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Defining layers

From: After Effects CS6 Essential Training

Video: Defining layers

I want to start just off this chapter by clearly defining what layers are in the context of After Effects. Even if you have exposure to layers inside of Photoshop, layers in After Effects are organized in a very interesting fashion. Compositions are the containers that the layers reside in, but what I rather find curious about layers is just how different all the various kinds of layers can be. Some layers are only generated from within the composition. Those are called synthetic layers, since After Effects is synthesizing their creations.

Defining layers

I want to start just off this chapter by clearly defining what layers are in the context of After Effects. Even if you have exposure to layers inside of Photoshop, layers in After Effects are organized in a very interesting fashion. Compositions are the containers that the layers reside in, but what I rather find curious about layers is just how different all the various kinds of layers can be. Some layers are only generated from within the composition. Those are called synthetic layers, since After Effects is synthesizing their creations.

So if we look at our kineteco_02 composition right here, you'll see we have a number of layers in our comp. Now I'm just going to move up the timeline, so it's a little more dominant in our view. Now the first layer in layer 1 is actually a shape layer. Shape layers are rather interesting because they are created within the composition of After Effects. If I went up into my Project panel and tried to search for shape layer, it's not going to find it.

It will find the Shapes Photoshop document I imported earlier, but it will not find this individual layer. I would have to search within the timeline to find something like that. Now let's clear out that search, and back on layer 1, if you open the triangle for Shape Layer, you see I have my Transform Options that every single layer has, but I also have a Contents layer. And the way layers are organized inside of After Effects, you have these different sections and they keep drilling down with different triangles.

So this layer, if you can see it here in the composition here, I'll scroll in just a little bit and hold the Spacebar and click and drag to move the composition up, you can see it's actually a rectangle and its opacity is 60%. See if I change this up to 100, you could see it a little more clearly here. Interestingly enough, with the contents for a shape layer, I added a rectangle path. And that's where I set exactly how long it was going to be and how many pixels tall.

There's also a Fill that's applied, and within the Fill it has a color. We'll get more into shape layers later in this chapter, but I wanted you to look at how layers are organized overall in terms of these individual sections. It's kind of organized almost like an outline would be. If you select Layer 1 and press the U key, it will hide anything that you currently have open. Now select layer 2. This is a text layer, this is very much like a shape layer and that it's a synthetic layer.

It's generated within the composition itself. So the way to add a text layer, we use the Text tool up in our Tool panel. But for now, open the triangle on layer 2. And here you can see we have Text Options and Path Options for that text as well as more options for the text. Now what's interesting is, there is this flyout button that says Animate. And if we click on that you can change things for your text like the Fill Color or give it a Stroke.

But we'll jump into that in a little bit. Now I'm going to close more options here and open the Shape Layer and I want you to notice that it's organized in a very similar fashion. See how the Shape Layer has contents and then two sections and Text layers have text, and then I have my Path Options and more options. It's just something to note. Once you learn how layers work for one kind of layer, chances are it will work in a similar fashion for the next kind of layer. Now comp layers are fun because they contain other layers.

If we open up that triangle, you see I do have an effect applied to that layer. I can also see that here in the FX area of my switches. And if we open the Effects you can see I have a Drop Shadow applied. If we close 3, let's look at 4. This is actually called a Solid Layer. And while this is being created within After Effects, it is also something that is footage you can reference in your Project panel. See, if I right-click on my Solid layer, I can say Reveal Layer Source in Project.

And when I do that, you can see there is actually a solid that exists within my composition. This is nice because if I wanted to add another layer solid, I wouldn't have to come up under Layer and choose New Solid, I could literally just drag it and drop it down into the timeline and now you can see I have a second layer. Now the reason this is dominating my view, I put it at the second layer and the rectangle shape layer is above it. If I delete this layer Solid, you'll notice, well, this one isn't dominating my view, and that's because it has a Mask applied to it.

Layers can contain masks, and if I open the triangle you can see the very first thing that's applied is this Mask. Again, we'll explore this later in the chapter. But the last kind of layer I want to show you is an adjustment layer. See, if we change the magnification of our comp in the lower left corner of the comp window, change it to fit up to 100%. Now when I expand the view here, you can see that my background video layer is blurry. I just scrolled with my mouse over the comp window.

If you move your mouse over the timeline and scroll, you can see you can scroll up and down within the timeline. With this adjustment layer, notice I have an effect applied. But if we look at our video layer, the Solar layer down here, here I'm going to expand the width of the Name Column just by clicking on this dash. Here, you can see this Video layer does not have an effect applied to it. And you might be thinking, well, how was that blurry? Well an adjustment layer is in essence an empty or transparent layer within After Effects, but what it allows you to do is apply effects to that layer.

