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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®.
- 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
In the last movie, we covered editing transformations interactively in the Comp panel. In this movie, we will cover editing them directly in the Timeline panel. The first property, Anchor Point, we will cover in more detail in the Advanced Animation lesson. But for now, I did want to point out, where does this value come from? 300 on the X axis and 60 on the Y axis. If I double-click my title, it will open it in its own Layer panel. You will notice the Layer panel is docked in the same frame as the composition.
In the Layer panel, I'm going to turn on the Rulers, View > Show Rulers, and point out that at the top left- hand corner, that's considered to be 0, 0. So this value of 300 on the X axis and 60 pixels on the Y axis now makes sense. The anchor point is in relation to the layer itself. Now I wanted to point out the Layer panel mostly because beginners often double-click a layer by accident, and then they don't realize they are not in the composition anymore. So if you only see one layer, and things look a lot different, check that the Layer panel isn't forward.
If it is, just go back to the Composition panel. The next property, Position, has both an X and a Y value. To understand where these values are coming from, we will also turn on the rulers for the composition. Again, the top left-hand corner is 0, 0. So a value of 320 pixels and 240 pixels on the Y axis is coming from the position of the anchor point in relation to the composition itself. Now to edit these values in the Timeline, the easiest way to do it is to click on a value and then drag.
This is called scrubbing. It's a very handy way of editing the position value. One advantage is that it's easy to edit the X and the Y values separately. In order to move quicker, I can press the Shift key down, and now I'll move 10 times faster. This is obviously more useful when you are working on a high-def or film frame where you have to move a lot of pixels very quickly. If I just click on a value, I can type in a precise value. I can also type in a value and hit Tab--in fact, hit Tab to go through all of the values.
To get out of this mode, just click outside. Another way of editing precisely is to press the Command key on Mac or the Ctrl key on Windows and that will allow you to edit in very fine increments. Here I'm scrubbing 1/10 of the pixel at a time. Another way, if you want to move in whole-pixel increments, is to use what we call nudging. In this case, I would be using the arrow keys on my keyboard. The Right Arrow key and the Left Arrow key moves left and right one pixel at a time.
If I add the Shift key, you will notice I am moving 10 pixels at a time. Same with the up and down keys. I can nudge 1 pixel up and down, hold the Shift key and nudge 10 pixels up and down. So these are all ways to precisely position your layer, as well as just dragging around and positioning it by eye. Anytime you want to reset the property values to the default settings, just click on the Reset button. Our next property, Scale, is pretty easy to explain. You just again scrub and you will notice that the X and the Y values stay in sync.
You don't have to hold down the Shift key in this case. The Chain Link icon is doing that for you. It constrains the proportions. If I turn off the Chain Link icon, I can edit the X and the Y values independently. You can enter precise values; maybe I want to have 50% X scale and 100% Y scale. And now I can edit these values separately. However, if I want to maintain this aspect ratio of 50 and 100, I can turn back on the Chain Link icon. And now when I edit one value, the other value will be changed to remain at the same aspect ratio.
Now one thing I notice that beginners sometimes do-- let me just reset this to 100, 100--is that they start editing interactively in the compound, and they add the Shift key and they think they're maintaining the aspect ratio, but somehow they let go the Shift key and you end up with slightly different values of the X and Y. And you may not notice that for a while, and then later on you notice, oh, these two values are, no matter what I do, they are not staying the same. So here is a nice little shortcut.
Turn off the Chain Link icon and then on Mac, press Option, on Windows press Alt, and turn back on this Chain Link. When you do that, it copies the value form the X to the Y, so that now they are the same. Again, I could hold the Command key or Ctrl key to scale very precisely. You can hold down the Shift key to scale in large increments. And you will also notice that when you go negative, everything goes upside down and back to front.
This is After Effects' version of flip horizontal and flip vertical. For instance, let's say I wanted to flip on one axis. I could do -100. Again, I've turned off the Chain Link icon, so that only one of the axes is being changed. This is flipping horizontal, or I could set the X axis to 100 and the Y to -100 to flip vertical. Again, press the Option key or Alt key when you turn it back on. It will copy the X to the Y and then back to 100%. All of these shortcuts, by the way, are listed on their Help > Keyboard Shortcuts, so explore those at your own leisure.
I will click Rest again, and let's play now with rotation. The value that you probably want to change is the second value, Degrees. If you add just the first value, the revolution, nothing will appear to happen, because you are rotating in whole revolutions. Undo. Again, pressing the Command Key, you can rotate in very fine increments or the Shift key in very large increments. You will notice as I go pass 360 degrees, it goes to one revolution, 2 revolutions, and so on. So if I want to animate counterclockwise, I could start at 0 and then go negative.
The only transformation property you can't animate in the Comp panel is Opacity. You can scrub it from 0 to 100%, but you can't go negative, or above 100%. That just so you know, when you are editing opacity, you are actually editing the alpha channel for the layer. So if I click on the RGB icon and select Alpha Channel, you will notice when I reduce the Opacity value, I am making the layer's alpha channel darker. Again, I can press the Option key on Mac or Alt key on Windows and toggle easily between the RGB channels and the alpha channel.
So now you know how to change values either interactively or precisely in the Timeline. In the next movie, we will show you how to change these values over time, so you can create an animation.