After Effects CS6 Essential Training
Illustration by John Hersey

Generating graphic effects with adjustment layers


After Effects CS6 Essential Training

with Ian Robinson

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Video: Generating graphic effects with adjustment layers

Generating graphics inside of After Effects can be extraordinarily rewarding. But you have to be careful because sometimes time will fly. I have a tendency to get lost inside of how many different things I can do inside of After Effects, especially if I'm generating something from nothing. To get started in this example, what we're going to do is actually create an effect where there's a beam of light that attaches between these two shapes.
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  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 16s
    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 22s
    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 28s
    1. Creating type animators
      12m 17s
    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 20s
    1. Understanding keying
      3m 19s
    2. Creating a garbage mask
      4m 27s
    3. Getting started with Keylight
      6m 34s
  13. 15m 57s
    1. Importing Photoshop documents
      6m 11s
    2. Importing Illustrator files
      4m 25s
    3. Working With Premiere Pro projects
      5m 21s
  14. 1h 15m
    1. Adjusting ray-tracing quality
      8m 19s
    2. Tracking footage
      8m 16s
    3. Extruding shapes
      8m 40s
    4. Bending layers
      8m 39s
    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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Watch the Online Video Course After Effects CS6 Essential Training
8h 41m Beginner May 07, 2012

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

In this course, author Ian Robinson introduces Adobe After Effects CS6 and the world of animation, effects, and compositing. Chapter 1 introduces the six foundations of After Effects, which include concepts like layers, keyframes, rendering, and moving in 3D space. The rest of the course expands on these ideas, and shows how to build compositions with layers, perform rotoscoping, animate your composition with keyframes, add effects and transitions, and render and export the finished piece. Two real-world example projects demonstrate keying green screen footage and creating an advanced 3D composition with the expanded 3D toolset, an important addition to CS6.

Topics include:
  • Setting up the workspace, important preferences, and the cache
  • Importing footage and comps
  • Relinking missing footage
  • Creating type, shape layers, and masks
  • Rotoscoping with the Roto Brush
  • Adjusting keyframes in the Graph Editor
  • Timing animations to audio
  • Building backgrounds with effects
  • Rendering with the Render Queue and Adobe Media Encoder
  • Animating 3D type
  • Smoothing shaky footage and retouching footage
  • Keying green screen footage
  • Working with 3D: extruding shapes, adding ray-traced lighting, and more
After Effects
Ian Robinson

Generating graphic effects with adjustment layers

Generating graphics inside of After Effects can be extraordinarily rewarding. But you have to be careful because sometimes time will fly. I have a tendency to get lost inside of how many different things I can do inside of After Effects, especially if I'm generating something from nothing. To get started in this example, what we're going to do is actually create an effect where there's a beam of light that attaches between these two shapes.

If you're joining me from the previous video, I want to point out something really quickly. If we select our background layer here and open our Effects Control panel, you can see I've replaced the Camera Lens Blur, or really now, I've turned off the Camera Lens Blur and added a Fast Blur instead. Let me just turn Fast Blur off and Camera Lens Blur on, you can see Camera Lens is beautiful, but it takes a very long time to work with. So this is a trick to speed up your workflow.

So just remember before you render, disable Fast Blur, enable Lens Blur. Okay let's jump back to our animation here and select the Yellow and the Blue shapes in the timeline. Now I want both of these shapes to start together right over top of each other. So let's press the P key to open the Position and a quick way to reset both of them to the same position is to just click in the X value for one of them and then type in a number. So let's choose something like 600, and then press tab to move to the Y value and notice, it automatically set the Y value, but let's set this around 360.

Okay now these are overlapping. You might be able to see little bit of edge but that's just because of not viewing it at exactly 100% full resolution the whole nine. Okay. But basically, they're on top of each other. So let's zoom back out here and look at how we're going to apply this beam effect. Since I can't apply the effect to one or the other, I need to use an Adjustment layer. So we need to go up under Layer and choose New > Adjustment Layer.

See Adjustment layers allow you to apply effects to that layer and the effects will be rendered on that layer over top of any other layers that are below them. So to generate the effect, we need to go up to the Effect pulldown and go to the Generate section. In here, these are all different things that you can generate from within After Effects. The effect I want to use is the Beam effect. Go ahead and choose Beam and look in the Effects controls.

The reason I want to use Beam, it has a very clear defined starting point and ending point. See with both starting and ending point, I can now apply an expression to the starting point of one beam to the Position data of another layer. Now we can't see our graphics anymore, and that's because this bottom option in the Beam is set to Composite on Original. So let's go ahead and select that so we can see just our beam.

Now the length of this beam, notice, my start point here and my end point here, the beam is not all the way across. So we need to adjust the length up to 100. Now to apply an expression, let's select our Adjustment layer in the timeline and press E to open the effect. Now expand the triangle for the beam, and I'm going to use the Tilde key to maximize the Layers panel while I apply this expression.

The Tilde key is in the upper left part of your keyboard under the Escape button. So let's select the Starting Point and go up under Animation, and choose Add Expression. Now we have a pick whip. So let's click on the pick whip, and hold your mouse down as you drag down to the position data of the Yellow layer. Now select the End Point, go up under Animation, choose Add Expression, and do the same with the pick whip up, but point it to the Position data of the blue layer.

Now in order to set the expression, you just need to click anywhere outside of this expression box. Now to see the results, let's press the Tilde key again to reset our menu and you notice, we have red values for our starting and end points and that's letting us know that there is an expression applied. And if we scrub our current time indicator down the timeline, you notice nothing is happening. Well that's because we haven't actually animated these two shapes, they're just sitting right on top of each other.

Now to quickly animate anything in After Effects, use the Automatic Keyframing button right here in the top center of your timeline. With that enabled, here let's collapse the Adjustment layer, so we can select the Yellow layer here. With Automatic Keyframing enabled, I can select the Yellow layer, and move it anywhere in the timeline, and as I move my current-time indicator around, notice I can actually set a keyframe just by moving that shape.

Now let's move the blue shape in a similar fashion. We'll have it start there and then move our playhead and we can move it out, okay and then we'll move down here and bring that up. All right, now just so you can see that this will record anything, let's go up to the Tool panel and select the Rotation tool and just click on the Blue layer and spin it around. Now I only have one keyframe on there, so let's move our current-time indicator back up towards the top and spin this back around again.

All right, now as much fun as Automatic Keyframing is, let's disable that for now so we don't forget that we're actually adding keyframes. So let's load up a RAM Preview, and check out what we have. Now I don't know about you, but I think that's kind of cool, especially with the rotation, it looks like the yellow shape is actually kind of pulling the blue shape into a spin, sort of like a yo-yo. Now I'm going to do one thing to tweak this.

Let's stop playback here for a second. Notice the beam is on top of the shapes. Well one of the beautiful things about using Adjustment layers, you can always move the effect below any other layers. Now magically the beam is below the shape. Now just because I kind of want to blend these in a little bit more, I want to select both the Yellow and Blue layers and press T on my keyboard to open up the Opacity, and bring that Opacity down just a little bit. If you really want to blend things together, you could add another Adjustment layer and add a Glow on the top and add that on top of all your layers and you could really kind of go crazy.

But I think you can see how quickly and easily you can generate graphics from within After Effects, and sure enough, you might even lose some time.

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