After Effects Beginners Course – Learn After Effects in 1 Hour

After Effects 12/10/2019 20 min read

Hi guys, this is Jordan with Motion Array and welcome to our Complete After Effects Course For Beginners.  We’re going to be going through the program and getting you up to up to speed so that you can start using it on your own.  And the best part is that you can learn After Effects for free! So let’s get right into it!

After effects can seem like a really intimidating program if you’ve never learned it.   But this course is designed to get you up and running using it in about 1 hour! We’ve broken this course up into 8 videos so that you can jump to specific sections if you need to touch up on any one topic in specific.

Introduction to After Effects

But before we begin learning how to use After Effects, it’s important to quickly go over why you’d want to use it in the first place. What is its purpose, and what is it designed to do? As Premiere Pro is becoming more and more powerful, there’s more chances that you can complete your project inside that program alone.  But every so often you’re going to come into a situation where you need a lot more precision and flexibility to create a really unique scene.  This is typically where After Effects comes into play. The way that I would illustrate this difference is by comparing Premiere Pro to a saw and After Effects to a scalpel. Both are used to cut things, but you’ll have a lot more trouble cutting a tree down with a scalpel, and you also probably don’t want to operate on a person using a saw either. Each tool has its purpose. After Effects is an especially great tool for compositing amazing elements into your scene and doing intensive graphic design work, as well as a host of other specialized functions. So the better you understand it, the more amazing you can make your videos look.

Are you excited?  Let’s jump in to the first part of our After Effects Tutorial, learning the Interface.

Video 1 – Purpose Of After Effects And Its User Interface

So here we are on our computer desktop and the first thing that we want to do is actually update after effects so that we’re running the most current version.  To do this, go to your creative cloud account, and make sure that there’s no new updates available.   If there is it’s always worth keeping up to date in order to make sure you don’t run into problems that the new update has already solved.

Now that you’re up to date, let’s open up After Effects. What you should be greeted with is the  start screen, where you can open up previous projects you’ve been working on or start a new one. We’re going to start a new one of our own.  So click new project and you’re off and running.  From here you’re greeted with the After Effects interface, which if you’ve used Premiere Pro, should feel a little familiar. But it might be overwhelming if you don’t know what everything does and where it’s located.  So let’s start by looking at each of these panels. Up here we have the project window. This is where we keep the footage that we’re working with as well as the compositions that those clips end up in. We’ll go into compositions more but for now, think of compositions a lot like sequences in premiere pro. A file that represents a grouping of media that you’re working on.

To start with, let’s bring in some clips so we can see what a working project looks like. Either double click on the project window to choose clips, or drag and drop clips directly into the project window.

Now let’s take a look at the Composition Monitor. This is where you will be able to view your work much like the source monitor and project monitor in Premiere Pro. Right now it doesn’t show anything because our timeline is empty.  But let’s quickly double click one of our pieces of footage, and we can see that it shows us our footage. But you can see that it creates a new little tab here to view under. It says footage because we’re viewing an individual piece of footage instead of what’s on our timeline. So for right now, let’s get back to our composition viewer by hitting the composition tab to go back. So right now our composition window is showing us that we can either create a brand new composition, or create a new one using a piece of footage as a starting point. I’m just going to create a new one by dragging our footage from the project window to the composition window. And there we go, our footage is now on our timeline.

And as you can probably tell, our timeline is this box down here. It’s basic functionality is very similar to the timeline in premiere pro. Grab the playhead and you can see what’s in your composition, and even play in real time by pressing the spacebar. But this timeline has so many unique features that we’ll get to later on.

And finally the last panel that we have here is our miscellaneous panel which has a variety of tabs we can use to impact our composition. Things like information about our footage, audio layouts, effects and presets, etc. And we’ll get more into how to use all of these features in the next few videos. But for right now, let’s just quickly go over the last two sections.

Here at the top left you should see a variety of tools that you can use. Every time you click a different tool, your mouse will take on a different function for working with your project. You have a simple selection tool, a hand tool for moving things around, a zoom tool, a rectangle tool, and a type tool just to name a few. Later on we’ll go into some of these in detail, but for right now, if you want to know where a specific tool is, it’s a really great idea to look here. And if you hold your mouse over a particular one, you’ll get it’s name and shortcut key to access it easily.

