After Effects CS6 Essential Training
Illustration by John Hersey

Understanding switches and blend modes


After Effects CS6 Essential Training

with Ian Robinson

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Video: Understanding switches and blend modes

Now that we've started to learn how to create different kinds of layers, let's see how we can use switches and modes to add yet another layer of flexibility to our compositions. In this video we're going to blend our graphics into the background video and also use the transparency data of one layer to create a mask for another layer. Before we go too far into blend modes, it's important to remember which renderer we'll be using, as the Ray-traced Renderer does not support blend modes, track mattes or layer styles for 3D layers.
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  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 16s
    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 22s
    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 28s
    1. Creating type animators
      12m 17s
    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 20s
    1. Understanding keying
      3m 19s
    2. Creating a garbage mask
      4m 27s
    3. Getting started with Keylight
      6m 34s
  13. 15m 57s
    1. Importing Photoshop documents
      6m 11s
    2. Importing Illustrator files
      4m 25s
    3. Working With Premiere Pro projects
      5m 21s
  14. 1h 15m
    1. Adjusting ray-tracing quality
      8m 19s
    2. Tracking footage
      8m 16s
    3. Extruding shapes
      8m 40s
    4. Bending layers
      8m 39s
    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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Watch the Online Video Course After Effects CS6 Essential Training
8h 41m Beginner May 07, 2012

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

In this course, author Ian Robinson introduces Adobe After Effects CS6 and the world of animation, effects, and compositing. Chapter 1 introduces the six foundations of After Effects, which include concepts like layers, keyframes, rendering, and moving in 3D space. The rest of the course expands on these ideas, and shows how to build compositions with layers, perform rotoscoping, animate your composition with keyframes, add effects and transitions, and render and export the finished piece. Two real-world example projects demonstrate keying green screen footage and creating an advanced 3D composition with the expanded 3D toolset, an important addition to CS6.

Topics include:
  • Setting up the workspace, important preferences, and the cache
  • Importing footage and comps
  • Relinking missing footage
  • Creating type, shape layers, and masks
  • Rotoscoping with the Roto Brush
  • Adjusting keyframes in the Graph Editor
  • Timing animations to audio
  • Building backgrounds with effects
  • Rendering with the Render Queue and Adobe Media Encoder
  • Animating 3D type
  • Smoothing shaky footage and retouching footage
  • Keying green screen footage
  • Working with 3D: extruding shapes, adding ray-traced lighting, and more
After Effects
Ian Robinson

Understanding switches and blend modes

Now that we've started to learn how to create different kinds of layers, let's see how we can use switches and modes to add yet another layer of flexibility to our compositions. In this video we're going to blend our graphics into the background video and also use the transparency data of one layer to create a mask for another layer. Before we go too far into blend modes, it's important to remember which renderer we'll be using, as the Ray-traced Renderer does not support blend modes, track mattes or layer styles for 3D layers.

Now even though we don't have any 3D layers in here, it's still important to make sure the comp is selected and press Command+K, because we want to go to the Advanced tab and just get in the habit of changing the Renderer from Ray-traced to Classic if you know you're going to be doing a lot of blend modes. So let's press OK, and now I want to look at our comp a little bit closer. If we hover our mouse over the canvas and scroll up with our mouse, then we can press the Spacebar to grab our Hand tool and move in a little more closely.

I want to start with this Charlie Winters layer, and we're going to look at modes first. Now if you don't see this column of modes right here, you need to go to this button in the lower left corner of the timeline. The second one in will toggle your modes. Within the modes we have the Modes and Track Mattes. Let's start with Modes. If we click on the Normal pulldown here and then scroll down so we can pop this up a little more clearly, you can see these are actually divided into groups.

While I'd love to sit here and go through each individual one of these, we don't have time for that; we have to learn After Effects as a whole. So I'm going to give you a tip. When you look at these, you want to look at them in groups and then kind of choose different ones within the groups based on what you know about how that group functions. To give you a quick overview, the first category is the normal category, so that's how layers typically work with the transparency and that kind of thing. The next layer here, this is called the subtractive category.

