Join Ian Robinson for an in-depth discussion in this video Exploring the interface of After Effects, part of After Effects CC 2013 Essential Training.
In this video, we're going to focus on the general workflow within an After Effects project. And of course, as we continue throughout the rest of this course, we'll examine the different parts of the interface more deeply. Now, the first time you launch After Effects, you'll notice this welcome screen. If you look at it closely, you should notice it's divided into two halves. The left half will allow you to sync your settings from After Effects to your Creative Cloud account. So, if you log into your Creative Cloud account on a different system, you can synch your settings.
Now also in the bottom part of that left half, we have a recent projects section where you can quickly and easily just click on any recent projects you've had open. Notice I had 0007 Exploring Interface project open. Now, if we look to the right side of the welcome screen, you'll notice we could create a new composition or open a new project. Or we could jump to helpful sections of the Adobe website like Help and Support or a nice little Getting Started section. Now just so we don't see this screen pop up every time we launch After Effects, I want you to de-select the option in the lower left-hand corner and then go ahead and click Close.
Now when we first look at After Effects, and I want you to notice it's divided up into panels. And the way we'll work is kind of a clockwise fashion. So, if we go to the project panel here in the upper left corner, when I click on that, you'll notice this orange yellow bar that's kind of highlighted that panel. That's letting me know that that panel is active. Now the project panel is a great place where you can organize and store anything that you're working on, within your current After Effects project. So, we can see what that looks like, let's go up into the File menu and choose Open Project.
I want you to navigate in your Exercise Files folder, to the 00 folder. In there, go ahead and open the 00_07_Exploring Interface After Effects project. Once that's open, I want you to make sure this triple a counts folder is open and then I want you to double click on this training swoosh composition. Now, After Effects is very much like Premier Pro in that you can have multiple compositions inside of After Effects the same way that you can have multiple sequences inside of Premier Pro.
Now, let's keep exploring the project panel here. If you open the next folder over, we have the graphics folder. In here, I have an Illustrator file that's been imported, a Cinema 4D file that's been imported, and another folder. So, you can actually import folders into folders. Now, also if we open up our solids folder here, you can see I've created a layer solid. And, if we open up our video folder here, I have some video that's been imported in the project. Now, we don't need to access any of this extra stuff.
So, I'll just go ahead and collapse all these folders again. Now just double click on the training swoosh composition, to make sure that we have that open. Notice when I double-clicked, the active panel became the timeline panel. The timeline and the composition panel, here in the center, are linked together. They work very much like your compositions inside of Photoshop and the layers panel. So, think of your timeline like the layers panel in Photoshop. Notice on the left hand side, I've got eyeballs that control the visibility of each layer just like controlling the visibility of a layer inside of Photoshop.
Now, After Effects is kind of like a blend between Photoshop and Premier in that not only can we organize assets according to where they are in my layer hierarchy but I can also control when they appear in time like over a timeline like you would get inside of Premier Pro. So, if we look to the right side of the timeline here, you can see I have all these icons. And these are showing me exactly when each different graphic asset is going to appear in my project.
Now if we look to the center of our timeline here, you'll see this thing that looks like a guitar pick with a red line underneath of it. If you click on that and drag to the right, that is your current time indicator. And as we drag to the right, we're moving down the timeline. Now, I'm just going to stop dragging at a random point here. And I want you to look to the upper left corner of this timeline panel. This'll show you the exact frame where your current time indicator is residing. Now, as I move my current time indicator, notice that frame will change. And just like I said at the beginning, the comp panel and the timeline panel are linked.
Notice, this time here and the timer on my comp panel are the same. So, if I want to jump to a specific point in time, I can just click on this little button in the comp panel and jump to say three seconds. So, I'll type 300, and click OK. If I want to go to two seconds I can also click down here in the upper left corner of the timeline panel and just type 200, and hit Return, and now I'm at two seconds. So notice as we move through, you'll see different graphic elements appearing. These graphic elements, again, are adjusted here in the Timeline.
So for example, if I click on Layer 5, notice when I select it, it is selected here in my composition panel. I could also just click on an asset directly in the composition panel and it will select it in the timeline. Now, if I didn't want this logo to appear until five seconds in the timeline, what I would do is hover my mouse over the left side of that layer. And see how I get these double arrows? If I click and drag to the right, I can drag it to start around five seconds. Now another really important part of the interface is in the upper right hand corner.
Notice the info panel. Notice as I'm dragging here, I'm getting update showing me the duration of the layer and it's showing me to end point and out point of that layer. So when I let go, I know it's actually started right at five seconds for its end point. Now, I don't want to trim the start point of that layer, so I'll just press Cmd+Z to undo. Now, another very important thing is your ability to actually preview animation. To do that, you want to look at the preview panel. So, let's go ahead and click this button here on the left to move our current time indicator to the first frame and I want you to click the button all the way to the right.
That will go ahead and load up your first ran preview. Notice the green status line that's moving from left to right. As the frames are loaded it will go and give you a status to how many frames are loaded, and once it is all loaded it will start playing back. This is when you want to look in the info panel and make sure that it's actually playing back in real time. So you can see, my copy's playing back in real time. Now to stop playback, all you have to do is press the spacebar on your project, and that'll go ahead and stop playback.
