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Jim Krause | Classes | P354/J560 Program Graphics & Animation

Lab 4


  • Review homework
  • Did you get your book?
  • Midterm Project Proposal (due Thursday)
  • Tour of After Effects
  • In-class exercise - 1st AE
  • Open book quiz

Photoshop odds & ends -----------------------

Blending modes

Blending modes determine how an image blends with layers beneath it. It is an amazingly simple way to get interesting image effects. The best way to see how they operate is to start out with two uniques images on two layers. Toggle through the blending modes on the topmost layer.

Adjustment Layers

Adjustment layers are special layers that affect how the layers beneath them appear. This is a good way to create effects or carry out processes such as exposure adjustments. One great feature about them is that the layers below that are being affected are not actually modified. It's like a special efects layers off sorts.

AE Tour

After Effects is an animation and compositing program that supports a broad range of formats and resolutions. After Effects can create anything from from small web banners to large film and 4K video projects.

After Effects is format and resolution independent. You can work in square or non-square pixels.

Some have characterized it as Photoshop on wheels. It works with layers, just like Photoshop, but you can animate and move them.

Getting Started - Organizing projects and files

You can import a wide variety of different media into After Effects, which you can then animate. I've found that it's best if the source media files aren't compressed. For example, I use audio that's uncompressed (AIFF or WAV files) instead of MP3s.

Use Your Media Folder

AE project files MUST retain the same relationship with imported media files, just like with video editing software. (The most common noob mistake I've seen are people editing footage from the desktop, downloads, or other random places.)

It is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED that you use an external media drive to store your source files. For example, an external RAID, hard drive, or SSD (solid state drive). If you have a desktop PC or Mac you can also install an additional internal drive dedicated to media.

Programs like Premiere and After Effects create cache files and render files. If you don't use an external or dedicated drive to store your media, your system drive will fill up with cache and render files.

Stop and think before you import and media! Be sure to move your media into your media folder before importing. It's crucial that your media source files retain the same physical relationship with your project files. A good practice is to create a master media folder for a project. (If you'd like you can create sub folders within your master folder for your video, graphics & audio media.) Keep your project files (.aep files) and your media within your master folder. If you need to move or backup your project, move the entire master folder as a whole.

So if you want to work with a graphic or an audio clip, first copy it into your master folder (and maybe into its appropriate sub folder), then import it into your project.

Question: Say someone emailed you an MP3 that you wanted to include in your project. What would you do?








Answer: Copy it into your media folder, *then* import it.

Once again, for your sanity make sure you keep all your files in one master directory and maintain the relationship of your AEP project files and media files.

Speed & Safety

To play back animations in After Effects in real-time, you'll need a relatively decent CPU, as much RAM as possible, and a fast hard drive. Otherwise you likely encounter hiccups or stutters when playing back movies. CDs, DVDs, and network connections aren't usually fast enough to play back media in real-time. Internal hard drives, RAIDs, and external firewire or USBII drives are the best way to go. Because of this, it's best to work off of a portable firewire drive, or off of the internal scratch drive on the lab computers.

Create your master folder on your portable hard drive if you have one, or on the internal scratch drive of the lab computer you'll be working on. Give it an appropriate name (like T354_"your login name"). Assuming you have a portable firewire drive, you can simply take it with you when you leave the lab. However, it's wise to back up your projects onto CD or onto the lab server occasionally, as every hard drive is destined for the junkyard sooner or later.

Back up your work - To back up your work, make a practice of routinely copying the entire master folder (which contains all of your projects and media) onto another hard drive. In the Production lab, you can use the temporary network storage, but be sure to follow the naming conventions outlined on the wall. It's a good idea to asume that your hard drive will crash, so keep backup copies of your work. (I like my media in three places.)

Tour of the Interface

  • Project window
  • Timeline
  • Composition Window

AE tour - Making a new project

The project window is a file that references other footage, files and layout info- similar to Avid's or Premiere's windows.

You can customize the view in the Project window (drag headers around)

Hold the control button down & see what happens.

You can also create new folders within the Project window.

Importing Photoshop layers individually verses importing as a comp. When you import individual layers from Photoshop you lose the positioning information.

Compare that with importing a Photoshop file as a comp. It retains all the layers and positioning.

Interpret imported alpha channels
(You can guess, choose straight, or pre-multiplied)

Creating compositions:

  • Command+ N = create a new comp
  • Command+ K = show comp settings

Add layers to comps can be done easily by dragging items into either the composition window or the timeline.

Warning: Wherever your time indicator is becomes the in point for your layer.

