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Understanding precomposing

From: After Effects CS5 Essential Training

Video: Understanding precomposing

In this chapter, we are going to look at an important After Effects feature called Pre-composing. Basically, that is when you take a series of layers and group them together into another composition. There is a few reasons why you'd want to do that, and I have a few examples for you. So, hopefully that idea will crystallize as we go through these. Basically, I want to reiterate the problem we have with our last example. We had this biker girl who is biking and she's actually made up of several layers. There is pedals and a crank and the bike and she has two Legs, and there's a lot there.

Understanding precomposing

In this chapter, we are going to look at an important After Effects feature called Pre-composing. Basically, that is when you take a series of layers and group them together into another composition. There is a few reasons why you'd want to do that, and I have a few examples for you. So, hopefully that idea will crystallize as we go through these. Basically, I want to reiterate the problem we have with our last example. We had this biker girl who is biking and she's actually made up of several layers. There is pedals and a crank and the bike and she has two Legs, and there's a lot there.

So, animating her like kind of driving on the screen is a little bit more complex in that. So, what we are going to do is we are going to group these layers together into a composition that will be a layer in this composition. So, click on layer #6, the Biker Body layer - that's the topmost layer - and then hold the Shift key down and click on layer 12, the Biker Right Leg layer, which is an extreme tongue twister. With all of these layers selected, from layer 6 to layer 12, make sure they are all highlighted here, go to the Layer menu and choose Pre-compose.

You could also use the keyboard shortcut, Command+Shift+C or Ctrl+Shift+C on the PC. If you are new to After Effects, you might not need to worry about that. But if you want to be a pro in After Effects, this is one of those keyboard shortcuts that you almost always will use every time you open the program. So, I am going to select Pre- compose here, and I am going to call this PRECOMP, in capital letters, just so I know, visually, that this is a pre-composed composition. I'll call this bike girl for lack of a more intelligent-sounding comp name.

I'll go ahead and click OK. Now, what that did was it compressed all those layers or grouped all those layers into one composition. So, all those layers are still here and if we were to visually preview this composition, we wouldn't see any difference, visually. Just as far as organization goes, these are all now grouped in one nested composition. The benefit of that is that now as we open up this layer, we have access to all of the Transform properties for this entire group.

So, now we can go out to about here. Actually, let's go ahead and set a keyframe for right about there. Let's click the stopwatch for position because we want her to end up at about two seconds and six frames in. We want her to end up at this frame, at this spot, then move a little earlier, say about here. We'll drag the X axis - that's the left property of the position - to the right, and that will drive her offscreen there, exit stage right to you, bike girl.

Then as we preview this, the bike girl comes on in and actually, she starts animating a little bit earlier. So, what I can do is just click on this layer and drag it to the left, so her animation starts a little bit earlier. We just need to click and drag around our keyframes, drag them to the right a little bit and she comes in pedaling, like a champ.

But the real point here is that we can now operate all of these layers as if they were one whole, so we could scale them all together, and we can rotate them all together. We could fade them out or fade them in all together. So, it really is a great way, not only just to keep yourself organized, but to be able to affect multiple properties as one whole. Here is another example of how that's often used. I have this knight here, some great art from a buddy of mine named Will Kendrick.

He has this knife and he kind of stabs there, very cool. You could see all of the layers. This is a very complex character, and there are different layers for every single piece and component of this knight. So, as we scrub in time here, he stabs, and that's really cool. But what if we want to move this knight around or treat him as one and complete whole? Well, that's when we would pre-compose. So, here is the difference between not precomposed, and then here is the PRECOMPOSED (PRECOMP knight) layer, just one layer in a composition.

So, we could go over to like this castle scene here. I could go into my Project panel, find the PRECOMPOSED layer, which is the PRECOMPOSED knight, and drag this in, just as if it were some video element, although it's not a video; it's just a composition. But After Effects will treat it like a video. So, again, hit S for Scale and scale this guy down, really small, maybe about 10%, somewhere around there. Click and drag and move him wherever you'd like to put him in the scene and maybe even like 8% ,because 10% is too big.

You could see that he is stabbing there. He still has the same animation. What we could do is select this layer and hit Command+D on the Mac or Ctrl+D on the PC, which will duplicate that layer. We could click and drag and keep doing that. Ctrl+D to duplicate, Command+D on the Mac to duplicate. Oops! The duplicate's over here. If we wanted to, let me make one more duplicate here. I'll Command+D or Ctrl+D put this guy over here.

Open up S for Scale and if we unlink Scale, and then we take like, let's say, for example, the X axis to a negative value, it will actually flip the layer. So, if I type in -8, it flips this guy. So, now he is a bad guy or maybe he is defending the castle, and these guys are bad guys or something. He is on the opposing team. Also, you could see if we scale this, like one of the properties, too much, this is what happens. It kind of flips over on itself, which is a little bit weird, but it does allow you to completely flip a layer.

Now, I could then add a Color Affect, I could play with these in time, and we basically have a battle. Right now, it's kind of like a synchronized medieval knight stabbings. But if we were to offset these in time, play with colors a little bit, then we would have an army made very quickly through Pre-composing. You could imagine taking all of these crazy layers and putting them into this castle scene. It would just be impossible, because there will be too many layers, and we wouldn't be able to control the entire knight at once.

So, Pre-composing does good for organizing your scene, allowing you to apply transforms to a group of layers.

