After Effects CC Essential Training
Illustration by John Hersey

Understanding compositions


After Effects CC Essential Training

with Ian Robinson

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Video: Understanding compositions

Now in order to get a fresh start, on how to understand compositions, we're just going to start with a blank project here. And I'm going to take you through a couple different ways, we can create compositions inside of After Effects. Now, the first way is rather simple, all you have to do is go up under composition, and choose new composition. In the composition settings dialog box, click on the preset pull-down, and you'll notice we have a whole bunch of resolutions that we could choose with different presets. The one I want you to choose is this HDV/HDTV 720 2997.
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  1. 1m 8s
    1. What is After Effects?
      1m 8s
  2. 1h 5m
    1. Welcome
      1m 11s
    2. Using the exercise files (CC 2014.1)
      1m 57s
    3. Using the exercise files
      1m 19s
    4. Understanding and managing applications with Creative Cloud (CC 2014.1)
      2m 32s
    5. Which versions of After Effects CC does this course cover? (CC 2014.1)
      1m 40s
    6. Relinking missing footage
      1m 54s
    7. Working with keyboard shortcuts
      1m 23s
    8. Different ways to use After Effects
    9. Exploring the interface of After Effects (CC 2014.1)
      13m 22s
    10. Exploring the interface of After Effects
      12m 0s
    11. Exploring important preferences, and setting up the cache (CC 2014.1)
      8m 44s
    12. Exploring important preferences and setting up the cache
      6m 20s
    13. Video terminology (CC 2014.1)
      6m 19s
    14. Video terminology
      4m 24s
    15. Updating After Effects with Creative Cloud
      1m 25s
  3. 1h 0m
    1. The six foundations of After Effects
      11m 5s
    2. Understanding compositions
      10m 35s
    3. Creating and manipulating layers
      9m 49s
    4. Building animation
      6m 29s
    5. Working with effects
      7m 5s
    6. Introduction to 3D
      8m 45s
    7. Understanding how to render
      6m 48s
  4. 38m 54s
    1. Importing elements
      5m 53s
    2. Organizing projects
      3m 51s
    3. Building compositions with layers
      6m 17s
    4. Animating with keyframes
      10m 0s
    5. Adding effects and graphics
      8m 7s
    6. Output techniques
      4m 46s
  5. 44m 49s
    1. Exploring composition and project settings
      6m 48s
    2. Importing Photoshop files as compositions
      8m 39s
    3. Importing Illustrator files as compositions
      7m 41s
    4. Viewing files in the comp panel
      4m 42s
    5. Understanding Pre-compose
      4m 21s
    6. Positioning layers with snapping
      4m 55s
    7. Interpreting footage
      4m 0s
    8. Keyboard shortcuts for compositions
      3m 43s
  6. 1h 5m
    1. Defining layers
      5m 4s
    2. Creating type layers
      7m 38s
    3. Precise typesetting techniques
      5m 42s
    4. Creating layer solids and shapes with masks
      9m 6s
    5. Creating design elements with shape layers
      6m 10s
    6. Layer compositing: Masks, switches, and blend modes
      7m 35s
    7. Using track mattes
      4m 49s
    8. Precise compositing with variable-width feathered masks
      9m 24s
    9. Working smarter by swapping layers
      7m 6s
    10. Keyboard shortcuts for layers
      2m 35s
  7. 1h 36m
    1. Understanding animation
      6m 20s
    2. Adding and adjusting keyframes
      9m 52s
    3. Understanding keyframe interpolation (CC 2014.1)
      8m 52s
    4. Understanding keyframe interpolation
      6m 20s
    5. Adjusting keyframes in the Graph Editor
      8m 26s
    6. The power of parenting
      5m 27s
    7. Using null objects
      6m 46s
    8. Creating expressions with the pick whip
      6m 25s
    9. Creating and adjusting motion paths
      9m 56s
    10. Building complex graphics with Pre-compose
      4m 54s
    11. Preparing audio for animation
      8m 57s
    12. Generating graphics with audio
      9m 13s
    13. Working smarter: Navigating the Timeline
      4m 32s
  8. 58m 59s
    1. Understanding the order of effects
      5m 58s
