The following details are intended to help you plan and execute camera moves with After Effects. Beforehand, you should study the preceding notes on:
When animating a camera, you should use the Separate Dimensions in the Graph Editor.
The Graph Editor Button is located along the top-edge of the columns before the Timeline. Click on it to open the Graph Editor.
It would also be useful to choose Grid & Guide Options.
Located at the lower-edge of the Composition Window, use this pull-down menu to show or hide various Grid and Guide options:
- TV and Action Safe
- 3D Reference Axes
- In addition: Grid, Guide, Rulers and Proportional Grid
To Establish a Camera
In the Main Menu, go to Layer > New > Camera
From the Camera Settings, under Type, choose:
- One-Node Camera. This option will limit camera moves to Rotation and Position, but, already, this represents a wide range of possibilities.
- Two-Node Camera. This option includes Point of Interest. If you choose it, you should attach the camera to a null object, and then animate the null through the space. This way, the camera will follow an orbital path.
- After adding a camera to a Composition, select Layer > New > Null Object.
- Turn on the Null Object’s 3D switch.
- Referring to the Camera’s parent column, select the Null Object layer as the parent.
- You should then animate the 3D rotational properties of the Null Object layer.
- P = Position
- Shift + A = Point of Interest
- V = Selection Tool
- To move the camera, but maintain the point of interest, hold down the Command (or Control) key at the same time.
To Parent a Camera to a Treadmill Walk Sequence
This method works well if you intend to animate a profile treadmill walk through a long scene. The result will look as though the environment (background and foreground elements) pan past the character as she or he walks along.
First of all, prepare a treadmill walk, by either constructing a sequence in a Composition (e.g., by sequencing layers: Main Menu > Animation > Keyframe Assistant > Sequence Layers) or by simply looping an image sequence:
Once you have prepared the treadmill sequence, place it in the Timeline as a layer, below the Camera. You will have to convert the 2D looping sequence into a 3D layer by either clicking on the 3D switch in the Switches section or by going to the Main Menu > Layer > 3D Layer.
Move the walk sequence into place. You will need to use a “View” with the Camera in order to move the layer into proper position.
Once it’s in place, “parent” the camera to the treadmill layer:
- From the walk sequence layer, refer to the Parent Column (context-click the Timeline Columns section and choose Columns > Parent).
- From the pull-down menu, choose Camera 1 (or whatever the Camera is named). Once you do this, as soon as you move the camera, the treadmill character will move along with. Or, more appropriately, the camera travels along with the figure.
About Rotation and Orientation
The three axes of Rotation (X, Y and Z) are the parameters you should use to keyframe and animate rotations. Each axis has its own path in a Timeline / Graphic Editor panel. Therefore, the paths can each have their own separate keyframes.
Don’t use Orientation parameters for animation. They are used more for posing a camera, rather than animating one. In terms of values, the Orientation numbers will not indicate the amount of rotations a layer might take.
To Assign Eases to Animation Keyframes
Please refer to these blog pages for background on:
- Keyframes and the Graph Editor
To Work with Multiple Values
Including X, Y and Z Position and Rotation Parameters
From the Composition Window, click on the Choose Grid and Guide Options button and select “3D Reference Axes.” This will show a guide with the X,Y and Z axes and their colours.
In the Graph Editor, click on the Show Properties button and be sure that “Show Animated Properties” is selected. Doing so will colour-code the various values and paths.
In Timeline layers, be sure to select the Graph Editor Set button, located immediately to the right of the animation stopwatch in the layer. By doing so, you will always see the position property in the Graph Editor, even if you accidentally deselect the layer.
Also, in the Graph Editor, go to the bottom ribbon area of the Editor, locate the Graph Type and Options pull-down menu, and choose “Auto Select Graph Type.”
Use the Separate Dimensions button on the lowest edge of the Graph Editor. Using it will show what were unified position coordinates as separate X, Y and Z coordinates. The parameters will then be colour-coded, such as red and green.
An Important Note
If you want to move separate X, Y and Z parameters, you should do so in the Graph Editor, not in the Composition Window. Otherwise, you will end up affecting the other parameters and they will not move things independently.
Be especially careful to use the Keyframe Navigator to move from keyframe to keyframe. Otherwise, if you use the Timeline editor, you might inadvertently add keyframes to the motion path.
The benefit of adapting the X, Y and Z axes independently is that you can adjust timing and parameters on one axis, such as keyframes along the Y-axis. Then, as you do the same on another axis, like the X, you won’t have to go back and adjust the parameters of the other axis.
However, this process is a significant shift to the way you have probably used After Effects thus far. If you choose to work this way, with separated parameters, from now on, you shoud make adjustments from the Graph Editor, and not the Composition Window. But, you should always observe what happens to the path in the Composition Window. The spatial and temporal paths correlate. They are really one in the same. If you adjust timing in the Graph Editor, doing so will change the shape and nature of the path in the Composition Window.
From now on:
- Make adjustments by scrubbing the Position Parameters in the layer — not in the Graph Editor or the Composition Window.
- Use the Graph Editor to change the shape of paths, to change the behaviour of keyframes and adjust the influence of Bezier handles.