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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.
Now we are ready to talk about compositions, basically the foundation of everything you do in After Effects. A composition is kind of like a storage container for all of your footage. It's basically what you are seeing here onscreen. Think of them as little mini projects. So, we have all this footage in the Project panel, but we don't see it onscreen until we add it to a composition. To see what I am talking about, let's get our fingers dirty and make a new composition from scratch.
At the bottom of the Project panel, I am going to click this little button, and this little filmstrip icon is the icon for Composition. So, if we click that, we'll get the Composition Settings dialog box in preparation for making a new comp. So, I am going to title this New Comp and from this dropdown we could choose a preset if we wanted to from a series of very common formats, standard definition up here, some web sizes here, some high definition ones here, some film resolutions here.
For right now, I am not going to worry about any of these settings because we are going to talk about these later on in the chapter. And I am just going to go ahead and hit OK. And you'll see that we have a New Comp here in the Project panel. And it has the familiar Composition icon, letting us know that it is a composition. And it shows up here as a tab in the Timeline panel. And we can go ahead and again, take video or whatever our footage is and add it to this composition. Now you might have noticed that when we created this - and then I kind of wasn't paying attention whatsoever - we made a high-definition sized composition.
If we want to see the actual resolution, we could actually click it here in the Project panel. And when you select assets in the Project panel, the top of the Project panel actually gives you a run down of some basic specs. This is telling us it's 1280 pixels wide by 720 pixels tall. And its 1.0 here is referring to the Pixel Aspect Ratio, which we'll talk about. This little triangle here indicates the duration. It's 19 seconds in one frame, again we'll talk about time code little bit later and 29.97 frames per second, the Frame Rate of the asset as well.
So, this composition, 1280x720 pixels, is much bigger than the PRECOMP background asset, which is only 720x480 pixels. So, we have all this extra space around the edges. Now as I mentioned before, compositions are the foundation of all that we do in After Effects. As a matter of fact, when you go to output, you don't output a project. You only can output a composition. Now let's say when we go ahead and fiddle around with this background and do some cool stuff with it. And we decide that we want to add whatever we come up with here, in the new composition, let's say we want to add that to the main composition in the Hansel and Petal Ad.
Well, you could actually take compositions, like this New Comp for example, drag this down and do what we just did here, which is referred to as nesting a composition. In other words, we have taken a composition and made it a layer in another composition. That nested composition will act just like any other layer in the composition. Now, if we want to, we can double- click this composition or that layer, the nested composition, and it will open up the New Comp composition.
It will open up that composition, so we can play with it. Now there's another way, a shortcut, to creating a new composition. Let's say, for example, this PRECOMP background file was going to be the background for our new project, our new composition. So, what I am going to do is I am going to just drag this piece of footage to the New Composition icon. And what that does is that it automatically makes a new composition, with the same name as the asset, the same frame rate, the same duration, the same pixel aspect ratio, and basically the same size, the same everything as the footage.
So, now, as you can see, we have three compositions open in this project. We have PRECOMP background, New Comp and Hansel and Petal Ad. Just like other panels, we can close one of these compositions by clicking the little x here. But it doesn't delete it, so the PRECOMP background is still here in the Project panel. To open it up, just double-click in the Project panel, and the comp opens back up. Now that's pretty much all we need to know about compositions for right now. Often they are called comps, by the way. But be aware that oftentimes when people are new to After Effects, this is one of those areas that kind of gives them the most challenge.
It's kind of like the toughest to get used to. And then once you understand like comps, once you have played with them for a while, then it appears to make sense. And they really are just like little mini projects inside your main project.
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