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

Precomps and effects


From:

After Effects Apprentice 08: Nesting and Precomposing

with Chris Meyer and Trish Meyer

Video: Precomps and effects

Trish Meyer: In this movie, let's finish off our animation by adding the distortion effects such as Warp. Remember in the previous movie, we took our three layers and pre-composed them into the apple group pre-comp. I can still edit or animate any of these layers individually if I need to, but I can also apply effects to the group, which is what we were looking for. Now it's worth pointing out that when I pre-composed and I created this pre-comp, how did it know what size to make the pre-comp? If I open Composition Settings, you'll see it has all the specifications of the DV comp.

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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

Precomps and effects

Trish Meyer: In this movie, let's finish off our animation by adding the distortion effects such as Warp. Remember in the previous movie, we took our three layers and pre-composed them into the apple group pre-comp. I can still edit or animate any of these layers individually if I need to, but I can also apply effects to the group, which is what we were looking for. Now it's worth pointing out that when I pre-composed and I created this pre-comp, how did it know what size to make the pre-comp? If I open Composition Settings, you'll see it has all the specifications of the DV comp.

29.97 frame rate, it's five seconds in duration, and it has a blue background. All of these specifications came from the main comp. If we check its specifications, it has exactly the same Composition Settings. And the reason it needs to do that is because some of the attributes that you pre-composed such as the layer's position are based on the width and height of the comp. And the reason the duration has to be the same is that other attributes such as in and out points or trimming are based on the duration of the comp.

So again when you pre-compose with Move all attributes, your pre-comp will be the same size as your main comp. In the next movie we'll pre-compose with Leave all attribute and you'll see how important that distinction can be. So let's finish off our animation. In the main comp I've selected the apple group pre-comp layer. In the Effects & Presets panel, I'll just double click the Warp effect and that will apply it by selected layer. In the Effect Controls panel, you'll see it doesn't have too many options.

There's Warp Style and Warp Axis and the Bend value is how you control how distorted the layer is. So I am going to set up a simple animation. First, I'll select a different Warp Style and there are lots to choose from, so feel free to explore them. I'll select Squeeze, the last one. By scrubbing Bend, I can get an idea of what's going to happen. I'll start off with the maximum Bend value of -100 and at time zero I'll turn on the stopwatch to make my first keyframe.

And at one second 10 frames, I could see there is a layers marker here which coincides with the motif that moves across in the background layers. So this might be a good place to finish the animation. I'll press U to see my keyframes and I'll change the Bend value back to zero and a little later on set the work area and let's RAM preview and see what we have. It's interesting enough, but it's a little robotic. So let's check out the Graph Editor and here I can see that the default keyframes are linear.

If I double-click the word Bend to select both keyframes in the Graph Editor, I can click the Easy Ease button at the bottom of the Timeline to ease both keyframes. You see what that looks like. It's a little more interesting, but I don't think I like how slow it is at the beginning. So instead I'd like to speed up the beginning. So let's see how this looks. That's a bit more energetic and maybe we'll do something like overshooting the last keyframe.

And by overshooting I mean that I'm pulling the handle for the value graph so the layer will actually reach its final value, then go past it and then come back to its target value. Let's see how that looks. That's a little more fun. I can continue to play with this overshooting and of course if I don't want to do overshoot, I can return the handle to a straight line, adding the Shift key to make sure I don't accidentally overshoot.

I think I quite like the overshoot. So let's put that back. So I am finished with the Graph Editor. So let's return to our Normal View and let's see what other tidying up we can do. Now one of the things I'm noticing is that the Drop Shadow is looking a little dark. So I am looking in the Effect Controls and I don't see a Drop Shadow. And then I remember that the Drop Shadows are in the pre-comp. If I select my three individual layers in the pre-comp and press E, there I can see the three Drop Shadows, one on each layer.

But I have a couple of problems with this setup. Now if you remember, when we started this project, I pointed out that this wasn't a very efficient way of working, because every time I edited one Drop Shadow, I had to remember to apply the values to the other two Drop Shadows. But I think in this context, it would serve me better to actually move the Drop Shadow to the top comp. If I did that, I'd only have one Drop Shadow effect to work with because I could apply it to the group of layers. So let's fix this.

I'll return to apple group. I'll select the Drop Shadow and I think that value looks pretty good. So we'll copy the effect, Edit > Copy, Command+C on Mac, Ctrl+C on Windows. So we'll copy the entire Drop Shadow effect. Now I don't want to remove all the effects, just the Drop Shadow. I'll leave the Tritone. I'll select the Drop Shadow on wiredfruit and hit Delete. Select the Drop Shadow on the subtitle and delete it. So in the pre-comp there is no Drop Shadow on any layer.

I'll bring the main comp forward, select my nested apple group layer, and paste my Drop Shadow. Now I can easily edit the Drop Shadow effect which is applied to the group of layers and I have a much more efficient workflow. So as you can see, pre-composing a group of layers is very useful. But when you are done, spend a moment and see if there's anything you can do to make editing the entire project a little more efficient. So I hope that gives you some ideas. When you're building a hierarchy of comps, you have parenting, nesting, and pre-composing.

In the next movie, we'll look at pre-composing a single layer and in that case you'll have a couple of options to choose from.

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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