After Effects Beginners Course – Learn After Effects in 1 Hour

After Effects October 12, 2019 37 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 that it covers up most of our text. Now this doesn’t exactly look the best, but if we bring our shape layer down so it’s below our text layer, we can see that our text has its own backdrop to stand out clearly.  Awesome! Let’s change the color. Lastly let’s take what we learned from video 2, and let’s precompose our text and shape layers into one. Highlight them both, then right click, and go to precompose. And let’s choose to move all attributes to the new composition. And there we go, now our text and the background shape can be controlled as a single unit.

But guys that’s the basics of working with text in After Effects. I hope that you found this video really helpful. In the next video we’re going to be going over how to use Effects and Plugins in After Effects. Thanks so much for watching and I can’t wait to see you in the next video!

Video 6 – Using Effects and Plugins

Hi guys welcome back to video 6 of our After Effects Beginners Course! In this video we’re gonna look at how to use Effects and Plugins in After Effects! So let’s jump into it!

So we mentioned in video 1 that to the right here was a panel called effects and presets. If you’re at all familiar with Premiere Pro, this is basically exactly the same as the effects panel in Premiere.

If we select it, we can see that there is a huge selection of effects that we can add to our video. This list is much larger than the list available inside of Premiere Pro, and contains some very powerful and highly specialized effects. It would be impossible to go over all of them, so we’re going to go over some general principles and then a couple specific examples.

Effects in After Effects work on a drag and drop system. So let’s see how it works with a simple gaussian blur. Let’s find it by looking through the folders, and we can find this particular effect under the folder called blur and sharpen.  But if we know the name of the effect we want ahead of time, or even just part of the name, we can type it into the search bar here and only effects whose name partially matches will pop up.

Now that we’ve found our effect, when we drag and drop it onto our layer here, we can notice 2 things. First is that under our layer dropdown we get an additional tab called effects. And if we drop it down we can see that our gaussian blur is located here and we can make changes to it.

But we can also see that when we dropped it in we brought up a new window in place of our project window. This is our effect controls window which has similar functionality as it does in premiere pro. Here we have the option of making changes to our video layer from either of these two locations. And when we make changes in one of these locations, the change is recognized in the other as well. If you ever need to go back to your project window to find video files, you can do so by clicking that tab up here.

Great. So now we can see that if we increase the value of this effect, the effect becomes stronger and more prominent. And if we look at all of the different options that are available to us for this effect, we can get an understanding of how many different things we can do with this specific effect. For example, in addition to making our image more or less blurry, we can check this box to make sure that our changes extend to the edge of the frame. But it’s important to note that effects will only make an impact on the specific layers that you apply them to. So for example we have our layer here that we’ve applied the blur to. But now let’s say we add a mask to our effect like we learned in video 4, and then we add another piece of footage beneath our layer here. The blur is only impacting our clip that we added it to. If we wanted to make the blur impact both pieces of footage, you have two options. You could add the same blur effect with the same parameters to the second piece of footage, and an easy way to do that would be to highlight the effect, copy it, and paste it to the second video layer. But a much easier and simpler solution would be to use what’s called an adjustment layer.

To add an adjustment layer, simply go to layer, new, adjustment layer.  Now you have a new layer called adjustment layer.  But what does an adjustment layer do?  Well in oversimplified terms, an adjustment layer is a layer that you can make changes to, and when you make changes to it, it applies those changes to whatever’s underneath it. So now let’s get rid of the current blur effect by highlighting it and hitting either the delete or backstroke key.  Great! And now let’s add it to the adjustment layer itself. Now we can see that our entire image has been blurred as a single unit. Great!

But one of the best parts of adding effects to layers and to a project is how they can all work together towards a common goal. So for example now we’ve got an entire scene that’s blurry, which you might think is a little silly and has no purpose. But there are cases in which that would actually be helpful and visually appealing. One of those is when you want to make text stand out even clearer.  So let’s add a new piece of text in like we learned in video 5.

And now that our text is in place, you can see how our entire attention is drawn to it. And if we drop it beneath our adjustment layer, we can see that the blur would be applied to it, but let’s just bring it back up above for now.

What’s interesting is that even though our text layer isn’t technically a video layer, we can still add effects to it. So I’m going to search here for a specific effect called light sweep. And I’m going to add it to my text layer on top here. We can see that the effect makes a little line of light on top of our text.  And we can change some of the parameters that control how it looks. Like for example the intensity of the light, as well as the angle that it’s shining across our text. And even the position where it’s located. And when we change the position, you notice that it’s only shining the light across our text and not the video, giving it a really cool effect.

But you might also notice something else, that when you move the position of the light sweep, it actually makes it look like a real light is sweeping across your text. You can actually animate this so that it appears this way in your scene.  Just use the keyframe stopwatch and animate it like we animated the motion of our video in part 3 of this course. Hit the stopwatch, set your starting position. Then move forward, and set your ending position.  And this is our final result.

