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Expressions are one of the most powerful but underused features in After Effects. They can be used to animate layer properties with code, as compared to explicitly keyframing every value in the Timeline, and have multiple parameters and layers that follow the lead of a master layer or controller effect, making it much easier to coordinate complex animations and quickly accommodate client changes. In this introduction, Chris Meyer shows how to let After Effects do most of the work by creating simple but very useful expressions that can be put to work on a wide variety of jobs.
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®.
The second Quizzler challenge I gave you was to come up with a way to have one set of drop shadow controls that would affect the shadow for all of these text and shape elements inside this composition. Now given that at this whole lesson has been about expressions, you could be forgiven for thinking this solution is to ahead go to Master Control, add some expression controls for say, Drop Shadow's Size, Angle, Softness, et cetera, apply drop shadow on one of these layers, wire it up to your Master Controls, copy that drop shadow, paste onto the other layers.
And indeed there are even scripts out there that can automatically create instances of effects where a copy is completely expressed to original an Master Effect. However, just because you know how to use expressions does not mean you should use expressions for every problem. For example, the most recent After Effects Apprentice lesson before this one was on nesting and pre-composing, ways of grouping layers. We can do the same thing here. Select your Master Control, add all of these other elements, and go to Layer > Pre- Compose, and call this something like text element group.
You can only move all attributes because you have more than one layer selected. Let's go ahead and open up that new composition. I will click OK, and here are all the elements by themselves. Now we have several different ways of adding a drop shadow to all of the elements inside this composition. We could, say, add an adjustment layer above everybody inside this comp. Or even easier, you can go back to our main comp, I'll tap the shift key, navigate to Master Comp, here is the pre-comp layer that has all those elements and now apply just one Effect > Perspective > Drop Shadow, and now we have one shadow and one set of shadow controls that affects all of those elements.
I could have used a Drop Shadow effect. I could have used Layer > Layer Styles > Drop Shadow and done the same thing. Now you may have heard the joke, to a person who has a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. Just because you have this wonderful hammer called expressions, don't use it to hit everything in sight. Sometimes there are easier ways that don't involve expressions to still get the same end result. In this case, we've actually used nesting and pre-composing.
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