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In After Effects CS5 Essential Training, author Chad Perkins discusses the basic tools, effects, and need-to-know techniques in Adobe After Effects CS5, the professional standard for motion graphics, compositing, and visual effects for video. The course provides an overview of the entire workflow, from import to export, as well as detailed coverage of each stage, including animating text and artwork, adding effects to compositions, working in 3D, and rendering and compressing footage. Exercise files are included with the course.
Before we get much further, I want to give you a little tour of the interface of After Effects. Basically, you need to know your way around here. It really will help you become a more efficient user of the program. We have already talked about the Project panel and few other panels, and basically, that is the overall theme of After Effects' Interfaces that we have the series of Docked panels. By Docked, I mean they are grouped together. If you put your cursor in between two panels, you'll get a little divider, like this. This will allow you to resize panels, either from left to right, or up and down here.
If you put your cursor in between a spot where three or more panels meet together, where they intersect, you'll get one of these little icons. It allows you just to resize the interface however you'd like. Now, when you put your cursor over a panel, you'd hit the Tilde key. That's the little squiggle that's above the Tab key, to the left of the number one on your keyboard. If you press that key, it will maximize whatever panel your mouse happens to be over at the time. So, I'll put my cursor over the Project panel, maximize it and then minimize it again by using the Tilde key.
It may just going to seem like a cool trick down. But when you are actually working, there's so much complexity to these panels that to be able to maximize them like this, you can see, for example, in the Project panel, maximize that, and you could see that's we have so much here as far as like the File Path, even like the Name of the file and the Type. And sometimes, these things get really long and so you need to be able to resize, grab these little dividers and resize them, so you could actually see, what's going on here. Then you could just hit that Tilde key again, to get back to where you were. But being able to maximize panels is a great asset to your arsenal of skills.
Now, there might be times when you want to undock panels. So, let's say for example, the Composition panel, which is our Viewer here. I am going to select it, and you could tell it's selected because of the gold outline around the edge of it. That's how we know it's selected. That's also going to become very important as we go through the program, because the keyboard shortcuts that you will use will change based on which panel is currently selected. But getting back to the Composition panel here, I have currently a two-monitor setup. And so if I want to use this Composition panel on my other monitor, I could hold down the Command key on the Mac, or the Ctrl key on the PC as I drag away.
Then let go off the mouse, then let go off the Command or Ctrl key, and now I have this floating window, and I could put this over here on my other monitor, which you can't see, just pretend it's going to another monitor there, and we have this now floating window as opposed to a docked window. You might want to do this with other panels. You might have a panel that you want to kind of like levitate over here, over your Timeline panel while you are working on at something, and then you could re-dock it just by simply grabbing these little grip things here on the left-hand side. When we drag this to re-dock this, we get these things called Drop Zones, these little geometric panels that kind of like light up.
Basically, that tells us where this panel is going to go, once we let go of it, and when we have a side drop zone like that, then it puts the panel to the right of that. If we want to group panels together, let's say we wanted the Info panel to be grouped along with the Composition panel. So, they are basically tabs next to each other. You would use this center drop zone, and that allows these two panels to be in the same group called a Frame. So, this one frame has these two panels in it.
I am going to put the Info panel back with the Audio panel. Shift it over here, because I want the Audio panel in front. And that's basically what you need to know about the interface. If you are not seeing a particular panel, let's say for example, I close Effects & Presets panel, which you can do by clicking little x that gets rids of it there, I can go to the Window menu, and then choose Effects & Presets to get it back. Now, you may get the interface set up the way you like it, which may take some time, specially if you have like a two- monitor setup, and you might want to save your layout, you can using a feature called the Workspace.
If you go here to the top of the interface, you could see this Workspace dropdown. Right now, we are using the Standard Layout. But if we wanted to do something with text, we could choose Text, and that will basically get us the Standard layout except with the Character and Paragraph panels, which allow us to manipulate and adjust our text. We could choose Motion Tracking or any one of these other various workspaces already created for you, or we can go back to Standard. What's kind of cool about After Effects too is that it automatically remembers the changes that you make. So, this is the Standard Workspace. Let's just say I do something super crazy like this, and we'll go back to Animation or something like that.
If we go back to Standard, then you can see that it actually remembered the quirky way we had it. And if we don't like it like this and we want to reset things back to their defaults, we can go back down at the dropdown and choose Reset "Standard" or whatever the name of the Workspace is. Here, we could also create a New Workspace based on our current layout, and we could also Delete a Workspace as well. So, let's choose Reset Standard, and I'll say Yes. Now, this gets back to the way the application shipped when we first got it. Now, one other component of the interface that's not really a component of the interface, but this little Search field in the upper-right here - this will allow you to search After Effects' help while you are here in the program.
So, let's say I have a question about Motion Tracking or something. I can click in this field and type in motion tracking, and then I could hit Enter, and it will launch my Internet browser and take me to the spot in the After Effects Help that deals with Motion Tracking. So, this is a handy feature. Again, as you are a new user, this is critical. The documentation for After Effects is just fantastic as far as programs go. A lot of times, those manuals are just really confusing and overly technical, but a lot of Adobe's manuals are fantastic. But the ones for After Effects and even for like Photoshop, just phenomenal, wonderful documentation there.
So, that's the Interface Tour. Let's now get back into the program and figuring out how things work.
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