After Effects Animation Tutorial – Motion Sketch

By Tom Womack

Once you have introduced yourself to the stopwatch feature in After Effects, you are ready to begin learning about some of the other related features and ‘assistants’ that are built into this application. The stopwatch is fundamental to everything. Every setting you animate will be set using that attribute’s stop watch, creating keyframes along the timeline. Our first tutorials have been about position because this may be the most basic of all attributes to animate.

If you are animating position a favorite keyframe assistant is the ‘motion sketch’ tool. This is a very simple, clever tool that literally animates one of our earliest artistic expressions … scribbling on a tablet! Who hasn’t been inspired, tapped their thoughts, used a scribbling pad to connect idea and imagery?

The motion sketch tool lets you sketch a path producing keyframes along the way. Like all the assistants, the best way to learn is to get your feet wet working along with me as we describe how to access and define the motion sketch tool.

Create a new project and go with the Web Video preset for your stage dimensions. We’re going to animate a ball moving around your stage as you define it’s ‘flight’ with motion sketch. Create new shape layer, choose ellipse from your drawing tools, and draw a small circle (holding ‘shift’ while defining your ellipse with make it a true circle). Position your circle in the upper left hand area of the stage so you’ll have plenty of room to fly!

Be sure you have the motion sketch panel available (click under Window menu if it is not visible). Now, before we begin flight, note the default settings of motion sketch, ‘Capture speed’ at 100%, ‘Smoothing’ set to 1, ‘Show wireframe’ checkbox selected. Simply click on ‘start capture’ and begin moving your circle on your stage. This is the ‘inner child’ part where your simply draw a sweeping arc or an ‘S’ curve, something easy to define.

As you are moving your circle about on the stage, the motion sketch is recording your positions, creating keyframes just as you would if you clicked each new position yourself clicking on the stopwatch, only this is much faster and much more freeform. When you have completed your ‘sketch’, releasing the mouse will stop ‘Motion Sketch’. Enter ‘Home’ to return to the beginning of your timeline and review your work! Or is it After Effect’s work ?

This is a great technique to produce an animated path by simply drawing it. It does create quite a number of keyframes and there are other parameters that will help you tune your path and apply it to other objects in your composition. Try it out !

Full Moons, Dogcreek, think globally, act locally.

Web Designer Tom Womack uses Adobe Design Suite creating dynamic sites with rich media.

Adobe After Effects is my application of choice having endless possibilities. I use Premiere Pro for video editing, Flash for final Web compatible movie. I am on a constant learning curve and regularly update my media page.

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