trish Meyer

Video: Working with motion control moves

Normally, you would set up the Anchor Point and then leave it alone as you go animate the other Transform properties such as Rotation, Scale, and Position. However, there are some types of animation movements where you want to leave position alone and animate the Anchor Point instead; for example, if you're panning around on a large photograph, piece of video, or even another composition. If you have the project files that came with this lesson, first open Comp 02a-Motion Control*starter. It is large photos from cars on a racetrack, and to get a bit idea what this looks like I am going to double-click Auto Race.jpg, open it up in the Layer panel, say View, fit up to 100% and now I can see how big this photo truly is.

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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 motion control moves

Normally, you would set up the Anchor Point and then leave it alone as you go animate the other Transform properties such as Rotation, Scale, and Position. However, there are some types of animation movements where you want to leave position alone and animate the Anchor Point instead; for example, if you're panning around on a large photograph, piece of video, or even another composition. If you have the project files that came with this lesson, first open Comp 02a-Motion Control*starter. It is large photos from cars on a racetrack, and to get a bit idea what this looks like I am going to double-click Auto Race.jpg, open it up in the Layer panel, say View, fit up to 100% and now I can see how big this photo truly is.

I've got a lot of real estate here I can go ahead and pan around and move around. Great! Let's say I've decided on a move where I first focus on this lime green car in front and then want to look at the back of the pack layer run. I might be tempted to be to go to my Comp panel and say okay, move, that's position. So I'll press P to reveal the Position parameter, click on its stopwatch to enable keyframing, and then for zooming in and out, I'll hold Shift and press S to reveal Scale. Click on its stopwatch. Now I can keyframe that. Let's get a good first pose. Let's see that green car is down here somewhere.

There we go, get it kind of put it in the screen where I want. It's too big. Now, I'll scrub Scale and hmm! It's sliding off the top of my composition. It's not supposed to be doing that. Well, actually it is. If you remember, all Transform properties are centered around the Anchor Point. That Anchor Point is up here at this red, white, and blue car, not down by the green car. Okay, I know Chris told me to set the Anchor Point first, but you know I don't have time. Let's just drag it onto Position. There we go, and let's scale a little bit more and oops! It goes off the screen, pull it down again.

Okay, I am happy with my first pose. It took little bit, but I am happy. Now I'm going to press End to go to the end of my Timeline and drag it to another position. I want to focus on these cars up here somewhere, and it's a nice arrangement there. And again, I think that could be scaled little bit to get a more inclusive view, so I'll scrub the Scale value, and it goes sliding off the screen again. Well, again it's sliding towards that Anchor Point, the center of all transformations. That's why I am fighting myself: whenever I move the position and then scrub the Scale, they're just working against each other.

It's because After Effects always scales around the Anchor Point. But you can go ahead and persevere until you get it the way want it to be, until it comes time to preview it. But I'll press 0 to get a RAM Preview, and my preview is also kind of sliding around in ways I don't want. Well, I can edit my position path, and my position path is kind of non-intuitive at this point. I mean my green car is here, but my position keyframe is over here because that's where my Anchor Point is. Trust me, you can go ahead and do this, but you're just going to be fighting it all day long.

There is a better way, and that better way is animating the Anchor Point. So let's start over. I'm going to open up a new blank comp 02b, nothing in there, go down to Sources, reveal Auto Race, Command+Forward Slash or Ctrl+Forward Slash, center it in the comp. Now remember, the Anchor Point is in the center of the layer. Now, when I add a layer using the shortcut, the layer is centered in the composition. That means its position value is in the middle. I don't want to edit this position value.

I want to resist the temptation to pick up and move this layer. Instead, I am going to animate everything using the Anchor Point. Shift+A will reveal that, in addition to position. Now, as you know from earlier movie, to edit the Anchor Point, you can open up the Layer panel. I'll double-click this layer, and I'll drag these side by side so I can see them both at the same time, and maybe do a little bit of rearrangement of my panels to get a bigger view on both. There we go. Now, rather than keyframing position, I will keyframe the Anchor Point, then hold down Shift, press S to reveal Scale, so do that as well.

I've moved my Layer panel. I'll change the View pop-up to Anchor Point Path because that's what I want to edit now. And now let's look at that Anchor Point. Remember before I said it looked like a crosshair? Well, that's exactly how you should treat it. This is the crosshair of your virtual camera. So I'm going to pick it up and drag it down to the screen car, which I want to focus on, and voila! The Comp panel is automatically updating to show this display. I center the Anchor Point on the car. The Anchor Point is centered in the Comp panel. I have got the view I want.

Now when I go scrub Scale, you'll notice it's scaling around the Anchor Point and therefore staying centered in my screen. It's a good pose I like. I can go ahead and play with the Anchor Point. Again, don't move position, just edit Anchor Point and drag it to get maybe a little bit more of a balanced photo, a little bit of the arc of the track coming from the frame on down and the car down on the bottom third of the frame. That's the nice pose. Okay, let's go down to the end and do the same thing. Don't pick it up and move it into the Comp panel, go to the Layer panel and move your crosshair to what you want to focus on.

Let's see, I was focusing on this group of cars before. Let's do that again. By centering the track, the car is pretty well centered in the view. I want to frame this a little bit better, so again I just scrub the scale, and now it behaves exactly the way I want it to. It's just like aiming my camera at the spot that I want and then zooming in and out to get the framing that I want. Notice how much faster and more direct and less frustrating it was to edit this way than to edit Position and Scale to do the same type of movement.

If you want to pan around a large source, be it the still image, video, even another composition, edit the Anchor Point in the Layer panel. Now there is an alternative using 3D cameras, and in the future lesson we'll get into 3D. But this is the way a lot of people create those so-called Ken Burns moves across photographs to give some movement to them. And speaking of animation, I am going to show you how to refine that Anchor Point animation in the next movie.

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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