Speed Graph in After Effects

Digital Tricks

September 25, 2020
Sarah Corner
Designer & Animator

Today we tackle just a snippet of After Effect’s keyframe wonders: the graph editor. The graph editor gives us an up close and personal look at our timeline where we can manipulate the speed and duration of keyframe anchor points. However, many of us have likely clicked into the graph editor and immediately run into the issue of… finding the anchor points. Why can’t I see the keyframe handles? Isn’t this supposed to be like editing anchor points in Illustrator? Where are the handles?!

Before we divulge into mass chaos and panic, allow us to introduce you to our good friend, the graph types and options. After Effects defaults to the Value Graph, which is not our good friend for this. What we really want to do is Edit Speed Graph, which you can find listed directly under Edit Value Graph.

Important to note:

If you hop into the graph editor and find a completely blank timeline, fear not! To avoid this, make sure a layer is selected or, better yet, the keyframes you specifically want to edit. The graph editor will swoop you to them. 

Another solution, if your curves are a bit too rowdy, you can shrink the Y-axis down by using the “Fit selection to view” icon, which is near the center of that bottom tool bar next to the magnifying glass. Again, it helps to already have a keyframe or two selected for this.

Keynotes on keyframes:

There are several default options for your keyframes: linear and variations of easy ease (otherwise known as bezier, if you want to dazzle people at designer dinner parties). Linear is what your keyframes will automatically be assigned to—that is, unless you’re already using easy ease on that same row. 

This “automatic/default easy ease” can sometimes manipulate the keyframe path in chaotic ways that we want no part of. If your object is going haywire on a path you didn’t specify, it might be because you already had easy ease enabled on previous keyframes in that same row, and you just made a new one farther down the timeline. To fix this, reset your keyframes to linear. Reset your keyframes by Option/Alt-clicking the keyframe.