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Chapter 4. Changing Object Properties > Changing the Position of an Object

Changing the Position of an Object

One way to adjust the composition of your objects is to change where each is located in the frame. When you work in the Canvas, it’s easy to quickly reposition objects. Dynamic alignment guides help by snapping an object into alignment with the center of the Canvas or with the edges of other objects. And the Object commands give you control over aligning multiple objects simultaneously.

To change the position of an object in the Canvas:

1.
Select an object.

2.
Do one of the following:

  • Click anywhere inside the bounding box of the object and drag to the desired location.

  • Hold down the Command key and press the arrow keys on your keyboard to move the object up, down, left, or right one pixel at a time.

✓ Tips

  • You can reposition an object with any transform mode active except for Drop Shadow.

  • Hold down the Shift key after you click an object and then drag to constrain the movement to the vertical or horizontal axis.

  • Press Command-Shift and whatever arrow key you choose to move the object 10 pixels in the specified direction.

  • You can move an object completely out of the visible area (the frame) of the Canvas. When you do, the object is no longer visible, but you can still see its bounding box when you select it (Figure 4.6).

    Figure 4.6. If you select an object that is located outside the visible frame of the Canvas, its bounding box will still show up.

    Positioning objects outside the frame can be useful when you want them to fly in or fly out of the frame. To make more of the area outside the frame visible, use the Zoom Level menu at the top right of the Canvas (for more information on the various viewing options for the Canvas, see Appendix B).

  • Use the dynamic alignment guides to more precisely position objects in relation to each other (Figure 4.7). These guides allow you to align the top, bottom, sides, or center points of objects. You can change their behavior in Motion’s Preferences dialog (see Appendix B). To change position with precise numerical entries, use the Properties tab (see “Making Transformations in the Properties Tab” later in this chapter).

    Figure 4.7. Dynamic guides can help you precisely position objects in relation to each other.


Using object alignment commands

Several commands in the Object > Alignment submenu control the layout of multiple objects. These commands let you quickly create a precise layout for many objects, which would take quite a bit of time to do manually.

To use the object alignment commands:

1.
Select all the objects to align.

2.
Go to the Object menu and choose the appropriate command:

Align Left Edges moves all the objects so that the left edges of their bounding boxes are on the same vertical line as the left-most object.

Align Right Edges moves all the objects so that the right edges of their bounding boxes are on the same vertical line as the right-most object.

Align Top Edges moves all the objects so that the tops of their bounding boxes are on the same horizontal line as the highest object.

Align Bottom Edges moves all the objects so that the bottoms of their bounding boxes are on the same horizontal line as the lowest object.

Align Horizontal Centers moves every object only horizontally so that their center points are along the vertical center of the Canvas (Figure 4.8).

Figure 4.8. Align Horizontal Centers moves every object only horizontally so that their center points are along the vertical center of the Canvas.


Align Vertical Centers moves every object only vertically so that their center points are along the horizontal center of the Canvas (Figure 4.9).

Figure 4.9. Align Vertical Centers moves every object only vertically so that their center points are along the horizontal center of the Canvas.


Distribute Lefts moves the objects only horizontally so that they are spread evenly, based on left edges, between the furthest left and furthest right objects, which remain stationary.

Distribute Rights moves the objects only horizontally so that they are spread evenly, based on right edges, between the furthest left and furthest right objects, which remain stationary.

Distribute Tops moves the objects only vertically so that they are spread evenly, based on top edges, between the highest and lowest objects, which remain stationary.

Distribute Bottoms moves the objects only vertically so that they are spread evenly, based on bottom edges, between the highest and lowest objects, which remain stationary.

Distribute Horizontal Centers moves the objects only horizontally so that they are spread evenly, based on center points, between the furthest left and furthest right objects, which remain stationary.

Distribute Vertical Centers moves the objects only vertically so that they are spread evenly, based on center points, between the highest and lowest objects, which remain stationary (Figure 4.10).