Now we have a scene where multiple effects are coming together to make something happen! We’ve just gone over 2 of an absolutely countless number of effects that you can use in this program. So I would suggest going through this list and trying out any that catch your attention. Just playing around in after effects is actually one of the best ways to get comfortable using the program.

And guys that’s just a basic overview of how to use effects in after effects! I hope you found it helpful. In our next video we’re going to be going over how to use scripts and expressions. I look forward to seeing you in the next video!

Video 7 – Nulls, Parenting & Previewing

Hi guys welcome back to part 7 and our second to last video of our After Effects Beginners Course! In this video we’re gonna look parenting, previewing, and animating your videos. So let’s jump into it!

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations on getting this far into our After Effects Course! You’re nearly at the end, and really you’ve already learned enough to start to get comfortable in after effects on your own. To start off this video we’re going to take a look at how to work with null objects and how to parent layers to them. So what is a null object? Well basically, a null object is an invisible layer that has all the same properties of a visible layer but just doesn’t cause any visual distraction. To create one, go up to layer, new, null object. And you can see that a new layer appears in our composition and our viewer shows a small square here in the center. But why would this be useful?

Well let’s create a situation to see one way that this might be used.  Let’s create a shape like we did in video 4. I’m going to create a triangle. And now our composition has our null object, as well as our triangle shape. Now if we wanted to animate this triangle to enter onto screen from the right, we already learned how to do that, and you can do that by animating the triangle position properties. But you can also do it by using the null properties. First thing we’re going to do is called parenting. Parenting is basically telling after effects that we want one layer to follow exactly what the parent layer is doing, like a child following their parent. To parent a layer to your null object, we’re going to go to our triangle layer, and we can hold this spiral here and drag this line called a pick whip, and then release it over the null object layer. And we can see here that under the parent section, our box here says null because our triangle is parented to our null.

Now if we animate our null to come into frame from the left, we can see that our shape also follows in exactly the same way.  Pretty neat right? But the question still remains, why wouldn’t I just animate the triangle? Let’s change up the situation slightly.

Let’s say now that we don’t just have 1 shape, we have 3. And we want all of them to move identically. It would be pretty difficult and time consuming to do that by animating each one individually, but its way faster and easier to simply either pick whip, or select the parent from this drop down here for each of the two remaining shapes.  And now when we play back, all the shapes follow the same path, and we didn’t have to put any extra work in! As you begin to progress out of the beginner stages of after effects, you’ll start to learn that as your projects get more complex, it saves you a lot of time and energy to be able to create easy, simple shortcuts for yourself.  And null objects are a great tool for doing this!

And the last benefit that we want to cover for null objects is that even though it keeps the movement identical of everything parented together, it still also allows for each layer to retain its own unique characteristics. So for example we have our shapes coming into frame, and they all stick together. But if we just wanted the triangle alone to break off from the group afterwards, it can do that. Just animate that layer on it’s own instead of the null, and the null will respect that layer’s ability to move on it’s own at the same time.

I hope that really helps you guys to get a better understanding of how to use null layers and why they can be so useful. But it’s important to point out that you don’t just have to parent to a null object, you can actually parent any one layer to another layer by the same method that we used before.  So let’s say that you have two clips on screen at the same time, and you want to animate them both to move onto screen. You only have to move one of them, and then parent the second one to follow. Great! Just keep in mind though, the starting point of where you parent clips together is important. So for example, if we parent our clips together while they’re in this final position, they will act completely in uniform. But let’s say now that I had my playhead positioned here mid way through the movement, our parenting would keep this relationship between our clips, so if we move forward, we can see that our layer moves with our parent clip, but from the starting point that we told it. Just keep that in mind as you work with parenting that your playhead position can make a difference.

So we’ve covered null objects, parenting, and we’re about to look at previewing your videos in after effects, but quickly before we do that, it’s also important to note that we’ve worked with a variety of effects and parameters throughout this course already.  And you’ve noticed that we’ve animated a lot of different attributes. As long as an effect, attribute, or anything that can be manipulated has a stopwatch beside it, that parameter can be animated to change over time.

But there’s one last method we’re going to introduce you to in order to manipulate your layers. It’s pretty advanced so we’re just going to show you that it’s there and let you delve more into that when you feel comfortable.

Within After Effects you don’t have to always tell your clips exactly how to behave. You can actually give them boundaries to follow and then work on their own within it. And the way you would implement this is with what’s called expressions. Expressions are basically the ability to type in commands into specific parameters and achieve a result for your clip. To get to the expression capabilities, go to your drop down for transform and choose a parameter that you want to work with. For us, we’re going to choose position. Now hover over the animation stopwatch and hold alt and then click. Now you should see another line dropdown, and to the right under your layer box you should see a set of text that you can edit. This part might get overwhelming so we’re just going to go over a quick example and then link to another video if you want to check that in more detail later. With this text here, we’re just going to type in wiggle, bracket, 5, comma, 40, comma, close bracket. And now when we click off the clip, and play, we can see that we’ve told our attributes to wiggle around as if the camera filming them is being shaken. If you want to go into detail with this effect, we have a whole video on this and you can find a link to it in the description below.

