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- Further information on keyframes and the Graph Editor <blogs.ecuad.ca/mrose/resources/resources02/after-effect-notes/keyframes-and-graph-editor>
To Set Keyframes
To set keyframes, and consequently, to animate an object or layer, you must work with an image or footage that’s already in the Timeline. If you haven’t brought an image or footage into the Timeline, bring it down from the Project Window. For example, go to the Project Palette, click on the file that you plan to add to the Timeline, and, while holding down the mouse key, drag the file into the Timeline. You will find that, as you drag it up and down the Timeline, the Current Time Indicator will follow along, up and down the Timeline until you drop the file into place. This marker will help to indicate where along the Timeline you are about to place the file. Once you drop the file/footage into the Timeline, you can also move it around; use the Selection Tool to click on the footage and drag it around in the Timeline.
You can animate virtually any setting in After Effects. The default Transform Effects for a layer/footage are:
- Anchor Point
There are also many other effects that you can apply to an object/layer, features that you will find in Effects (Main Menu > Effects). However, even with the default Transform Effects, you can make all sorts of animated changes to the footage. For example, you could change the “position” of an object/layer by establishing a keyframe at one point in a composition and setting another keyframe at a new location in the composition. The software will then calculate (or interpolate) the in-between calibrations and animate the object between the two points. In addition, you can edit the movement afterward by adjusting the spatial keyframes in the Composition Window and/or the temporal keyframes in the Timeline; that is, modify the motion path to adjust the movement tempo. You can also animate the object’s scale over time, change a layer’s opacity, rotate the footage/element, etc.
To set keyframes effectively, you should use the following features:
- Current Time
- Current Time Indicator
- Keyframe Navigator (with “add or remove a keyframe at the current time” button)
- Time-Vary Stopwatch
- Keyframe example (a Linear Keyframe added at the current time)
Once you click on the Current Time in the Timeline, a “Go To Time” dialogue box will open and you can enter different time settings.
An important note: The above value indicates the Current Time as Timecode (hours; minutes; seconds; frames). As an animator, you might prefer to have the Current Time read as Frames.
To change the presentation, go to Main Menu > Project Settings. Under Time Display, choose “Frames” (instead of “Timecode”).
Current Time Indicator
When you enter values in the Go To Time dialogue box, After Effects will move the Current Time Indicator to the new destination in the Timeline. You can also click and drag the Current Time Indicator up and down the Timeline; doing so will change the position of the Current Time Indicator. The places where you situate the the Current Time Indicator are where you will set keyframes.
In order to activate an effect section for animation, you must select the Time-Vary Stopwatch, which you will find to the left of each effect category (e.g., beside “Transform > Position”).
You will use the Keyframe Navigator to “add or remove a keyframe at the current time” (where the Current Time Locator is currently situated in the Timeline) and to navigate from one keyframe to the next.
To set a keyframe, select one of the default Transform Effects in a layer; or, add an effect by going to the Main Menu > Effect.You will use the Keyframe Navigator, to “add or remove a keyframe at the current time” (where the Current Time Locator is currently situated in the Timeline), and to navigate from one keyframe to the next.
Click the Stopwatch to activate the animation options; doing so will allow you to add additional keyframes further along the layer. By clicking on the Stopwatch, you will also set the first keyframe.
Click on the Current Time to “Go To” another point on the Timeline.
Once you have located the next point in the Timeline, to where you will set an additional keyframe, you should refer to the Keyframe Navigator and click the centre diamond-shape button to “add a keyframe at the current time.”
If you want to remove an existing keyframe in the Timeline, click with the arrow-buttons in the Keyframe Navigator to locate a key, and then click the centre-button to “remove a keyframe at the current time.”
By using the Keyframe Navigator, you will add and remove keyframes; by entering values in the Current Time and using the Current Time Indicator, you will set keyframes along the Timeline. However, you must also make changes to an object/layer at each keyframe — adjust the Position, Opacity, Rotation, etc. — in order for animation to occur. For example, an object must start at one place and the object’s movement must end at another location.
As you set keyframes over time in the Timeline, you should also refer to the Composition Window to see how the changes will occur in space.
Toggle Hold Keyframe & Manual Frame-by-Frame Animation
After Effects has an interesting animation option, where you can manually animate an object/layer or footage in a frame-by-frame fashion, similar to the way that you would animate an object under a camera and photograph successive movements frame-by-frame. To do this, you will set a Hold keyframe at a point in the Timeline, move along a couple of frames, and then move the object/layer in the Composition Window. By repeating the action and forging ahead, moving along in the Timeline and progressing in the Composition Window, you will create a movement phrase, where you will set all of the keys and in-between positions yourself. In this case, After Effects will not interpolate the moves between keyframes.
To begin, follow the steps above to set an initial keyframe on the Timeline; for example, to animate the Position of an object, set a keyframe at Frame 0 on the layer. After Effects will apply a default Linear keyframe, with a diamond-shape icon on the Timeline.
Locate the Linear keyframe icon with your mouse, context-click on the keyframe (right-click or Mac control-click) and choose Toggle Hold Keyframe. By doing this, you will remove After Effects’ interpolation between keyframes. The diamond-shape keyframe icon should then turn into a part-diamond, part-square shape (diamond on the left-side, square on the right-side).
From now on, After Effects will not figure out the in-betweens for you; you will be able to set the calibrations yourself, just as you would with drawn or object animation.
Go to the next point where you want to set a keyframe in the Timeline. If you would like to animate an object/layer with double-frames, an easy way to move forward is to simply click on the Page Down Key in the numeric keypad.
- Page Down Key = Moves the Time Marker forward in the Timeline by 1 frame
- Page Up Key = Moves the Time Marker backward in the Timeline by 1 frame
Again, using Position animation as an example, once you have placed the Time Marker where you want it in the Timeline, you can use the Selection Tool to move the object/layer in the Composition Window, or adjust the x-axis and y-axis coordinates of the object/layer in the Position section of the layer’s Transform options. By doing this, you will set another Hold keyframe in the Timeline.
A Hold Keyframe is signified by a square-shape in the Timeline.
N. B. Using this frame-by-frame animation method, you do not have to click the “add keyframe” icon to set additional keyframes; After Effects will do it for you. All that you have to worry about is to go to a new position in the Timeline — i.e., click the Page Down Key twice to move forward two frames — and then change the position of the layer/footage by either moving the object in the Composition Window or adjusting the Position’s x- and y-coordinates.
After each move, After Effects will place an [x] in the Composition Window, to mark the calibration you have just made, and connect the marks with a line, to indicate a motion path. These are reference marks and will not appear in the project, but you will probably find the marks useful, as you compose the object’s motion path.
To play an animation sequence, especially if your composition is complex or dense with several layers and effects, you should use the RAM Preview option. After Effects will build a preview file and load it into the RAM, so that it plays in real-time.
Before you RAM Preview a sequence, you should use the Work Area Bar to set a preview region.
- To play the RAM Preview, go to the the Time Controls and click on the RAM Preview Button; or, alternatively, go to the Main Menu > Composition > Preview > RAM Preview.Timeline Navigator. Click and drag the right-handle to magnify the details in the Timeline towards single-frames, or to zoom out to a broader view of the Timeline; click and drag the middle of the Navigator to move the Navigator around the Timeline.
- Work Area Bar. Click and drag the left- and right-handles to increase and decrease the work area region; click and drag the middle-section of the Work Area Bar to shift the region along the Timeline.
To play the RAM Preview, go to the Time Controls and click on the RAM Preview Button. Or, alternatively, go to the Main Menu > Composition > Preview > RAM Preview.
- RAM Preview Button (click to play)
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