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After Effects Apprentice 02: Basic Animation
Illustration by John Hersey

Understanding the background color


From:

After Effects Apprentice 02: Basic Animation

with Chris Meyer and Trish Meyer

Video: Understanding the background color

I thought it would be helpful to explain the significance of the background color to After Effects. This composition has a black background color. The background color indicates which areas are transparent. You can also see which areas of the comp are transparent by selecting the alpha channel from the RGB channels pop-up. Any areas that are solid white are fully opaque. Any areas that are black indicate full transparency. Wherever you see shades of gray, you are looking at shades of transparency.

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After Effects Apprentice 02: Basic Animation
2h 19m Beginner Jan 25, 2011 Updated Nov 09, 2012

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Trish Meyer leads beginners through a gentle introduction to Adobe After Effects: from creating a new project and importing sources, through arranging and animating layers, applying effects, and creating variations, to rendering the final movie. However, this is no paint-by-numbers exercise. Trish demonstrates how she makes creative decisions and saves time through the use of keyboard shortcuts and smart working practices. Additional movies explain further details about how After Effects works under the hood. Her measured pace helps even those completely new to After Effects understand the program so that they can use it effectively on their own projects. Exercise files are included with the course.

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:
  • Starting a project from scratch
  • Building a composition
  • Arranging and transforming layers interactively and numerically
  • Animating parameters including motion paths
  • Applying and re-using effects
  • Creating variations and rendering the final movie
  • Importing layered Photoshop files
  • Understanding alpha channels
  • Avoiding common mistakes
Subjects:
Video Motion Graphics Visual Effects
Software:
After Effects
Authors:
Chris Meyer Trish Meyer

Understanding the background color

I thought it would be helpful to explain the significance of the background color to After Effects. This composition has a black background color. The background color indicates which areas are transparent. You can also see which areas of the comp are transparent by selecting the alpha channel from the RGB channels pop-up. Any areas that are solid white are fully opaque. Any areas that are black indicate full transparency. Wherever you see shades of gray, you are looking at shades of transparency.

I will toggle off the alpha channel and turn off the transparency grid. Now sometimes the black background color is not that useful. You can change it in CS5 under Composition settings; in CS4, Background Color is a menu item under Composition. So if I change the background color to white, I can clearly see the drop shadow effects on the video layers and the title. Just to make it clear that the background color is transparency, let me create a new solid layer.

I will make this white, and any size will do. There is my white solid. If I align the solid to the top of the comp, I can't see the difference between the white solid and the white background, unless I turn on the transparency grid, or view the alpha channel. Now, you can see the white solid exists in RGB color space, just like the videos.

So by all means, go ahead and change the background color to whatever color is most useful, but be aware that if you render with an alpha channel, the background color will be the transparent areas. Let me delete the white solid, and show you one more example. In my second composition, I have a row of snowflakes on a blue background. The blue was created with the background color. Now we haven't done nesting yet; we will do that in a later lesson. But all I mean by nesting is that I can take the Snowflake composition in the Project panel and simply drag it to the main composition, just as if I'd drag in a movie.

However, you'll notice the blue background color has disappeared. That's because the blue background is transparency. So when I nest it, it drops out. If I want to see that blue background, I need to create it in RGB color space. I can do that with a solid layer or a shape layer. Now we will get to shape layers in the future lesson, so let's just create a solid layer since you know how to do that. On problem I found with eyedropper-ing a color is that it won't eyedropper the background color.

So if want this exact color, this is simple trick. I can open the Composition settings, click on the color swatch, and copy the value for that color. Now when I create a new solid, I can click on the color swatch and paste that value. The solid appears at the top of the comps, so I will just drag it down to the bottom. When I toggle on and off the solid, there is no difference in this comp between viewing the solid blue color and the background blue color. But there is a big difference when I return to the main composition.

Unlike the background color, the solid layer will be visible in the next comp. So I hope that explains a little more about background colors versus solid layers, and when you might need to use one versus the other.

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Q: This course was updated on 11/09/2012. What changed?
A: We added new movies on using the exercise files that come with this course, and working with the Global Performance Cache in After Effects CS6. We have also added exercise files designed for After Effects CS6.
 
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