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What method, tool, or effect should I use in AECC 2018 to achieve this simple line morphing animation?
yes. using the pen tool you can create a shape layer made out of vertices (pen anchor points). keyframe the path property of the shape layer, then carefully move the vertices to position #2. the vertices will animate from position #1 to position #2 so you will have a shape morph.
Thanks Roei. I tried that, but my frontline doesn't animate as fluidly as the frontline does in that WWI video link. I messaged The Great War youtube series hoping they can clue me in as to what method they used. Just thought I might ask here as well. Thanks again for your help.
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You won't always get a perfect transformation from one shape to another with just two points in time. You may need to add intermediate keyframes across the time span in order to get the desired result. After you've set your start and end shapes, you can add as many intermediate keyframes as you need to smooth things out - every frame, if you need to.
Also be conscious of where you put the vertices at each point in time . They need to position logically from one point in time to the next. If you have a point in the middle of your line at the start that moves significantly to the left or right in the end point, then the intermediate animation will look strange.
Thank you for very much your help as well Andrew. Do you believe that's what they did to get such a smooth animation in that WWI map - keyframe at multiple points in the timeline? I was assuming they had used some kind of morphing plugin or program.
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no plugin to my knowledge for these type of things. it's good to ask the creators what they did. I agree with Andrew. adding more points as Andrew's instructed is a good options. you can also try using a the tool called mask interpolation but it is only for masks. it adds in-betweens. you can use masked solids and add the stroke effect to essentially get the same result as a shape with a stroke, or you can copy the mask path to the shape path when you are done with the mask interpolation.
another method to morph between shapes is using the blend tool in illustrator to morph the two shapes and then importing as a sequence. here's a demonstration: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z6nOkCo46Xg