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The first thing we need to do is create our composition that we're going to be building everything at. I'm going to select the Comps folder in the project panel to make sure everything I create or import goes into that folder. Then go to Composition>New Composition. The shortcut is Cmd+N on Mac, Ctrl+N on Windows. Before you start any project, always make sure you check with your client and find out what the delivery specifications are. Your life will be much easier if you start at the end, delivery, and work backwards from there.
After Effects has a number of HDTV presets in the 1080 line or 1920x1080 preset is common. Just to make your life easier for the sake of working on these exercise files, I'm going to create this at half HD size. I can type in 960 or I can use After Effects' accessibility to do divide 2, having it do the math for me. Double check the Frame Rate. The After Effects' preset is set up for 24 frames a second. However, quite often when the client says 24, they really want 23.976.
Again, check this and set it properly before you start work, otherwise you might have problems with skipped or repeated frames later. I'm going to set this to 23.976, since I know that's my delivery specs. Start Timecode of 0 is fine. I've been told that the Duration of the music file is 25 seconds, so I can type 25. and After Effects will fill in the 0s afterwards. It's not a bad idea to start your composition longer than you think you'll need, because it's much easier to shorten a composition than to add time onto it later.
The last thing worth checking is which 3D rendering engine you're using. This comes into play in After Effects CS6 which has added a Ray-traced 3D Renderer. It adds a lot of capabilities but also slows things down if you don't need those capabilities. In my case, I will not be taking advantage of Ray-traced 3D in this composition, so I'm going to set this down to Classic 3D. You can always change this setting later. If you're using After Effects CS5.5 or earlier, the only choice you'll see here is Advanced 3D that equals Classic 3D in After Effects CS6.
Shutter Angle: 180 degrees is typical, Shutter Phase of negative half the angle is a very good starting point. I like to start with pretty high Motion Blur settings. We can change all these later and I'll click OK. And now I'm ready to start work. Well, I just noticed I did one very bad thing; I left the default name of Comp 1. This is a way to create a mess of a project. I'm going to type Cmd+K on Mac, or Ctrl+K on Windows to open up the Composition Settings and change this name to something that makes sense, such as Final Comp.
And indeed what I'll do quite often is I will put a space before the names of any compositions or folders that I want to float to the top of my list in the project panel. The space sorts before any other character when you do alphabetical sorting. I'll click OK and now we can get down to business of spotting our music, which is what we'll do next.
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