Adobe After Effects is a program that allows users to create animations and other special effects for graphic projects. Graphic designers use it to make their projects feature layer-based animations. After Effects is part of Adobe and is compatible with other programs in the same family.
Part 1 of 4: Create a New Composition and Import Files
Step 1. Create and configure a new composition
In Adobe After Effects, projects are called comps. On the home screen, locate the New Composition button in the right column and click on it. If you already have the program open, you can click the Composition panel and select New Composition, or you can use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + N. Every time you create a new composition, the Composition Settings window will appear on your screen.
- Locate the Default option and click the drop-down menu. The menu is divided into four sections, respectively: web settings, standard definition broadcast settings (NTSC and PAL), high definition (HD) settings (most commonly used), and movie settings. Select the first default option for HD: HDV / HDTV 720 29.97. This selection will automatically set the width, height, and frame rate.
- In the second row, locate Start timecode and Duration. Leave the start timecode at 0. Duration refers to the length of the project, from start to finish. Set the duration required for the length of your composition.
Step 2. Save the composition
Before starting to work on the composition, you should always give it a name and save the project. Click the File panel at the top of the screen. When you select the Save option, the Save As window will appear. At the top of the window, write the name of the composition. Choose a location to save this file and click the Save button at the bottom of the screen. The saved composition will appear in the Project panel on the left side of the screen.
Although you can save the file to any location, it is recommended that you save the composition near the Pictures file. This file is inside the Memory Files folder
Step 3. Import files into Adobe After Effects
To create a composition, you need material to manipulate and animate. Choose File> Import> File or double-click on the Project panel. Select all the files you want to import and click Open. The imported files will appear in the Project panel. Here are some alternative methods:
- Double-click anywhere in the Project panel.
- On Mac, press the Command + I keys.
- Drag the images directly to the Project panel.
Part 2 of 4: Building a Layered Composition
Step 1. Add files to your composition
A composition is a composite graphic or a layer composition. Each layer in the composition is a file. The combination of the layers forms a composite graphic. There are several ways to add files to the composition.
You can drag and drop files from the Project panel to the Timeline panel (located in the lower-right corner of the window), to the Composition window (located to the right of the Project panel), or to the Layer panel (located just below the Project panel)
Step 2. Organize and edit the layers
Once the files appear in the Layer panel, you can start manipulating the files. In this panel, you can change the order of the files and edit their appearance.
- To adjust the stacking order of the layers, drag the file up or down the list. The order of the files will change the appearance of the composition. (check the Composition window). Files at the top of the layer list will appear above files at the bottom.
- To change the look of a file, click the side triangle next to the layer number. This action will open the Transform menu. There, you can modify the following properties: anchor point, position, scale, rotation and opacity.
Step 3. Create a timeline for your composite chart
The Timeline function allows you to animate the graph by controlling when each layer is or is not visible. The timeline is located to the right of the layer list. Each layer has its own time indicator within the timeline, with which you can crop, enlarge or group it with the other layers, in any way you want.
Step 4. Cut out the layers
Select a layer from the list. Move the cursor over the line that divides the list and the timeline so that a double arrow appears. Click and drag the double arrow across the timeline to create a translucent gray box (this indicates that a clip has been trimmed). Once you get to the point where you want the cape to appear, stop.
The red line with a yellow tab indicates the current time. You can use this line to help you automatically trim the layers. Select the layer you want to trim and drag the red line to the In point or Out point of the layer. Press the Command + [keys to clip the layer to the right of the red line, then press the Command +] keys
Step 5. Transform the 2D layers
When working within the Composition window, you can manually place or transform layers. Select a layer from the list. Move the cursor over the Composition window and zoom in on the sheet. Controls appear around the composition. This indicates that the layer can be transformed or placed.
- To reduce or enlarge the layer, click on the control, press Shift, and drag the cursor in or out of the window.
- To rotate an item, press Ctrl + W. This action will activate the rotation tool.
- To move a layer on a 2D plane, click on the element you want to move and drag it to its new position.
Step 6. Create 3D layers
To create a 3D layer, go back to the Layer panel. The column just below this icon controls the 3D parameters for each layer. To activate this function, mark the blank space that corresponds to the layer in this column. Return to the Composition window; If you turn on the 3D property, the Y, X, and Z controls will appear at the layer's anchor point.
