Join Chad Perkins for an in-depth discussion in this video Overview of After Effects CS4, part of After Effects CS4 Getting Started.
Adobe After Effects CS4 is the world standard application for motion graphics, animation, visual effects and compositing. In other words, combining separate elements and much more. In this movie, we are going to take a whirlwind overview of the workflow of After Effects and I'm also going to how you a few things that can be done in After Effects. The first part of our workflow starts here on the left side of the interface with the Project panel. The Project panel is where we import the assets we'll use. Assets is a generic term that refers to media of all types, graphics, movies, audio, anything. Adobe After Effects supports a wide range of files for import. Adobe Illustrator files are supported, Adobe Photoshop files are supported, many types of movie file formats, image file formats, audio file formats and others are supported in After Effects. The Project panel is like a storage container. You could import as much stuff as you want and it really doesn't affect the size of your project as much.
You see After Effects maintains links to the source files on your hard drive. These files that you import are not actually embedded into the project itself. So the benefit of that is you could experiment as much as you want, import tons of footage and you don't have to worry about your project increasing very much. The other side of the coin is that you need to keep a close eye on where your footage is in your hard drive. If you move it, rename it or delete it, After Effects will not be able to locate it and your projects will not work correctly. Once you have imported footage into your Project panel, then you create what are called compositions. Compositions, like what you see here with the 3D and color composition, are series of a layers. Compositions are like mini-projects in After Effects. Once we have items as layers in a composition, we could animate those layers, we could add effects to those layers including color correction.
And once we are done animating and compositing and adding effects then we output our compositions into a file format that other applications can understand. Now, let's take a look at what After Effects is capable of. In this 3D and color composition, I have composited many elements. I took a photo of a beach scene and composited with this Photoshop document of a car and these Illustrator files which are surfboards. Here are the originals here as an Illustrator file brought in. These look much like print graphics, but in After Effects, I can take them and I could apply Photoshop layer styles natively here in After Effects and I could add lighting and other effects to get them to look more realistic. I have also added a logo here at the top and also some decorative elements in the background.
One of the exciting things about After Effects is that you can operate in three-dimensional space. So all of these objects are actually positioned at different places in Z space; in other words, three-dimensions. When I select the new unified Camera tool in After Effects CS4, I can click and drag around and you will see that I actually have a three-dimensional project. Holding the right mouse button down, I could zoom in and out and you are seeing as I move, the parallax effect, where the 3D objects overlap one another. This is a very powerful feature with unlimited potential.
Another thing that I like to do in After Effects is use color correction. For example, this is what my original source files from Photoshop look like, quite different from the final result. I have also created an adjustment layer similar to what you would find in Photoshop, so these elements look like they belong together a little bit more. So here is before and after. Next, we are going to go over this Hula Girl composition. You notice that I could have many compositions open at one time. Another great feature of Adobe After Effects is its ability to animate characters. So I have here this Hula Girl Photoshop file; it's just a regular photo. I can turn it off and on and that's the layer that we are dealing with. Typically, bringing a still photo like this to life can be very difficult, but not with After Effects. There is a tool here in After Effects called the Puppet tool which makes this job a snap. So with this layer selected in my composition, I am going to go over to the toolbar, which you will find at the top of the interface, and select this little pushpin. This is the Puppet tool. It essentially turns still images into puppets like marionettes.
So when I click on this, what I want to do is I want to click on joints or pivot points that would be there if the character were being created as a puppet or marionette. As if we were dangling strings to these points and then once we put those points down, we can move our cursor over the points that we put down and our cursor changes to a move icon. And as we move this, you can see that we can make our character move in very organic ways. Now, another great thing you could do with this tool is you can hold the Command key down on the Mac or Ctrl key on the PC, you get this little stopwatch icon indicating that you will have motion sketch capabilities once you start clicking and dragging with your mouse. So basically then I can drag in real-time and After Effects will record my animations. So I just click and drag and she is doing her hula thing there.
Once it's all said and done, I could play this black using the Spacebar key and you could see that the motions are built-in here. The motions I move with my mouse are already in the file. Finally, we are going to move over to the Surfer Interview composition and again we have a video here that was beneficiary of some great color work here in After Effects. So, let me scroll down to the bottom and show you the original file without any color correction applied. Then after color correction and with the other layers this is what we have.
Now, let's take a look at the entire project and we will talk about some of the other After Effects features I used here. (Man 1: Um, my name is Matt Bovard. I've been surfing for about 19 years and I'm from Newbury Park, California.) Okay, so basically we have an animated bar down here at the bottom called a lower third, which basically has this cool surfer's name there, and then we have some text animation that's another great reason that people use After Effects. Its text animation capabilities are second to none. I used one of the text animation presets that shifts with After Effects CS4 to create this ocean wave text. This ocean water here in the background of our lower third is actually synthetic water made from scratch in After Effects. Here is what that looks like.
If we go to the Effect Controls panel, which is where we adjust the effects that we have applied, if I take off the color we have applied, you can see that basically this water is just some black and white organic designs with some color correction applied and then combined and composited with other layers and we create a fairly realistic water effect. Let me actually go up here to the Tool panel and select the Selection tool again. That's the main tool we use in After Effects and again, another great reason people use After Effects is for its motions graphics capabilities. You'll see as we play this back slowly, we have some animated lines coming on the screen here and then we have some flowers popping up and rotating and all of those tasks are done very quickly and easily inside of After Effects and you know, honestly another thing that they don't tell you in the After Effects documentation is that this program is just fun. It's so easy to use, it's very easy to experiment and play with. It's just a very enjoyable, intuitive application.
That's why it's the industry champ. So as you can see from color correction to 3D animation to character animation to motion graphics, all those things can be done quickly and easily inside of After Effects CS4.
- Importing graphics, video, and audio as linked assets Working with the Timeline Applying Photoshop-style adjustment layers Choosing and configuring preset text animation effects