Join Ian Robinson for an in-depth discussion in this video Understanding precomposing, part of After Effects CS6 Essential Training.
Pre-compositions are definitely something you can use in After Effects to maintain flexibility. If you want to be able to animate each individual layer as its own object, but then in turn move that object around the canvas as though it were one object, you might want to consider using precomposing. Now let's look at our project in its current state. Inevitably, as you're working, you're going to look at our project and realize, wow, this is really kind of a mess, and that is a part of the creative process.
But if you can keep yourself organized in the creative process, life will be that much easier. So before we create our first pre- composition, let's do some housekeeping. In the Project panel on the upper left -hand side, notice I have a couple of folders, a QuickTime file and two compositions. The kineteco_02 comp is the comp that we're currently looking at for our animation. This Eco_Shapes composition got created when we imported a Photoshop document in our previous video.
If you double-click that you'll see we have these two shapes in this comp. I don't need this in my timeline, so I'm just going to click the X right next to the name to close that out. Let's move this comp and these two folders into their own folder and call it External files. The reason I want to do this, again, it's just general housekeeping. So with Eco_Shapes selected, hold the Command key on the Mac or the Ctrl key on the PC and select Kineteco_02 layers and Eco_Shapes layers.
With all three of these files selected, now I'm just going to click and drag with my mouse down to the folder in the bottom of the Project panel. When I let go, it looks like they've disappeared, but really, they're inside of this untitled folder. So in here, let's rename it External_Files. And just so you can see, if we open the triangle, you can see here they are. Now let's do the same thing with the QuickTime file. Click and drag the Solar_panels QuickTime file down to its own folder and call this Video_Files, okay.
Now we have our main comp that we're working on. So like we said earlier, this looks kind of busy. And I'd like to be able to just click on this logo and drag it as one big piece. I'm just going to undo Command+Z. In order to do that, instead of using parenting as a technique or some other technique, I'm going to select these layers by clicking on 9 and Shift+Clicking on layer 3. So now layers 3 through 9 are selected, and we'll go up under the Layer menu and go down to Pre-compose.
Now there are some options that popup here, but the only one we can choose right now is Move all attributes into a new composition. This is because we don't have any animation applied to these layers currently. It's important to stay organized whenever I create a pre-composition I like to end it with the word Pre-comp. So I'm going to hit my Left Arrow so my icon pops up on the left side of the name, and I'll just call this Logo Pre- comp and we can leave the 1 in there. Now when I click OK, I have one comp layer.
I can turn the Visibility on and off and I can just reposition that anywhere within my project. Let's click and drag it down to the left and press S to open up the Scale parameter and we'll scale this down. Now 33% seems to be working. We can move it down and out of the way, but you'll notice it's underneath these two layers. So let's click and drag the comp in the timeline up to the top of the layer hierarchy. And here, let's drag it back over the right there a little bit just so we can see how it's fitting in here.
Just in general, when you're positioning objects that have type, you want to click this button here in the bottom of the comp window. That will open up Title/Action Safe. See in here, you want any words to be inside of this second square. That's called Title Safe. I'll turn this off for now and let's look at precomposing. Because we have scaled this down and this pre-comp works perfectly well just like this. But let's see what happens when we deal with a layer that has a blend mode attached.
Just so we can accentuate what's going on here, select layer 2 and press T. That way we can look at the Opacity of this layer and click and drag on the value and drag it up to 100%. Graphically, I don't like how this looks, but this is going to accentuate what I'm talking about when it comes to pre-comps. So with Green set to a 100% Opacity, you can see--I can still see through it because it's using the Hard Light blend mode. And again, we're going to jump into blend modes in the next chapter, but for now, just to understand that this is applied.
So select layer 2 and Shift+Click to select layer 3, go up under Layer and choose Pre-compose. We'll move all these attributes as well, and again, I'm going to hit the Left Arrow and just call this Bars_Pre-comp 1. Now when I click OK, these layers have been moved to their own composition as well. Now look what happened to the green, notice how it's no longer semi-transparent. Yes, I can still see the yellow layer below it, but if we click this button right here next to this little shy guy, notice now the blend mode actually comes back.
See, this button right here is called Collapse Transformations. You can see that name when you click and hold on this button. This does two things. First thing, with Collapse Transformations disabled, if I click and drag my bars to the right, notice they're cut off. See, when I collapse my transformations, you can see now this layer is extended. So Collapse Transformations tells this kineteco_02 composition to ignore any of the parameters set by its current environment.
But actually, look at how the layers exist on their own even if you open up the Bars comp, it's still ignoring the edge of that comp because it's really looking at the values of these layers as a whole. Now it also looks at the blend modes. So if we jump back to our kineticeco_ 02 layer and select our Bar comp here, you'll know if we deselect you can see no blend modes, whereas when we enable Collapse Transformations, the blend modes are allowed to compute through.
So Collapsing Transformations just allows whatever is going on to go through the different compositions. Now we can reposition this back down into the bottom of our comp. And that pretty much wraps up our overview of precompositions. Don't worry, as we continue moving throughout the rest of this course, we're going to dive deeper and deeper into pre-comps in specific instances when you may want to consider using them.
- Setting up the workspace, important preferences, and the cache
- Importing footage and comps
- Relinking missing footage
- Creating type, shape layers, and masks
- Rotoscoping with the Roto Brush
- Adjusting keyframes in the Graph Editor
- Timing animations to audio
- Building backgrounds with effects
- Rendering with the Render Queue and Adobe Media Encoder
- Animating 3D type
- Smoothing shaky footage and retouching footage
- Keying green screen footage
- Working with 3D: extruding shapes, adding ray-traced lighting, and more