Join Chad Perkins for an in-depth discussion in this video Creating new projects and importing assets, part of After Effects CS4 Getting Started.
In this brief tutorial, we are going to take a look at how to create new Encore projects and also how to import assets. Now, creating a new project is simple enough, but the idea behind these projects can be a little confusing. To create a new project, simply go to File > New > New Project. Now, an important thing to remember about After Effects is you could only have one project open at a time. Now you can have a lot of little mini projects called compositions, actually you can have as many compositions as you want in your project, but only one master project at a time. The file extension for an After Effects project is .aep and you could actually see the name of your current open project here at the top of the interface.
Now, next we are going to look at importing assets. Now, the term assets is also used synonymously with footage, media, clips, that type of thing. Basically any type of media that you want to bring in your project, be it a still images, video, audio, graphics, anything. Now, it may be a little bit confusing because we are going to be talking about importing and we talked about opening, but here is the deal. There is a difference between opening a file and importing a file in After Effects language. In After Effects, if you go to the File menu, the only thing that you open are projects and again, remember that you can only one have project open at a time. So if I were to right now click on this, click Open Project, After Effects would ask me, "What do you want to do with the currently open project," because it's going to have to close it in order to open up a new one.
Notice that Open and Import are different. So again, we open projects and import media. There are many ways to import media into your After Effects project. One we just saw, by going to the File menu and selecting Import > File. You could also the keyboard shortcut, Command+I on the Mac or Ctrl+I on the PC. You'll also get the same menu by right-clicking in the Project panel. Perhaps the most efficient way to import media is to simply double-click in the Project panel. From this dropdown we could see all the different types of file formats that After Effects is capable of importing. You can see that it really spans the gamut. Audio files like WAV are supported, QuickTime movies, still image file formats like PNG, PICT and even Photoshop files are here, high-end formats like OpenEXR, MXF and many others.
Notice that After Effects Project is actually one of the file types you could import. That's right. Not only can you open an After Effects Project, which will actually completely replace your current working project, but if you want to use all of the media footage, or animation, or whatever from another project, you can simply import that project without having to actually open it up. I am going to leave it selected currently to All Acceptable Files. I am going to select my Media folder here and notice that we could select Illustrator files, movies, photos and Photoshop files. Let me go to my Movies folder. In this folder I could actually select multiple files to import at once. I can select the top one on the list, Shift-click the bottom on the list to select the entire list, or I could select items that are next to each other by using the Ctrl key on the PC or the Command key on the Mac.
Once you are done, hit Open and your assets show up here in the Project panel. Now, if you come up here to the Project panel and click once to deselect these assets and then click once to select these assets individually, we will see a lot of information show up about that particular asset at the top of the Project panel. Here we see the pixel dimensions, 1280x720 in this case. We'll also see the pixel aspect ratio, which is square in this case. The duration of the clip and how many frames per second. In addition to the color depth, the codec or in other words the compression method, and also some information about the audio if there is audio included with the video file.
Now, let me show you one other trick here. If I double-click in the Project panel again, this time I'm going to go up to my Photoshop files, if I select a Photoshop file, select hula_girl.psd and click Open. It's not super quick. We have some options here. When you are importing a Photoshop file, or an Illustrator file, you can choose to bring in as footage, which basically means it will be just like a regular still image. So all the layers essentially would be flattened, or you can choose to import this as a composition. When you import it as a composition, it takes all the layers of your Photoshop document and makes a brand new composition with all the layers of your Photoshop document as layers in that composition. This can be a real-time saver.
If you do decide to select Footage, then you can choose to merge all the layers together or you could actually choose a layer to import. In this case, I am going to select Composition, which basically brings every single layer in at the size of the entire document, whereas Composition - Cropped Layers brings every layer in at the size of the layer. So I will select Composition here and go ahead and hit OK. And now we have the composition that After Effects created for us upon import of the PSD file, and also a folder with access to each individual layer in the Photoshop document.
Now that you have created a project and imported media into this project, you are now ready to create compositions, add these assets that you have imported into those compositions and get to work.
- Importing graphics, video, and audio as linked assets Working with the Timeline Applying Photoshop-style adjustment layers Choosing and configuring preset text animation effects