    2. Generating backgrounds with effects
      5m 33s
    3. Generating a scribble effect
      8m 12s
    4. Animating strokes with effects
      6m 37s
    5. Using adjustment layers
      5m 52s
    6. Adding gradients and glows
      4m 30s
    7. Saving pan and scan presets
      5m 20s
    8. Fixing exposure with Levels
      3m 5s
    9. Fixing color casts with Color Finesse 3
      9m 57s
    10. Masking individual effects
      3m 55s
  9. 1h 17m
    1. Understanding 3D in After Effects
      9m 2s
    2. Intro to cameras (CC 2014.1)
      10m 50s
    3. Intro to cameras
      7m 51s
    4. Intro to lights and material options
      8m 56s
    5. Animating cameras (CC 2014.1)
      11m 11s
    6. Animating cameras
      12m 39s
    7. Creating depth of field
      6m 48s
    8. Exploring the ray-traced 3D renderer
      10m 8s
  10. 3h 40m
    1. Understanding CINEMA 4D Lite and After Effects (CC 2014.1)
      1m 53s
    2. Understanding CINEMA 4D Lite and After Effects
      1m 32s
    3. 3D foundations (CC 2014.1)
      9m 49s
    4. 3D foundations
      10m 43s
    5. Matching CINEMA 4D Lite and After Effects projects (CC 2014.1)
      7m 14s
    6. Matching CINEMA 4D Lite and After Effects projects
      8m 9s
    7. Understanding the CINEMA 4D Lite interface (CC 2014.1)
      9m 49s
    8. Understanding the CINEMA 4D Lite interface
      7m 31s
    9. Creating 3D projects from Illustrator files (CC 2014.1)
      7m 20s
    10. Creating 3D projects from Illustrator files
      7m 28s
    11. Exploring modeling in CINEMA 4D Lite (CC 2014.1)
      11m 7s
    12. Exploring modeling in CINEMA 4D Lite
      8m 8s
    13. Applying deformers (CC 2014.1)
      4m 50s
    14. Applying deformers
      5m 59s
    15. Understanding materials (CC 2014.1)
      10m 29s
    16. Understanding materials
      7m 32s
    17. Lighting your scene (CC 2014.1)
      11m 20s
    18. Lighting your scene
      8m 14s
    19. Looking at detailed materials
      7m 51s
    20. Working with presets (materials and lights) (CC 2014.1)
      7m 44s
    21. Animating in CINEMA 4D Lite (CC 2014.1)
      5m 52s
    22. Animating in CINEMA 4D Lite
      6m 51s
    23. Adjusting keyframes in CINEMA 4D Lite (CC 2014.1)
      7m 42s
    24. Animating cameras in CINEMA 4D Lite (CC 2014.1)
      5m 49s
    25. Animating cameras in CINEMA 4D Lite
      5m 45s
    26. Working with CINEWARE (CC 2014.1)
      8m 11s
    27. Working with CINEWARE
      9m 38s
    28. Render settings and the multipass workflow (CC 2014.1)
      7m 28s
    29. Render settings and the multipass workflow
      8m 38s
  11. 23m 35s
    1. Rendering with Adobe Media Encoder
      4m 45s
    2. Recommended settings for rendering graphics
      10m 21s
    3. Creating presets in the Render Queue
      4m 0s
    4. Prerendering with Import and Replace Usage
      3m 18s
    5. Working smarter: One render, multiple outputs
      1m 11s
  12. 36m 53s
    1. Creating type animators
      8m 52s
    2. Creating and animating type on a path
      5m 32s
    3. Animating shape layers
      8m 45s
    4. Animating brushstrokes with Paint
      5m 54s
    5. Animating text and prepairing templates for use in Premiere Pro (CC 2014.1)
      7m 50s
  13. 23m 31s
    1. Retiming with Time Remapping
      8m 56s
    2. Retiming footage with Timewarp
      9m 10s
    3. Smoothing shaky camera footage with Warp Stabilizer VFX
      5m 25s
  14. 16m 6s
    1. Getting started with Keylight
      8m 43s
    2. Refining your key with Keylight
      3m 42s
    3. Cleaning up keys with masks
      3m 41s
  15. 26m 47s
    1. Rotoscoping with paths
      6m 47s
    2. Introducing the Roto Brush
      5m 58s
    3. Refining the Roto Brush
      6m 12s
    4. Using the Refine Edge tool
      7m 50s
  16. 27m 13s
    1. Creating a single point track
      7m 38s
    2. Applying motion with Warp Stabilizer VFX
      4m 29s
    3. Warp Stabilizer VFX: Reversible Stabilization workflow
      7m 47s
    4. Solving cameras
      7m 19s
  17. 6m 30s
    1. Archiving your projects
      3m 50s
    2. Removing unused footage
      1m 25s
    3. Moving compositions between projects in After Effects
      1m 15s
  18. 2m 24s
    1. What's next?
      2m 24s

