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WindmillParenting in After Effects
Next time you are in the local mall, or shopping center look around and see how parents and children are moving. When parents go to the store, a lot of them tether their child to their arm. As the parent moves around the child must move with the parent; wherever the parent goes, the child must follow. As is often the case, children who are tethered still want to run around. The child can spin, jump up and down, move freely in his or her own space, yet no matter how much the child wants to run down the next aisle, that motion is not transferred back to the parent.
That way of thinking also applies to After Effects. Lets create several simple windmill blades and parent them to a Null Object so they all rotate together.
Step 1: Open After Effects and create a new composition. Name the project Windmill, using the D1/DV NTSC preset. Set the duration to any length you want.
Step 2: Press Command+Y on the Mac (Control+Y for you PC users) to create a new solid. Name the solid Blade. Set the width to 25 and the height to 100 pixels. Give it any color you like, possibly a nice yellow.
The Blade layer will act as the child in this example. However it needs a pivot point to rotate around and to act as the parent.
Step 3: Create a Null Object by going to Layers>New>Null Object.
Step 4: With the Blade layer selected in the Timeline, press the P key on the keyboard to activate the Position property for the layer. Change the Y-axis position to 340.
The way any layer is set up when created, is to have the Anchor Point in the exact center of the layer. The Anchor Point determines where all Position, Scale, and Rotation transform changes will be centered. In order to set up numerous other blades around the Null Object and ensure that they remain in a perfect circle, you need to move the Anchor Point. To do this easily, use the Pan Behind Tool (keyboard shortcut Y).
Step 5: Press Y on the keyboard to activate the Pan Behind Tool. In the Comp Window, click and drag the Anchor Point of the Blade layer so it rests at the same position as the Null Objects Anchor Point.
Step 6: Lets make this a 6 bladed windmill. Duplicate the Blade layer five times by pressing Command+D (Control+D on the PC).
Step 7: Highlight all of the Blade layers. With all of the Blade layers selected it is very simple to parent the blades to the Null in one move.
If you dont have the Parent column in the Timeline visible, right click on the top of the Switches/Modes column and select Panels>Parent from the floating menu.
Click on the Parent Drop Down menu for the first blade layer and select Null. Since you have multiple layers selected the changes made to one will change all of the other selected layers.
Step 8: With all of the layers still selected press the R key to activate the Rotation property for the layers.
Step 9: Now deselect all of the layers and for each layer change the Rotation values as follows
Blade 1: 0
Blade 2: 60
Blade 3: 120
Blade 4: 180
Blade 5: 240
Blade 6: 300
Step 10: If you click on the Null Object and activate the Rotation transform property for that layer (R key), and rotate it, you will notice that all of the blades follow along. This is how the parent in this relationship controls all of the children.
Create a beginning keyframe at 0. Set the Rotation value for the Null object to 0. Move to some other portion of the timeline and create another keyframe by changing the Rotation value of the Null object to 720.
When you make a RAM preview you will see that all of the blade layers rotate and take on the same property characteristics as their parent - the blade layer.
When not working deep in the labs of the DMN Central Division testing the latest and greatest software/hardware products Stephen Schleicher can be found at the local university teaching a few courses on video and web production. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit him on the web at www.mindspring.com/~schleicher
Stephen Schleicher has crossed the country several times over the last couple of years going from Kansas to Atlanta , Georgia, and Southern California. In his time traveling, he has worked as an editor, graphic designer, videographer, director, and producer on a variety of video productions ranging from small internal pieces, to large multimedia
Currently, Stephen shares his knowledge with students at Fort Hays State University who are studying media and web development in the Information Networking and Telecommunications department. When he is not shaping the minds of university students, Stephen continues to work on video and independent projects for State and local agencies and organizations as well as his own ongoing works.
He is also a regular contributor to Digital Producer, Creative Mac, Digital Webcast, Digital Animators, and the DV Format websites, part of the Digital Media Online network of communities (www.digitalmedianet.com), where he writes about the latest technologies, and gives tips and tricks on everything from Adobe After Effects, to Appleā??s Final Cut Pro, LightWave 3D, to shooting and lighting video.
He has a Masters Degree in Communication from Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kansas. As a forward thinker, he wrote his Thesis on how Information Islands and e-commerce would play a major role in keeping smaller communities alive. This of course was when 28.8 dialup was king and people hadnā??t even invented the word e-commerce.
And, he spends what little free time he has biking, reading, traveling around the country, and contemplating the future of digital video and its impact on our culture. You can reach him at email@example.com
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