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By George Maestri | Monday, August 29, 2011

Grouping layers in After Effects: Expressions

The three most recent installments of Chris and Trish Meyer’s After Effects Apprentice series have covered three different approaches to grouping layers in After Effects. Each approach has its own strengths and weaknesses; mastering all three means you can choose the right approach for a particular task—or combine them for the ultimate in power and flexibility. Here’s an overview from the third in the series, After Effects Apprentice 09: Expressions.

Expressions allow you tie an individual parameter of one layer either to the identical parameter of another layer, or to a different parameter of the same or different layers—even across compositions. This makes it the most targeted and most flexible approach to grouping in that you can target specific properties, and leave others untouched.

One of the biggest advantages of expressions includes the ability to keyframe just one property or layer and have others follow (and update) automatically. However, this is just one use of expressions; many other functions are possible, including the ability to automatically loop or randomize the animation of a layer.

Watch the entire course: After Effects Apprentice 09: Expressions.

By George Maestri | Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Grouping layers in After Effects: Nesting and precomposing

The three most recent installments of Chris and Trish Meyer’s After Effects Apprentice series have covered three different approaches to grouping layers in After Effects. Each approach has its own strengths and weaknesses; mastering all three means you can choose the right approach for a particular task—or combine them for the ultimate in power and flexibility. Here’s an overview from the second in the series, After Effects Apprentice 08: Nesting and Precomposing.

Precomposing allows you to select one or more layers, and create a new composition for them to reside in. This new precomp is then automatically nested—in other words, it becomes a single layer—in the original composition. This technique is the most comprehensive approach to grouping, as anything you do to resulting nested layer—including changing its opacity or applying effects—will affect the grouped layers.

In addition to grouping layers, intelligent use of nesting and precomposing to build a hierarchy of comps allows you to rewire the rendering order (order of operations, such as transformations and effects) for After Effects, as well as reuse common elements in multiple compositions, which in turn makes it much easier to accommodate client changes.

Watch the entire course: After Effects Apprentice 08: Nesting and Precomposing.

By George Maestri | Sunday, August 21, 2011

Grouping layers in After Effects: Parenting

The three most recent installments of Chris and Trish Meyer’s After Effects Apprentice series have covered three different approaches to grouping layers in After Effects. Each approach has its own strengths and weaknesses; mastering all three means you can choose the right approach for a particular task—or combine them for the ultimate in power and flexibility. Here’s an overview from the first in the series, After Effects Apprentice 07: Parenting.

Parenting allows you to attach an entire layer to another. The child layer keeps its own animation, which is then also affected by the position, rotation, and scale of the parent layer (note that effects and opacity are not passed from the parent to its children). For example, you can attach several layers to one parent, reposition just the parent, and all of the children will move as well. The same goes for scaling the parent: All of the children will be scaled by the same amount, keeping their same relative sizes and positional offsets. A parent can have multiple children, and you can set up parent/child chains where a layer in the middle is both a parent and a child. All of the layers stay in the current composition.

Watch the entire course: After Effects Apprentice 07: Parenting

By George Maestri | Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Helping Final Cut Pro 7 users migrate to Media Composer 5

Migrating from Final Cut Pro 7 to Media Composer 5.5 is the second Final Cut Pro course that we’ve released this week. The course is a deep comparison of the interfaces, concepts, tools, and workflow behind each of these two programs. Author Steve Holyhead covers the key differences Final Cut editors need to know to master Media Composer.

Avid’s Media Composer is used heavily in many areas of production, particularly in high-end television and feature films. Originally, this course was designed for people who learned video editing on Final Cut Pro and wanted to broaden their professional skills so they could work in more types of production environments.

With the release of Final Cut Pro X, this course suddenly has a second purpose. While the controversy has settled down a bit, some Final Cut Pro users are indicating that they may want to switch platforms. This course can be used not only to facilitate that switch, but also can be used as a comparison between the two platforms for those who are simply considering the possibilities.

This course covers the basics of editing in Media Composer, including sequence creation, project organization and navigation, importing and linking media, timeline editing techniques, and how to work with audio and add transitions and effects. This should be everything Final Cut users need to know in order to understand Media Composer. We also have Avid Media Composer 5 Essential Training for those who want dive even deeper.

Of course, we have more Final Cut Pro X titles in the works, so stay tuned.

By George Maestri | Thursday, June 23, 2011

Organize your layers with After Effects Apprentice 07: Parenting

After Effects compositions can quickly become difficult to manage. The more layers you have, the more layers you need to keep track of, position, and keyframe. This becomes an issue particularly when the client has changes to your carefully crafted animation.

One solution is to take advantage of parenting, which is the ability to link together multiple layers inside the same composition. In this short-yet-deep project-oriented course, Chris Meyer demonstrates how to set up a parenting chain, explains what does and does not get passed from parent to child, and discusses what makes a good parent (hint: sometimes you need a neutral third party). Along the way, Chris spends considerable time showing how you would use Parenting in real-world situations, including creating finished animations employing techniques you’ve learned in previous After Effects Apprentice courses such as using the Graph Editor; being aware of safe areas; creating a custom text animation from scratch; and timing animations to music.

This video course is the first one that breaks pattern from the corresponding chapter in Chris and Trish Meyer’s After Effects Apprenticebook. Parenting—the subject of this course—and nesting (treating entire compositions as single sources inside other comps) will each get their own shorter stand-alone courses here on lynda.com. This gives Chris and Trish a chance to stretch out more on individual subjects. This course on parenting also contains material not found in the After Effects Apprentice book.

