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How Do You Animate

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Thought it might be nice to have a thread dedicated to how we animate. Stuff like tips, tricks, and techniques we use on a daily basis, something a little beyond the usual “how do I make effect X?”

 

I've always been curious about how people work with precomps. Do you use them only when you have to and keep your layers in your main comp as long as possible? Or, do you precomp to keep things organized and just drill down into them to make adjustments? I've always gone back and forth as to when and when not to. My thing is it's always kind of a pain to go into a precomp, tweak an animation, come back to the main comp, go into another precomp, tweak another, etc. Though, keeping things more organized, using precomps, etc usually help speed up my previews since I precomp a set of layers and just turn one layer off instead of picking through multiple layers to turn them off while working on something else.

 

No right answers, just a friendly chat…

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I have strong flash background , so my AFX projects are made of precomps, because they're similiar to flash MovieClips. I usually divide animation into smaller chunks, animate each of them and then put together into precomps, then these smaller precomps into bigger precomps and finally my MAIN_COMP looks like bunch of "animation blocks" following each other

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I do as much as I can to avoid precomping. Lloyd Alvarez's layer tagger has drastically improved my quality of life in that aspect.

 

I am "null' junkie.

 

I also like to make sound effects while animating such as "whoosh", "pew pew pew", "boing boing" and "bam!"

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I usually precomp whenever I think there is the slightest possibility that object might have to be changed out or a logo added to it. Other then that I started using the colors to organize more, Lloyd's layer tagger is great but we ran into administrator issues, no fault of his. It was just the unfortunate side effect of how our boxes administrative rights are setup. I am also a null junkie just because it make switching things out easier...Lot's of hands in the pot here.

 

 

* Sometimes I don't even use keyframes :)

Edited by RustyAce

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Tanked out of my mind on good whiskey and cheap beer.

 

I kid...

 

the whiskey isn't that good.

 

Keyframes. Keyframes and the graph editor. Precomps help me keep projects clean, but I wish there was some sort of option to twirl open a precomp and work on it within the active comp, like a folder in photoshop. I've run into audio sync issues. CS6 perhaps... What is the layer tagger of which you speak? Also I've just started color-coding all my layers. I've always known it was an option, but never bothered. But man does it clean things up, great for when you have to pass work off too.

Edited by NastyJames

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do you guys color code arbitrarily per timeline, or have some system you stick to?

 

here's a little thing i like to use to help animate, especially in rippling type animations...

say you want to have a bunch of things move similarly, but then retiming them is a byatch if you have to go in and move each bundle of keyframes etc

 

heres one where you just keyframe once and then just move all the recipient layers in time and the controller keyframes are passed on and offset

 

i like to keyframe a null, parent one layer to that null until i get the keys right on the null, and then drop this on all the property on all the other layers i want to control with the nulls keyframes

 

t = time - inPoint;

N = thisComp.layer("control_null_01");

N.transform.opacity.valueAtTime(N.inPoint + t);the beauty is you can offset the other layers animations just by moving them around in time, because of the (N.inPoint + t) part offsets it. then you can still tweak the null and have them all be the same. i use it in scale a lot too, and just repo the anchorpoint for quick cascading growth

 

**for harry or any badass coders.. is there a way through scripting to slightly remap the speed of playing back what is being fed to the layers from the control null? like to maybe have a random between -.2 and +.2 and have each layer play at this random multiplier faster or slower than the controller null?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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do you guys color code arbitrarily per timeline, or have some system you stick to?

 

here's a little thing i like to use to help animate, especially in rippling type animations...

say you want to have a bunch of things move similarly, but then retiming them is a byatch if you have to go in and move each bundle of keyframes etc

 

heres one where you just keyframe once and then just move all the recipient layers in time and the controller keyframes are passed on and offset

 

i like to keyframe a null, parent one layer to that null until i get the keys right on the null, and then drop this on all the property on all the other layers i want to control with the nulls keyframes

 

t = time - inPoint;

N = thisComp.layer("control_null_01");

N.transform.opacity.valueAtTime(N.inPoint + t);the beauty is you can offset the other layers animations just by moving them around in time, because of the (N.inPoint + t) part offsets it. then you can still tweak the null and have them all be the same. i use it in scale a lot too, and just repo the anchorpoint for quick cascading growth

 

**for harry or any badass coders.. is there a way through scripting to slightly remap the speed of playing back what is being fed to the layers from the control null? like to maybe have a random between -.2 and +.2 and have each layer play at this random multiplier faster or slower than the controller null?

 

That's a nifty expression, I'll have to try it out. I'm working on a piece that hundreds of layers with rippling type animation so that may come in handy. For me precomping is good for when you start getting so many layers that it takes more time to find the ones you want to solo, but I also like keeping as much as I can in the main comp so it's a rock and a hard place. I remember that crazy comp picture that Nando Costa put up for that Timex piece with something like 600 layers in the final comp plus a majority of those being precomps, so I guess you can kinda keep it all in one if need be and just precomp when needed.