Change background color. The background layer can be set to any color you want. When you render/make a movie and choose “RGB + Alpha” and “Millions of Colors +”, it renders the background as transparent, making an alpha channel in the movie.

Transform properties

Basic properties you can animate in a layer include:

  • A - Anchor point
  • P - Position
  • S - Scale
  • R - Rotation
  • T - OpaciTy.


For any animation to happen you need at least two keyframes.

You can set an initial keyframe for a layer by clicking on the stopwatch icon. Anytime you change the parameter you've clicked the stopwatch icon for, a new keyframe is automatically created wherever your position indicator is. An X will appear in the keyframe box.

You can navigate from keyframe to keyframe by the arrow icons. You can remove a keyframe by highlighting it and pressing delete or by unchecking the check box to the left.

Keyframe interpolation - You can set how keyframes react temporally and spatially (time and space). Temporal keyframes effect how the keyframe is applied over time (slow down, speed up, stop) Spatial keyframes effect how the keyframe effects the layer within the space of the composition.

You can set keyframes to be linear, auto bezier, or continous bezier.

Linear keyframes mean the change will occor at a constant rate. Spatially, objects would move in a straight line. Temporally, objects effects will take place at a steady rate of speed.

Auto Bezier

Continuous Bezier

adjust velocity graphs - again this can be done temporally or spatially

Project Window

Replace footage layers highlight the footage you want to replace. Option-drag the new footage into the timeline window.

To play your compositions: Pressing the spacebar does NOT always do the trick.

Use RAM previews to play back sections smoothly: Press the 0 key on the numeric keypad.
Rename layers (Highlight the layer and press return. Then you can rename it.)


Duplicate layers. (Apple-D does the trick)


Find the button to turn on the safe text grid in your comp window. Use it!

You can create and use guides in the comp window.

It works just like Photoshop: Show rulers, then drag the guides in from the edges.

Work Area

Set the work area (B and N keys) This effects RAM previews and rendering.

Keyboard shortcuts:

Command - / adds footage to the center of a comp
Command - Option - F fits layer to comp size
Command D duplicates a layer
Command - shift - \ resize window to fill screen
Command B: sends layer to back
Command F: sends layer to front
Command Up Arrow: send layer up one level
Command Down Arrow: send layer down one level
Press tab key to hide or display all open palettes & toolbox
Command - G displays "Go to ________"
Pressing the period key zooms in (in Comp window)
Pressing the comma key zooms out (in Comp window)
Pressing Command apostrophe key shows grid (in Comp window)
Work area: b for beginning, n for ending
Type 0 (on numeric keypad) for real time wire frame preview

For layer windows:

u = Show any keyframes
m = Mask
f = Feather
e = Effect
a = Anchor point
p = Position
s = Scale
r = Rotation
t = Opacity (transparency)
l = Audio levels (levels)

By holding down the shift key you can add or subtract properties. So S + (shift + p) = scale and position

Making a Movie:

To make a movie, select your composition, then press Control-Command-M or choose "Add to Render Queue" from the drop-down Composition menu at the top of the screen.

The first things it asks is for the name and where to save it.

You should then get the render window, with your composition at the bottom of the list of items to render. Click on the Render settings: Current Settings to open up quality and resolution settings. You can select "best" for quality and pick a size for resolution (full, half etc). Be sure to think about if you want to render your entire comp or just the work area. This selection is near bottom of the left hand side of the window.

Once you OK this, back at the render window click on "Output module: Lossless" to open up the format settings. I'd go with Quicktime, under the format drop down menu. Under format options, simply select the codec you want to use (DV, HDV, etc.). If you have audio, you need to check the "audio output" box or you won't get a soundtrack. Once you "ok" this you should be back at the render window. Select render and it will start making your movie.

In-class Exercise - 1st AE:

Do some basic animation with one of your TV graphics. You'll first have to import your Photoshop file as a composition (not as footage). Then make sure the composition length is set to something meaningful, like 15 seconds or so.

Animate your graphic fading up from black at the beginning and fading out to black at the end. You can easily do this by adding a black solid as the topmost layer in your AE compostion. Then simply add some opacity keyframes. On the black solid layer put a keyframe at frame 0- then make it 100, add another keyframe 15 frames in and make it 0. Get the idea? Do the reverse at the end of your timeline.

After you master the fade up from black and fade down at the end, try animating some of the layers. For example you can make the main title slide in using position keyframes.

Output a Quicktime Movie using H.264, Apple ProRes 422, or DNXHD - NOT ANIMATION (1920x1080) movie saved as your username. Upload it to the appropriate Canvas assignment.


(Start in-class if time allows) Work through two of Trish Meyers tutorials. They will provide an excellent start to AE.




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