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Tutorial: Synchronizing Layer Animations Using Parenting in Adobe After Effects CC 2014

This tutorial demonstrates a versatile and flexible technique that will match animations between layers you choose to connect to enhance, simplify, and accelerate your animation process.

Adding Animation

Now that we have our text and shape in their final resting place, we can start adding some animation with the use of keyframes. We’re going to add a bouncy ball look to this shape by adjusting our Position values. With your shape layer selected, press P to reveal the position properties.

We want our shape and text to complete the entire animation by the 03;00 mark. We will move our CTI to that area and click the stopwatch icon next to Position (Figure 6, below).

Figure 6. Position values ready to be adjusted.

This action enables keyframes for our position values. We’ve just told After Effects that at this point in time we want our shape to be in the position shown in Figure 7 (below).

Figure 7. Here is where we want the shape at the 03;00 mark in the timeline (the current location of the CTI).

Next, let’s move our CTI to the 02;00 area and adjust the position values again. Here we can drag the X and Y values to the left and right. As you can see in Figure 8 (below), since we’ve enabled the keyframe options for our position, After Effects has automatically added a keyframe to this point because we are adjusting our position values. We want this to fall from the top of our screen so we will adjust these values until we get that look.

Figure 8. Keyframe added automatically where we adjusted the position values.

We can move to the 01;00 mark and add another keyframe to continue making this look like a bounce. Finally, we’ll move to the beginning of our timeline and add a final keyframe. You can get a preview of your animation by looking at the graph that After Effects displays (Figure 9, below).

Figure 9. After Effects provides a handy graph of the animation we’ve created.

Once we have our keyframes, we can do a RAM preview of our animation, which you can see at the 2:45 mark in the tutorial vieo.

Parenting the Text Layer

Now we’ll parent our text layer so that it appears in the same way that our shape layer comes in. Make sure that you can see the parenting options by right-clicking in this window and navigating down to Columns and enabling the Parent option (Figure 10, below).

Figure 10. Enabling the Parent option.

Next, we’ll select the pickwhip icon next to our text layer and connect it to our shape layer (Figure 11, below).

Figure 11. Connecting the text layer to the shape layer.

You’ll know that you have successfully connected the two by taking a look at the Parent field next to the text layer. It now shows that the shape layer is the parent to our text layer.

You can also disable parenting options for any layer by changing this value back to None in the drop-down. We won’t do that in this case, but it’s nice to know you have the option.

You can see a RAM preview of this parent effect at the 3:29 mark in the tutorial video. Our text is now animated in the same way that our shape layer is.

That’s how easy and convenient parenting can be. Not only will this feature allow you to speed up your animation time, but it will also enable you to test out some different looks. I went ahead and added a square shape with some position keyframes in our composition similar to the way that we animated our circle shape.

I will go ahead and turn on the visibility of our text layer. Now I can navigate to the Parent field and change the parent from the circle shape layer to the new one that we just created (Figure 12, below). Now our text will follow what our square shape does.

Figure 12. Changing parenting options in the drop-down so the text layer follows a different shape layer.

For housekeeping, you may want to rename the layers by pressing enter on each layer as it’s selected. You will also want to smooth out your movements by right-clicking on a keyframe and choosing the Easy Ease options from the menu that appears.

Parenting in After Effects really is that easy, and a great way to try out some different looks for your graphics, transitions, or lower-thirds.

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