After Effects CC Basics: How to Define Layers

show more Defining layers provides you with in-depth training on Video. Taught by Ian Robinson as part of the After Effects CC Essential Training show less
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Defining layers

After Effects makes it simple to create multiple layers in a composition to create your graphics. But what most people don't understand is there are different kinds of layers within the After Effects Composition. To show you what I mean, let's look down the Timeline panel. Select layer 7, this is a video layer, and I know this because the icon to the left of the name. Notice there are different icons for the different layers, like this icon is an Illustrator icon. This was created from importing an external Illustrator file. The T layer, this is a text layer and this is also known as a synthetic layer, because this is created solely from within After Effects.

Now, synthetic layers have an interesting property and that's the fact that they only exist within a composition. Let's see what that actually means. With layer 7 selected, our Top_Video_Fill layer, go ahead and control+click or right-click on the layer to pop-up this contextual menu. Navigate up to Reveal Layer Source in Project. When we select that, notice our video folder automatically popped open, and there's our video file. This is a great little shortcut you can use when your projects get extraordinarily large and you're having a hard time finding things. Now, Video and Audio layers are created when you import those assets into your After Effects project.

Same with the Illustrator file right here, layer 5. Let's go ahead and select layer 4, our Text layer. And if you right-click or control-click on the layer, notice we don't have an option to reveal the layer source in the project. If I wanted to add this text into another composition, I would have to copy the entire layer and then paste it into that new comp. Now, let's look at layer Solids. Layer 3 is a layer solid, so let's go ahead and select it and you guessed it, right click and reveal layer source and project.

Notice when we did that, it automatically selected this cyan number 4. What's interesting is the fact that I could go ahead and add this Solid into my composition if I wanted to. So, drag that down between layer 6 and 7 and notice now we have this kind of cool color background behind our text. I'm just going to move that down in the comp window by clicking on it and dragging it down a little bit. There we go, that the little bit better. Let's look at some of the other cool things we can do with layer Solids.

See, since this layer Solid is being referenced a solid that's in a Project panel, I can't actually trace how many times this individual file has been used. If I open up the Project panel here just by dragging on the right side, notice it says cyan sound four used two times. Now, another interesting thing, if you have this cyan solid selected in the Project panel and go up under Layer, and choose Solid Settings. We can change the color of this and it'll actually propagate that change back down into the project.

So, let's change this to red. And I want to choose a red that's similar to this background. So I'm going to click on the eye dropper next to the color and then click on this red. When I click OK, check it out. Now, that solid has changed both my layer 7 and in my bottom color. Now, things look a little bit than what we had done before and that has to do with the different blend modes that we're dealing with. So I want to undo that last change by just going up under Edit and choosing Undo Solid Settings.

But as you can see, for a layer that's created within After Effects itself, like a Layer Solid, you can literally use that like any other piece of source footage, like a Video Layer or a Photoshop or Illustrator Layer. Now, the last kind of layer I want to cover is called an Adjustment Layer. We haven't really used one yet, but it's one of my favorite layers in After Effects. To create an Adjustment Layer, all we have to do is go up under the Layer panel, choose New and choose Adjustment Layer. Now, Adjustment Layer allow you to apply an effect to that layer.

And then, any layers that exist below that layer will have the effect applied. So it's kind of a neat way to save yourself time. Rather than applying the same effect to multiple layers, you can just use an Adjustment Layer. So let's go up and choose Effect > Blur and choose Fast Blur. Now, just click and drag on the blurriness parameter in the Effects control panel. To accentuate the effect, let's choose a value of 21. Now, go ahead and click on the Adjustment Layer in your Timeline panel and move it down below the Swoop_Lines, Illustrator Files. So between layers 6 and 7.

Now, when I let go, check it out. I've got sharp layers and then blurry layers. Now obviously I don't want to keep these in my comp. So let's select layer 6 and just press Delete All keyboard to get rid of it. As you can see, when you're working with different layers inside of After Effects, it does make a difference if you do pay attention to the specific kind of layer that you're working with. Because it can open up new options in different workflows.

Defining layers
Video duration: 5m 4s 14h 52m Appropriate for all Updated Nov 03, 2014


Defining layers provides you with in-depth training on Video. Taught by Ian Robinson as part of the After Effects CC Essential Training

After Effects
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