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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®.
- Starting a project from scratch
- Building a composition
- Arranging and transforming layers interactively and numerically
- Animating parameters including motion paths
- Applying and re-using effects
- Creating variations and rendering the final movie
- Importing layered Photoshop files
- Understanding alpha channels
- Avoiding common mistakes
Skill Level Beginner
Before we make a new composition, I'm going to select the Comps folder. That way the new comp I create will automatically be sorted inside this folder. Now there are various ways of making a new comp: you can go under the Composition menu, select New Composition, or use the shortcut, Command+N on Mac, Ctrl+N on Windows. I'd like to use the button at the bottom of the Project panel: Create a new Composition. Whichever method you use, the Composition Settings dialog will open. Now the first thing we'll want to do is give our composition a useful name.
No, Comp 1 is not useful name. So let's call this First Animation. You'll notice the composition dialog has two tabs: Basic and Advanced. We'll look at some of the advanced features later in this series. For now, let's just focus on the Basic tab. Here is where you select the Width, Height, Pixel Aspect Ratio, and Frame Rate, and these settings can all be saved as a preset. You'll notice there's a lot of presets that are already included in After Effects, for NTSC, and PAL, common sizes and frame rates, as well as high def and film.
For this animation, I'm going to create a custom size. So I'm going to type in a width of 640 and a height of 480. Now I'm doing that because I want to use a pixel aspect ratio of square pixels. We'll deal with non-square pixels later in the series. The frame rate is 29.97. That's fine. That's the default NTSC frame rate, A Resolution of Full, that's fine for this. It means every pixel will be processed. A start timecode of 0 is what you normally want.
For this animation, we only need a duration of 4 seconds. Notice I can type 400 and After Effects will convert that to 4 seconds. Now in CS5, the Background Color appears in the Basic tab in Composition Settings. In CS4, the background color can be found under the Main Composition menu. So bear that in mind as we go through this series. When I click the OK button, my First Animation comp appears in the Comp panel, as well as the Timeline panel, and it also appears inside the Comps folder.
Now if you're new to After Effects, you might think that you have to save each composition individually. That's not how After Effects works. When you save your project, you'll save all the compositions that you've created and links to all of your sources and so on. So all you are saving is the actual project file, which tends to be quite small, by the way, because you're only linking to your resources. So in the next movie, we'll start importing our sources.