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How to Use Spatial Interpolation for Motion Animation in After Effects

In this lesson you will learn about spatial interpolation using an example project with a text layer.

Now in this example, if you select your layer here you can see there is a collection of dots between these two points.

dots between two pointsdots between two pointsdots between two points

If you put the CTI (Current Time Indicator) right in the middle of the animation, you can see the left point represents the starting keyframe. And the right point represents the ending keyframe.

right and left pointsright and left pointsright and left points

And each one of these dots represents a frame, that the layer is going to be on at any point in time during this animation. Right now, these dots go in a straight line which means that the path that it's taking is going to move in a straight line. This is called Linear Spatial Interpolation.

spatial interpolationspatial interpolationspatial interpolation

From point A to point Bit takes a straight line. So in terms of the space that the object is covering, it's linear.

But what if you didn't want this? What if you wanted the start and end points to be the same, but you wanted it to move around in the composition more like an arc movement? Would that mean somewhere in the middle we just add another keyframe like this?

add keyframeadd keyframeadd keyframe

Well no, because now what we have a starting keyframe and a new middle keyframe. And in between those we have another line. So we could go again in the middle, and kind of make this into an arc using more keyframes, but that would be tedious. Plus, that would make it a little bit trickier to ease this animation if you wanted to.

keyframe arckeyframe arckeyframe arc

So let's show you another way. If you have your key frames selected here and you right-click on them, you can go up in the little pop up menu and choose Keyframe Interpolation.

right click keyframeright click keyframeright click keyframe

And there will be a little dialogue box that comes up here and you have some options.

Temporal Interpolation which affects how property changes over time in a timeline. It's set to linear by default, but you can choose some different options here in the dropdown box.

Spatial Interpolation affects the shape of the path, which is the motion path in this case because our object is moving. Again if you click the dropdown box here we have some more options.

dialogue boxdialogue boxdialogue box

Let's select Bezier, and then click OK.

select bezierselect bezierselect bezier

What we get now is we get a set of handles on our first keyframe and on the second keyframe.


So let's click on the first keyframe. And you can click and you can drag this handle, and you can make a curve. So now, instead of your object taking a straight line between two points, it takes a curve.

And with these handles, you can get really specific on where you want this K to go.

curve linecurve linecurve line

You could even set these in different directions and make kind of an S shape, if you will. And this is still only using two key frames. 

s shape curves shape curves shape curve

You can also hold down Control + Alt on the keyboard whilst using the Selection Tool to click on the points. This will convert the points to linear or back to bezier without having to go into the pop up menu.

control and altcontrol and altcontrol and alt

To go further, you could set one more keyframe here in the middle. Converting this to a bezier will give it two handles on either side which is a continuous bezier. This meaning that the handles move in tandem to create even more movement.

add another keyframe in the middleadd another keyframe in the middleadd another keyframe in the middle

If you hit Control + Alt again you can grab one side of these handles and break it, which will allow you to do something more intricate. Giving you the option for sharp angled movements.

break the handlebreak the handlebreak the handle

You can also smooth out the temporal interpolation by selecting both keyframes and hitting F9 on the keyboard to apply easy ease.

easy easeeasy easeeasy ease

You can improve on that further by going into the Graph Editor and adjusting it to make it even smoother.

graph editorgraph editorgraph editor


spatial interpolationspatial interpolationspatial interpolation

Congratulations! And that's how to use spatial interpolation using Adobe After Effects. Now that you've learned the basics, check out some of the other tutorials we have on Adobe After Effects below.

I hope you've found this tutorial useful and I'll see you next time on Envato Tuts+!

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