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A Guide to After Effects Menus: Animation

By Matt Nelson
After Effects

Expand your knowledge of the After Effects Menus with our deep dive into the Animation Tab!

How often do you use the top menu tabs in After Effects? Chances are, you probably have a handful of tools you use, but what about those random features you haven’t tried yet? We're taking a look at the hidden gems in the top menus, and we're just about halfway through!
In this tutorial, we’ll be taking a closer look at the Animation tab. This tab has some of the most unique, handy, and interesting tools out of the entire top menu tab. For this lesson, we’ll focus on the most essential features in here, including:
  • Animation Presets
  • Keyframe Properties
  • Text Animation
  • And much more with the Animation Assistant

Animation > Save Animation Preset

There’s no doubt that the presets built into After Effects are handy. But what if you could create your own custom presets that work for you? You probably have your own visual style and preference for how to use After Effects. Or what if you find yourself copying and pasting the same settings over and over? This is where Animation Presets come in. 
Let’s say that I have an adjustment layer with some very specific effects and settings. This layer has just the right amount of blur, exposure, and turbulent displace, and looks exactly how I want it. Maybe I plan on using it later in the project, or I just want to have it handy down the road. 
If you have custom settings or animation presets you want to save for later, here’s what you can do. Select all of the properties that you want to keep, and go up to Animation > Save Animation Preset
This will bring up a window where you can officially name and save the preset. By default, After Effects should be saving to Adobe > After Effects > User Presets. Just go ahead and name the preset, and double check to ensure its saved in the correct folder. 

Apply Animation Preset

Let’s imagine that later down the road, you want to pull up that custom setting. All you have to do is select the layer you want to change, and head up to Animation > Apply Animation Preset
Once in here, navigate to where you saved the preset, and hit Open.
Your custom preset will instantly load onto the layer you selected, saving you time and hassle of trying to copy and paste!

Keyframe Interpolation

If you want to have more control over the precision and direction of your keyframes, using Keyframe Interpolation is an absolute must. If you have multiple keyframes on an object, its important to know how to control the direction. 
Say for instance, that I have an object here in my timeline. I want it to move in a straight line from point a to point b. But when I animate the object, it moves in a weird line!
If you’ve ever encountered this problem, you know how frustrating it can be. The key to working around this is to select your keyframes, go up to Animation > Keyframe Interpolation
Once you’ve selected this item, you’ll have the option to edit the motion of your keyframes. For this example, I want my object to move in a straight line, so I’ll select linear. 
If you want to animate a custom path that’s curvy and NOT along a straight line, try Bezier. You can edit the motion paths similar to editing a pen tool. 

Sequence Layers

Let’s be honest: arranging layers in After Effects can be a chore. If you have dozens of layers that need to be offset or timed specifically, it can be a huge headache to arrange them one by one. 
If you want to save time and instantly stagger layers, select the layers you want to edit and go to Animation > Keyframe Assistant > Sequence Layers. This panel will give you the choice of how to time your layers exactly. 
For this example, I want all of these layers to play one right after the other in quick succession, so I’ll uncheck the Overlap box and hit OK
Now that I’ve sequenced my layers correctly, everything lines up! And the great part about this is that the more layers you use, the more time you save. No more dragging and clicking long monotonous clips! 

Look at how animated you've become!

As I’m sure you can see by now, the Animation tab has some killer features and gems in here. You can build out your own library of custom settings using the Animation presets, refine motion paths with keyframe interpolation, and save loads of time with tools inside Animation Assistant. Be sure to explore some of the other features inside this part of the menu as well!

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