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Understanding compositions

From: After Effects CS6 Essential Training

Video: Understanding compositions

I like to think of compositions in After Effects much like a stage in a theater. It's the place where you set everything up for your final animation. To create a composition, all you have to do is go to the Project panel and click on this button down here at the bottom or go up to the Composition pulldown menu and choose New Composition. In here, we can name our composition or choose a custom preset. For this course, we're going to be using the preset DVCPRO HD 23.976.

Understanding compositions

I like to think of compositions in After Effects much like a stage in a theater. It's the place where you set everything up for your final animation. To create a composition, all you have to do is go to the Project panel and click on this button down here at the bottom or go up to the Composition pulldown menu and choose New Composition. In here, we can name our composition or choose a custom preset. For this course, we're going to be using the preset DVCPRO HD 23.976.

But of course, that's not going to be quite good enough. I'd like to change things a little bit more by changing the Width to 1280 and then click on the Pixel Aspect Ratio pulldown and make sure it's set to Square Pixels. I like working in Square Pixels with graphics just because I found, for me, it tends to make things a little bit easier. Now just for the sake of ease of use, I'd like to change my Frame Rate to 24. You can leave yours 23.976 but, like I said, my comps are going to be built at 24 frames a second. This is a standard frame rate for film.

Before we finish, make sure that Duration is set to 10 seconds. If yours isn't, just highlight the box and type 1000, and here you'll see you have a base of 10. So when we click OK, we have now created our first composition that's going to be 1280x720, 10 seconds long at 24 frames a second. Now I'm seeing that because it's selected here in my Project panel. When you double-click a composition, it opens up a tab in the timeline, and shows you the Composition panel here, which currently since there are no layers in my Comp 1 panel, there are no layers visible in my Comp window or in the timeline.

So let's switch compositions just by double-clicking the Logo_Animation comp in the Project panel. See when you double-click, it'll bring that project up to the front and show you everything that's in that specific comp. Like I have said before compositions are made up of layers. So you can see those in your timeline but also this window is called the Comp window, and this is where you can see a graphic representation as to what you're building. You can actually click in this window and move things around, if you want to kind of move some graphics around.

I'm just going to press Command+Z to undo that. But this is also the place where you can change things like the magnification. So if you want to make sure a graphic is sharp, click on the magnification and change it up to 100%. Here you can see my type looks pretty decent and I'm viewing at 100% magnification. The other thing you want to look at when you're working with comps is this pulldown here, the Resolution. I'm going to work at Full most of the time but if you have a slower machine, you might want to set it to Auto and it will automatically switch back and forth depending upon the resolution that you've set.

A lot of times, when you are working with compositions you may want to actually go back and change a setting. Let's say you created a composition at 10 seconds, and you want to make it 5 seconds. Well to change a composition all you have to do is select it in the Project panel and go up under the Composition menu and go to Comp Settings. I use the key command, Command+K or Ctrl+K on a PC. Now if we wanted to change our Duration I could just go ahead and change that right now by changing 10 to 05.

When I click OK, notice that will now change the length of my composition. So I notice that first, in my timeline down here at the bottom, but I could also notice that when I have the composition selected in the Project panel because it gives me that preview up here at the top. Now probably, at some point, you'll want to either rename a composition or rename a layer. And it's not quite as simple as you would think. It's not like you can just click on the name or double-click on the name and have it change.

What you need to do is select your composition and then press Return on your keyboard. Now I could rename this Template Comp and press Return to set it. Renaming layers works much the same way. Select the layer and press Return and here I could just call this Vig Blur and press Return. One thing when you're renaming layers in the timeline, if you click on this button up here, it'll change between the layer name and the original source name.

So if we click back on that, you can see this is the layer that I've renamed but when I click on it here I can see that the actual source is named Video_Edit_Pre. If I wanted to find this, I can go open the Project panel and actually start to type. Hey look, there it is! So you can search for things in your interface through the Project panel. Now let's clear that out and now we know how to rename layers, there is one other section of the interface we need to pay rather close attention to. And it has to do with the controls of your comp viewer.

So we'll start on the left and work our way to the right and I'll just point out some of the key ones. Obviously, the first one on the left here will control your magnification. This is the magnification pop-up. Now the next button to the right looks like crosshairs. Click and hold and notice we can enable Title/Action Safe. These are settings that we can use for reference in our composition. If we change our magnification back to 50%, now you can see these lines that pop-up in the screen. These lines will give us rules so we should keep all text inside of the inside box and all important graphics inside of the outer box.

All right, let's disable Title/Action Safe, and jump over to this Time button. If you click on this, that will move your current-time indicator to wherever you select. So let's say I want to move to 4 seconds, I'll type 400 and just press OK and notice now my current time indicator has moved to 4 seconds. So as you can see, yes the comp window and the timeline are tied together. This button that looks like red, green and blue little circles, if you click and hold on that, that will allow you to view the different channels, much like looking at different channels inside of Photoshop.

Now this pulldown, it says Full. If you click on that, this will set the resolution of the image that you're looking at in the comp viewer. I like to try and keep this on Auto. The reason being, notice when it's at 50% magnification and I set it to Auto, it switched to half. Now if I hover my mouse over the comp viewer and scroll up, I'm going to zoom in to the scene and it will automatically toggle with my magnification to full resolution. The black and white checkered button right here will toggle visibility.

In the Layer panel I want you to select Layer 2 and click this button right next to the eyeball. This empty switch area, if you click on that that will solo this layer, so that's the only layer you can see. Now notice in the comp viewer my view changed. So now if we enable this visibility button you can see, I get the black and white, or gray and white check box to show me the transparency of my scene. So let's turn off solo for this one layer and turn off transparency.