Now there's one other important thing within the interface that I want you to understand before we wrap up, and that's the upper right corner of each one of these different panels. So if we look in the upper right corner of the timeline panel, if I click on that, notice I have different options that I can look at within my project. For example, I have columns here, so I could look at different options within my timeline, say if I wanted to see modes. Now, you might ask what are modes. Well let's go head and click modes, and you'll notice now I have a new section in my timeline.
And these modes, if I click on this one here that says normal. These are the different blend modes that you would get in the layers panel inside of Photoshop. So, I don't necessarily need to see those right now, so I'll just go ahead and go back to the fly out menu, go to my columns section here, and just deselect modes. I can also toggle the modes by clicking this switches and modes button. Alright, now we're starting to get a little too detailed here in the timeline. So, let's actually look at how the whole interface works together. Notice, if I scroll up and down with my mouse wheel, I can see all the extra layers here in my timeline.
Well if I want to make my timeline bigger, I can just hover my mouse in between any of these panels and here notice I get this kind of clap board with double arrows. If I click and drag up, I can make my timeline larger, so I can see all of those layers. These dynamic changes will work this way between all of the different panels inside of After Effects. Now what if I want to move a panel to be in a different place, for example the info panel. Well if you look to the upper left corner of each of these panels I get these little grippy dots and if I go and click on that I can drag this panel around the interface and I'll get these purple highlights.
Now the purple highlights are interesting. They allow you to drop the panels in different areas. Notice when I drag just to the right side of the project panel, I get this purple shape here. So when I let go, now it's in between the project panel and the comp panel. If I go ahead and click and drag that again over towards the left and the top, notice I get a purple rectangle. That's letting me know that I'm going to dock this panel behind another panel. And we'll be able to actually determine which one's on top by clicking on the different tabs.
Now as you move things around, the interface may look very strange, so sometimes you want to just reset everything. That's where workspaces come in. So if you go to the upper right hand corner, I can go and click on this workspace option here and the workspace we've been working in is standard, but since I've changed it what I want to do is choose Reset Standard. Now it's going to ask me am I sure, I'll go ahead and click Yes. So now that we've reset the workspace, what exactly is a workspace? Well if we go up and click on the list, you'll notice that each of the names is corresponding to a specific job task.
For example, if I was doing something that required heavy effects work, I could choose effects and things are set up with my effects control panel brought up to the front. Or if I had something that was text heavy, I now have my character panel and paragraph panel. You get the idea. Each workspace is organized according to the job task. So if you're ever noticing that your interface doesn't look the same as mine, just make sure you're working in the proper workspace. And if things still look different, you want to go ahead and reset that workspace.
Now, the final bit to the interface we need to look at is the tool panel, and it's in the upper left-hand section of the interface. Instead of diving into each individual tool, I'll just explain how the different groups work. In the upper left corner here, I have my selection tools. These tools will allow me to select individual layers or I can use my hand tool to re-position my view within the composition panel or use my magnification glass to zoom in to specific areas in my comp panel. Now, I also have camera controls or layer controls so I can rotate things or move different cameras and use the pan behind tool by adjusting the anchor point.
Now again, we'll get into these a little more clearly later. Now the next section over here, I've got my creation tools. Here I can create shapes. If you notice I have a little arrow underneath that tool. If you click and hold that lets you know that you have more than one thing you have underneath that individual tool. Now if you see an arrow in the lower right corner under a tool, that means if you click and hold you may have more than one tool under an individual tool. So, here I can create all different kinds of shapes.
So, I have a pen tool for paths and curves, I can also create type. And then we have different creation tools or editing tools. Now, my next group over are my editing tools where I can brush things in or use the clone stamp or erase tool. Now, we have a roto brush and puppet pen and those are very specific task oriented tools and we'll get to those a little while later. The most important thing to understand, anytime you think you may need some tools, you want to look to the upper left corner of the After Effects interface.
Now, this rounds out our tour of a general workflow within a typical After Effects project. And like I said, don't worry, we'll be diving more deeply into each of these sections as we continue on through out the rest of the training.
- Video terminology
- Creating your first composition
- Using layers, masks, blend modes, and track mattes
- Parenting objects
- Building complex objects with Pre-compose
- Exploring the ray-traced 3D renderer
- Understanding the order of effects
- Creating 3D projects from Illustrator files
- Lighting a scene
- Animating type on a path
- Using Keylight for green-screen footage
- Archiving projects
Skill Level Intermediate
Q: This course was updated on 6/18/2014. What changed?
A: We added new movies to the "Fundamentals of After Effects" chapter, reorganized and re-recorded the "Up and Running" and "Keying Green Screen Footage" chapters, and added new movies on Color Finesse 3 and masking individual effects.
Q: When I try to open a project file, After Effects tells me I need to update my system, since the file was made with version 13.0. But I already installed the most recent After Effects update. Why can't I open the project?
Q: This course was updated on 11/03/2014. What changed?
A: We updated 25 movies to reflect changes to the Creative Cloud 2014 release of After Effects. This includes the new optimized user interface and enhanced Cineware and CINEMA 4D Lite pipeline. The new movies are labeled with the "(CC 2014.1)" tag.