And finally we have our workspace tabs here at the top right. This is where you can choose from a different selection of ways that these boxes can be organized. So you can see that the blue highlight here tells us that we’re in the default setting. But we can also choose others like standard, minimal, and paint to get different layouts for different purposes. We’re going to stay with the default for now. But it’s important to remember that even in default you can move around these boxes to make your project layout your own. Make areas bigger or smaller by dragging the divides of each. Or grab an entire tab and move it to a different location. Play around with these yourself so you can get comfortable with knowing how to work with this interface. But don’t worry about messing anything up. Because if you do, what I just did and move things around to a point where you say, ew, that looks gross.  You can easily reset it back to normal by going to window, workspaces, and reset default to saved layout. Now it’s back to normal. Easy as that.

And guys that’s just a quick overview of the layout of After Effects. Before we move onto the next video, go ahead and hit Ctrl or Command+S, or go to file save as, and save your project so we don’t lose our work. Let’s make sure we place it somewhere we can find it. Put it in it’s own folder, and title it something that will let us know instantly which project it is that we’re looking at.

Guys I hope that helps you start to feel a little more comfortable working inside of After Effects. In the next video we’re gonna go into detail with how to work with video layers and compositions!

Video 2 – How Layers Work In After Effects

Hi guys welcome back to video 2 of our After Effects Beginners Course! In this video we’re gonna look at how to work with layers in After Effects, so let’s jump into it!

So now we’re going to take a look at how to work with layers. First of all, what is a layer. Well a layer is this box right here. On the timeline in After Effects, each layer can only be occupied by one individual piece of media. So if we try to bring another clip down and place it beside the other, we can only place it either below, or above it, but not beside it. And you can also tell that After Effects prioritizes seeing the clip that’s on top rather than the one that’s underneath. But why is After Effects set up this way? Well it’s primarily because After Effects is designed to work with creating individual scenes as opposed to an entire video unto itself. So the ideas is that most of the time, whatever you are working within each After Effects composition are coming together to create 1 unified result.

If you want to move a layer up or down in After Effects, just click and grab it on the left hand side here, and then drag it up or down to the position that you want. When you release it, it will end up in that new position. Great.

Also, similarly to Premiere Pro, if you grab the end of a clip and drag it, it will either lengthen or shorten. So if we want to reduce the length of this clip, we just click and drag it backwards. Similarly you can bring clips forward and backward in time by clicking and holding the clip and then moving it to the left or right. If you’ve used Premiere Pro before, this should be somewhat familiar.

And you can see that when a layer comes to an end, it disappears and the layer beneath it is the one that appears. Technically this layer is still taking priority but there’s just nothing there to show, so the result is that we just move to seeing the next layer.

So that’s pretty basic, but over here to the left there’s a few things that may seem a little different. Beside our layer here we have a series of buttons, and we’re going to quickly explore what these do in order to help you use layers better. Over here on the far left you should see a little eye symbol. This symbol shows that your layer is visible, and if we click it so that it disappears, our layer becomes invisible as well. This is a really useful tool for seeing what’s underneath your layer without deleting it.

Next up we see a little audio icon. This lets us know that our layer has audio attached to it and that it’s audible. Clicking this will mute the layer, which you may find is very helpful to do in after effects most of the time.

Next up we have this box which above it we can see has a little dot. What this is is our option for soloing our layer. If you have a variety of other layers that are all contributing to the final result of your video, but you only want to see what this layer is doing, hitting the solo button will allow you to see only that layer and everything else will disappear.

And finally we have our locking icon. This allows you to lock your layer so that you can’t make any changes to it. You can see that when we click it it just flashes, and if we go into some details of the layer and try to make changes, we can’t. This is great for any layers that you have that you want to keep safe from accidentally making any accidental adjustments to.

Great. It’s important to remember that the more video layers you end up working with, the more complicated things will get and the more useful these tools will end up becoming. Another really helpful organization tool is just simply naming your layers. You’ll notice that each of your layers are named something specific, but depending on whether or not you’ve named things before importing, it might be a little confusing to think about what layer is what. Renaming it can really help you see at a glance where everything is. So I’m going to quickly rename this layer by right clicking it, and selecting rename. Now you can type in the name that you want this layer to have.

And lastly, let’s take a look at what’s called pre-composing. So you have right now an after effects project, with a composition that you’re working on. But did you know that you can have multiple compositions within a composition? It might seem like a lot, but this is a very basic principle that gets used quite a lot inside of after effects. So let me just quickly open up another example here.

We have a few layers here that are each contributing to our final image. I want to group two of these layers together, and what this is called is precomposing. If you’re familiar with premiere, then this process is essentially the same thing as nesting but with a lot more flexibility.

