Advanced Video Editing

After Effects
Using the Null Object

You've created your lower third. Now you want to animate it. 

The lower third below consists of 
  • 3 Shape layers - 2 bars and the red line between them
  • 2 Text Layers (name and title)
  • 1 Logo

Let's say you want to reveal the lower thirds by sliding it from the right to the left. To animate, you would need to move each layer in unison, which means you need to set the keyframes for each layer's position, right?

Not at all. 

To move each layer in unison, all you need is a Null Object. Think of the Null Object as the mother duck and the layers as her ducklings. More simply, Parent and Children. By parenting the layers with the Null Object, you'll be able to move the Null's position and the layers will all move in unison. 

To add a Null Object

Layer > New > Null Object

In the Timeline, the Null Layer appears. To parent the other layers to the Null Object, on the right you'll find the Parent function, which looks like a spiral button. 

Click and drag a line from the spiral button to connect the child layer to the Null (parent) layer.

In this example, the children layers are the Text Backgrounds, the Text itself (both name and title), the Line (which is the red line) and the logo. 

Once each of these layers are connected to the Null, the Timeline will look like this:

Right of the spiral button reveals that the layer is parented to Null 1. 

Open the Null 1 disclosure triangle to reveal the Transform properties. Or, if you want just the Position options, select Null 1 and click P. When you change the Null 1 position, the layers parented to it will follow.

To animate, move the playhead 15 frames into the Timeline. Click the stopwatch to the Null 1 Position property. This position marks the resting place of the the lower third when the animation is complete.

Now move the playhead to the beginning of the sequence. In the Null 1 position, scrub the X coordinate to the right until the lower third is off screen. 

Play it back.

What if you want the Text to appear after the lower third bar is revealed? You have a number of options, which include changing its opacity from transparent to opaque, or you can reveal the text using a Mask. 

For using a Mask refer back to the instructions on this website. Unfortunately, we're not able to apply a Mask to a Null Object, but you'll simply apply a mask to each layer of text. However, you can always create one text layer that contains both the name and title rather than two separate layers. 

Select the Text layer and click on the Rectangle shape from the Tool palette. Click and draw a small box in front of the text. Don't be alarmed when the text disappears - it's simply covered by the mask. 

To reveal the text, go to the Mask properties seen below in your Text layer. Open the Mask disclosure triangle to reveal the options, which includes Mask Path. 

Now, position the playhead 15 frames into the sequence. Click the stopwatch for Mask Path. Then move the playhead another 15 frames into the sequence. 

Click Command + T to reveal the mask handles and pull out the handle on the right until the text is fully revealed.

You can always change the speed of the reveal by changing the distance between keyframes. To reveal faster, go to the Time Graph and pull the last keyframe in closer to the first. Apply an Easy Ease to the keyframes by highlighting both and right-clicking on one of them to show the menu options. Go to Keyframe Assistant and then select Easy Ease.