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Let Chris and Trish Meyer share with you two of the core secrets required to become an efficient After Effects user: understanding the render order (the internal order of operations After Effects uses when calculating masks, effects, transformation, track mattes, and layer styles) and the use of multiple compositions where a composition may be nested into one or more other comps. This makes it easier to group layers, efficiently re-use a common element to quickly accommodate client changes, pan around large composites of multiple layers, and solve render order issues.
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®.
I would like to conclude this section on render order exceptions by showing you one more case where the way After Effects renders layers may not be exactly what you expected. I've opened up the composition Compound Effects.aep, and I'm going to open up the one comp, Compound Effects*starter. Here we have a pulley and a background layer. Let's say our boss would like to use this pulley as a textured embossed bug in one corner of the video. I'm going to press the apostrophe to bring up the action and title safe grids, select my pulley, tuck it down here, down in the very edge of action safe to make sure it's not cropped off by the bezel of any old TV, type S for scale, scale down a little bit and position it, and you can do this to taste. I am going to go ahead and make it fairly innocuous and put it down here in the corner like that. And just for good measure I'm going to add an Animation Preset to it called Rotate Over Time. This is a behavior that automatically rotates a layer as time marches on. It's initial speed is a bit on the slow side, let's bump that up to something like say maybe 25 degrees a second. I'll RAM preview that. Yeah that's something nice and subtle in the corner. Okay, I need to turn this into an embossed bug. The effect to do that is called Texturize. I'm going to select the layer that's going to get the embossing, the background layer, then apply Effect > Stylize > Texturize. Now Texturize is what's known as a compound effect. It's an effect you apply to one layer, but which looks at another layer for information on what to do, how to process the layer it has been applied to. Compound blur and displacement map are other examples of compound effects. In this case, I want to texturize my background layer based on the Pulley layer. So I'll select that in the popup, and I don't get the result I expect at all. Now what are my choices here? I've got Light Direction. That doesn't give me what I want. Contrast doesn't give me what I want. Texture Placement; that must be it. You must be thinking to yourself, Stretch Texture to Fit, no. Center Texture, no. Okay, it's time to stop just clicking around and understand what After Effects is doing underneath the hood. Since compound effects can point to themselves as their control layer, they cannot use the results of a layer after masks, effects, and transforms have already been applied. Otherwise you get into what's known as a deadly embrace. You'd have an affect that can't process until you see the result of your own effect. Therefore, what After Effects does for compound effects is it looks at the Control layer before any masks, effects, or transforms have been applied. It looks at the layer in its original state. And if you want to know what the layer in it's original state looks like, double-click it to open it up and it's Layer panel. That's what it looks like, and that's not what we want. What we want is this scaled, repositioned, and animated layer. Okay, there is two important rules to know whenever you work with compound effects. One, a control layer should be the exact same size as the layer you're applying the effect to, that way there's no recalculation of trying to match up one layer's dimensions to another layer's dimensions. They are the same. It's a one-to-one match. Two, any effects, masks, transformations including animation that you want happening to the Control layer must happen in a pre-comp before you get to this composition where the layers looked at in it's original state. In this case a pre-comp layer's original state is after all the calculations have taken place into the pre-comp. So I will set my pulley, right-click, choose Pre -compose, and go for the Move all attributes option, that's going to move my effect, my transformations, anything else I've done to this layer into the pre-comp. It also creates a composition same size as a source comp, and this source comp happens to be the same size as my background layer. It's important that this pre-comp end up the same size as the layer getting the compound effect. Let me call this pulley bug precomp, click OK. All right, things look a little bit more promising now, I'm going to press apostrophe to turn off the action and title safe. And next, I'm going to turn off the Video switch; the visibility for my bug pre-comp. I don't need to see it. I just want to see the result of it's effect on my main layer, and there is the final effect. I'll press 0 to RAM preview and now I have a nice animated bug in exactly the place I want it to be, the right size of our animation affecting the layer in my main comp. So again those two rules are, the control layer should be the same size and any processing has to take place in a pre-comp.
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