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Separating a Position’s Dimensions

Ordinarily, a layer possesses a single position property. If the layer is 2D, its position property consists of two components: a value defining its location along the comp’s X axis, and a value defining its location on the comp’s Y axis. If the layer is 3D, its position property also includes a value for its location along the Z axis. Starting with After Effects CS4, you can separate a position property’s components into individual properties. Doing so lets you, for example, apply an expression to a layer’s Y position while animating the X manually.

Animating separated properties can give you more control and help you achieve certain effects more easily. However, animating a single, unseparated, property is relatively straightforward, more easily achieves smooth movement, and permits you to specify roving keyframes, which smooths variations in speed. (see the section, “Smoothing Motion with Roving Keyframes,” later in this chapter).

You can use the same command to toggle a layer’s position between a single property and separated properties. But because information is lost in the translation, it’s best to choose the most appropriate method and stick to it.

To separate position dimensions into individual properties:

  1. In the Timeline panel, press P to reveal a layer’s position property and then select the position property.
  2. You can display the position property in the Graph Editor (Figure 9.61).

    Figure 9.61 Ordinarily, a layer’s position is a single property consisting of two dimensions (X and Y for 2D layers) or three dimensions (X, Y, and Z for 3D layers).

  3. Do either of the following:
  4. Choose Animation > Separate Dimensions (Figure 9.62)

    Figure 9.62 Selecting the position property and choosing Animation > Separate Dimensions...

    In the Graph Editor, click the Separate Dimensions button (Figure 9.63).

    Figure 9.63 ... or clicking the Separate Dimensions button in the Graph Editor...

    The dimensions appear as separate properties (Figure 9.64). You can animate them as usual, except you can’t make them roving keyframes.

    Figure 9.64 ...makes each dimension a separate property you can animate individually.

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