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In After Effects CS5 Essential Training, author Chad Perkins discusses the basic tools, effects, and need-to-know techniques in Adobe After Effects CS5, the professional standard for motion graphics, compositing, and visual effects for video. The course provides an overview of the entire workflow, from import to export, as well as detailed coverage of each stage, including animating text and artwork, adding effects to compositions, working in 3D, and rendering and compressing footage. Exercise files are included with the course.
This tutorial is going to be a little mini project of sorts. We're going to creating key elements of this galaxy scene here from scratch. We're going to be creating the stars and this planet from scratch using a series of effects that we have not touched on just yet. So, let's hop on over the Galaxy START composition, and we'll see the sun, and the ring's already in play here, the sun and the ring. That's already been done for us, but we're going to create the stars, and we're going to create the planets. So, I'm going to right-click in the Timeline panel here. I'm going to create New > Solid, and we're going to start with the Stars. And there we go.
I'm going to apply a Cycore effect. The Cycore effect is called CC Star Burst. Now you could just type in Star, close up Animation Presets, and there we go: CC Star Burst. As a matter of fact, if this gets annoying for you - and actually it's annoying for me so I'm going to turn it off now - but in the Effects & Presets panel, you can go to the flyout menu here right to the right of the name of the panel. So, Effects & Presets, just to the right there, and then go ahead and turn off Show Animation Presets to get rid of those. Now all we have left is the Effects, and we do searches. And they're just much cleaner.
So, I'm going to apply CC Star Burst. This is okay looking, but it looks really terrible because of the blues. So, the stars are okay, but the blueness is really disgusting. This effect actually replaces whatever is on the layer that you applied it to, but it also picks up the color of the original layer. So, because our solid was blue, now our stars are blue, and we don't want that. So, I'm going to select this layer, and I want to go back into the Solid Settings. So, what I'm going to do is hit Command+ Shift+Y; that would be Ctrl+Shift+Y on the PC.
That gets me back to my Solid Settings. I can click this blue color swatch, and I'm going to drag down and take this to oh not black - white. Stars are white. Okay, so I'm going to go ahead and click OK here. Then we have our stars. Now if I hit the Spacebar to preview this, we see we have some kind of cool star type action going, but these stars are way too big. They're also too many of them. If I were going to combine this with an effect like CC Radial Fast Blur, for example, my guess is that this would be kind of a cool star trekkie-type effect.
So, as you play this, it's almost like we're going to warp speed. Actually, I have to take up that blur a little bit. So, this could be kind of cool for that I guess, but I am just going to go ahead and select CC Radial Fast Blue and hit Delete. I want a more realistic star field in the background. So, I'm going to change this Scatter value to 300. That's going to spread things out quite a bit, so already looking a little bit better. The speed is way too fast for this like subtle, realistic thing in the background. So, I'm going to take Speed down 0.01. For little tiny values like that, it's better to just manually type in.
Finally, for Size, the default is 100, way too big. I am going to take this down to 30 and press Enter. Now we have something that's a little bit more realistic. And from frame to frame, we don't see too much movement. So, as I hit Page Up, Page Down, and go back and forth between the frames, we're really not seeing too much movement there. But again, over time, it's like this slow kind of more realistic growing on of the stars. I'm liking that. Next, let's create our planet. I'm going to right-click and go to New > Solid.
Let's pick a color for our planet. This is totally a matter of personal choice. I'm just going to go ahead and pick like an earthy green color, but that's kind of boring. Whatever you want to do, go ahead and do. I'm going to so a search for Fractal Noise. There she is. I'm going to go ahead and apply that to my layer. I want to check the Fractal Type from Basic to Terrain. I'm going to take down the Contrast considerably here, maybe there. I also might take down the Brightness, so we have like a more subtle effect there.