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This video is part of

Image for After Effects CS5 Essential Training
After Effects CS5 Essential Training

111 video lessons · 67183 viewers

Chad Perkins
Author

 
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 5m 40s
    1. Introduction
      1m 30s
    2. What is After Effects?
      3m 12s
    3. How to use the exercise files
      58s
  2. 28m 14s
    1. After Effects workflow overview
      2m 18s
    2. Bringing elements into After Effects
      2m 23s
    3. Adding elements to the Timeline
      1m 57s
    4. Working with layers
      3m 45s
    5. Creating animation with presets
      3m 24s
    6. Applying effects
      3m 34s
    7. Creating animation without presets
      5m 38s
    8. Previewing your work
      2m 46s
    9. Exporting content as a movie file
      2m 29s
  3. 27m 20s
    1. Touring the interface
      6m 2s
    2. How After Effects projects work
      4m 47s
    3. What is a composition?
      4m 52s
    4. Tips for adding content to compositions
      2m 49s
    5. Understanding the properties of video
      8m 50s
  4. 57m 8s
    1. Importing an Illustrator file
      4m 57s
    2. Animation basics
      7m 12s
    3. Animating opacity
      6m 40s
    4. Understanding anchor points
      4m 57s
    5. Animating position
      6m 8s
    6. Animating rotation
      4m 41s
    7. Animating scale
      7m 19s
    8. Using the Puppet tool
      7m 13s
    9. Copying and pasting keyframes
      3m 4s
    10. Animation shortcuts
      4m 57s
  5. 9m 42s
    1. Understanding precomposing
      6m 51s
    2. Navigating through compositions quickly
      2m 51s
  6. 1h 12m
    1. A showcase of effects
      2m 34s
    2. Creating a layer for effects
      3m 1s
    3. Applying effects
      4m 54s
    4. Animating effect properties
      4m 29s
    5. Using Glow
      5m 34s
    6. Creating patterns and textures
      6m 57s
    7. Creating a fireball
      7m 9s
    8. Using the Cycore effects
      5m 58s
    9. Adding blur
      5m 45s
    10. Creating a galaxy scene from scratch
      8m 38s
    11. Distorting objects with effects
      4m 7s
    12. Creating and using lens flares
      4m 21s
    13. Creating lightning bolts
      4m 3s
    14. Viewing random variations with Brainstorm
      4m 39s
  7. 30m 52s
    1. Shortening the duration of layers
      4m 23s
    2. Trimming in the Footage panel
      4m 14s
    3. Slowing and accelerating video speed
      7m 9s
    4. Applying video transitions between clips
      6m 7s
    5. Working with image sequences
      4m 47s
    6. Importing footage with an alpha channel
      4m 12s
  8. 36m 11s
    1. Brightening dark footage
      9m 12s
    2. Changing colors in footage
      6m 34s
    3. Creating cinematic color treatments
      8m 17s
    4. Creating a quick vignette
      3m 42s
    5. Colorizing black-and-white objects
      4m 50s
    6. Using adjustment layers
      3m 36s
  9. 21m 9s
    1. Creating and editing text
      7m 39s
    2. Applying text animation presets
      4m 41s
    3. Animating text manually
      4m 43s
    4. Applying layer styles to text
      4m 6s
  10. 28m 58s
    1. Let's get better
      37s
    2. Using work areas
      3m 37s
    3. Creating markers
      6m 17s
    4. Replacing layers
      2m 35s
    5. Mastering Timeline navigation
      3m 18s
    6. Aligning and distributing layers
      3m 4s
    7. Selecting layers quickly
      1m 56s
    8. Cropping layers
      3m 43s
    9. Adjusting comp resolution
      3m 51s
  11. 23m 53s
    1. Using the paint tools
      9m 35s
    2. Using the Roto Brush tool
      9m 25s
    3. Animating growing vines
      4m 53s
  12. 40m 29s
    1. Creating and using masks
      6m 42s
    2. Exploring mask options
      7m 57s
    3. Creating masks with Auto-trace
      6m 51s
    4. Masking objects with other objects
      5m 33s
    5. Making shape layers
      3m 43s
    6. Modifying shape layers
      9m 43s
  13. 30m 44s
    1. Turning 2D layers into 3D layers
      9m 22s
    2. Creating lights and cameras
      6m 14s
    3. Creating shadows
      4m 23s
    4. Using depth of field
      4m 42s
    5. Working with 3D effects
      6m 3s
  14. 18m 10s
    1. Removing a green screen background
      4m 37s
    2. Refining the matte
      4m 48s
    3. Compositing with color adjustments
      4m 50s
    4. Compositing with blend modes
      3m 55s
  15. 25m 44s
    1. Understanding spatial interpolation
      2m 5s
    2. Creating and adjusting motion paths
      3m 55s
    3. Orienting moving objects along a path
      1m 29s
    4. Drawing motion with Motion Sketch
      2m 51s
    5. Creating pauses in animation
      3m 6s
    6. Understanding temporal interpolation
      1m 56s
    7. Easing keyframes
      5m 57s
    8. About the Graph Editor
      4m 25s
  16. 12m 13s
    1. Stabilizing shaky footage
      7m 46s
    2. Tracking the motion in footage
      4m 27s
  17. 24m 58s
    1. Setting up parent layers
      5m 49s
    2. Working with null objects
      2m 31s
    3. What are expressions?
      7m 17s
    4. Modifying simple expressions
      2m 20s
    5. Using the wiggle expression
      7m 1s
  18. 6m 52s
    1. Understanding audio in motion graphics
      1m 22s
    2. Previewing and mixing audio
      3m 55s
    3. Enhancing audio tracks with effects
      1m 35s
  19. 11m 36s
    1. Adding comps to the Render Queue
      2m 30s
    2. Exploring key Render Queue settings
      4m 11s
    3. How should I export my video?
      4m 55s
  20. 7m 16s
    1. Using Photoshop with After Effects
      2m 10s
    2. Using Illustrator with After Effects
      3m 2s
    3. Using Flash with After Effects
      2m 4s
  21. 11s
    1. Goodbye
      11s

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