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

Nesting and animating a precomp


From:

After Effects Apprentice 08: Nesting and Precomposing

with Chris Meyer and Trish Meyer

Video: Nesting and animating a precomp

Chris Meyer: I've created this special extra wide composition with eight copies of this Muybridge sequence aligned and distributed across the comp. Now I need to create my final composite that will include this as an element. I'll select my Comps folder to make sure any new comps get sorted into that folder. Go to New Composition and remember it's my previous settings, but in this case, I need my final comp just to be standard definition DV size. So I'll select that preset, which automatically selects my Width, Height, Aspect Ratio, and Frame Rate.

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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

Nesting and animating a precomp

Chris Meyer: I've created this special extra wide composition with eight copies of this Muybridge sequence aligned and distributed across the comp. Now I need to create my final composite that will include this as an element. I'll select my Comps folder to make sure any new comps get sorted into that folder. Go to New Composition and remember it's my previous settings, but in this case, I need my final comp just to be standard definition DV size. So I'll select that preset, which automatically selects my Width, Height, Aspect Ratio, and Frame Rate.

This is my old duration of 10 seconds, but let's say I know I need this final comp to only be 6 seconds long. Finally, I'll give it a name that make sense like Figures Main and click OK. There's a couple of ways of including or nesting this composition I've created into my main or final composition. One way is to treat it just like footage. You can go ahead and drag it into the Comp panel, drag it on to the Timeline panel, or in the Project panel, you can just go ahead and drag it right on top of the comp you want to end up in.

By doing so, you'll be centered into that composition. Well, initially, it's way too large. So I'm going to press S to reveal Scale. Scale it down so it looks proportionally more correct, like maybe around 50% or so, and I'm also going to move this up to a height that make sense. Let's say I like it right around there. Next let's animate it. Compositions can be treated as individual footage items at this point. So I just need to animate this nested composition layer rather than animate each of the components of that layer.

I'm going to hold Shift and press P to also reveal Position, enable keyframing for Position, and start dragging my nested comp until it justifies to one side. Now again, dragging causes things just to go free from all over the screen. Adding Shift constrains my movement; adding Command on Mac or Ctrl on Windows will help it snap to the side of the comp. The problem is if I am adding Command or Ctrl, I've lost my ability to constrain my movement to just the X or Y axis. This is another case where you might want to pull down a guide. Maybe I want this height to be right around there.

Now, I can snap to my guide, Shift and Command or Ctrl, snap to the side of my comp, and the alignment is real nice. I'll press End to go to the end of my composition, start dragging. Again, this is freehand, but if I go up to my guide it'll snap to the guide and when I get close to the end of my composition, hold Command+Shift or Ctrl+Shift and I'll snap to the side of my comp. I press 0 in the numeric keypad to RAM preview and there is my sequence moving across the screen.

If it is moving too slowly, I can just change one of the keyframes so it doesn't move quite as much in its duration, so six seconds. If it's moving too quickly, I can extend the length of this composition so it travels over a longer period of time. But that's basically all there is to it. I've created one composition. Then included a number of its own layers, dragged that into this main comp, and treated it as if it was just one single footage item. However, unlike a footage item, it's still alive. I can go and edit those individual components individually back in the original comp, what will be called the precomp, and we'll do that next.

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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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