After Effects - Animation/Key-framing
         Paul Soultis aka .soulty

Introduction to Adobe After Effects (also known as AE)

This is a Beginners tutorial to animation with keyframes in Adobe After Effects. We will go through how to create moving animation (from imported graphics) and also how to use and apply a filter within the animation.

First what is After Effects?

After effects is called a post production software or can be called a compositing application. AE primary purpose is to create motion effects for completed media (art/film already created in other applications), such as movies, bitmaps , vectors. It is true that after effects can create media on its own in the application but its generally used for imported media.

( For more information on the specs and details on the application head to "After effects home page"which is also where you can download a trial of Adobe After Effect (6.0) if you haven't got it already.)

[ still from animation above]
[ preview the complete animation here ]

Preparing the scene.

  1. Open up AE, open a new Composition (clt-n) and copy the setting as this screen shot here. We now need to import our graphic, we will be using a image I created a while ago for Kirupa. Download it here.

    ( In the I also provided two AE 6 project files, one is the start of the project and the other is the completed file, use this to compare with your own.)

    Now go to File / import / file (or Ctrl i), locate the file Klogo.png and open it, the file now should be imported into the library, usually placed on the top left of your screen.

    ( I used a PNG file so i could keep the transparency of the image, you could do the same with a Tiff, gif, targa, and any other format you can export transparency with. You can also import a PSD file, that allows you to bring all the layers in as a composition but today we will make it simple and just work with one file.)


    [ Library ]

  2. Select the file in the Library and drag it into the scene (composition we name klogo_animation). The image will seem a little large for the scene size, This is force of habit because in any case that I would like to scale the image to a size larger than the scene size there will be no loss of quality in the image. Select the image ( hit v to have the selection tool selected ) and scale it down to a size which fits comfortably in the scene by click and dragging on a corner point (hold down shift to constraint proportion).


    [ in the scene ]

    You may notice that the image may look like it had loss some quality when you reduced the size, this actually isn't the case, when rendered this will be fine, so to have it appear smooth in preview, in your timeline area, next to your source name there is a backslash , click on this to turn on quality (this is basically always anti-aliased, I advice to click this when you are working with vector graphics).


    [ Anti- Aliased switch
    before and after shots ]


  3. Now the image is in and ready to be animated. Select the layer in the timeline, On the left of the layer you will see a arrow , this is where the controls of you object is located, now you can click the arrow and continue clicking to get to a specific control, or you can use shortcuts which are just heaven sent!.

    Select the object in the layer, now on your keyboard press T (opacity) P (positioning) S (scale) R (rotation), now if you would like to have multiple controls up at the same time, for example click on T for opacity and hold down shift and press R to also have rotation up as well. Easy isn't it, and so much more neater. It might seem a little unnecessary at the moment , but once you get working, it can streamline your working methods greatly.

    Before I go on, i think i should explain how AE works or creates animation. Everything in AE is based on Keyframes. Much like any animation application out there, you must apply a keyframe to record a control change, say a scale change from 0% at the start and at 20 frames its 100%, both are recorded by keyframes, where in between AE will interpolate (or create the in between animation) the animation. Each element has many attribute controls, its positioning , its scale, opacity etc.. same goes for applying filters and any other effect , but we will talk about that a little later.

    Remember the time code is a very important aspect of AE, since we are using 30 frames per second, the time code will be calculated as when 30 frames equals 1 second and half a second would be 15 frames in AE.

    [ timecode and controls ]

Animating with Keyframes:

  1. Ok now lets get this Moving! , I think we will work with all 4 main controls in this tutorial, Position , Scale , Rotation, Opacity.

