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In this installment of After Effects Apprentice, Chris Meyer focuses on ways to edit and enhance layers in After Effects. Through a series of Quizzler challenges and Idea Corner examples, Chris shares alternative ways to employ modes, sequencing, and adjustment layers, while special sidebar movies cover the subjects of creating seamless loops, animating effects points, understanding pixel aspect ratios, and employing Brainstorm to explore the variety of different looks that effects can create. The course also covers tricks for enhancing boring footage and tips for converting scans into moving sequences. Exercise files are included with the course.
The After Effects Apprentice videos on lynda.com were created by Trish and Chris Meyer and are designed to be used on their own and as a companion to their book After Effects Apprentice. We are honored to host these tutorials in the lynda.com Online Training Library®.
When you're unfamiliar with the range of possibilities a given effect might offer or if are just plain stuck for ideas, After Effects offers a tool called Brainstorm, which you might find useful. If you have the exercise files that came with this project, open up Brainstorm Sidebar and the project Brainstorm Sidebar.aep. If you have our book, After Effects Apprentice, look at the end of the Lesson 10, Paint and Puppet. I'll open the project and here I have some text that is frankly a bit too clean. I'd like to wither this or age it or just give this some more character.
So I'll select my text layer, and underneath Effect. Oh, let's see what I want to do. Stylize kind of makes sense. Brush Strokes, Burn. Hmm, Roughen Edges sounds like something that might give me this withering look that I am going for. So I apply it and I go well, frankly, it's not too exciting. I was hoping for something a bit more. We either start playing around for parameters or search the online Help file or you can use a tool called Brainstorm. I am going to select the effect either in Effect Control panel or go down to the Timeline panel. Press E to reveal the effects.
Select the effect I want to play with and then click on Brainstorm. When I do that, a window opens that shows me nine variations of my chosen effect. Brainstorm operates on any parameter or whole effect you select and it operates on multiple effects. I got a few different ideas here. If I want to keep trying out different ideas, I'll just click on the Brainstorm button to get another set of options and then keep going. If you find that these variations aren't quite as wide as you are hoping, you can increase the Randomness. For example, I'll often go as high as 100% initially just to see my full range of possibilities.
Click it a couple more times and now I am starting to get some different looks here. I see this example is getting close to what I have in mind. There are a few things I can do with it. For example, if I want to look at in greater detail, I can click on the Maximize Tile button and I'll see in greater detail exactly what's happening to the edges. I'll go ahead and minimize it back down. If I think this may be close but not exactly what I want, I can save it as a new composition. This will create a duplicate of my current comp with these settings applied, but will keep me in Brainstorm as I keep working.
So I'll go ahead and do that for now. I can say well, I am happy with this as it is and apply it to my current composition, or I can say use this as my seed for future brainstorms. I am going with variations on this idea. I am going to select that tile. If you want, by the way, you can select multiple tiles. I am going to select just this one for now. Since I am already fairly close, I am going to reduce my Randomness back down to something like 25, just to give me variations on that look. I'll keep clicking through. I kind of like this look.
I think I'll save that in my composition as well, and what other variations do we have? These two are getting close-- oh, I like this color around this edge here. This is what I was going after. If there was animation applied or if this was footage, I could go ahead and preview it down here at the Preview button. Since this text is not animating, I'll just say apply to my current comp and there I have my new Brainstorm treatment. I go back to my Project panel. I see it is also saved off for me these other variations I was interested in. So it's kind of a handy tool in that way.
Brainstorm is particularly useful with complex effects such as the cartoon effect. I'll double-click my second comp here. Cartoon*starter. I have some footage that I want to get like a hand-drawn or cartoon treatment too. So I select Baseball. Type in the word cartoon. Now the default settings for cartoon frankly aren't that exciting. It doesn't really change the colors all that much. The black outline is a bit heavy for my taste. Since I'm personally already familiar with Cartoon, I know to go to the Fill section and start playing around with things like reducing the Shading Steps to get a more posterized look.
Reducing Shading Smoothness also gives me a sharper look here, a little bit more like a photocopy. I also know that since my edges are too thick, I might want to reduce my Edge Width a little bit just to thin those up to something closer to pencil lines. But if you're not already familiar with Cartoon, you can use Brainstorm to help you out. Again, I go down to my Timeline panel, press E, select Cartoon. Since I want to randomize all of the parameters in this effect, I am going to click on Brainstorm. Once I do that, I get a lot of the very different variations on this look, including what I started with, to just black and white outlines, to kind of this really interesting grayed off posterized look.
I think I'll select that one and sayy include that one in the next Brainstorm, keep my Randomness low, and keep brainstorming off of that look until I come to something I like. Now since it is a video footage, I can go ahead and click the Play button to preview this on moving footage. It takes a while to render since I am doing nine copies of this effect. But it does give you an idea of how it might look on different frames or how it might look in motion. I'll go ahead and stop. Clicking Stop will play what's already been rendered in real speed and I can see it in real time. I can stop again or go back to very start.
If I think I might have missed previous good idea, I'll just go ahead and go back and look at my previous ideas. In this case, I think I actually prefer this one. So I'll go ahead and apply this one to my current composition, and there is my look. You can always undo Brainstorm as well. Other effects Brainstorm is really useful for are these natural effects ones such as Turbulent Noise or Cell Pattern. Now by default, Turbulent Noise produces a grayscale image, which I personally find a bit boring.
So I often add the Tritone effect to give this some coloration. I'll select Turbulent Noise. So I am going to vary all of its parameters. But then I'll hold Command on Mac or Ctrl on Windows, and click on just Midtones. I want to brainstorm the very just the middle colors that keep my white as whites and black as blacks to keep that full contrast. I'll click Brainstorm. I get a lot of different looks. Crank up Randomness and Brainstorm off of that and get some very unexpected results. It really shows you how you can go ahead and push an effect like Turbulent Noise to get very different looks.
Again, if you find something you like, just go ahead and say save that as a comp. I'll come back and explore that later, but let's keep going and look at other variations. As I mentioned, Cell Pattern is also good for this. Again, I've got Cell Pattern. I'll also have Tritone. So I am going to Command+click Midtones so I vary those colors as well. Click on Brainstorm and now look at all the variations that the Cell Pattern effect can create for me and brainstorm from there. I like that one back there. I am going to go ahead and save that one, go back forward again, and keep brainstorming.
A very digital pattern there like some sort of digital malfunction. Anyway, it gives you an idea. It's easy for a lot of people to dismiss the Brainstorm tool, because they don't want randomness. They want everything to be well thought out. But sometimes part of the creative process is getting that random kick to take you down the path you maybe haven't thought of or haven't been exposed to before. So it's another good tool to add to your arsenal.
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