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After Effects CC Tutorials | Essential Training
14h 52m Appropriate for all Jun 17, 2013 Updated Nov 03, 2014

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

Delve into the world of motion graphics, keying, and compositing in After Effects CC. In this course, Ian Robinson lays out six foundations for becoming proficient with After Effects, including concepts such as layers, keyframe animation, and working with 3D. To help you get up and running with the program, the course begins with a project-based chapter on creating an animated graphic bumper. Next, explore the role layers play in compositions and find out how to add style to your projects using effects and graphic elements. Last, see how to build 3D objects with CINEMA 4D Lite, as well as stabilize footage, solve for 3D cameras, and paint in graphics with the Reverse Stabilization feature.

Topics include:
  • Video terminology
  • Creating your first composition
  • Using layers, masks, blend modes, and track mattes
  • Parenting objects
  • Building complex objects with Pre-compose
  • Exploring the ray-traced 3D renderer
  • Understanding the order of effects
  • Creating 3D projects from Illustrator files
  • Lighting a scene
  • Animating type on a path
  • Using Keylight for green-screen footage
  • Rotoscoping
  • Archiving projects
After Effects
Ian Robinson

Understanding compositions

Now in order to get a fresh start, on how to understand compositions, we're just going to start with a blank project here. And I'm going to take you through a couple different ways, we can create compositions inside of After Effects. Now, the first way is rather simple, all you have to do is go up under composition, and choose new composition. In the composition settings dialog box, click on the preset pull-down, and you'll notice we have a whole bunch of resolutions that we could choose with different presets. The one I want you to choose is this HDV/HDTV 720 2997.

Now, the next set of options here allow you to go ahead and change whatever this presets are. So, if I wanted to keep working at 16 by 9, but I wanted to say have width of 1600, I could do that. It will automatically change what I had import as long as I have aspect ratio selected. I'm going to press escape since I don't want to do that. Let's go back up under composition, new composition, HDTV 7282997. Now pixel aspect ratio is set to square which is perfect, the frame rate, you can leave it at 2997, or click on the pull down, I'm just going to choose this 23976 just so we have less frames to work with.

The resolution setting is kind of interesting. Resolution is just the resolution that After Effects will work at, as you're building something. So, you can work at a lower resolution if you're building something that's extraordinarily complex. Now start time code is rather interesting. When you import QuickTime files, if they have time code embedded. Whenever you create a composition based on that time file it'll automatically choose that start time code for the composition. Now you can specify your own start time code if you choose.

