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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.
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