I'd like to think of it because it darkens things. So let's choose Multiply for the Charlie Winters layer and you'll notice that any white pixel is actually knocked out. And since it had a black drop shadow underneath of it, we can still see that. You can definitely click back into your modes and choose some of the other ones to see how they function. But let's move to the next one; this is the additive category. These modes tend to lighten colors by mixing with the layers below.

So let's choose Screen. See when we choose Screen, any of the black pixels are knocked out and then the white pixels are allowed to show through. I'm specifically using this Charlie Winters layer because it is black and white. But things get a lot more interesting when you start blending colored layers. So let's change our text layer back to normal and then I show some of these other groups. If we select our Cyan Solid right here, if I turn its visibility off and on, you can see it does have quite an effect in terms of building our graphic.

But it's already set to a Multiply mode. Now just so we can accentuate how things are working, let's press T to make sure that our Opacity is set to 100%. Now with the Cyan Solids selected, let's go back into our modes and look at the next group. The next group is called the complex category. These modes blend with the layers below depending upon how bright or dark the colors are underneath or above 50% gray.

The difference category is interesting because it kind of compares the layer that we have selected with the layers below, and that it blends those together based on how different they are. So let's just choose let's say Classic Difference. And here you can see we've created all kinds of funky colors. Now obviously that's not quite the look I'm going for, but hey, if you wanted something bright and colorful, that's always a great place to go. This group down here is kind of interesting; it's just blends one color with one or more colors of the components of the layers below, whether it's the Hue, the Saturation, the Color or the Luminosity.

I just like to think of this as it plays with the colors and if I choose the different ones, I can see how that works. If you really want an in-depth look at all of these different modes, you should definitely check out Deke McClelland's course in our library. It's called Photoshop Masking & Compositing: Advanced Blending. This is a great course and even though it's in Photoshop, the engine behind Photoshop and After Effects is the same when it comes to blend modes. So anything you learn in there will directly translate into After Effects.

Now for these last two groups, I will come back to these momentarily after we learn about Track Mattes. To use Track Mattes, I want to go back up to our Charlie Winters layer. Let's select that, and we can leave our cyan set to this Classic mode for right now. Now with our Charlie Winters layer, the way Track Mattes work, even though I want to use Charlie Winters as the source, you need to start with the layer directly below the text layer. Now if I'm looking at the layer below it's our kinetECO logo, and since these don't overlap, I'll just move the Charlie Winters text right above our Cyan Solid.

Now we should be able to see how this works. If we've select our Cyan Solid layer and go over into its Track Matte pulldown and choose Alpha Matte, notice it's automatically looking at the layer directly above Charlie Winters. So if we select Charlie Winters, now it's going to use the alpha transparency of the Charlie Winters layer to generate a matte. Now it's also creating an interesting mix, because after it's using the Alpha Channel of the type to create a matte, it's also still blending the cyan color with the background layers.

I know you're thinking, well what if I want this type to cut out absolutely everything below it? Well, you wouldn't want to use a Track Matte for that unless you were planning on taking all the layers below and pre-composing those layers. I know in previous videos we talked about pre-composing and how blend modes transfer or don't transfer based on the Collapsed Transform button, but honestly, this little tip I'm going to show you is going to save you having to think about that. So let's change the Alpha Matte Track Matte, back to No Track Matte and then select the Charlie Winters layer, click on its Mode pulldown, and if we scroll down to the bottom, the last two groups are kind of fun.

These are the matte categories and basically the way they work, they're going to take the Alpha data or the luminance data and create a stencil or a cut-out of that layer and apply that to every single layer below it. So let's choose Stencil Alpha and notice nothing's happening, because we need to turn on the visibility of the text layer. Once we do that notice both the text and its drop shadow are cutting through all of the layers below.

And if I took this layer and moved it down, you notice it's going through this other shape, because this shape layer is above. So if you want that cut-out just move it below the text layer and now that's cut out as well. I'm going to stop here, because I think I've given you quite a lot when it comes to learning about modes and Track Mattes. Really, I have to say that I have a secret love affair with switches and blend modes. See, Track Mattes give you the flexibility to animate a source and know that any changes will be updated in the matte, because that layer is always being referenced.

Now I think blend modes are awesome because I view them as the secret sauce for getting all of my layers to work together to create one cohesive look.

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