Figure 4.10. Distribute Vertical Centers moves objects vertically so that they are spread evenly, based on center points, between the highest and lowest objects.


Canvas View options

Motion includes a host of onscreen tools to assist you as you composite your objects. Dynamic guides allow you to drag objects with precise alignment to the Canvas center or to other objects. A grid and rulers give you additional control over alignment of objects. In addition, you can create, lock, and hide your own guides and use safe areas to help make sure your viewers see all your hard work.

You can find these options and more on the View pop-up menu at the far right side of the Status bar in the Canvas.

To change the Canvas View options:

Do one of the following:

  • Click the View pop-up menu in the Status bar area of the Canvas.

  • Select the appropriate option under the View menu in the menu bar (Figure 4.11).

    Figure 4.11. The View menu gives you a variety of handy tools for compositing your images.


Safe!

If your project is destined for television, you’ll want to turn on the Safe Zones (located in the View pop-up menu) to check your work. That’s because TVs don’t display the full available image, or raster, that you see in the Canvas.

When you turn on Safe Zones, two concentric rectangles appear on the Canvas (Figure 4.12). The outer rectangle is called the Action Safe area—make sure any critical action stays within this box. The inner rectangle is the Title Safe area. To ensure legibility and to avoid crowding the edge, keep all text elements within this box.

Figure 4.12. Safe Zones let you double check how your project will look on a television. Critical action should stay within the outer rectangle, whereas text should stay within the inner rectangle.


You can also choose the Film Zone option from the View menu. If you are creating a project that will be viewed in two different aspect ratios, such as 4:3 for standard definition TV and 16:9 for high definition TV, these guides will help you find the best compromise for your composition. The specific aspect ratio for the Film Zone is adjustable in Motion’s Preferences dialog (Motion > Preferences, or Command-,).


To create an alignment grid:

Do one of the following:

  • Select Grid from the Canvas View pop-up menu (Figure 4.13).

    Figure 4.13. Grids give you even more control over the alignment of objects.


  • Choose View > Overlays > Grid.

  • Press Command-’ (apostrophe).

    Repeat the same command to turn the grid back off. You can adjust the grid spacing and color in the Canvas preferences—select Motion > Preferences or Command-, (comma).

✓ Tip

  • Objects snap to the grid as you drag them across the Canvas. If you want to turn off this snapping behavior to place an object close to, but not on, a grid line, disable snapping by pressing the N key. You can even press N while you are dragging an object to toggle snapping on and off (just like Final Cut Pro).


To show rulers:

Do one of the following:

  • Select Rulers from the View pop-up menu.

  • Choose View > Show Rulers.

  • Press Shift-Command-R.

To add a guide:

Do one of the following:

  • Turn on Rulers, then click a ruler area and drag into the Canvas.

  • Choose View > Guides > Add Vertical Guide or Add Horizontal Guide.

To lock guides:

Do one of the following:

  • Choose View > Guides > Lock Guides.

  • Press Option-Command-; (semicolon).

✓ Tip

  • Unlike other commands, pressing Option-Command-; again does not unlock guides once they are locked. You need to select View > Guides > Unlock Guides.


To hide guides:

Do one of the following:

  • Select Guides in the View pop-up menu in the Canvas.

  • Press Command-; (semicolon).

    Pressing Command-; again toggles guide visibility back on.

To delete guides:

Do one of the following:

  • Drag the guide off the Canvas area.

    It disappears in a puff of smoke.

  • Choose View > Guides > Clear Guides.

Showing Overlays

Guides, Dynamic Guides, the Grid and Safe Zones are all overlays. They can be turned on and off individually as described above or by using the View > Overlays flyout menu. Or, you can turn all currently active overlays off and on with one command.

To show or hide all overlays:

Do one of the following:

  • Choose View > Show Overlays.

  • Press Command-/.

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