By George Maestri | Thursday, May 12, 2011

Animating text with After Effects Apprentice 06: Type and Music

After Effects has a very powerful text animation engine. The dark side of this power is that text animation in After Effects can be (to put it politely) difficult to master just by poking around. As a result, many artists only apply text animation presets, and have not yet learned how to modify these presets or create their own custom animations, settling for what Adobe provides.

Well, it’s time to change that. In the latest installment of the After Effects Apprentice series, Trish Meyer reveals the secret of mastering text animation in After Effects: understanding the purpose and use of a Range Selector inside a Text Animator. Once you master that, you will learn that most type animations are simply a combination of offsetting properties such as scale, color, or opacity of already set type, and then selecting (and animating) which characters get offset and by how much. Along the way, Trish teaches the two core type animation recipes (‘typing on’ and ‘cascading’), as well as how to refine, randomize, and customize these movements. She also shows how to place characters in 3D space, animate type along a path, work with Photoshop type in After Effects, and cycle lists of words. And yes, she covers text animation presets as well—including a good workflow for choosing candidates to present to a client, as well as improving them beyond their defaults.

Beyond text animation, Trish uses her background in print to demonstrate professional typesetting techniques many video people may be unaware of. Ignore them at your own risk, as knowing them can be the difference between a sophisticated- and amateurish-looking job. Her partner Chris also makes an appearance, talking about adding audio to your After Effects projects and how to time your animations to music. Chris also touches on subjects such as licensing concerns and how to best mix audio inside After Effects. These two sections will be of use to editors and animators of all stripes, regardless of what software you actually use. And for After Effects users, both Trish and Chris share numerous workflow tips and creative ideas throughout this course that you can put to use the next time you need to incorporate type or music in your work.

By George Maestri | Friday, March 25, 2011

After Effects Apprentice: motion graphics versus editing

This week we released Chris and Trish Meyer’s After Effects Apprentice 05: Creating Transparency. Chris wrote this blog entry to introduce the course.

We’re often asked, What’s the difference between editing and motion graphics? Although there’s always exceptions to every rule, one way to distinguish between them is the way a project is built: Editing projects tend to be arranged horizontally, cutting between different scenes over time; motion graphics projects quite often are arranged vertically, with multiple elements—including footage, text, and other graphics—appearing on screen at the same time.

So the next question becomes How do you see through one layer to the other elements underneath? The secret is not to rely solely on the Opacity parameter to make the top layers transparent. One approach is to use Blending Modes—demonstrated in our After Effects Apprentice: Layer Control course released last month here on lynda.com—to create far more interesting composites of footage, where characteristics of both the layer on top and underneath combine to create a new image. We consider Blending Modes to be the “secret sauce” that’s missing when many editors attempt to composite together multiple images, and indeed we’ve released courses in the past on creating Lighting Effects in Post as well as the popular Filmic Glow effect in Final Cut Pro as well as After Effects and Motion.

Another approach is to cut out portions of layers in interesting ways to focus the viewer on interesting features of the footage on top, as well as reveal additional layers underneath. This is the subject of our just-released course After Effects Apprentice: Creating Transparency. This course focuses heavily on creating and animating “masks,” or user-defined cutouts, for layers using simple and advanced tools. We also cover using properties of one layer (such as its luminance or alpha channel) to alter the transparency of other layers – for example, using text to cut out animated background footage to create a video fill for the text shapes. Additionally, we spend a lot of time showing how effects such as drop shadows interact with these techniques to help add definition between the layers in the final composite. Along the way, we share a variety of practical and creative tips to make you more productive in After Effects as well as provide inspiration. We hope it helps you raise your work to the next level.Chris Meyer

Watch the introductory movie for After Effects Apprentice 05: Creating Transparency:

By George Maestri | Thursday, January 27, 2011

Chris and Trish Meyer’s After Effects Apprentice video training series at lynda.com

Authors Chris and Trish Meyer introduce us to their new series at lynda.com:

Many After Effects users know us for our books Creating Motion Graphics (CMG) and After Effects Apprentice (AEA). CMG is intended as a deep reference for After Effects, while AEA is structured as a series of lessons to help a beginner or part-time user get up to speed more quickly with the key features of the program in a real-world environment.

We’re very excited to be taking the lessons and projects in After Effects Apprentice and recording them as a video training series for lynda.com. Video allows us to better explain what we’re thinking when we choose a particular tool, effect, or parameter value—it’s like being able to look over our shoulder and listen in on our brain as we work, which better conveys both the technical and creative process we go through. Not being restricted to the page count of a printed book also allows us to expand more into related features and techniques, and actually work through the Idea Corner and Quizzler challenges sprinkled throughout the book. We feel this additional background will make these videos useful both for people learning on their own, and for instructors who use AEA in their classes as curriculum.

Rather than release the entire video series as one exhaustive course, we’re recording each lesson as a self-contained video set. We hope this approach avoids the potential of a beginner feeling overwhelmed by the breadth of After Effects, and allows you to more easily focus on the areas of the program you’re most interested in or need to learn for a particular job. To this end, we’re also taking some of the lessons in the book that covered two disparate features—such as Painting and the Puppet Tool—and breaking them out into separate video courses. This video series will be relevant for both CS4 and CS5 versions of After Effects.

Today, the first three of 19 total installments in the series are now available in the Online Training Library®:

After Effects Apprentice: #01 Pre-Roll

After Effects Apprentice: #02 Basic Animation

After Effects Apprentice: #03 Advanced Animation

We’ll be adding new installments each month until the series is complete. Happy learning!

Chris and Trish Meyer

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