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In After Effects CS5 Essential Training, author Chad Perkins discusses the basic tools, effects, and need-to-know techniques in Adobe After Effects CS5, the professional standard for motion graphics, compositing, and visual effects for video. The course provides an overview of the entire workflow, from import to export, as well as detailed coverage of each stage, including animating text and artwork, adding effects to compositions, working in 3D, and rendering and compressing footage. Exercise files are included with the course.
Adjustment layers are basically kind of dummy layers that affect everything beneath them. So, for example, in this scene here, what we are looking at, if I toggle the visibility of these layers, is a composite, which we will be looking at in detail later on in this training series, composite of this video of moving scenery in the background. And then we also have a 3D rendered subway and then we have a few shots of me that was originally shot against a green screen background with the green screen removed, and all kind of smooshed together to form this subway scene here.
The problem is that all these things look okay together, but they don't really seem like they belong together as much. So, what we can do is use an adjustment layer to apply the same color adjustment to every layer so that they all kind of look like they belong together a little bit more. So, what I am going to do is go down to the bottom of the Timeline panel and in the blank area here, I am going to right- click and go to New > Adjustment Layer. And by default, that does nothing because. Again, it's kind of just like an empty dummy layer. But when I apply the Color Balance effect to this, you will notice that when I adjust, let's say I will remove some of the red balance to make this a little bit more cyan here, all of the layers are affected the same.
They all receive the same adjustments. So, I might remove some of the red from shadows, midtowns, and highlights. I might remove some of the green balance from the shadows a little bit. And it's looking a little bit saturated, so I might add some Hue/Saturation. And you know the drill,. Go under Master Saturation, click that and drag that to the left a little bit to remove some of that saturation. And what we have now is a much more believable composite. So, again, here is without the adjustment layer, just remove the visibility of the adjustment layer. Before and after.
So, the color adjustment uniformly applied to every single layer in the same way makes them look like they belong together more. And now again, just like in Photoshop, adjustment layers affect everything beneath them. So, if I were to drag the adjustment layer down below in the layer stack, beneath the layers of me and my reflection in the window here, you can see that the color adjustment still affects the subway layer and the moving scenery in the background here, but it now does not affect the subject in question reading the newspaper here.
So, again, adjustment layers affect only things beneath them in the layer stack. Now, this is kind of a mind blowing cool trick I am about to show you, but you could actually kind of play with things in a creative way because of this. I am going to add a little-known effect called the Transform effect. This effect seems completely worthless because it basically just adds the same transforms that we have in the layer, so basically Position, Scale, Rotation, Opacity, all that kind of stuff. But what we can do is apply this to an adjustment layer so that we can then adjust a series of layers without pre-composing them.
So, if we wanted to scale down all of these layers at once, or if we wanted to rotate all these layers at once, we can do so by using the Transform effect on to an adjustment layer, and you could also do that with the Opacity property as well. If you want to fade out the entire composition, you could just animate the Opacity value on the Transform effect applied to an adjustment layer. And if that totally just melts your brain, for now that's okay. This is a little early on in the training series to burst out the Transform effect applied to adjustment layer mumbo-jumbo, but just be aware that the adjustment layer can be used to control all the layers beneath them.
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