Use After Effects’ Expressions language to simplify complicated camera moves in animated sequences.

Camera moves can be a real headache in After Effects. It’s easy to waste a lot of time tweaking camera positions before moving elsewhere in the timeline and realizing your changes have made later camera positions wonky. Fortunately there’s an easier way to get fluid, dramatic camera moves: we need a little sprinkling of Expressions.

Expressions are considered a bit of a dark art by many After Effects users, and it’s true that you can survive as a user without ever having to look at them. Open your eyes to the possibilities they offer, however, and you won’t go back. We’re going to use Expressions to position a null object so that it aligns to the layer that we want to be framed by the camera.

We’ll use built-in functions to animate between the layers of interest and by parenting our camera to this null object, we can let After Effects handle the complications of moving the camera into the right place. Once we’re done we’ll save an animation preset to allow us to quickly use the Expressions in the future, saving time and work.

This tutorial uses as its source material a project we created in the last issue. If you missed it, you can find it at; the completed project is included on the cover CD.

01. Open After Effects and grab last month’s composition. We’re going to use this as the starting point. If you don’t have last month’s composition, don’t worry – we’ve put it on the cover disc: locate start.aep and open it from the disc.