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In this installment of After Effects Apprentice, Chris Meyer focuses on ways to edit and enhance layers in After Effects. Through a series of Quizzler challenges and Idea Corner examples, Chris shares alternative ways to employ modes, sequencing, and adjustment layers, while special sidebar movies cover the subjects of creating seamless loops, animating effects points, understanding pixel aspect ratios, and employing Brainstorm to explore the variety of different looks that effects can create. The course also covers tricks for enhancing boring footage and tips for converting scans into moving sequences. Exercise files are included with the course.
The After Effects Apprentice videos on lynda.com were created by Trish and Chris Meyer and are designed to be used on their own and as a companion to their book After Effects Apprentice. We are honored to host these tutorials in the lynda.com Online Training Library®.
There is another case where the combination of blending modes and effects comes in really handy and that's if you are trying to use an effect that create some sort of lighting effect like a Lens Flare. If you have the Exercise Files that came with this lesson, go ahead and open up the Project panel. If you can't see it, slide this bar along the top of its frame until you can see the word Project. Now I'm going to open up comp 07-Effects Solids Modes*Starter. If you don't have the Exercise Files, just create a comp with any piece of footage that might make sense with say a Lens Flare applied.
Now here I have a night scene and I've decided it might be interesting to include an additional Lens Flare off some light in this scene. Normally, you may think well to apply an effect like Lens Flare, I select my footage, search for Lens Flare, and apply that directly to my footage. Now you have a Lens Flare. It does have a flare center, an effect point, you can drag around and it does have couple of Lens Types to just create three different types of flares.
But frankly this gets pretty limiting, pretty fast. You're kind of stuck with color of that flare, etcetera. There are other really fantastic Lens Flare and lighting effect plug-in sets, which are a lot of fun to play with. Let's say you want to take advantage of what's built into After Effects and get more out of it. Well, quite often if we have lighting type effects like Lens Flare, we don't apply them directly to the footage. Instead we apply them to a black solid that fills the entire frame.
Then use blending mode to mix that Lens Flare and Solid on top of our original footage. Let me show that to you. Now select Lens Flare and delete it, and I'll create a layer, New > Solid. It's very important for this trick that the solid be black. It must be pure black or you're going to colorize parts of the footage you do not intend to. And you should make it at least the same size as the comp. I'll click the Make Comp Size button, click OK, and now I have completely obscured my footage with a black solid, but that's okay.
I've got two more steps. First, I want to apply that Lens Flare. You can apply it onto the solid. By the way, your most recently applied effect always resides underneath the Effect menu item. So I'll just select Lens Flare again. Now I've got my flare on my black solid. Next is setting a blending mode for that black solid. I'll Toggle Switches/Modes, pull this out a little wider so I can see it, and I'm going to pick a mode in this range. The Add group. What Add does again is add together the color values for the pixels for the two layers.
A layer on top and the layer underneath. If the layer on top is black, the result is no change to the layer underneath. However, if the layer on top is not black, it has some color like this Lens Flare does, it's going to add the results to the pixels underneath. So I'll select Add mode and now I've got my flare again and just as before I could pick up and move it and I can still pick my different flare types, etcetera. The advantage of doing this is now that I have the Lens Flare-- type E to reveal Effect-- separated from the underlying footage, I can apply further affects to the Lens Flare without affecting the underlying footage.
For example, say I don't like those colors. I wish the color was a little bit different. A good effect for that is the Hue/Saturation effect. I'll apply that to the Black Solid not to the footage, but to the Black Solid that has the Lens Flare. And now as I scrub the Hue, I'm going to change the hue of just that Lens Flare and not change the hue of the footage underneath. If I had the Lens Flare applied directly to the footage, changing the color of the flare would change the color of the footage as well, but now they're isolated.
Of course, I am not stuck with just using the Add mode either. Other modes in this group are also very useful ,like Color Dodge creates a very intense version of this effect, or I can pick Screen, which is a less intense variation on Add. I kind of like classical Add mode myself, and as before, I'll hold down Shift+T to add Opacity to what I see in this panel, and I can go ahead and mix it, fade it, right directly here. And I can apply other effects that I want to such as various blurs, distortion effects.
other things to make this more interesting. Again, I can apply something like Levels to change the gray balance of my flare. I play around the gamma a little bit, and make it brighter or focus it just as a little intense hotspot and just a hint of these ranks. What makes all those possible is isolating effects like Lens Flares etcetera onto their own black solid layer. Now this only works with modes inside this Add group. Choosing something like Darken will not give the desired effect at all.
Before what is worth, you would use these modes if your effect was applied to a white solid. That can be interesting if you're doing something like some sort of circles or radio waves or other geometric effects. Apply that to white solid, then use these modes as a way of darkening the underlying image, or if you want to use anything in this set, like Overlay which I said it was my favorite, these modes need to be applied into a layer that's 50% gray. 50% gray has no effect on the underlying layer and you'll only see the result of the effect applied to a gray solid, but it's most common to go ahead and use things like Lens Flares on black solids with something like Add mode.
One another tip off throw in is that normally an effect like Lens Flare is based around the center of the composition. I'll turn off Levels now as so you can see it more prominently. If you find it to be limitation, your solid does not have to be the same size as your composition. It can be much bigger which will give you a bigger layer and a bigger canvas to drag around. With the Black Solid still selected, I am going to go ahead and choose Layer > Solid Settings. I want to give it a more useful name like lens flare solid.
Then we'll change a size to something big like, let's say 1500x1500. Change this to Square Pixels. We'll talk about Pixel Aspect Ratio in a sidebar at the very end of this lesson. Click OK. Now that I have this super-size layer, I can type S, scale it down, or scale it up. I can move its position around. I can rotate it independently of the center of the composition. I've got a lot more flexibility in a way this is placed. It may not be exactly the way a Lens Flare works in real-life, but Motion Graphics is not always about real-life.
It's about creating cool imagery and a very large solid with an effect applied and of course a blending mode is a very handy tool.
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