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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®.
Chris Meyer: Once you've build a complex hierarchy of compositions, the challenge of course is how do you navigate between those comps and how do you see how they are interconnected. If you already know what comps are connected together, of course, you can just click on their tabs along the top of the timeline panel to quickly jump between them. You can also use the popup at the top of the Composition panel to also jump quickly to individual comps. However, if you haven't open up a project in a while or you've been handed a project from somebody else or it's just very late at night, you might forget how layers are interconnected.
Throughout this lesson you probably have seen us use the composition mini-flowchart. If we have either of the Composition or Timeline panels open and just briefly tap the Shift key, this little flowchart will pop up right where our cursor is. It will start with the composition we currently have open, Locations Main, and shows what flows into and out of this composition. I can click on these arrows to navigate up and down this hierarchy, seeing what was earlier in the composition chain and what is later. If I click off, it closes.
If however, I open up again and click on one of these comp names, I will jump straight to that composition, such as MyPlate. The mini-flowchart also some options in terms of how things flow. From right to left, or left to right. How multiple layers are sorted, layer order or alphabetical order, and you also toggle in between the sort modes. But I tend to use the default myself. In addition to the composition mini- flowchart, along the top of the Composition panel is also this composition navigator.
This shows you a simplified flowchart of your current comp and what comps it flows into. For example, go over to Locations Main. It does not give me as much information as a min-flowchart when I have multiple layers. It just shows me the comps and the chain that After Effects thinks I've been to most recently. But again, it's another way to quickly jump between these individual comps. You click on the comp's name to jump to it or you can click on the arrow to the right to go ahead and being back open that mini-flowchart. Finally, there is a more complex flowchart that has existed in After Effects for quite some time.
You'll find it underneath the Options menu for both the Composition panel and the Timeline panel, or you'll find it as this little icon of three boxes here along the side of a Project panel. This is particularly handy if someone hands you a project with a hierarchy of comps and you simply don't know how things are interconnected and you want to learn quickly how this is built. You click on this and you go ahead and get this complex chart that shows you all these individual composition inside your project. Well this is showing me in this case there's a composition named Plate, which is down here in my Precomps folder.
It contains the text layer NEW LOCATION with a drop shadow effect applied and the shape layer Rectangular Shape, with the Hue/Saturation effect applied. That composition becomes layers in these three additional compositions. Dallas, Chicago and Denver. Those comps contain the layer Plate which was inherited from this comp and the text layer Dallas. And so forth. You can see how these individual layers flew throughout this hierarchy. Single clicking on a comp inside the flowchart view selects it inside the Project panel.
Double clicking it opens up that composition in the Comp and Timeline panels. When you have the Flowchart panels selected, you also have lots of options in terms of how things are being drawn, how things are oriented, etcetera. But before you get too excited, you cannot actually rewire things inside this flowchart. It is strictly a diagram to show you how things are already connected. You cannot connect things as if it was a node-based program, sorry. And in reality, we rarely use this. This is only useful if you open up a project with a lot of comps and you don't know how things are connected.
Most of the time, we bring the Comp or Timeline panel open, tap the Shift key, and quickly see how comps are interconnected. If you forget the Shift key shortcut, there's also a little icon in the Timeline panel which does the same thing. If I click on this button I also get the comp mini-flowchart. It's a handy way to navigate in between compositions.
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