    SCALE: Now get the scale controls up and you will notice since we have already manually scaled this object the scale percentages should be something other than 100 %, this is another way in which you can edit your setting of the object in your scene, lets change the scale of the object to 50% by double clicking on the numbers and entering 50 (if both numbers were not updated then undo (ctrl -z) and make sure the link on the left is selected, then try again)


    [ scale values ]

    Select the image in the scene, position it in the middle of the scene, to be exact use the position numbers in your timeline. Now have your scale control available, adjust the scale of the layer to 10%, make sure your time slider is positioned at the start or at time 0:00:00:00. Click on the stopwatch next to scale to place the first keyframe. Now move the time slider to frame 20 or 0:00:00:20 (hold down shift to have the slider snap to whole numbers) adjust the scale to 50%, notice that automatically a keyframe was placed in the frame 20 mark for the scale control, this is due to AE automatically recording a adjustment to a control. (while the stopwatch is on all movement is keyframed in that particular control)

    Now scrub the time slider back and forth and you will see that the image will scale in size. Great !

  1. OPACITY: Now lets do the same with the opacity, move your timeline slider to the start of your animation, since we already created keyframes you can snap to the first keyframe by holding shift and moving the slider. Once at the start of the timeline click to turn on the opacity stop-watch to create a keyframe. Change the opacity setting to 0% then hold down shift and move the slider to snap to the other keyframe at frame 20 mark, then change the setting to 100%., two keyframes should of been created and in result when you scrub the slider you should see the graphic not only scale but now also increase and decrease in opacity. You starting to get the idea?
  1. POSITION: first have position controls available (p on the layer), Move the timeline slider to the start of the timeline, switch the stopwatch on for position, Now lets move this out to the left, in the position controls click on the first set of numbers (first is X axes, second is Y axes) change the setting to say -30.0. Next move the timeline slider to 20 frames and change the setting to 165.0. You should now have two keyframe for position. Now when you test it you should have scale, opacity and now position.
  2. ROTATE: Now lets spin it, the cool thing about spinning objects in AE is that they really look cool after you put some motion blur on it, motion blur is actually not a filter put a switch on layers to activate real time blurring, so when motion blur is on and when a object is moved it will calculate how much blur it should have based on its speed of the object :)

    To view the motion blur in your scene you will need to enable the motion blur master switch. The switch can be found on top of the timeline next to your time code, further to the right (check the image below) the icon with the "M" is the master "Layer" motion blur switch.

    [ motion blur master switch ]

    Like before go to the first frame, switch the stopwatch for rotation, shift move slider to frame 20 then add some rotation to the object using the numbers. Here you will find two sets of numbers the first is how many time you would like the object to rotate the set amount of degrees you apply, for complete rotation leave it at 0, 0 for the second part and put 4 in the first part, this means it will rotate 4 times 360 degrees.

    Check here to Compare the progression of the time line

  3. TESTING (RAM PREVIEW): Test it out and see now our image scales, fades in, come from the left then into the center and now rotates. cool. Now testing the animation by scrolling to preview is great but you don't really get a accurate sense of the speed of the animation, so to test it out we first need to set out a preview range. In our timeline on the top of the slider a grey bar, at each ends at markers, at the right end grab this marker and slid it to the end of the animation , again you can use shift to snap. Next we will right click in a area around our scene window, where will be given a menu, select Preview then select RAM preview, this will first load the content to the RAM then playback at a speed which shows more accurately the speed of the animation.


    [ Preview (RAM) range ]

    Ok , now that we have seen a accurate speed of our animation What do you think of the speed of the animation, a little too fast you say, I believe so too, you say we need to change this animation to 1 second (or 30 frames, remember our movie is set at 30 frames per second)

    ok your the boss ;)


  4. EDITING: Another great thing about AE is that it is so easy to edit your keyframe, Firstly make sure Scale, Opacity, Position and rotation is active, Move the timeline slider to 1 second mark, Shift select each end keyframe and when all selected shift drag them to the slider (1 second mark) this will snap them to place. Now shift move the RAM range to the slider as well.

    RAM preview again, that looks much better doesn't it, but now I think that the opacity of the image could come in a little earlier. Lets edit the keyframe. Move the timeline slider to frame 20 , select the Opacity end-keyframe on its own, Shift move the keyframe to snap at frame 20. Now preview it, see now that the image opacity is at full strength earlier allowing us to see the spin in 100% opacity.

    Check here to Compare the progression of the time line

    That's it for the Scale , Position , Rotation and Opacity part of the tutorial.

    Easy wasn't it. :)

    Next we will go through adding a filter to this animation, and then exporting this to create a .mov file


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