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Animating the Shadows

It's time to turn your attention to the shadows being cast on the table by the clock and the vase. In a realistic time-lapse image, they would shorten as the sun rises.

There are a few ways to create and animate shadows in After Effects. For example, you could use 3D layers and lights. In this project, however, you'll use the Corner Pin effect to distort the Shadows layer of the imported Photoshop image. Using the Corner Pin effect is like animating with the Photoshop Free Transform tool. The effect distorts an image by repositioning each of its four corners. You can use it to stretch, shrink, skew, or twist an image, or to simulate perspective or movement that pivots from the edge of a layer, such as a door opening.

  1. Switch to the Sunrise Timeline panel and press the Home key to make sure you're at the beginning of the time ruler.
  2. Select the Shadows layer in the Timeline panel and then choose Effect > Distort > Corner Pin. Small circles appear around the corner points of the shadow layer in the Composition panel (see Figure 25).

    You'll start by setting the four corners of the Shadows layer to correspond to the four corners of the glass tabletop. Begin about midway into the animation, when the sun is high enough to start affecting the shadow.

  3. Go to 6:00 and then drag each of the four corner-pin handles to the respective corners of the glass tabletop. Notice that the x,y coordinates update in the Effect Controls panel.

    The lower-right corner of the Shadows layer is offscreen. To adjust that corner, switch to the Hand tool and drag up in the Composition panel so that you can see some of the pasteboard below the image. Then switch back to the Selection tool and drag the lower-right corner-pin handle to the approximate location of the lower-right corner of the glass tabletop.

    If you have trouble getting the shadows to look right, you can enter the values manually (see Figure 26).

  4. Set a keyframe for each corner at 6:00 by clicking the stopwatch icon for each position in the Effect Controls panel (see Figure 27).
  5. Press the End key to go to the last frame of the composition.
  6. Using the Selection tool, drag the two lower corner-pin handles to shorten the shadows; drag them about 25% closer to the back edge of the tabletop. You may also need to move the two upper corners in slightly so that the bases of the shadows still align properly with the vase and clock. Your corner-pin values should be similar to those in Figure 28; you can enter the values directly if you prefer not to drag the corners. After Effects adds keyframes.
  7. If necessary, select the Hand tool and drag the composition down to center it vertically in the Composition panel. Then switch back to the Selection tool and deselect the layer.
  8. Press the Home key to go to 0:00, and then press the spacebar to preview the entire animation, including the corner-pin effect. When you're done, press the spacebar again.
  9. Choose File > Save to save your project.
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