Now the duration default is whatever duration you had set up the last time you created a composition. Now the last composition I had created. Was based off of the duration of a clip that was rather long. So, here I'm going to go ahead and highlight this field and change the duration to ten seconds just by typing 1,000 here. Over here you can see ten seconds. Background Color we can leave set to black and just click OK. Now anytime you've created a composition, it automatically opens the Layers panel and the Comp panel.

Now let's go ahead and rename our composition, just so we're familiar with how to do that. When you select any object in the project panel, you can then pres Return on your keyboard and then rename. So let's go ahead and call this simple comp. And then go ahead and press Return whenever you're ready to set that as your comp title. Now, in order to see anything in this composition, we need to actually create some elements. So, I'm going to go to my tool pallet here, and use some of these create tools. Let's start by just clicking this box, or the rectangle tool.

If you click and hold, you can see a bunch of different options you could create. I just want to use the rectangle tool. So I'll choose that. And then just click and draw a box around the lower region of your project. Now obviously you can choose what ever size or setting you want to use for your graphic. I'm just drawing roughly this size towards the lower third of the area. Notice when I go to create this shape I have options to change for that shape. Now I'm not going to mess with this specific graphic for any extended period of time.

I just want you to understand when you set up a composition. You have composition panel settings that you can set adjustments to. So, for example, right now I have a stroke of two set to this shape, but I can't see that stroke, because of the handles that are on that shape. If you come down to the lower left corner of the composition panel. You'll notice there's this button here, that toggles the mask and shape path visibility off and on. If I turn that off, now you can see that shape and I still have these control handles that would allow me to go ahead and change the size of this shape.

Now just so I don't accidentally create another shape, I'm going to go back up over to my tool pallet. Just grab the selection tool. Now if you toggle visibility of your mask or shape on and off, just make sure to pay attention to what this button setting was set up at. Because if you turn it off and turn it back up again sometimes you can get kind of confused as to what your looking at. So I'm going to turn that back on. Within the composition panel, if I were to change how something is viewed in the composition panel, I need to go to the upper right hand corner for that panel, and go down under my view options.

Let's say I want to get rid of the layer handles. Well, here I can deselect the handles or the layer controls. Now, when I click OK. Notice everything is deselected even though I have my shape selected. So you can actually change the view options, just by clicking up under this pull down. So, I want to make sure to enable everything and then just click OK again. All right, so we learned about the fly out menu in the upper right. We learned about some of the shortcut buttons. Let's look at some of the other shortcut buttons.

This one down here over on the left is your magnification. What this controls is how close or far away you are from the object, or the composition that you're working on. So, let's say, 50% magnification, I can make it fit into a much smaller area. Now, just so we have a perspective as to what we're dealing with, I want to go ahead and import some video footage. So, let's go back to the project panel. And just Double-click. Here in the project panel, navigate in our exercise files folder to your footage folder.

In there I want you to go into the video folder. Once inside the video folder, let's select the Sprint Start mov, and click Open to import it into the project. Now if I want to add this to my composition, I could just drag it and drop it right down into my comp. Now, if I want to view a different part of that video file, I can just click and drag on that file to reposition where it starts in my composition. Now I want you to notice the handles for this layer are outside of my composition view.

If you select the simple comp, its size is 1280 by 720. But if I select my video file, its size is 2048 by 1080. So it's larger. So, if I just click on this layer I can move it around, and actually animate the video within my composition itself. This is one of the reasons that you may want to actually change in the magnification at different points. Now I'm going to switch it back up to 200%. The next button over here, just allows me to move to a specific point in time. This button takes a snapshot.

So if I click, I can see exactly what that snapshot looks like at any given time. So, let's say if I move further down the time line, I want to compare our runner's positions. So let's move down to about four seconds. Let's just see how far he's moved, if I click the next button here, it will show me my snap shot, so I have a reference for that change in the composition. This pull-down will allow me to choose what channel I'm viewing, just like going to the Channels Panel inside of Photoshop. Now, this next pull-down will adjust the resolution along with the magnification.