Step 7. Transform the 3D layers
To move a 3D layer, press ⌘ Cmd + W to activate the rotate tool. Hover over the X or Y axis. Click on it and drag the cursor from left to right or top to bottom. The Z axis must always remain at 0.
Step 8. Apply the association function to the layers
The association function allows you to group the layers. The parent layer will control the actions of the child layer. The latter will still be able to move independently of the primary.
- Select one of the layers (to which you want to apply the keyframes) that will become the secondary layer.
- In the Layers panel, locate the Primary category.
- In the Primary column of this layer, in the row of the secondary layer, locate the key icon. Click on the icon and draw a black line towards the Layer Name in the parent layer section. Through this process the secondary layer will be associated with the primary one.
Part 3 of 4: Add Animations, Effects, and Presets
Step 1. Set the keyframes
Keyframes mark the exact times on the timeline when changes to a layer's properties will occur. This feature, represented by a small stopwatch, allows you to animate your composite graphics.
- Move the red line on the current-time indicator to the point where you want to trigger a keyframe.
- Select a layer in the List panel.
- Expand the Transform or Contents panels of the layer.
- Click the stopwatch icon near the property you want to modify. This action will record a keyframe at the current-time indicator. A yellow dot or the> <symbols will appear to mark the keyframe on the timeline.
- To see the keyframes in the timeline, link the layers you want to see and press the U key.
- To move a keyframe, link its symbol on the timeline, and then drag it to its new location. Also, you can copy and paste the keyframes.
Step 2. Animate the keyframes
Keyframes allow you to animate your project. You can modify any of the properties listed under the Transform or Contents panels. There are two basic forms of animation: subtle or linear. If the animation of the layer is subtle, it will appear and disappear smoothly from the movement. If the layer animation is linear, the layer will move and stop abruptly, and also move at the same speed all the time. Modifying the position of a layer is an example of linear animation.
- Click the stopwatch icon near Position.
- Move the red line to the point where you want the layer to be off the screen.
- Click on the anchor point of the layer.
- Hold down the "Shift" key while dragging the layer completely off the screen. The path of motion will appear as a purple dotted line, and each related keyframe will appear as a purple square. To preview the animation, drag the red line on the timeline.
Step 3. Include effects and presets
Click Window and Effects & Presets. You will see a list of various animations and effects available that you can use in your project. Simply drag and drop the effect or animation onto the layer you want to apply it to. You will see the change immediately.
- Effects include 3D, color correction, and various camera effects.
- Transition options include wipe, fade, and checkerboard effects.
- You can remove selections by dragging them out of projects.
Part 4 of 4: Preview and process the composition
Step 1. Preview the project
Select Window. From here, click Timeline. A preview panel will appear where you can select Play to see a first draft of the project. If you want to see a more finished version, click Play RAM Processing. If your project is especially long or requires a lot of memory, adjust the resolution before previewing it. After clicking to play, the video will play until you click on the screen to stop it.
Step 2. Export your composition to the render queue
If you need to produce and deliver a high-quality composition, export the project to the render queue. Render queue is part of Adobe After Effects.
- Click File at the top of the window. Select Export and then Add to Processing Queue. Instead of File, you should click Composition and select Add to render queue.
- In the render queue, locate Exit Module and click the linked text to the left of this section. A dialog box will appear on your screen; from this screen you will be able to change the audio and video output settings. When you're done, click accept.
- In the render queue, locate Export to and click the linked text to the right of that section. Another dialog box will appear on your screen, asking you to select a location to save your rendered composition. When you're done, click OK.
- Click Process to export the composition.
Step 3. Export the composition to Adobe Media Encoder
Adobe Media Encoder will produce a compressed version of the composition. Additionally, Media Encoder exports files that are compatible with specific web platforms. As long as your project is rendering in Media Encoder, you can continue working in Adobe After Effects.
- Click File at the top of the window. Select Export and then Add to Adobe Media Encoder Queue. You can also select Composition followed by Add to Adobe Media Encoder Queue or drag the file directly to the Adobe Media Encoder Queue panel.
- Locate the Set Browser section. Select the format for your composition. Drag this preselection to the file in the Adobe Media Encoder Queue.
- In the queue, locate Export to and click the linked text on the left side of this section. A dialog box will appear on your screen asking you to choose a location to save your processed composition. When you're done, click OK.
- Click the green play button to start exporting.