I'm thinking that this might a little bit complex for what I'm looking for. Maybe we could take down a little bit. Let's also come down here to the bottom of the effect, and there is this Blending mode dropdown. Blending modes are a key feature of After Effects. We're going to be talking about that later on in this training series. For now, just know that it's a way that we can take Fractal Noise and blend it into the original layer. So, the green of the solid is what we are going blending it into. So, I am going to take the Blending mode from Normal to, let's say, Soft Light. Looking good. I'll take down Opacity.
So, it's just kind of like a faded, nice little texture there. I have a feeling that I might want to go back and change this layer, but for right now, let's move on. I'm going to go to the Effects & Presets panel, and I am going to do a search on CC Sphere. It's another Cycore effect. What this does is it takes your layer, and wraps it around a 3D sphere. This 3D sphere is going to be our planet. I'm going to go ahead and close up Fractal Noise. Then we have out planet here. So, I'm going to shrink it down little bit till it looks about planet size, and then we can use Offset to move this planet into place.
Now, I kind of already made a mask on the rings, as you could kind of see here by this edge of the rings. So, that way we can reorder the layers and place this planet behind the rings. Right now, the planet is on top of the rings, and so the rings are behind the planet. We can't see this part of the rings, and it looks really fake. So, the rings layer is actually here. We can't see it because it is what we call shy. So, go ahead and click this little dude, looks like he is hiding behind a wall. Now we could see all the layers in our composition. You see when we're in the switches area of the Timeline panel, there is a little mini version of that shy guy.
When we click these switches, they become shy layers, which mean that once we click this button for the entire comp, those shy layers become hidden. So, I've actually used this a lot throughout the training series, just so we don't get distracted. So, you might notice that there is tons of layers on the screen, visually. You could see them, and then the Timeline panel might only show like one or two layers or no layers at all, just so I can keep things kind of clean. So unshy those layers. What we're going to do is we're going to take the Ring, and we're going to put it on top. We're going to grab it and drag it on top of the planet layer.
Now right now this layer that we're using as a planet is called Medium Gray-Green Solid 1, or whatever your color happens to be, not a very descriptive name. So, what I'm going to do is I'm going to select the layer. I'm going to press the Return key or the Enter key. I'm going to type Planet to name this layer and press Return. That's the way we name things in After Effects. We hit the Return key. This works in the Project panel as well. If I want to rename one of this compositions, like rings Comp 1, I can press Enter and then just type in rings and Enter again. Now getting back to our Planet here, we could make some fine-tune choices here.
We could take the Radius down a little bit. Again, play with the Offset and tweak that until we get it just right. I'm not sure if we really need to take the time to do that or not as we're playing with Offset and Radius, but that looks about good for me right now. If we open up Light and Shading, we can play around with the lighting and the shading. So, right now, the lighting is coming from the side, and our light source is coming from the upper left -hand area of our screen. So, what we could do is change the Light Direction so it's changing where the light is coming from.
We have light coming from the bottom. We have the light coming from the top. We're actually wanted to kind of diagonal over from the side here. We can also adjust the Light Height. So, maybe we can want this to be like not super bright planet. That looks actually very cool. You can see a little bit of that backlit edge right there, and that's looking really nice too. Now we go up to the Rotation area at the top of CC Sphere, you'll see this Rotation Y value. This is the value that's going to allow us to rotate our planet around like a planet. So, I'm going to go ahead and hit the Home key, press the Stopwatch for the Rotation Y property in the CC Sphere effect, hit End and increase the Rotation just a little bit. A little dab will do here.
We don't want to rotate this really fast because that would not look very realistic. But if we do a RAM preview here by hitting 0 on the Numeric keypad, I'll hit 0 again there. That's much too fast, but you get the idea that this is a nice little planet scene. We could go back to Fractal Noise and tweak it. I really wasn't happy with that pattern. That's a little bit too bit, and it draws too much attention to itself. It doesn't look very realistic, but I'm actually liking the way with the lighting the way it is. It's not bothering me as much anymore. So, there is that nice, little planet scene and the few new effects we learned.
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