Join Chris Meyer for an in-depth discussion in this video Smoother, part of After Effects Hidden Gems.
- In this Hidden Gem, I want to talk about a utility that has been with After Effects for ages, and it is known as the Smoother. Some of you might have used it in conjunction with Motion Sketch, and I'll demonstrate that, but it also comes in very handy when you're animating to audio, and you may not have tried that yet, so I'm going to show both of these applications. First, I'll open up Motion Sketch. You might remember, we played with this earlier, when we were talking about roving keyframes. I'm going to start with Smoothing in Motion Sketch set to zero, that way I'll capture the maximum detail while I'm hand drawing a motion path for my layer, then Smoother will allow me to selectively smooth out that path and decide how many keyframes I want to keep.
I'll select the layer that I want to sketch. I want to see a wireframe of the layer while moving it and I do want to see the background for reference, and we'll Start a Capture. It doesn't start 'til I pick up the layer and start moving it around the screen. You'll see the Current Time Indicator is moving and when it runs out of time at the end of the comp, you'll see this motion path that's been created. I'll press "p" to reveal position. At a Smoothing of zero, Motion Sketch creates a keyframe for every frame of your timeline. Which can be quite daunting, particular if you want to, say, edit this motion path.
It gets a little flat through here. I might want to round it out in that section. We'll open up Window, Smoother. Make sure you have your keyframes selected such as the Spatial Path here, and then you can choose how much you want to smooth this path by. If I smooth it just by 1, and click Apply, you'll see that maybe a half of the keyframes got thrown away. It makes it a little bit easier to edit while maintaining the fidelity of the original path, but this is still a lot of keyframes and a lot of Bezier handles to go ahead and tweak, so I'm going to Undo, back to all my keyframes, keep my Position keyframe selected, and try a higher tolerance value like 5.
Apply that, and now I have a greatly simplified motion path that's going to be very easy to play around with the Bezier handles and to smooth out, like I wanted to round this section out through here. Much easier with just two keyframes in this area rather than all of those keyframes on every single frame. Makes it easier to change the timing as well. Let's go look at this other application, audio. Now, in this case, I have an audio soundtrack that I want to use to drive the animation of, let's say, a text layer, to make it bounce in time with the music, and I'll just preview the audio quickly.
(rhythmic dub music) A few nice beats in there along with a general hum underneath. To get some keyframes based on the audio's loudness, I'll use Animation, Keyframe Assistant, Convert Audio to Keyframes. It will mix together all of the audio tracks in my composition. It will apply any effects that I've already set on those layers, such as bass, treble or other EQ, take that amplitude and create this null object, with three expression controls.
Let's close this up a little bit. The left channel, the right channel, or both channels. And I can go into the Graph Editor and look at these as well. The important thing is that just like Motion Sketch, with a Smoothing of zero, this created a keyframe for every frame of my animation. I'm just going to look quickly here for what is the maximum level I'm getting for both channels. Seems to be, maybe as high as, in the 20s. Oop, I saw 50 there for the loudest.
So let's say I want the scale, type "s" to reveal, to follow the loudness of that audio, and I'll close up these other channels so I don't have to look at them. I'll "option" or "alt" click on the keyframing stopwatch for scale, drag a pick whip up to the slider for both channels. It's actually a two-line expression. I'm going to add to the end times 2 to scale that maximum value of 50 or 51 for the audio to roughly 100% scale. I'm going to show you a slicker way of doing that in the next Hidden Gem.
"Enter" and let's preview. (rhythmic dub music) You can see that's really quite a manic animation to watch, even if I enable Motion Blur for that text layer. (rhythmic dub music) It's moving so quickly I can't even read the type. So for a lot of animations driven by audio, it's actually better to smooth out your audio keyframes.
That way, it will make the animation less nervous and easier to follow. We're going to do the same thing as we did before. I've selected my keyframes. Go to the Smoother panel. It's available underneath the Window menu, and just try different tolerances to smooth out those keyframes. Apply the Smoothing of 5. You'll see how many fewer keyframes we have, and let's try that. (rhythmic dub music) Better, maybe a little too smooth, to be honest.
So, I'll Undo, go to something in between like 3, Apply, and try that. (rhythmic dub music) Maybe I'll do something in between. Undo, keyframes still selected, tolerance of 4, Apply, try again. (rhythmic dub music) And with that, I think I have something that does still bounce with the loudness of the music, but pauses enough to allow the text to still be readable.
So, quite often, when you use Animation, Keyframe Assistant, Convert Audio to Keyframes, you may indeed want to run the Smoother on those keyframes afterwards just to simplify the animation and make it a little bit less epileptic to watch, and a little bit more enjoyable for the viewer, and by the way, in the next Hidden Gem, I'm going to show you some more things you can do with these keyframes.
- Setting the vertex point
- Creating swarms of object
- Replacing layers without losing effects and animation
- Simplifying projects
- Hiding layers
- And more…