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By Rob Garrott | Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Using After Effects’ Graph Editor to control animation

The difference between a good animator and a great animator is finesse, and no matter what application you’re using, adding finesse to your animations boils down to having control. Using any kind of animation software is a lot like playing a musical instrument, and the greatest musicians in the world all need to have control over their instruments to create the strongest final product.

For musicians, finesse means moving from one note to the next in the appropriate manner, which can mean abrupt movement or seamless and smooth movement. The same is true for motion graphics, except an animator’s finesse means moving with appropriate control from key frame to key frame, rather than from note to note. For motion graphics, After Effects, and CINEMA 4D (C4D) are my instruments. In C4D, you finesse your animations using the F-Curve manager (which you can learn more about in the CINEMA 4D R12 Essential Trainingcourse). In After Effects, you finesse your animations using a tool called the Graph Editor, which is like a  flipped version of the timeline—where you see the key frames themselves in the timeline, we see what’s happening in between the key frames in the Graph Editor.

By definition, a key frame is simply the value of an animation parameter recorded at a specific moment in time. Normally the software will automatically figure out the animation from one key frame to another, but each application has its own default method. For After Effects the default animation between key frames is a linear transition from one value to another. That means that the values automatically move in a straight line with a sharp transition at each key frame. Sometimes that sharp transition is just fine, but there are other times where smoother, more fluid transitions may be the answer. To achieve these fluid transitions, you could use one of the preset key frame interpolations like easy ease (which is my solution about ninety-percent of the time if I need a smooth transition in key values). It’s when you need extra control over your animation’s finesse that I recommend using the Graph Editor.

If this introduction to the power of the Graph Editor gets you fired up, make sure to check out the course After Effects Apprentice 03: Advanced Animation by Chris and Trish Meyer and pretty soon you’ll have all the finesse you need!

Interested in more? • The full Design in Motion series in the Online Training Library® • All 3D + animation courses in the Online Training Library® • Courses on CINEMA 4D in the Online Training Library® • Courses by Chris Meyer and Trish Meyer in the Online Training Library®

Suggested courses to watch next:After Effects Apprentice 03: Advanced AnimationCINEMA 4D R12 Essential TrainingCINEMA 4D: Rendering Motion Graphics for After EffectsAfter Effects CS5.5 New Features

By Rob Garrott | Friday, October 28, 2011

Introducing Design in Motion, by Rob Garrott

Many of you know me as an author for lynda.com, but I’d like to introduce myself as the new Content Manager for the video segment of the lynda.com Online Training Library®. In this new role, I’ll be responsible for our overall video curriculum strategy. I will also be actively working to find and recruit the very best authors for video and motion graphics. It’s a very exciting time for me, and I’m particularly excited that we’re finally able to bring you a brand new course, Design In Motion, by… me!

Weekly for members, and bi-weekly for the blog, I’ll be bringing you tips, techniques, and inspiration from the world of motion graphics using After Effects and CINEMA 4D. In this first episode, I explore the very important idea of using color to communicate a sense of emotion in a video clip.

Storytelling is much more than having a script and shooting a bunch of footage or creating animation. While those are important, there is one thing that does more than anything else to communicate a sense of mood for a viewer, and that’s color. Color has always been an important component of the psychology of art, but when color film photography techniques made color movies possible, directors were quick to incorporate the language of color into the language of film. Creating color in After Effects is a simple and non-destructive process that should have you speaking the language of color in no time at all.

I hope you enjoy this very first edition of Design In Motion! Let us know what you think in the comments section, below.

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