To group two or more layers by precomposing, highlight the ones you want together by holding shift to keep your selection and clicking multiple clips. Then right click any of these clips and choose precompose. From here you can name your precomp whatever you want. When we click okay, we can see that our two layers have been merged into one, and they act as a single layer. Not only that, we can dive into our precomp layer by double clicking it. Now we can see these two layers on their own timeline. It’s a timeline within a timeline. And if we want to go back out to our main timeline, we can do that by clicking this tab right here. If this is a little bit confusing, what might help is hitting the tab button, this brings up a little flow chart which shows you your project compositions and how they are connected. This is showing us that our main composition is this one here on the far left. And within this composition is another composition, which is this one here. As you start to get more compositions within more compositions, this chart will be really really helpful. But for right now, let’s go back to our main composition by bringing up the flowchart with tab, and then clicking on the main composition. And now we’re back. And we can continue editing our project.  One of the ways that we’re going to go over next is by accessing the options within our layer themselves.

If we look over here, we can see that there’s a little triangle, and when we press it, there’s an entirely new set of options available for us to start working with, and we’re gonna take a look at how to work with those properties in the next video.

And guys that’s been just a brief overview of how to use layers within after effects. If you wanted to go into more detail about layers, check out this video we have on details to help you use layers and precomps better. But in our next video, we’re going to be talking about making basic changes to our layers by transforming and animating them.  Thanks so much for watching and I can’t wait to see you in the next video!

Video 3 – Working With Clips: Transform properties, Basic Animation, and Previewing

Hi guys welcome back to video 3 of our After Effects Beginners Course! In this video we’re gonna look at how to transform and animate the basic properties of your clips! So let’s jump into it!

So how do you transform and make changes to your clips in After Effects. Well we ended the last video by opening up the little drop down here on our layer using this triangle. This opens up our transform properties that we can also drop down here. This is where you have the functionality to move your clips around with each of these parameters. You can see that we have anchor points, position, scale, rotation, and opacity. And for now we’re just going to leave audio alone.

Each of these has a particular function that you might be able to guess as to what each of them do. Position moves your clip in the X and Y axis directions, and you can make those changes by clicking and dragging to the left or right on any of these blue numbers here. The first one controls left, right movement, and the second one controls up down movement.

Scale makes your clip bigger or smaller. And not only can you click and move to make it bigger or smaller, you can also input a specific number of your choice instead. But there’s two numbers here that just do the same thing. Why? Well you can see here the little chain icon. This means that your horizontal and vertical scale are linked together so that your clip keeps its proportions. If we unlink them we can scale the vertical and horizontal size independently.

Rotation here controls the degree to which our clip is rotated – 0º is resting normally and 90 degrees turns it on it’s side. You can also see there’s a number beforehand. This refers to the number of full rotations made by your clip. If it’s not being animated, this number makes no difference. But when we get to animating later on, this can play a very big role.

And finally, opacity refers to the transparency of your clip. And right now you can see that when we bring transparency down to 0, our viewer shows white. This is just a default within After Effects, but can get confusing for example if you have an intentional white background in your composition. So to show transparency better in our viewer, we can come up to this screen and hit the checkerboard icon here and now whenever there’s nothing in the background, we can see a checkerboard design.

Great! But you can also do all these things with your mouse on the actual viewer here too. With your selection tool highlighted by clicking it up here. Or hitting the V key. You can now click and drag your clip around and the top most clip will be the one that you can control. While you’re doing this, it’s possible you might make a mistake and want to bring everything back to normal. There’s 2 ways I’d suggest knowing. One is to hit edit, undo. Or use the shortcut key Control or Command + Z. The other thing that you can do is notice what your changes are affecting in your transform options. As we move the position, the position numbers are changing.  And to bring it back to normal, just hit the reset button. Keep in mind the reset button will reset all of these parameters, not just position.

Now with it back to normal, try holding shift while moving your clip around. You’ll notice that your clip can only move along 1 axis. This will help you to make very isolated changes in case for example, you wanted to animate your clip moving to the right off screen, which is what we’re going to learn how to do right now!

Bring your clip back to normal and now let’s bring our playhead to the beginning of the timeline. Let’s let it go for as long as we want the clip to last, and then when we want the clip to move off screen, let’s make what’s called a keyframe. To make a keyframe, hit the stopwatch beside the position icon. It’s highlighted blue which means that now any changes we make to position will be monitored and the differences over time will be shown. So now let’s move forward a bit, and make an additional keyframe by clicking this new diamond icon here. To go back and forth between your two keyframes, hit either of these forward and backward arrows here.

So right now we don’t see our clip changing at all yet. That’s because the keyframes say the same thing at the moment, but now let’s go to the second keyframe and move the position over to the right. A quick little note, if you’re using the blue numbers here to scroll, holding shift will make the changes more sensitive, and holding either control or command will make the changes very very subtle. Try it out for yourself. Great, but now let’s just bring it so that it goes off to the right. Great. Now if we go back to this first keyframe and hit spacebar to play, we can see that we just animated our clip to move over to the right!

