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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
Now, let's look at the various ways you can import sources. Before I import anything though, I am going to select the Sources folder. That way anything I import will be automatically sorted inside this folder. In the Pre-Roll lesson, we showed you how to browse in Bridge and preview sources. If you double-click anything in Bridge at that point, it'll be added and imported to your After Effects project. You can also import using the File > Import > File option. The shortcut is Command+I on Mac, Ctrl+I on Windows.
This opens the Import File dialog. If I navigate to my Sources folder, the first source I'm going to import for this animation is Snowstorm Title. This is a TIFF file with an alpha channel. Because the Alpha channel is unlabeled, it's asking me to interpret it either a Straight or Premultiplied. I'll cover these options again at the end of this lesson. For now, I'll just click on Guess, and it correctly identified it as a source with an alpha channel that's pre-multiplied with white.
I'll click OK, and it will be added to my Project panel. At the top of the Project panel, it will tell you the width and the height, and also whether it has an alpha channel, and how that alpha channel is interpreted. If I want to see what this source looks like, I double-click it, which opens it in the Footage panel. Now I know this has an alpha channel, which means it has some kind of transparency. I'm guessing this black is transparent. If I click on the Transparency Grid at the bottom of the Footage panel, I can see how that transparency looks.
I can now also see that this layer has a drop shadow baked in. Another way to look at the alpha channel is to click on the RGB icon, this button at the bottom of the Footage panel. This allows you to look at all the different channels, as well as the alpha channel. This shows you how the alpha channel looks as a grayscale image. An easy way to toggle the Alpha and RGB back and forth is not to use the pop-up, but just to press the Option key on Mac or Alt key on Windows, and when you click the button, it will toggle between the alpha channel and the RGB channels.
Now let's import our Snowflake movie. This time I'll use the shortcut, Command+ I on Mac, Ctrl+I on Windows, and that will open the Import File dialog. The Snowflake movie is a QuickTime movie, which also, by the way, has an alpha channel. Again, you can see the Width, and Height, also the Duration, and Frame Rate, and the fact that it has an alpha channel. Millions of Colors Plus means it has an alpha channel. Notice that After Effects automatically knew it was pre-multiplied.
That's because After Effects made this movie. If I double-click it and hit the Spacebar to play it, you'll see that it's an animated snowflake, and this was created using shape layers in After Effects. If you want to know exactly how this was made, and you have the exercise files, open up final project, and you'll find the composition that includes this animated shape layer. Now I'm noticing the edges of this shape layer looking a little bit crunchy. That's because the magnification is not at 100%.
The default is to use Fit up to 100%. What that means is as I resize the Footage panel, it would automatically scale the source to fit. However, when it's at less than 100%, it can look a little bit crunchy. As you go to 100%, the edges will look smooth. Another way to import is to double-click on the blank area of the Project panel. Again, when the Import File opens, I have a folder here of movies that I can import as a folder.
In CS5, it says Open; in CS4, it will say Import Folder. Now because I double-clicked on the Project panel, it didn't know it was supposed to sort it into sources, so I'll just drag it in there. And let's see what we have. We have three movies. Two of them will be the foreground: the man shoveling snow and the guy snowboarding. For our background, we have a slow pan of a snowy landscape.
If you want to recreate this animation using your own sources, find two movies for the foreground, and either a still image or a slow-moving background. So to recap, you can either File > Browse in Bridge, or File > Import, or use the shortcut, Command+I, or you can double-click the Project panel to open the Import File dialog. Either way, once you're done, don't forget to save your project. In the next movie, we'll show you how to add these sources to your first animation composition.