Animating in the Keyframe Editor

Whenever you create two or more keyframes, Motion generates interpolated values for the frames that come between. These are called curves. The Keyframe Editor is the control that allows you to view and make modifications to those curves. This feature provides one of the most sophisticated and powerful ways to modify the objects and effects in your project.

Viewing the curves for your animated parameters gives you another way to understand how your effect is changing over time. The curves are laid out over a graph where you can compare the curves of different parameters. As you get more familiar with “reading” the graphs, you will learn how and why certain effects feel organic or synthetic.

Figure. Timing pane showing Keyframe Editor.

In the Keyframe Editor you can add and delete keyframes, as well as move them in two-dimensional space to modify their values (up-down) and their positions in time (left-right). You can also directly manipulate the curves themselves with the tools Motion provides. Furthermore, you can define a variety of interpolation methods, creating dramatically different types of effects. You can also apply Parameter behaviors directly to curves in the Keyframe Editor by Control-clicking the curve name and choosing a Parameter behavior from the shortcut menu. For more information about Parameter behaviors, see Parameter Behaviors.

For example, in the real world, when objects move, they observe rules of physics, such as inertia and momentum. Motion’s Keyframe Editor allows you to simulate these sorts of effects in your motion graphics.

Check Your Selection

The parameters that are available in the Keyframe Editor depend on which objects are selected in the other windows. If you select one item in the Layers tab, Canvas, or Timeline, only parameters for that object are accessible in the Keyframe Editor.

If you want to compare curves from parameters across multiple objects (for example to make two separate objects begin fading in at the same time), you must select both items in the Layers tab, Canvas, or Timeline. Then parameters for both objects are listed in the Keyframe Editor.

Additionally, you can modify curves on an group if it is selected instead of the objects within it. In this way, you can view or modify keyframe activity that affects all of the objects within the group.

To display the Keyframe Editor
Do one of the following:
  • If the Timing pane is already visible, click the Keyframe Editor tab in the Timing pane.

  • Choose Window > Keyframe Editor.

  • Press Command-8.

Parts of the Keyframe Editor

The Keyframe Editor is made up of a list of parameters on the left and a multi-functional graph on the right.

Figure. Keyframe Editor showing its different parts including the Show pop-up menu, Current frame field, Keyframe editing tools, control buttons, Animation menu, curve graph, and zoom controls.

Show Pop-Up Menu

The Show pop-up menu lets you filter the parameters displayed in the Keyframe Editor, allowing you to focus on only those parameters that you want to modify. For more information, see Working with the Show Pop-Up Menu.

Current Frame Field

This field lets you instantly jump to any frame in your project. Because it is also a value slider, you can drag in the field to move the playhead to a new frame.

To move to a frame
Do one of the following:
  • Double-click in the value field, type a frame number, then press Return.

    The playhead moves to the specified frame.

  • Drag the current frame value slider left or right. Dragging to the left moves the playhead earlier in time. Dragging to the right moves it forward in time.

Keyframe Edit Tools

There are three different tools available to assist in editing keyframes and curves in the Keyframe Editor. For more information about using these tools, see Modifying Keyframes.

  • Edit: Select and edit keyframes.
  • Sketch: Draw curves with keyframes.
  • Box: Drag a selection box to enclose and manipulate keyframes.
    Figure. Keyframe editing tools in the Keyframe Editor.

Parameter List

Any keyframeable parameters of your selected items can be displayed in the list on the left side of the Keyframe Editor tab. This includes object properties, filters, and behaviors. By selecting multiple items in the Layers tab or Timeline, you can compare parameters across multiple objects.

  • Activation checkbox: The checkbox on the left determines which parameters are displayed in the graph. Checked parameters are considered “active.”
  • Parameter name column: The second column lists the object name and the parameter names for each object.
  • Value column: The third column displays the parameter value for the frame where the playhead is currently positioned. If the playhead is parked on a keyframe, the field shows the value for that keyframe. If the playhead is not parked on a keyframe, the field shows the value of that parameter at that frame. For more information on changing the values of keyframes, see Modifying Keyframes.

    You can click the value to activate the field. When Record is enabled, a keyframe is automatically added if you click the value field at a frame that has no keyframe. To type a value in the field, double-click it.

    Note: Selecting a keyframe does not display the value of that keyframe, it shows the value for a parameter at the frame where the playhead is currently positioned.

Curve Graph

A graph appears to the right of the parameter list and displays the curves for your selected parameters. The graph has a time ruler at the top and a zoom/scroll control at the bottom that are identical to the corresponding controls in the Timeline. These allow you to identify at what time keyframes appear, as well as see project markers, playback In and Out points, and the playhead. Using the zoom controls at the bottom of the graph, you can zoom in to obtain much more precise control over keyframe positioning and curve shape. For more information on using the zoom/scroll controls, see Zooming in the Timeline.

The body of the graph displays the keyframes and curves of active parameters. Each parameter is a different color, though some colors are duplicated.

Control Buttons

In the Keyframe Editor, several buttons provide additional control over the Keyframe Editor window: Snapping, “Show audio waveform,” and “Fit visible curves in window.”

  • Snapping: When Snapping is enabled, keyframes snap to markers, other keyframes, and other snappable items.
    Figure. Snapping button in the Keyframe Editor.
  • Show audio waveform: Turns on display of the audio waveforms for the selected item in the background of the graph. This lets you line up an effect to take place at the same time as an event that occurs in the audio.
    Figure. "Show audio waveform button" in the Keyframe Editor.

    Note: If there are multiple audio tracks in the project, a pop-up menu at the bottom of the Keyframe Editor allows you to view the waveform of any individual audio track in the project, or the master track.

  • Fit visible curves in window: Automatically scales the curve graph to include all of the keyframes of your active parameters.

    There are times when the values of your keyframes may exceed the vertical resolution of the graph. For example, as you stretch a keyframe, you can drag it so far that you force the window to scroll.

    Figure. Keyframe Editor showing the curve graph scrolling automatically.

    When you click this button, Motion automatically rescales the graph both vertically and horizontally so that your curve is entirely visible.

    Figure. "Fit visible curves in window" button in the Keyframe Editor.

    The values of your keyframes are not changed.

    Figure. Keyframe Editor showing a scaled curve graph.
  • Auto-scale vertically: Click the “Auto-scale vertically” button (the magnifying glass in the upper-right corner of the Keyframe Editor) to stretch the graph to fit all of the curves currently in view.
    Figure. "Auto-scale vertically" button in the Keyframe Editor.

    When “Auto-scale vertically” is on, the range of the graph increases to accommodate your entire curve even as you change it. For example, if you drag a keyframe up to increase its value, as you drag past the top of the window, the whole graph is rescaled, rather than scrolled.

    This can be disconcerting at first because it might appear that your curve refuses to get bigger even as you drag your keyframe. However, if you watch the values at the left side of the window, you can see that the graph is being zoomed vertically to make room for your wider range of values.