Guys that looks great! But we can see that the movement is kind of slow and mechanical. We want it to feel a little more fluid. So let’s just go to the keyframes here, and lets hit the plus button to zoom in the timeline so that we can see more detail near our keyframes.

If we move the keyframes closer together, this will make the change happen the same amount, but over a shorter period of time, so the result is that the animation will appear faster. Great. But to make it more fluid, we want to do something called adding a bezier. Right click on the first keyframe here and select keyframe assist. And then we’re going to choose here the option called Easy Ease.

Now we can see that our diamond keyframe changed shape to look more like an hourglass. What this is is called a bezier. And it let’s us know that our animation of this clip is non-linear. Meaning it changes at different amounts over time. Here’s what that looks like. It starts off slow and then gets faster as it goes along, like it’s accelerating. It looks more realistic because normal things don’t just reach their top speed instantaneously. Like a car that starts moving again after a light turns green.

Guys you’ve just successfully made an awesome looking animation for your clip! You can do the same thing with any of the parameters that are in this list. Scale, rotation, and even opacity to fade in our out a clip.

But there’s one last thing that I’m going to introduce you to without teaching, so that you can see how much more you can do with this program. If you click on the particular parameter that you’re making changes to, and hit this little graph icon, you can see the animation changes over time on a graph. From here you can make even more specific changes to really dial in the look you want your animation to have. But this is a really advanced feature to come back to after you’ve finished this course.

I hope you found this video on animations really helpful! In the next video we’re going over how to use layer masks.  It’s a really essential tool in After Effects. Thanks so much for watching guys! And I hope to see you in the next video!!!

Video 4 – Masks, Masking, and Basic Shapes

Hi guys welcome back to video 4 of our After Effects Beginners Course! In this video we’re gonna look at how to use the masking tool in After Effects! So let’s jump into it!

So let’s learn how to do some masking. First question is, what is masking? Well that’s the process of telling After Effects to select a particular portion of the layer that you’re working on. In order to create a mask, go to the rectangle tool up here, or use the shortcut key Q. Then your cursor should look like a crosshair. Now whenever you click and drag on the viewer, you should see after effects telling you that anything inside of this shape is something that you want to keep, and anything outside of the shape is something that you don’t want to see.  It’s like making a cutout of your video.

So now we’ve selected that we want this portion of our clip and everything else is transparent. But even after we’ve selected our mask, we can make changes to the mask. We can go down here to our drop down, and we can see that now in addition to transform and audio, we have a new drop down called masks. Hit the triangle and then the next one, and we can see that we have properties that we can influence specifically for the mask.

Mask path, mask feather, mask opacity, and mask expansion. Let’s quickly explore each of them. The mask path simply refers to the location of the mask and allows for you to animate it using the keyframe stopwatch like in our example for animating our video off screen right. If we make a keyframe and then move forwards and change the position of the mask, we can see that it animates in that direction.

Next up is mask feather, and this one will be used very often throughout your after effects career. What this basically does is gradually fade the edges of what’s chosen and what’s not so that it’s more of a gradient instead of a harsh edge.

Mask opacity simply refers to the opacity of whatever is inside of the mask.

And finally mask expansion allows you to make the mask area smaller or bigger. But why would you make the mask bigger this way instead of just drawing a new outline? Well maybe you’ve already animated it, and done a lot of work with this mask, and then you feather it and realize that it’s a little too small of a selection, but you don’t want to go back and do all that work again. So this allows you to keep all the work you did but just make a secondary change to help make it perfect.

Great. But there’s one last thing that we want to make a mention of. Masks can select for what’s inside of them, but they can also select for what’s outside. If we go up here to the top of the mask section, we can see that there’s a checkbox called “inverted”. If we select it, we can see that now our mask is inverted, so the inside is transparent, but the outside is visible. You can also do a similar thing by changing its action to subtract instead of add. There are also a variety of other blending options that you will likely use far less often but you can still play around with if you want to see what they do. Lastly, you can turn the mask off by selecting the “none” option here. This keeps all of the work you’ve done to the mask but just makes it inactive.

But you don’t just have to use rectangles to mask with. If we go back up here to the rectangle tool and click and hold it, we can see that we have a bunch of different tools that we can select from. We have an elipse tool. We even have a polygon tool where when you stretch it out and hold it, you can choose what sided object you want by holding and hitting either the up or down arrow keys to give it more or less points.

