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Another important technique to learn while working with effects is applying them to adjustment layers. If you have the Exercise Files that came with this lesson open up the comp 12-Adjustment Layers*starter. If you don't have access to the files go ahead and create your own composition with a few different elements. For example, I have text, a foreground element, and a background element. Say I wanted to apply an effect to help unify the composite of all these layers. How would you go about doing that? Well the obvious way is to apply the same effect to each of the layers, but that can have problems.
I am going to pick an obvious effect just to show you what those problems are. Now search for Twirl. It's underneath the Distort category. I am going to apply to each of these layers individually. Here it is on my foreground, give a bit of twirl, apply it again to my text layer, give a little of twirl and then apply it to my background layer. Double-click and give a bit of a twirl. Now the problem with effects like Twirls is that they process each layer individually; they don't know about the other layers in the composition.
Therefore each one has its own center that may not line up with the center of the Twirl on the other layers and you have to manage Twirl amounts and other settings for each of the layers individually. Well there is a better way. Let me go ahead and Undo to get back to where I was and I am going to go to Layer > New > Adjustment Layer. With adjustment layers what After Effects does is make a composite of all the layers underneath in the timeline stack and copies that to the adjustment layer. Now when you apply an effect to adjustment layer, like Twirl, it will now affect all of the layers as a composite.
You can see the Twirls now pulling together the text, the background, and foreground layers. So that's very useful. Now again, adjustment layers don't do anything on their own. There needs to be an effect applied to them for them to become obvious. I'm going to delete the Twirls as this is a bit silly and show you more subtle application. For example I'm just going to apply Effect > Blur & Sharpen, a simple Fast Blur. Now when I increase the blurriness parameter it affects the composite of all of the layers underneath. With Fast Blur I like to turn on Repeat Edge Pixels, so that my edges don't pull on black.
But what if you don't want all of the layers to get the blur? You just want some of the layers. Well remember, adjustment layers create a composite of all the layers underneath them in the timeline stack. So if I also drag this adjustment layer below the text, but above my foreground and background elements. The text is not blurred, but the other two elements are. Drag it down on further and now just the background's blurred. Now unfortunately, you cannot sort arrange of layers for adjustment layer to affect. They always affect everyone underneath them, but with a little bit a careful thought about how you stack the layers in your comp, you can do some nice selective processing.
Next I'll show you some tricks you can do with adjustment layers in a really common treatment that they are good for.
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