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Solid Composite has probably confused more than one After Effects user through the years. When you first apply it, it doesn't seem to do anything useful. But it keeps popping up in Animation Presets. So what's the secret? Let me show you a few things that it is good for. We'll select our footage and apply Effect > Channel > Solid Composite. At first nothing happens. We fade down the first parameter we find, the Source Opacity, and we fade to a white solid. We fade the white solid. Nothing seems to happen.
What use is this? Okay, let's start over and read the effect from top to bottom. What this basically says is let's take the source layer and blend it on top of the solid of this color. You have Opacity for the source and for the Solid. And the way you blend it is determined by this Blending Mode popup. There are a few things you can do with that. For example, it's a way of tinting footage. Say I want to apply a gold tint to these clouds. I pick a nice gold to start with and set my blending mode to something such Luminosity. Luminosity says keep the luminance information from the original source and apply it on to the color information of the solid underneath. And as a result, nice golden clouds.
We can play with the Opacity of our solid to go back to original clouds. Put just a little bit of tint in, put a very strong tint in, or we can play with other blending modes. For example, Overlay is always one of my favorite modes to mix things together with. Might be a little strong in this case. I have to think a little harder here because I have my source on top of the solid, not the other way around. Hard Light actually works much better for this and again, we have got some blending capabilities. Okay, that's one trick. Another is to create a film flash effect. To do that we are going to use the blending mode of Add, which results in a very burned out look, and I'll pick a color that's even brighter to get even more burned out, more towards white.
Now I'm going to keyframe the Opacity for my solid. Just start with the Opacity at 0, move a few frames later in time, enable keyframing. Go down two frames, page down, 100%, take my flash, go a few frames later one, two, three, four, five, and fade back down to mine original source. I'll try and preview. And now we have a very quick blip that goes to this color in Add mode, giving us that burned out look, and back to original source.
That's the way to create that film flash look you may be sick of by now. Another use is to provide an alternate way to fade a layer in and out. I'll remove Solid Composite from this layer. I'm going to place a radio object on top of these clouds and let's say that I want that radio to fade in and fade out. I can keyframe it, or I can take advantage of an Animation Preset. Animation > Behaviors > Fade In and Fade Out. And you can do it based on frames or in milliseconds. I'll use milliseconds, double-click to apply, and you'll see now the radio fades in and fades out.
And if I retrim where the radio is, the fade in and fade out behavior automatically detects where the in and out points are and fades based on those. Now how is this working? I'm going to type EE to reveal expressions. It's applying an expression to the opacity for Solid Composite. It's turned the Solid all the way down to the zero, no Opacity. So we are not seeing that white solid. And instead it's controlling just the Source Opacity, the Opacity for the original underlying layer.
Now why is it doing this with an effect rather than just controlling the layers opacity? Here is why. I'm going to hold Shift+T to reveal Opacity. As a user I still have an independent control over the Opacity of this radio. Say I never want to get more opaque than 50%. I can do that using the layer's normal opacity, while this behavior is still doing the automatic fade up and fade down. I'll press zero to RAM preview. And now you say I have got a fade in and fade out, but in max it's only going to the opacity I set for the layer.
So that's another reason Solid Composite use a lot of expressions. It provides an independent way to control the opacity of the layer and allow the user to still keyframe or alter the normal Opacity parameter however they like. The final thing I'll mention about Solid Composite is since it can do so many of these tricks with one layer, instead of requiring like another solid layer, it makes it very easy to save Animation Presets, such as this behavior. So that's why it's so popular amongst some of your geekier After Effects users, like me for example.
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