But beside that we have the pen tool. This tool allows us to create a mask that’s completely free drawn and can be any shape that we can think of. Click it or select it using the shortcut key G, and we can make anything. Even a really weird shape. To do this, highlight your  layer and every time you click on the viewer, you will make a point, and then every time you make another click, that point will connect to the previous. Keep this going until you create a full shape and then connect the first point to the last.

You might be wondering, why would you ever want to make such a weird shape instead of a perfect geometric one. Well one reason would be if you wanted to rotoscope a person and track their movements over time. If you’re interested, we have a video for that where we went into detail about what rotoscoping is and how to do it effectively.

But that’s it for this one guys! I hope you feel a little more comfortable masking in After Effects! In our next video we’re going over how to use effects and plugins. Thanks so much for watching, and I can’t wait to see you in the next video!

Video 5 – How To Add Text In After Effects

Hi guys welcome back to video 5 of our After Effects Beginners Course, and in this video we’re gonna look at how to create text in After Effects! Don’t worry it’s really easy, so let’s jump into it!

So here we are back inside of After Effects and let’s hit the ground running by learning how to add a new text layer to our project. You can go about it a variety of ways but the easiest would be to either go to Layer > New > Text. Or to bring up the type tool with Control or Command + T.  Now click anywhere on your footage to indicate where you want your text to roughly be placed.

You should see a little line here indicating a rough size of your text.  Now when you type out on your keyboard, it appears right away on your screen.  Great, you’ve just created text in after effects. But I really doubt that that’s all you want to do with it.  So we’re going to go over the basics of how to work with your text and then some more intermediate ways that you can stylize it to make it work best for you!

To start with, let’s change the font. Right now we have a pretty generic font and I want something a lot nicer. To choose a new font, let’s highlight our text (only half) and then go up to our character tab again and select a new font.  You can also see a short example of what that font looks like here when you click to drop down the font options. I’m going to choose this font called Bebes Neue, but you can choose whatever you prefer. Uh oh, except we just hit a problem, only half our our text actually changed font.  That’s because we only highlighted half of our text. Changes to your text in after effects will only take effect on whatever is highlighted. So to change all the text, we need to highlight ALL of it. Now let’s choose the font again, and now all the font has been changed. Great!

Right beneath that we can see the options for the style we want this particular font to be. Bold, thin, and some fonts even have specific italic options.

To the right we can see two color swatches. This top left one here controls your text color.  So let’s highlight our text and choose a new color.  That looks great!

Below that is the font size parameter we looked at earlier. Again, make sure that all your text is highlighted because it will only impact whatever is highlighted. Next beside that is the leading, yes, it’s called ledding not leading as I found out recently. And this controls, if you have multiple lines of text, the vertical spacing between those lines.

Below that we have kerning and tracking. Kerning will control the spacing between individual characters, while kerning will help you control how spread out the entirety of your selected text is.

Below that we have the stroke amount. This controls how many pixels wide the outer stroke of your text will be. And we can see what that looks like by making it bigger. And if you wanted to change the color of your stroke, you control that with this second swatch up at the top right here. And you can choose which color appears over which, either the fill of the text or the stroke.

Next quickly here you can control the vertical or horizontal scaling individually if you’d like.  As well you can shift the baseline of where your text is located either up or down. And finally here you can control the tsume, which basically allows you to proportionally move your text closer together based on the individual character and how much space it takes up. So for example you can see that the M and O here pack closely together, but the O only goes as far as the top edge of the T, leaving the bottom with a lot more space. And the Y down here shows it even more because there’s technically a border that the tsume is reading into right about here.

And lastly here we have paragraph styles where you can easily configure if your text is set to the left, center or right. But those are all of the most common parameters that you’ll likely run into as you begin to learn After Effects.

But now that we know how to give our text a basic look, how do we start to give it more unique characteristics and even some animation?  Well like in the last video on masking with the add section, a great place to start it in your text layer here under this tab labeled animate.  Click it and you should be shown a list of animation parameters that you can give to your text. Most of them should be pretty self explanatory, but feel free to experiment with any of them that you’d like just to see what they do.  Like for example, we can add a skew effect. And we can use this to animate our text to skew off angle over time. There’s a lot of really simple and powerful effects you can give your text just from this menu alone.

And lastly, now that we know a lot more about how to work with our text, we want to go over one very common way to give your text a professional feel that we really like here at Motion Array.  We’re going to take what we learned from our last video and add a shape layer.  Let’s just try this out. Take your rectangle tool, shortcut key Q, and make sure that none of your layers are highlighted.  Now when we make our shape it makes it as a new shape layer. Stretch it so