The next two pulldowns will deal primarily with viewing 3D compositions. So we will jump into that in the 3D chapter. The last one, I want you to pay really close attention to in the bottom of your comp viewer is the Fast Preview button. If you click on this, this will allow you to switch between different resolutions as you're working. One of the ones, I like to workout most is Adaptive Resolution. This way when I make changes either in my timeline or my composition window, it will down-res what we're looking at, just so we could kind of refresh the animation and give us a preview as to what's going on.

If you have your scene at 100% magnification, and full resolution, a lot of times you're trying to get exact placement or get a really sharp clear view of things. Sometimes when you're dealing with a 3D composition, the render time it takes to view that, you may want to click on this Fast Preview option and change to Fast Draft or a different resolution. Just understand when you switch this to off, it will redraw the scene at a high render quality. Also understand with that, at higher render quality it lowers the refresh rate.

So sometimes when you're trying to view an animation, it will take a little while longer to view what's going on in the scene when you're looking at it at a higher resolution. So now that you understand a little bit more about compositions, we're going to dive a little more deeply into layers in our next video.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for After Effects CS6 Essential Training
After Effects CS6 Essential Training

78 video lessons · 54964 viewers

Ian Robinson
Author

 
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 1m 8s
    1. What is After Effects?
      1m 8s
  2. 2m 53s
    1. Welcome
      1m 40s
    2. Using the exercise files
      1m 13s
  3. 1h 8m
    1. The six foundations of AE
      5m 3s
    2. Introducing the interface and the workspace
      7m 51s
    3. Understanding compositions
      8m 48s
    4. Getting comfortable with layers
      7m 33s
    5. Getting started with animation and keyframes
      8m 30s
    6. Understanding effects
      3m 26s
    7. Moving in 3D space
      7m 41s
    8. Rendering your first animation
      8m 20s
    9. Specifying preferences and cache settings
      5m 44s
    10. Staying organized
      5m 15s
  4. 38m 6s
    1. Creating compositions
      7m 19s
    2. Importing footage and compositions
      7m 54s
    3. Preparing compositions for animation
      8m 7s
    4. Introducing renderers
      3m 15s
    5. Understanding precomposing
      7m 16s
    6. Relinking missing footage
      4m 15s
  5. 59m 58s
    1. Defining layers
      6m 23s
    2. Creating type
      5m 58s
    3. Creating layer solids and shapes with masks
      7m 55s
    4. Building shape layers
      6m 17s
    5. Understanding switches and blend modes
      8m 26s
    6. Crafting custom shapes and masks
      6m 18s
    7. Creating variable-width feathered masks
      5m 1s
    8. Rotoscoping with the Roto Brush
      8m 20s
    9. Refining with the Roto Brush
      5m 20s
  6. 1h 8m
    1. Understanding keyframes
      6m 1s
    2. Adding and adjusting keyframes
      9m 54s
    3. Interpolating keyframes
      8m 5s
    4. Adjusting keyframes in the Graph Editor
      7m 17s
    5. Understanding positional keyframes
      7m 0s
    6. Controlling animation with parenting and the pick whip
      9m 57s
    7. Understanding animation paths
      6m 27s
    8. Timing to audio
      4m 41s
    9. Trimming and sliding edits
      5m 31s
    10. Swapping images
      4m 1s
  7. 29m 7s
    1. Layering multiple effects
      9m 13s
    2. Generating graphic effects with adjustment layers
      7m 28s
    3. Building backgrounds with effects
      6m 50s
    4. Creating animated strokes
      5m 36s
  8. 40m 15s
    1. Introducing cameras
      10m 3s
    2. Working with 3D layers
      6m 37s
    3. Positioning layers
      6m 13s
    4. Adding lights and working with Material Options
      9m 21s
    5. Using 3D precompositions
      2m 5s
    6. Adjusting depth of field
      5m 56s
  9. 28m 31s
    1. Caching and prerendering
      6m 33s
    2. Understanding the alpha channels
      5m 18s
    3. Using the Render Queue
      4m 34s
    4. Rendering with Adobe Media Encoder
      7m 15s
    5. Archiving finished projects
      4m 51s
  10. 44m 27s
    1. Creating type animators
      12m 16s
    2. Animating type in 3D space
      6m 35s
    3. Adding and animating type on a path
      8m 45s
    4. Composing 3D type
      8m 41s
    5. Animating shape layers
      8m 10s
  11. 32m 45s
    1. Creating stylized video
      6m 47s
    2. Retiming video footage
      9m 31s
    3. Retouching with the Rubber Stamp tool
      10m 19s
    4. Smoothing shaky camera footage
      6m 8s
  12. 14m 19s
    1. Understanding keying
      3m 19s
    2. Creating a garbage mask
      4m 27s
    3. Getting started with Keylight
      6m 33s
  13. 15m 56s
    1. Importing Photoshop documents
      6m 11s
    2. Importing Illustrator files
      4m 24s
    3. Working With Premiere Pro projects
      5m 21s
  14. 1h 15m
    1. Adjusting ray-tracing quality
      8m 19s
    2. Tracking footage
      8m 15s
    3. Extruding shapes
      8m 39s
    4. Bending layers
      8m 38s
    5. Adjusting ray-traced lighting and materials
      9m 22s
    6. Adding environment maps
      4m 58s
    7. Beginning compositing
      8m 52s
    8. Creating render passes
      10m 17s
    9. Building a final composite
      8m 14s
  15. 1m 8s
    1. What's next
      1m 8s

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