Join Alan Demafiles for an in-depth discussion in this video Shape layer overview, part of After Effects CC 2017 Essential Training: Motion Graphics.
- [Voiceover] Shape layers are a crucial component of a motion graphic artist's toolset. The procedural and non-destructive nature lets us experiment and animate the various properties that create them. In many ways, it's a lot like a small version of Illustrator directly inside of After Effects. By grouping these visual blocks, we can create complex pieces to use in our motion graphics projects. Here in this movie we'll take a broad look at some of the important characteristics that make shape layers unique. One of the first important concepts about shape layers is to know that they are vector-based images, as opposed to rasterized images.
Now, you might be asking yourself "What is a raster and what's a vector image?" Well, roughly speaking, vector images are mathematical representations of an image versus raster, which is pixel based. To help illustrate that, I've got a yellow solid here which is a rasterized image created inside of After Effects, and on the outside it looks pretty normal, nothing standing out as abnormal, until, when you come over here to transform and scale this up to one thousand percent, you see immediately that the edges and the corners get pretty chunky and soft and that's because these are pixel based images and you are asking After Effects to blow them up and create detail where there is none.
Let's contrast that with a vector-based image. I'll turn this off, and turn on my shape layer. From the onset it looks pretty much the same. Let's go ahead and do the same trick here, transform scale one thousand percent, and this illustrates one of the biggest advantages of using shape layers is that they're infinitely scalable. So we have our rounded rectangle and it's still razor crisp, sharp. Essentially they are resolution independent and that's one of the main advantages, is that you can scale them up infinitely and not have that degradation in image quality.
Another important concept about shape layers is that in order to create them, we are going to use the same tools that are used to create masks. In this composition I've got a yellow solid. Let's go ahead and selection that, and select our rounded rectangle tool. When I click and drag, you'll notice that I can create a rounded rectangle by way of a mask. Turn this off, and deselect it, and with that same tool I'm going to click and drag again, and you'll see that I've created another rounded rectangle, but this time it's in the form of a shape layer.
So that's the important concept here, is that these tools, depending on what you have selected, will either create a shape layer, if nothing is selected, or it will create a mask if you have a layer selected. Another important distinction about shape layers is that these parametric shapes are considered live. When I come over here and, let's pick the star tool for instance, and if I click and drag I am creating a shape that is parametric in nature, meaning that at any point in time, I can come down and in my polystar path, I can change out the number of points.
So let's say I want to have ten points. I can key frame that, I can change out the inner radius, I can change out the outer radius. So a lot of the characteristics of this particular shape is still editable. Let's contrast that with using a solid layer and creating a mask with that. So same tool, now this time I'm creating a mask, and once I let go, if I tool down to my masks, you'll see I don't have any of those same parameters.
That's one other important advantage of using shape layers is that you can, at any time, with any of these tools, the rectangle, rounded, ellipse, polygon and star tool, you can go through and change out the end look based on the number of points and all these different parameters. Another important concept with shape layers is that I can have a separate shape on a separate layer. Here in this example I've got a top square, a middle, and a bottom square and each with animated positions. I'm going to hit zero on my numeric keypad and you'll see them move.
This just goes to show that I can have a separate shape on a separate layer. If I move to this next composition I have the exact same setup, visually it's the same, I'm going to hit zero again on the keypad, it's visually the same and the main distinction is that I now have one layer that contains all 3 of those shapes. Under contents you'll see that I have a top, a middle, and a bottom layer and I can twirl those on and off. It's important to note that you can take multiple shapes and stash them basically inside of one layer.
Shape layers offer enormous flexibility to create elements inside of After Effects with the added benefit of being able to manipulate those elements in a procedural nature.
- Working with shape layers, animation, compositing, and type
- Using Basic After Effects 3D
- Building a basic camera rig
- Using the Cinema 4D renderer
- Using Cinema 4D Lite
- Creating 3D text and 3D geometry
- Adding compositions to the Render Queue
- Recording multiple files with the Render Queue
- Using Adobe Media Encoder
- Using prerenders
- Collapsing transformations