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Animating the composition

So far, you’ve started a project, created a composition, imported footage, and applied some effects. It all looks great, but how about some movement? You’ve applied only static effects.

In After Effects, you can change any combination of a layer’s properties over time using conventional keyframing, expressions, or keyframe assistants. You’ll explore many of these methods throughout the lessons of this book. For this exercise, you will animate the Position property of a text layer using keyframes, and then use an animation preset so that the letters appear to rain down on the screen.

Preparing the text composition

For this exercise, you’ll work with a separate composition—the one you imported from a layered Photoshop file.

  1. Click the Project tab to display the Project panel, and then double-click the bgwtext composition to open it as a composition in its own Timeline panel.

    This composition is the layered Photoshop file you imported. Two layers, Background and Title Here, appear in the Timeline panel. The Title Here layer contains placeholder text that was created in Photoshop.

    At the top of the Composition panel is the Composition Navigator bar, which displays the relationship between the main composition (Bgwtext 2) and the current composition (Bgwtext), which is nested within the main composition.

    You can nest multiple compositions within each other; the Composition Navigator bar displays the entire composition path. Arrows between the composition names indicate the direction in which pixel information flows.

    Before you can replace the text, you need to make the layer editable.

  2. Select the Title Here layer (layer 1) in the Timeline panel and then choose Layer > Convert to Editable Text.

A T icon appears next to the layer name in the Timeline panel, indicating that it is now an editable text layer. The layer is also selected in the Composition panel, ready for you to edit.

Animating text with Position keyframes

You’ll start by replacing the placeholder text with real text. Then, you’ll animate it.

  1. Select the Horizontal Type tool (type.jpg) in the Tools panel, and drag over the placeholder text in the Composition panel to select it. Then, type Substrate.
  2. Select the Title Here layer in the Timeline panel again, and press P to display its Position property.
  3. Make sure you’re at the first frame of the animation by doing one of the following:
    • Drag the current-time indicator all the way to the left of the time ruler, to 0:00.
    • Press the Home key on your keyboard.
  4. Using the Selection tool (selection.jpg), drag the text layer down and off the bottom of the Composition panel, out of the viewing area. Press Shift after you start dragging to constrain the operation to the vertical axis.
  5. In the Timeline panel, click the stopwatch icon (stopwatch.jpg) for the layer’s Position property to create a Position keyframe. An orange diamond appears in the Position bar for the layer in the time graph, indicating the new keyframe.

    Keyframes are used to create and control animation, effects, audio properties, and many other kinds of changes that occur over time. A keyframe marks the point in time where you specify a value, such as spatial position, opacity, or audio volume. Values between keyframes are interpolated. When you use keyframes to create a change over time, you must use at least two keyframes—one for the state at the beginning of the change, and one for the state at the end of the change.

  6. Go to 3:00 by doing one of the following:
    • Drag the current-time indicator to the right in the time ruler so that it’s positioned at 3:00.
    • Click the Current Time field in the Timeline panel or Composition panel, type 300 (for 3 seconds) in the Go To Time dialog box, and click OK.

    Now you can drag the Substrate title to its final position, but since you dragged it off the screen in step 4, you’ll need to zoom out to grab it.

  7. With the Title Here layer still selected in the Timeline panel, select the Zoom tool (zoom.jpg) and Alt-click (Windows) or Option-click (Mac OS) to zoom out so that you can see the text layer on the pasteboard of the Composition panel.
  8. Switch back to the Selection tool (selection.jpg) and drag the text layer up in the Composition panel, to the top quarter of the viewing area. Press Shift to constrain the drag operation to the vertical axis. Your final Position values should be approximately 359, 135.

    After Effects automatically creates a second keyframe at this position.

  9. To zoom back in to the composition, choose Fit Up To 100% from the Magnification Ratio pop-up menu in the lower-left corner of the Composition panel.

    The blue lines at the top, bottom, and sides of the Composition panel indicate title-safe and action-safe zones. Television sets enlarge a video image and allow some portion of its outer edges to be cut off by the edge of the screen. This is known as overscan. The amount of overscan is not consistent between television sets, so you should keep important parts of a video image, such as action or titles, within margins called safe zones. Keep your text inside the inner blue guides to ensure that it is in the title-safe zone, and keep important scene elements inside the outer blue guides to ensure that they are in the action-safe zone.

    Even though this is a simple animation, you’ll learn good animation practices right away by adding ease-in controls using the Easy Ease feature. Easing into (and out of) animations keeps the motion from appearing to be too sudden or robotic.

  10. Right-click (Windows) or Control-click (Mac OS) the Position keyframe at 3:00 and choose Keyframe Assistant > Easy Ease In. As the text approaches its final position, it will ease to a smooth stop. The keyframe icon changes to an arrow.

Adding an animation preset

So far, the text is moving onto the screen. After it arrives, you don’t want it to just sit there. Applying an animation preset will bring it to life.

  1. With the Title Here layer still selected in the Timeline panel, go to 2:10, the point at which the text is almost at its final position. Remember, you can go to the time by dragging the current-time indicator or by clicking the Current Time field in the Timeline panel or Composition panel.
  2. Click the Effects & Presets tab, and then type raining in the search box to quickly locate the Raining Characters animation presets.
  3. Drag the Raining Characters Out effect onto the word Substrate in the Composition panel to apply it to the text layer.

    The Effect Controls panel opens so that you can customize the Echo effect, which is a component of the animation preset. The default settings are fine for this project.

  4. Choose File > Save to save your work so far.
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