Adobe After Effects CS5 Animation Helpers

Adobe After Effects CS5 provides a lot of tools and helpers to make your animation easier. Whether it’s ‘built in’ calculators to help you with your math, or grid layouts to help with your geometry, taking advantage of the extra tools can make your job much easier VIDEOMARK.

The transform set of attributes is at the heart of your objects’ presence. Animating position and opacity, scale and rotation will probably be at the core of your movies. Once you begin to tell a story and think about blending your players you will find there are many ‘helpers’ built into the tools, the panels, and most of the controls you will be using.

One clever assistant is the’ built in’ calculator in your transform attribute properties. If you create a shape then look at its position property, try entering ‘*2’ as in ‘multiply’ by 2 in the first position ( x ) field. Your shape will move twice as far across the screen! Open your rotation attribute and enter ‘+5’ in the value for degrees and you will see your object rotate 5 degrees. This built in calculator is pretty slick but it also helps you with precision placement and exact percentages. Tools like this help you create balance and symmetrical placement.

Speaking of balance, consider something fading in and out, or getting much larger, then fading back down. You would like this to match at corresponding entry and exit stages in your movie. Copying keyframes and the information they contain is easy and a great time saver. As you look at your timeline resources, you might see little black dots across the time sequence area. If so these are your keyframe icons for an attribute that hasn’t been expanded. Click the ‘twirly arrow’ for the ‘Transform’ property, you will see all the transform attributes and the gray diamond keyframes that have been set.

Click on a keyframe and it turns gold. Right click on it and several options appear. For this exercise, create a Web preset composition and set its duration to 10 seconds. Create a text layer, enter ‘2010’ and set opacity to 0. Move up to 2 seconds, set opacity to 50%, move to 4 seconds and set it to 100%. Play your movie and watch your text fade in.

What if you wanted to match this same fade at matching points so it seemed to fade in and out with the exact same timing? We see this effect often. To copy a keyframe simply drag your mouse around it like you would with a lasso in Photoshop. You don’t see anything visible like a lasso but after a couple takes its pretty obvious how it works. You can copy multiple keyframes at once but just copy the last one now.

We want our opacity to match at corresponding time stages in this short 10 second movie: at the beginning and end: 0 and 10 seconds, at 2 and 8, and at 4 and 6. After setting your first three keyframes, place your time indicator at 6 seconds on the timeline. Copy the third keyframe by clicking it, then ‘Ctrl C’ ( or ‘edit->copy’ in the pull down menu ), then paste it with ‘Ctrl V’ (or ‘edit->paste’ in the pull down menu).

When you copy a keyframe, then paste it, it will be ‘pasted’ at your location on the timeline. If you think of pasting a word in a Word document or a shape in Photoshop, here you are pasting a time signature so it is pasted at the current time setting.

This is pretty cool. You now have this same keyframe from the 4 second mark at the 6 second mark. Let’s get a little smarter. Remove the last keyframe or enter ‘Ctrl Z’ to remove your last action.

Place your time setting on the 6 second mark, copy all three of your keyframes then paste them. You will have pasted the same three keyframes starting at the 6 second mark, at 6, 8, and the end of the movie. It’s great to copy all three at once but they aren’t in the right order to fade out, are they?

This is the cool part. While they are all still highlighted, right click on any one of them, choose ‘Keyframe Assistant’ from the ‘pop-up’ menu, then choose ‘Time Reverse Keyframes’. This will do exactly what we were seeking but with one step instead of three. This will reverse the keyframes so the fade out will match the fade in.