So notice if I open that up, I have a Fast Blur applied to the adjustment layer. The way they work, any layer that's below them will be affected. So if I drag this adjustment layer all the way up to underneath Charlie Winter's name, now look, everything is blurry that's below that layer. Okay, so now that we've seen the overview of these different kinds of layers, let's go ahead and jump-in and actually cover these layers more in-depth throughout the rest of this chapter.

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This video is part of

Image for After Effects CS6 Essential Training
After Effects CS6 Essential Training

78 video lessons · 55003 viewers

Ian Robinson
Author

 
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 1m 8s
    1. What is After Effects?
      1m 8s
  2. 2m 53s
    1. Welcome
      1m 40s
    2. Using the exercise files
      1m 13s
  3. 1h 8m
    1. The six foundations of AE
      5m 3s
    2. Introducing the interface and the workspace
      7m 51s
    3. Understanding compositions
      8m 48s
    4. Getting comfortable with layers
      7m 33s
    5. Getting started with animation and keyframes
      8m 30s
    6. Understanding effects
      3m 26s
    7. Moving in 3D space
      7m 41s
    8. Rendering your first animation
      8m 20s
    9. Specifying preferences and cache settings
      5m 44s
    10. Staying organized
      5m 15s
  4. 38m 6s
    1. Creating compositions
      7m 19s
    2. Importing footage and compositions
      7m 54s
    3. Preparing compositions for animation
      8m 7s
    4. Introducing renderers
      3m 15s
    5. Understanding precomposing
      7m 16s
    6. Relinking missing footage
      4m 15s
  5. 59m 58s
    1. Defining layers
      6m 23s
    2. Creating type
      5m 58s
    3. Creating layer solids and shapes with masks
      7m 55s
    4. Building shape layers
      6m 17s
    5. Understanding switches and blend modes
      8m 26s
    6. Crafting custom shapes and masks
      6m 18s
    7. Creating variable-width feathered masks
      5m 1s
    8. Rotoscoping with the Roto Brush
      8m 20s
    9. Refining with the Roto Brush
      5m 20s
  6. 1h 8m
    1. Understanding keyframes
      6m 1s
    2. Adding and adjusting keyframes
      9m 54s
    3. Interpolating keyframes
      8m 5s
    4. Adjusting keyframes in the Graph Editor
      7m 17s
    5. Understanding positional keyframes
      7m 0s
    6. Controlling animation with parenting and the pick whip
      9m 57s
    7. Understanding animation paths
      6m 27s
    8. Timing to audio
      4m 41s
    9. Trimming and sliding edits
      5m 31s
    10. Swapping images
      4m 1s
  7. 29m 7s
    1. Layering multiple effects
      9m 13s
    2. Generating graphic effects with adjustment layers
      7m 28s
    3. Building backgrounds with effects
      6m 50s
    4. Creating animated strokes
      5m 36s
  8. 40m 15s
    1. Introducing cameras
      10m 3s
    2. Working with 3D layers
      6m 37s
    3. Positioning layers
      6m 13s
    4. Adding lights and working with Material Options
      9m 21s
    5. Using 3D precompositions
      2m 5s
    6. Adjusting depth of field
      5m 56s
  9. 28m 31s
    1. Caching and prerendering
      6m 33s
    2. Understanding the alpha channels
      5m 18s
    3. Using the Render Queue
      4m 34s
    4. Rendering with Adobe Media Encoder
      7m 15s
    5. Archiving finished projects
      4m 51s
  10. 44m 27s
    1. Creating type animators
      12m 16s
    2. Animating type in 3D space
      6m 35s
    3. Adding and animating type on a path
      8m 45s
    4. Composing 3D type
      8m 41s
    5. Animating shape layers
      8m 10s
  11. 32m 45s
    1. Creating stylized video
      6m 47s
    2. Retiming video footage
      9m 31s
    3. Retouching with the Rubber Stamp tool
      10m 19s
    4. Smoothing shaky camera footage
      6m 8s
  12. 14m 19s
    1. Understanding keying
      3m 19s
    2. Creating a garbage mask
      4m 27s
    3. Getting started with Keylight
      6m 33s
  13. 15m 56s
    1. Importing Photoshop documents
      6m 11s
    2. Importing Illustrator files
      4m 24s
    3. Working With Premiere Pro projects
      5m 21s
  14. 1h 15m
    1. Adjusting ray-tracing quality
      8m 19s
    2. Tracking footage
      8m 15s
    3. Extruding shapes
      8m 39s
    4. Bending layers
      8m 38s
    5. Adjusting ray-traced lighting and materials
      9m 22s
    6. Adding environment maps
      4m 58s
    7. Beginning compositing
      8m 52s
    8. Creating render passes
      10m 17s
    9. Building a final composite
      8m 14s
  15. 1m 8s
    1. What's next
      1m 8s

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