 

I totally forgot about Layer Tagger, I need to try that out, I have a lot of his other scripts and I always forget to buy that one too.

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I'm another guy who came over from Flash years ago, so my movie clips and scenes evolved into precomps which all get edited down in a final construct comp. This combined with my focus on character animation means uncountable mass of keyframes.

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I like to build things in a very modular way, so I pre-comp the hell out of things (often more than necessary) so that I can always swap in new assets without difficulty.

 

That said, my workflow actually changes depending on what kind of a machine setup I have available to me. If I have very little screen real-estate (on a laptop for example) I say screw it to the pre-comps. It's too difficult to work with them when you've only got one viewport going.

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Other then that I started using the colors to organize more, Lloyd's layer tagger is great but we ran into administrator issues, no fault of his. It was just the unfortunate side effect of how our boxes administrative rights are setup.

 

Btw, you don't need to install the script in the ScriptUI Panels folder to run it. The script can be anywhere then run it by going to File->Scripts-Run Script File then finding it in the finder. It won't be dockable but you will still have a floating palette and the script will run the same.

 

This is how I run scripts when I freelance at shops where I don't have admin permissions to the scripts folder which seems to be more and more common now-a-days.

 

-Lloyd

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Other then that I started using the colors to organize more, Lloyd's layer tagger is great but we ran into administrator issues, no fault of his. It was just the unfortunate side effect of how our boxes administrative rights are setup.

 

Btw, you don't need to install the script in the ScriptUI Panels folder to run it. The script can be anywhere then run it by going to File->Scripts-Run Script File then finding it in the finder. It won't be dockable but you will still have a floating palette and the script will run the same.

 

This is how I run scripts when I freelance at shops where I don't have admin permissions to the scripts folder which seems to be more and more common now-a-days.

 

-Lloyd

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I tend to think of precomping as being two different things, depending on whether you collapse transformations or not. If you do, it works kind of like a folder. If you don't, it works kind of like flattening and rasterising everything inside. If I precompose and then do a lot of tweaking to the precomp, I set up two comp viewers, one locked to the main comp, so that I can see the end results of my tweaks as I work (Shame the main comp window won't Live Update, but it's better than switching back and forth) It amazes me that some people don't know you can do this.

 

If the job demands a lot of traditional 'compositing' (colour grades, effects applied to certain 'passes' etc) yet is all built in 2.5D AE (as opposed to a 3D app) then I often precomp certain sets of layers and then use expressions with activeCamera so that the precomps use the same 3D perspective as the main. Other handy expression setups:

 

src = comp("3D Data Comp").layer("3D Layer"); src.to_comp(src.anchor_point);

Returns the position in 2D X,Y of a layer in 3D space - so you can pop a 2D glow, lens flare or other effect bang on top of a 3D layer, wherever it goes.

 

C = thisComp.layer("TargetLayer"); C.toWorld(C.anchorPoint);

Returns the absolute 3D co-ordinates of a parented 3D layer, not it's apparent values which are relative to its parent.

 

src=thisLayer;

this_point=src.to_comp(src.anchor_point);

that_point=thisComp.layer("target").position; // what to point at

delta=sub(this_point, that_point);

angle=Math.atan2(delta[1], delta[0]);

radians_to_degrees(angle)-90;

Returns the angle in degrees from the the current layer, to the 'target' layer. So...pop the first expression above on a 3D null's position, call it 'target' and then put this expression on something like the Bevel Alpha effect (applied to a bunch of 3D layers) and the light will always appear to fall from one point, wherever you move your layer(s).

 

These are mostly from Mr Ebberts. My point is that you can combine them with the activeCamera expression so that 3D and 2D layers can track each other across multiple comps. It's the only way I know of making AE behave more like a nodal application and keeps flexibility whilst saving a lot of repetition.

 

Usually, though, I never precompose unless I have to. I use label colours and the Layer Tagger to organise things and I have a big monitor. I select a layer in the comp and hit X to bring it up in the timeline. I work on quite a few things which are in extremely shallow 3D space, so that they look completely flat, but I can have objects go behind and then in front of each other. For example if I have a character's hand, I want it to pass behind his body sometimes and in front at others. Then it might need to go in front of his body but behind a pocket on that body. Or maybe only his thumb goes in the pocket. So I have things on hold keyframes in Z space going from 1 to 2 to 3 to 1 etc just to dink them behind something else at 1. This kind of stuff is often necessary with cartoon characters animated with IK (DUIK).

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Just bought Zorro and I feel stupid for not having used it long ago, really helps speed up working and I've only been using it for about 30 minutes.

 

Lloyd and aescripts.com keeps making awesome awesomer!

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