So, if you have it set to auto, watch what happens. When I change my magnification to 50%. Now my resolution is set to half. I generally recommend that you leave that resolution pull down set to auto. So I'll switch my magnification back to fit up to 100%. Now, a lot of these other options depend on whether you're working in 2D or 3D. So I'm not going to jump into those. I want you to go to this box that looks like, it has a lighting bolt in it. If you click and hold this will allow you to chose different resolutions to work in as you are scrubbing through your project.

So for example, if I had 30 different layers in this project, and they were all 3D layers it would take a very long time to render. So, when I was working, I may want to actually switch it into Wireframe mode. This way I can still see I have two layers, but no matter where I move, everything's going to refresh rather quickly. I can also go into Fast Draft mode, where it doesn't quite render all the effects and things the same way, so it speeds things up. I generally work at adaptive resolution. This way, as I'm scrubbing through, notice the resolution may change.

And if you look in the upper right corner of the composition panel, you can see my adaptive resolution has changed now to one 8th, just so it can kind of keep the refresh moving as I am scrubbing through my timeline. Now we've learned how to create compositions from scratch by going up under composition, new composition. But I could also create a composition based on a video file. So, if I click on that and drag it down to the new comp button, there we go. I've created a brand new composition. And it's set up at 2048 by 1080, based on the settings of my QuickTime file.

Now let's just say for whatever reason we need to change our comp settings. You can always go back and change your comp settings by going up under Composition. And choosing Composition Settings. Whatever project you're currently in, or whichever project you have selected in the Project panel, it'll open that composition's settings. So, here if I want to change my preset for this back to that HDV/HDTV setting, I can. And I'll just go ahead and change my frame rate back to 23976 here, and then just click OK.

And now, just so we can see what that's done, let's change our magnification down to 50%. And sure enough, you can see our layer is larger than our composition. Just like the simple comp that we created earlier. So the last thing I want to tell you about compositions is the fact that you can have multiple compositions in your project. So, notice when we created two compositions, we have multiple compositions. After Effects can important and create numerous compositions inside of your project.

Once you have these comps built, you can go ahead and use these as sources in new comps. So, you can embed comps in other comps, kind of like nesting in your favorite nonlinear editor. So when it comes to compositions. They do have a direct relationship with the layers, but they are separate containers. It's just really important to pay attention to what resolution you're working at, when you're creating your comp settings. As you first get started, I generally recommend creating your compositions based on the video files, that you may be working with as your source footage.

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about After Effects CC Essential Training .

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Q: This course was updated on 6/18/2014. What changed?
A: We added new movies to the "Fundamentals of After Effects" chapter, reorganized and re-recorded the "Up and Running" and "Keying Green Screen Footage" chapters, and added new movies on Color Finesse 3 and masking individual effects.
Q: When I try to open a project file, After Effects tells me I need to update my system, since the file was made with version 13.0. But I already installed the most recent After Effects update. Why can't I open the project?
A: In the latest round of updates, Adobe chose to create a completely new installer for this latest version. While you may have updated the version of After Effects CC you have installed (12.x), there is an entirely new After Effects install for 2014 (13.0). Check for an After Effects CC (2014) item in the Creative Cloud app and download and install it from there. 
After you install the new version, you should be able to open 13.0 projects. After Effects CC (2014) will coexist with the older version of After Effects on your machine. If you currently have any shortcuts on your computer to launch After Effects, you may have to go back into the Programs folder and create a new shortcut to the newer version, After Effects 2014.
Q: This course was updated on 11/03/2014. What changed?
A: We updated 25 movies to reflect changes to the Creative Cloud 2014 release of After Effects. This includes the new optimized user interface and enhanced Cineware and CINEMA 4D Lite pipeline. The new movies are labeled with the "(CC 2014.1)" tag.
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