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

Editing the precomp


From:

After Effects Apprentice 08: Nesting and Precomposing

with Chris Meyer and Trish Meyer

Video: Editing the precomp

Chris Meyer: Now one problem with my current arrangements of layers is that all of these individual sequences are doing exactly the same thing. It makes it very obvious that they all came from the same source. To me that's little uninteresting. It would be better perhaps if they were staggered to give the impression that they're either different points in time or something else similar to that. Well, we can do that. We just need to edit their timings back in their original composition or their precomp. There's a few ways of going back to that comp. I can just click on its tab in Timeline panel. I can select it from the pop-up along the top of the Comp panel.

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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

Editing the precomp

Chris Meyer: Now one problem with my current arrangements of layers is that all of these individual sequences are doing exactly the same thing. It makes it very obvious that they all came from the same source. To me that's little uninteresting. It would be better perhaps if they were staggered to give the impression that they're either different points in time or something else similar to that. Well, we can do that. We just need to edit their timings back in their original composition or their precomp. There's a few ways of going back to that comp. I can just click on its tab in Timeline panel. I can select it from the pop-up along the top of the Comp panel.

Go back to my main. Or I can double- click that layer inside the comp and it will open up the source composition, the precomp, inside it's own original Timeline and Comp panels. Now Adobe does play with the behavior of double-clicking a comp. There have been some versions of After Effects that opened it up in the Layer panel. But in version CS4 through CS5.5 double- clicking opens up that comp's original panels. I am going to press Home to see how things are at the very start of my composition.

Now obviously I don't want to move things later in time, because it will start opening up gaps and some of my sequences will disappear. Instead, I want to slide things back earlier in time to stagger their timings. I can do this by eye to see if I like those arrangements or I can do this numerically. I've already opened up the In/Out, Duration, and Search panels which are accessed by this button down here the bottom of Timeline panel. I can go ahead and start offsetting these layers in time. I'll go ahead and leave my first layer alone and I am going to move this next one back say -1 frames in time.

Move this back -2 and keep going up the row, shifting each one even just one frame at a time. That frame, by the way, is at this composition's frame rate of 10 frames a second. -6 and -7. So now I have a nice staggered sequence going across this composition. Everyone is present at the beginning.

Some of the frames start disappearing at the end, but this is why we created our precomp longer than we needed. It's already trimmed off naturally in the next composition, because next comp is shorter than this one. If I had made this comp exactly the duration I needed I'd have a problem now where some layers were turned off. So again this is why you want to make your precomps larger and longer and you might need them just in case. I do a little drag through. That looks nice and I'll go back to this main composition.

Press 0 in the numeric keypad and RAM preview and now I have a more interesting looking composition. Each one of these frames is at a slightly different stage and to me it's visually more interesting than having them all be exactly the same. Again, this will been a lot harder if I had animated each one of these sequences individually in my final comp, because sliding each one in time would slide its keyframes in time as well. Just another complication.

It's much easier to break up your tasks. For example, I did all my arrangements and all my timing in this precomp and then in the main comp all I needed to worry about is scaling it and animating its position as one group. And that's where nesting one composition to another is really handy. You can treat a bunch of layers as a group. Now this is just a core of our animation. Obviously, it lacks the background and all these other elements you saw here. We are going to go ahead and complete this in an Idea Corner at the very end of this lesson.

In this chapter I wanted to focus on the whole concept of nesting one composition into another.

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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