Join Chris Meyer for an in-depth discussion in this video Editing interactively in the Composition panel, part of After Effects Apprentice: 02 Basic Animation.
Now to make an animation, a layer needs to change values over time. So let's start learning how to change values. If I select my layer and go down to the Timeline, you'll notice a little arrow here you can click on, and this shows you the word Transform. Click the arrow again, and it will reveal all of the transformation properties. By the way, we call clicking this little arrow twirling up and twirling down. In the Transform properties, Anchor Point, Position, Scale, and Rotation, as well as Opacity, you can edit these values either very precisely in the Timeline or interactively in the Comp panel.
You can edit all of these in the Comp panel, with the exception of Opacity. So we'll show you both ways, along with the few tips and tricks. The anchor point is the symbol that's in the center of the layer. It's the center around which a layer rotates and scales. Now we'll be editing and animating the anchor point in the next lesson, Advanced Animation. But for now, I did want you to know where it was, what it look like, and what it did. To edit interactively in the Comp panel, you simply pick up your layer and move it around, and you'll notice the value is changing for Position.
If I don't want to change both the X and the Y values at the same time, and I want to constrain it to maybe left and right or up and down, I need to add the Shift key, and then it will constrain the motion. Now, be careful. You don't want to press the Shift key first and then click on a layer, because you'll just deselect it. If I want to move this layer up, I start moving it up first, and then I add the Shift key. You'll notice in the Timeline that only the value for the Y axis is changing. Anytime you want to reset these values back to the default settings, in the Timeline, you can click on the Reset button.
The Scale value could be changed interactively by just dragging one of the handles right in the Comp panel. Now you'll notice the layer is changing the width and the height. If I add the Shift key after I start dragging, it will constrain the aspect ratio, and the X and the Y values will stay in sync. Again, you don't want to press the Shift key first and then start dragging the handle, or you'll just deselect it. So start dragging first and then add Shift. One thing you will want to watch out for though is not dragging it past the 100% if your source is a pixel-based image.
In that case, I'm just blowing up pixels, and things will start to look a bit soft pretty quickly. I'll undo. Our next Transform property, Rotation, if you want to edit that interactively in the Comp panel, you do need to change tools. In the Tools panel, the Rotation tool shortcut is W. If I select the Rotation tool and start dragging a handle, it will rotate. Add the Shift key, and I can lock it to 45-degree increments. When I'm done rotating, I will want to remember to go back to the Selection tool.
So rather than press W to use Rotation and then I have to press V for the Selection tool, a handy tip in After Effects is to use a temporary tool. That means you press W, and you keep it pressed down. After you finish rotating or changing, whatever tool you're using, when you let go off that tool, it will automatically return to the previous tool. In this case, that's the Selection tool. It takes a little practice, but notice how quick it is to press W, keep it pressed down, change my rotation, and let go of W.
Now, I don't have to go all the way up here to the Tools panel, change a tool, rotate, and go back to the Selection tool. So I think it's well worth learning how to use temporary tools. Again, if you make a mess, click on the Reset button. In the next movie, we'll show you how to edit these values precisely in the timeline, and show you a few little tips and tricks.
After Effects Apprentice is created by Trish and Chris Meyer and designed to be used on their own and as a companion to their book After Effects Apprentice.
- Starting a project from scratch
- Building a composition
- Arranging and transforming layers interactively and numerically
- Animating parameters including motion paths
- Applying and re-using effects
- Creating variations and rendering the final movie
- Importing layered Photoshop files
- Understanding alpha channels
- Avoiding common mistakes
Skill Level Beginner
Q: This course was updated on 11/09/2012. What changed?
A: We added new movies on using the exercise files that come with this course, and working with the Global Performance Cache in After Effects CS6. We have also added exercise files designed for After Effects CS6.
Q: This course was updated on 11/07/2016. What changed?
A: We updated eight movies to stay up to date with the latest changes in After Effects CC.