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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®.
Using blending modes is about as close as you can get to instant gratification inside After Effects. However, you don't have to stop at just applying a blending mode. I showed in the previous movie where you can try using more than one mode. Another great trick is to apply effects to the layer that's moded on top. This is another way to create some interesting looks. For example, say that I wasn't quite happy with the mixtures between the highlights and darks in this particular composite of images. I can keep trying different modes like Soft Light and Hard Light, seeing if one of them gives me the effect that I want, but another way is just to process this layer to maybe get the contrast that I prefer.
So I'll select this layer and go to the Effects & Presets panel, which is a very nice way of finding effects. I am going to apply a very simple Levels. I can drag the effect onto the desired layer or if I already have the layer selected, I just need to double-click the effect and now Levels has been applied. I'll drag the Effect Controls a little bit wider so I can see the full Histogram and Levels. From reading the Histogram, I can see that the original source goes down to the darkest darks and goes up to the brightest whites, but what I can play with is the gamma, where the midpoint gray is in this image and what is the balance between the darks and the lights.
So I am going to click on this intermediate slider and start dragging it while watching the Comp panel to the left. By dragging to the left, I'm going to bias towards more brights being above 50% gray. It gives me sort of a brighter image, or go to other extreme and go to a darker image, towards a bit more ghosted in there. That also has a very interesting effect right around there. As a matter of fact this hump in the Histogram indicates to me that's kind of like the middle of the brights. So that's another particular look which is kind of interesting, or I can go to the other extreme where my colors are more closely matched with the layer underneath and to get rid of this some of this film grain that's in the layer on top, I can apply another effect.
And go to Effects & Presets, you just go to Effect > Blur & Sharpen > Fast Blur and give it just a little bit of blurring, just to get rid of some of that noise. Just a small amount of blur, I am going to hold down Command to go ahead and scrub the smaller increments to get around there. That's before the blur and after the blur. That's fairly close I can finess that more. I might even knock the Opacity down a little bit to get right around there. And again, I'm going to recall that snapshot I took in the previous movie. Just an Opacity blend. Press F5.
You can see now why I'm so in love with blending modes. That's now very boring looking compared to this rich image I have here. You can play with other effects of course. I am going to go ahead and turn off Levels and turn off the Blur for now. Instead, try a color tinting effects such as Tritone. Click on Tritone, drag it over to my layer, release and play around with the midtone color of that image on top. I drag it here side by side, so you can see what's going on here. Pick maybe a more saturated color and play around with blending.
Maybe if I want to add a little bit of coolness to it, I can go ahead and pick a bluish purple for my midtone color, which is now tinting the final composite. And go to red to get some magentas into here or make it that much warmer by picking something in the orange range. I can also use the Eyedropper to pick a color for my source, like around there. Click OK and again play with Opacity to get the blend that I want. Maybe around there and maybe I'll switch the mode to something like Soft Light, increase the Opacity back.
That's something a little more harmonious of a blend. I could also play around masking, feathering this edge. You can try crazier effects as well. I'm going to turn off Tritone. Instead pick something like Minimax. I like Minimax, because it kind of creates sort of a crystallized look. I'll double-click it to apply it to my selected layer and play around with increasing the Radius. Maybe to something even small around 2 or 3 just to create this interesting crystallized look. Maximum is bright, Minimum is dark.
So there is a lot you can do with combining blending modes and effects. In the chapter later in this lesson, we're going to show you one of our favorite tricks called the filmic glow look, which uses this combination. But right now, I'd like to explore this combination of modes and effects a little bit more. You can use modes to apply effects in a way you may not have thought of and I'll show that next.
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