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Animating with the Parenting Features in AE 5.5

COW Library : Adobe After Effects Tutorials : Serge Hamad : Animating with the Parenting Features in AE 5.5
Animating with the Parenting Features in AE 5.5



Animating with the Parenting Features in AE 5.5
Serge Hamad Serge Hamad,
New York City, New York, USA

©2002 Serge Hamad and CreativeCOW.net. All rights reserved.


Article Focus:
An easy way to make any number of layers follow the movement of a single layer is to use the Parenting feature in Adobe After Effects 5.5. In this article, Serge Hamad demonstrates the power of Parenting in situations you may encounter in your production studio instead of the usual robotic animation exercises that you may have seen elsewhere.


Before Movie | After Movie Project files Download Stuffit Expander for Windows

The Parent Layer will act as a motion leader and will affect its children in the following values: Position, Scale and Rotation. Note that the opacity value can not be parented. As any reasonable human parent, this feature also lets its child have a certain freedom so that its own position, scale and rotation values can still be animated while following the parent animation.

The Parent Layer will act as a "leader" and will affect child layers in the following Transformation parameters: Position, Scale and Rotation. Note that Opacity can not be Parented. AE's Parenting feature allows for a child layer(s) to have a certain amount freedom so that a child layer can still have its own Position, Scale and Rotation values and keyframes while being Parented to another layer.

Our tutorial in Parenting will focus on 3D layers. By now, you should know that even while working in AE's 3D Mode, you still can not extrude 3D layers to make them appear like a true 3-dimensional object. This is still fine for a number of animation sequences but at angles that are odd multiples of 90 degrees, your object disappears from view because layers in AE are not fully 3D object with extrusion. Take a look at the "Before" & "After" movies. Notice that the panel in the "Before" movie disappears from view when it is at a 90-degree angle. Of course, the "After" movie solves this problem for us with the help of Parenting.


With the introduction complete, let's start our tutorial.

  1. Create a New Composition, CTRL+N at 720 x 486 pixels with a duration of 6 seconds. Let's name it "Candle".

  2. Import the following files: Border.png, Candle.png and My_Eye.png / Reflection.png

  3. Drag "My_ Eye.png" to your Timeline, or CTRL+/.

  4. Highlight this layer and hit S and change the Scale value to 15%.
  5. Now switch this layer into a 3D layer by clicking on the cube icon adjacent to the layer in the Timeline Window.

  6. Hit R to access the Rotation value and set two keyframes to rotate along the Y-axis. Create a keyframe at time = 0 with a value of 0. Create another keyframe for Rotation at time = 6 seconds with a value of 222.

Problem #1

If you scrub across the Timeline, starting from time = 0 frames to time = 6 seconds, you will notice that layer "My_ Eye.png" slowly disappears as its rotation value reaches the 90 degrees. At 90 degrees, it disappears totally. We will now work on creating a little trick to make layer "My_ Eye.png" look more like a true 3D object:

  1. Move the Timeline Indicator back to the beginning of the composition and import footage, "Border.png". This layer will be used as a border to give layer "My_Eye.png" some added dimension around the dreaded 90-degree angle.

  2. Switch layer "Border.png" into a 3D layer and set your composition's window view to Top View. Do this by clicking on the "Active Camera" tab at the bottom right of the Composition Window and selecting "Top". You can save this view with a short cut key, SHIFT+F10. To access the same view again, press F10. You use the function keys, F10, F11, and F12 to store different camera views. Use the SHIFT key together with one of these function keys to create a shortcut keystroke. To access the different camera views, just press the appropriate function key without the SHIFT key.

  3. Using the X-axis arrow (the red one) move your layer to the right to reach a value of about (543.7) for the X-axis Position. Drag the pick whip to designate "My_Eye.png" as the parent, see image below. Hit R and change the Y-Rotation value to +90 degrees.




  4. Disable the Uniform Scale box in your Transform Effect Controls window and scale your layer as follows: X = 72.0%, Y = 98.7%. Leave the Z value at its default setting.

  5. Go to time 2 seconds and 11 frames, CTRL+G followed by 211. Notice that the edge of layer "My_ Eye.png" looks normal. Now switch off layer "Border.png", SHIFT+CTRL+ALT+V, and notice that the edge of layer "My_ Eye.png" looks too thin to be discernible. Toggle the visibility of layer "Border.png" back on, SHIFT+CTRL+ALT+V. Experiment with different scale settings for the X value of layer "Border.png". This is a good technique if you ever need to create a cube or to add a third dimension to your objects.

OK, that was an easy parenting task dealing with a rectangular object. Now imagine that a client provided you with the still of a candle and wanted you to light the center of the eye during its rotation. The problems you will encounter are basically the same as the one you had with while rotating layer "My_Eye.png" but this time the trick you learned above will not help as the shape of layer "Candle.png" and the light beams you will be creating are more complex. Well, I guess it's time to learn another trick.

