After Effects Apprentice Free Video: Using Parenting to Animate Layers as a Unit

Taking advantage of parenting, multiple 3D views, and AE's built-in calculator to coordinate a multi-layer animation.

As we mentioned awhile back, we've been busy the past year and a half creating an extensive, multi-course video training series based on our popular beginner's book After Effects Apprentice. Buried in the shuffle of the release of After Effects CS6 is that we concluded this series with a 3+ hour course dedicated to that book's Final Project. Several movies from this course are available for free preview from; we'd like to share those with you here – including this movie that demonstrates using parenting to group together a set of 3D layers.

In this wide-ranging course recorded in After Effects CS5.5 and applicable to all recent versions including CS6, you will pull together skills you've learned in the previous Apprentice lessons, including using masks, effects, shape layers, text, layered Illustrator files, blending modes, track mattes, collapsed transformations, nested compositions, motion blur, expressions, animation presets, audio, a 3D camera and light, and more. Along the way, we share the mental process we go through as we design a video project, plus important tricks and shortcuts.

In this particular video, we're tasked with animating a set of four 3D layers as a unit. To do so, we take advantage of multiple 3D views to help visualize the scene, null objects and parenting to group the layers together, and the simple calculator built into many of AE's numeric dialogs to help calculate the center of an imaginery cube formed by our layers:

Next week we'll focus on tricks in the Render Queue, including how to set up a 4:3 center cut output from a 16:9 source without the need to create additional compositions. And just as a reminder, this entire course as well as all the other After Effects Apprentice video courses are available to subscribers of, as well as for purchase from Class On Demand.

FTC Disclosure: We make a bit of money whenever you purchase one of our courses from Class on Demand, or have a subscription and watch one of our courses. We do not make any money from either when you watch these free videos. We've worked with Adobe over the years, and they give us free access to their software in exchange for testing and consulting, but they did not subsidize the creation of these videos or the book they are derived from.

The content contained in After Effects Apprentice – as well as the CMG Blogs and CMG Keyframes posts on ProVideoCoalition – are copyright Crish Design, except where otherwise attributed.


Chris and Trish Meyer

Chris and Trish Meyer

Chris & Trish Meyer founded Crish Design (formerly known as CyberMotion) in the very earliest days of the desktop motion graphics industry. Their design and animation work has appeared on shows and promos for CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, HBO, PBS, and TLC; in opening titles for several movies including Cold Mountain and The Talented Mr. Ripley; at trade shows and press events for corporate clients ranging from Apple to Xerox; and in special venues encompassing IMAX, CircleVision, the NBC AstroVision sign in Times Square, and the four-block-long Fremont Street Experience in Las Vegas. They were among the original users of CoSA (now Adobe) After Effects, and have written the numerous books including “Creating Motion Graphics with After Effects” and “After Effects Apprentice” both published by Focal Press. Both Chris and Trish have backgrounds as musicians, and are currently fascinated with exploring fine art and mixed media in addition to their normal commercial design work. They have recently relocated from Los Angeles to the mountains near Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico.