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After Effects Apprentice 08: Nesting and Precomposing
Illustration by John Hersey

Creating and animating a map composition


From:

After Effects Apprentice 08: Nesting and Precomposing

with Chris Meyer and Trish Meyer

Video: Creating and animating a map composition

Chris Meyer: Now that I have my three individual city plates, I'm going to return to the Selection tool and place these on a map. Inside your Sources folder is a map at a pretty good resolution 1480x960, larger than the standard definition video comps we're creating. As you saw in the previous chapter it's good to go ahead and create elements that are bigger than you need so that you can pan around on them and do other tricks with them later on. I'll click on this USA map and drag it again to my new composition icon.

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After Effects Apprentice 08: Nesting and Precomposing
2h 25m Intermediate Jun 29, 2011 Updated Nov 29, 2012

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Let Chris and Trish Meyer share with you two of the core secrets required to become an efficient After Effects user: understanding the render order (the internal order of operations After Effects uses when calculating masks, effects, transformation, track mattes, and layer styles) and the use of multiple compositions where a composition may be nested into one or more other comps. This makes it easier to group layers, efficiently re-use a common element to quickly accommodate client changes, pan around large composites of multiple layers, and solve render order issues.

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®.

Topics include:
  • Grouping layers by nesting and pre-composing
  • Identifying and solving render order issues
  • Navigating composition hierarchies
  • Editing a precomp while viewing the result in another composition
  • Preserving the frame rate of a nested composition
Subjects:
Video Motion Graphics Visual Effects
Software:
After Effects
Authors:
Chris Meyer Trish Meyer

Creating and animating a map composition

Chris Meyer: Now that I have my three individual city plates, I'm going to return to the Selection tool and place these on a map. Inside your Sources folder is a map at a pretty good resolution 1480x960, larger than the standard definition video comps we're creating. As you saw in the previous chapter it's good to go ahead and create elements that are bigger than you need so that you can pan around on them and do other tricks with them later on. I'll click on this USA map and drag it again to my new composition icon.

It'll create from the composition that is the same size as this map. I'm going to go ahead and change this down to fit up to 100% and auto resolution so I can see it all on my screen at once. I'll also drag the USA map comp up into my Comps folder to keep everybody together. Now that I have this map I can drag my cities on top of this map. I'll grab City 1, which was Denver, and drag it on top of Colorado. City 2, which is Dallas, and put it in its proper place, and I'll grab City 3, which is Chicago, and put is it there up against the lake.

Now that I have this master high- resolution composition with my large map and the three cities in place, I can go ahead and create my final composition at whatever video size I need for my final output. I'll make sure my Comps folder is selected so that any new comp I create goes right into that folder. Composition > New Composition. I go ahead and pick a template from my video output. In this case I'm still using the DV standard definition format. Set a Duration. In this case I only need a five second long animation. By the way, it's good to know this number ahead of time, because you want to make sure that all the pre-comps you create are at least that duration, so you don't run out a material when you're building your final comp.

And I'll name this composition Locations Main as it's my main composition. Press OK and I'll drag my USA map into my main composition. Again, I can put in the Comp panel, I can put in the Timeline panel, or I can drag it right on top of that composition in the Project panel. I'll set up an initial pose here by pressing S for Scale, bring it down a little bit to where it fits nicely, and press Shift+P to also reveal its Position, and maybe scoot it over a little bit.

I'm pressing Shift+right cursor to move it over and then right cursor itself to make a finer adjustment. I am going to bias a little bit towards the left here to better center up my cities. Now let's animate a movement in on our choice of locations. I will keyframe Position and Scale. Now you might remember from an earlier After Effects Apprentice lesson that if you're doing very complex movements where you're trying to simulate a camera's motion control you want to animate the Anchor Point instead of Position. But in this case where I'm just doing a very general push, I can get by with animating just Position instead of the more correct Anchor Point.

I go a little bit later in time. A little bit before my end here and I'll press the Apostrophe key to make sure I'm not going to outside of my safe areas and pick up and slightly move the position of this comp. I'll set the scale to the size that I'm comfortable with that's not violating my safe zones too much. That's looking pretty good right around there. I'll press 0 on the numeric keypad to RAM Preview. Now I have nice gentle move in on my cities, seeing them in greater detail. The stop at the end is a bit sudden.

I probably want to select at least those keyframes, right-click, and Easy Ease into them. I can also Ease Out of my initial keyframes to have a smooth takeoff and a smooth landing on my final position. RAM Preview again and that's a nice gentle move. Now let's review exactly what's going on here. I'm going to press the Shift key to bring up to the composition mini flowcharts and we have a whole separate sidebar movie at the end of this lesson about different ways to navigate changes of compositions.

I'll click on this arrow and I can see what's going on here. I have all my individual cities flowing into my USA map into my final Locations Main comp. I'll click on these arrows to go back earlier in time and I'll select that plate composition, and now I am back at the very beginning of everybody. A plate feeds the three cities, feeds the USA map, feeds the final composition. Remember, these are all different sizes. The plate and these cities are very small comps. They're arrayed in different locations on the very big USA map.

Then we take that big USA map, shrink it down, and make a move on it in Locations Main. You don't need to do everything in one composition and not all of your compositions need to be the same size as your final. Create different comps based on the size of your elements and only worry about bringing it altogether in that final main composition that you're going to render for video or web output.

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about After Effects Apprentice 08: Nesting and Precomposing.


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Q: This course was updated on 11/29/2012. What changed?
A: We added a new chapter, "Render Order Exceptions." It contains four new movies: Continuous rasterization, The Transform effect, Collapse transformations, and Compound effects. We also added a movie that shows our premium subscribers how to use the exercise files, including the new exercise files designed for After Effects CS6.
 
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