Start by importing the clip "Candle.png" to the Timeline that we've been working on. Parent it to layer "My Eye.png" and turn it into a 3D layer. Scale it down to 270.7% with the Uniform Scale Box enabled this time. Use the Z-axis arrow within the Composition Window to place your candle behind the eye. Layer "Candle.png" should have a Z-axis reading of 896.5. Using the green arrow in the Composition Window, set the Y-axis position to 361. Your Composition Window should resemble the image below:


Problem #2

As you scrub the Timeline starting from time = 2 seconds forward to about time = 2 seconds 24 frames you will notice that layer "Candle.png" gets thinner and thinner. To solve this problem, we will have to set new positional values for layer "Candle.png". As mentioned earlier, a child layer can move, scale and rotate independent of the parent layer. When a child layer has its own Transformation values and keyframes, it will still be parented but it's movement will now be relative to the parent layer.

We will use this ability to add the third dimension to layer "Candle.png" by forcing the child layer to face the active camera while following the position its parent. This is what I call an "Active Parenting". To better understand this concept, do the following:

Go to the beginning of the Timeline, Home and set a keyframe for Rotation on the Y-axis of layer "Candle.png".

Now go to time = 6 seconds and set another keyframe at a value of -222.0. Notice that layer "My_Eye.png" Rotation value for the Y-axis is +222.0.

Now preview the animation using the Top View and notice how layer "Candle.png" is parallel to the camera during the entire animation. Being parallel to the camera enables layer "Candle.png" to retain its scale and hence provides the illusion that it has some depth (third dimension).

Switch to the Active Camera view, SHIFT+F12 and preview your work.

Go to the beginning of the composition and import layer "Reflection.png". Enable the 3D switch for this layer and parent it to layer "My_Eye.png". Scale layer "Reflection.png" proportionately to 66.7% and place it as shown in image below.



Now, use the Oval Masking Tool to create a mask. Ensure that the mask follows the outline of the iris. Create a second, smaller mask as shown in image below.



The mode for the second mask for the iris should be set to Subtract in your Timeline, see image below.



We will now create staggered keyframes for opacity to create the illusion of a flickering flame. Set a few Opacity keyframes starting at time = 0 with a value of 44%. Create a few more keyframes along the timeline ensuring that the last keyframe is at time = 2 seconds and that no opacity keyframe has a value higher than 44%. Let's create an Expression for the opacity parameter, ALT+Click on the stopwatch button. Now pickwhip a Loop Expression found under Property-loop_out_duration(type = "cycle", duration = 0). This is a simple, yet powerful Expression that loops existing keyframes for the duration of the layer. Your Expression should read as follows:

loop_out_duration(type = "cycle", duration = 0)


Before we begin creating the Light Beam, we'll need to animate the flame with the Ripple filter.

Go to time = 2 seconds 14 frames to have a better view of the candle. Notice that all the objects now look a little small relative to the composition window. The candle is also a little too huge. If we scale up the parent layer, "My_ Eye.png", all the child layers will scale up proportionately. Let's set the scale value for layer "My_ Eye.png" to 25%. Then set the scale for the child layer "Candle.png" to 150%. Things look a little better. Make the scale adjustments that suits you best.

Select layer "Candle.png" and apply Effect-Distort-Ripple. Apply the settings as shown in image below:

Preview the animation.

Let's get started with the Light Beam. I chose the Beam Effect to keep things simple yet effective. Create a New Solid at the same dimensions as the composition. Name it "Beam". Enable the layer's 3D icon and parent it to layer "My_Eye.png". Select EffectRenderBeam.

Switch the Solo button of layer "Beam" to have an unobstructed view.



Set values for the Beam effect as seen in image below:




Problem # 3

Set values for layer "Beam" as per image below. Now set an initial keyframe to the Y-rotation value at time = 0. leave the value at 0. Set a second keyframe at time = 6 seconds with a setting of -222.0.





What you have done is to place the "Beam" layer between layers "My_Eye.png" and "Candle.png" in 3D space to make the ending and starting point of your Beam effect match. (See "after" movie downloaded above) Notice the X-axis rotation and switch your comp view to Top (F11) to see what this layer is doing in order to fake a 3D shape.


Select Effect-Stylize-Glow to enhance the beam effect. Apply the settings as seen in image below:


Switch back to the Active Camera view, F12 and un-solo the "Beam" layer. You are now all set to render the composition.

Well, I hope you enjoyed Part One of this tutorial. In Part two, I will explain how to use parenting with a Null Layer along with a few new and interesting concepts.

Feel free to discuss this tutorial in the After Effects forum at CreativeCOW.

###Serge Hamad


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