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In this installment of After Effects Apprentice, Chris Meyer focuses on ways to edit and enhance layers in After Effects. Through a series of Quizzler challenges and Idea Corner examples, Chris shares alternative ways to employ modes, sequencing, and adjustment layers, while special sidebar movies cover the subjects of creating seamless loops, animating effects points, understanding pixel aspect ratios, and employing Brainstorm to explore the variety of different looks that effects can create. The course also covers tricks for enhancing boring footage and tips for converting scans into moving sequences. Exercise files are included with the course.
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®.
Earlier in this lesson we showed you how to make footage loop. You select it in the Project panel, you click on the Interpret Footage button, and then underneath Other Options you increase the Loop parameter. Set it to something like 2 and now the original clip will repeat twice. However, just because you can make a clip loop or repeat does not mean it will be a seamless loop. Fortunately, a lot of abstract backgrounds, such as this Digidelic footage from Artbeats is designed to loop seamlessly. I'll zoom out in my Footage panel here.
As I get to the end of this clip, press the Spacebar to play, and you'll see as it jumps back to the start that it's seamless. There's no real hitch there. That was just part of the animation. Play through again. Seamless. Now I look at it through this 12- second mark where I caused it to loop, it's also seamless. Unfortunately, not all clips are this cooperative. For example, if I was to look at a piece of cloud footage, when I get to the end and play through the head, there's a visible hitch.
I am going to do that again. Play at the end and there's a hitch as it goes back to the start. Now there is a trick in After Effects to force footage to loop seamlessly. It doesn't always work perfectly, but it's better than having a sudden jump. The first thing I want to do is look at the length of my footage. This cloud clip happens to be 15 seconds long. If I've the opportunity to shoot my own footage, I would really prefer to have at least 30 seconds for this sort of material. You need enough material for your loop plus extra to create a crossfade to make it a seamless loop.
Next, I'll create a new composition. This is D1 footage, so I'll use that preset. I'll call it cloud loop and I need to think about my Duration. This is a 15 second clip. So maybe I'll make it 10-second duration with a 5-second overlap for my crossfade to make it seamless. I personally prefer loops that are at least 16 seconds long. This is actually based on psychoacoustics in music where they found that once you get past 16 seconds, it's hard for a listener to detect whether or not something is rhythmic or random.
I tend to use that number to create my own looping footage. But 15 second clip? We'll use what we have. I'll click OK and I'll go up to 100%. I am going to add my clip to this composition. Now I need to think very carefully. Basically when I get to the end of this composition or namely one frame past the end of this composition, I need that frame to be exactly the same as the first frame. That's what's going to make it seamless.
Therefore, I cannot have my clip start at the start of the composition. It's much better to have my clip end at the end of the composition than worrying about creating a crossfade. To do that, I'll make sure the clip is selected. Hold down Option and press End. This automatically aligns the endpoint of the clip to the endpoint of my composition. Then I'll make sure my Current Time Indicator is at the start of my comp. This will be the first frame of my looping footage. And I am going to trim this layer by holding down Option and pressing the left square bracket.
I need this frame to also exist one frame past the end of this comp. To do that, I'll press End to get to the end of the comp. Then press Page Down to go one frame beyond, at 10 seconds as opposed to 929. I'll select my clip, duplicate it, then I'll press the left square bracket without the Option or Alt key to slide it so that first frame now aligns with my Current Time Indicator. Remember my Current Time Indicator is one frame past the end of the comp, which for looping footage is the same as the first frame of the comp.
I need to create a crossfade. So I'll press T to reveal Opacity, enable keyframing. Now let's drag out the rest of this footage that we trimmed off. This will be our crossfade section. I'll press I to jump to the endpoint. Then set the Opacity to 0, because I want this overlap section to fade up over the underlying shot during this duration. Let's RAM preview and see how we did. Here is 5 seconds of the original untouched clip, here's the crossfade, and then watch what happens when we get to the end.
Seamless, as it goes now from the end to the beginning. There wasn't that really hard hitch when we just used the footage in this normal state. There it comes through again. We do have some funny stuff going on during the crossfade. Like I said, this is not a perfect technique. Some footage is going to work better than others. However, you can at least force this to be less obvious by using this crossfade trick. Just follow the same steps on virtually any piece of footage, experiment with comp durations, and amount of overlaps as see what you can do with your own shots.
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