But hopefully with that example you’re able to see just how much you’re able to do inside of After Effects! It’s a really powerful program.  But the more you do this with more and more effects and layers and pieces of footage and shapes, etc. The more it will start to bog down your computer, and you’ll notice that playback speed is absolutely not at full speed.  So how do you actually view your project back at full speed if it’s running slow?

Well let’s go up here to our preview panel and see what we can do.  Up here you should be able to see a few different buttons right at the top.   These are for navigating your timeline without grabbing the playhead. You can go to the first frame, one frame previous, play and pause, 1 frame forward, and the last frame with each of these buttons.  And you can also play and pause your playback with the spacebar or choose a different shortcut key from this window here. And you should notice that when you hit space bar your playback will start. But depending on your project, it might not play back in real time. You might also notice that when you look at your timeline you might see one of three things. Either a green line, a blue line, or no line over your timeline. Wherever there’s a green line it means that your footage has been cached to the ram of your computer. This is the best and fastest situation.

Next, blue means that that portion has been cached to your computer’s disk drive. Not quite as good but still far better than the last option, nothing, which means that your footage there is not cached at all. In order to experience a proper full speed playback your project will need to be fully cached for whatever you want to view.  And the way to initiate this is to hit the spacebar and begin the preview. What After Effects will do is try to run through and cache your project on the fly as fast as it can. If you have a good enough computer and a light enough project, you might be able to experience full playback on the first pass through. But likely what you’ll have to do is wait for it to do one pass through your timeline and then on the second playthrough it will be more or less full speed.

For our example, it’s pretty light and we don’t  have to wait long. But if we have a large project, like this one, we can see that it will actually take a LOT longer to do a full pass through before we can view in real time. So how can we optimize this so that we have the best experience possible, and maybe even have to wait for less time?

To start with, do you want to see all the work you’ve done on the timeline, or just a section? If you want to see everything, you can have entire duration selected under range, or just have your in and out markers here all the way at the ends so everything is included. But if you just wanted to see a section, you can place your playhead to a starting point, and hit B, then go to an ending point and hit N. Then if you have work area selected, your computer will only focus on caching and playing back that specific area.

Next, you can choose here if you want the preview to start from where your playhead is positioned when you hit spacebar, or if you want it to start all the way back to the beginning on it’s own.

Next, these three boxes will each impact how much work After Effects has to do in playing back your clip. Obviously you want to see it in it’s best and fullest settings, but in case you can’t wait for that and you need or want to see it way faster, you can do a couple things.  You can drop the playback frame rate below what the composition is set up for. So if we drop it to 15 fps, our playback looks choppier but it will be ready and playback more readily.  I’m just going to set it back to auto for now. Next you can skip sequential frames so that after effects doesn’t have to render every single one. If you skip 1 frame at a time, it’ll drop every other frame.  You can also tell it to sip 2, or even 5 frames at a time in order to really boost playback performance. It won’t really look exactly the same, but you can really get a feel for how things are looking in a big picture way with this method. And finally the resolution here is identical to the resolution tab of the viewer we looked at earlier in this course. Dropping the resolution of playback will make After Effects show a lower fidelity picture of each frame, but will be able to process everything a lot faster.

And finally you can check full screen if every time you hit spacebar, you want to see your composition fullscreen on your computer. To get out of fullscreen playback, just hit spacebar to pause.

And guys that’s it for this video! You’ve already learned so much in After Effects and you’re almost at the end of this course! The last thing we have to go over is how to render out and export your video into its own unique file. And that’s all coming up in the next and final video! I can’t wait to see you there!

Video 8 – Rendering, Exporting, and Dynamic Linking

Hi guys welcome back the 8th and final video of our After Effects Beginners Course! In this video we’re gonna look at how to export your video from After Effects! So let’s jump into it!

Guys congratulations, if you’ve made it this far into the course you’ve learned the basics of how to work with videos in After Effects!

But now you need to export it so that you can either send it off or integrate it into a larger video project.  We’re going to be going over two methods of integration: strait exporting, and adding the after effects file itself to your premiere pro project.  So let’s get into it!

First off, to render out your After Effects project, you need to identify your project and how long it lasts.  Whatever composition you find yourself currently in is the one that you will export if you begin the process. So for example if we dove into one of our precomps, we would only be seeing this if we exported from here. We actually want to dive out into the top-most composition so that our entire project is being accounted for. If you know which composition is your starting one, then you can select it and go from there. But if you can’t quite remember, you can always bring up the composition flowchart by either clicking this button here, or you can simply hit the tab key and it will appear right by your mouse. From here you can see a left to right flow chart of all the compositions in your project, and you can easily find the top-most composition. Just click it and it’ll take you right there.

Now that you’ve got your correct composition, you need to set the start and end time of your composition. If you don’t then you’ll simply render out the entire work area of your composition. This might work for you, but there’s also a really high chance that you’ll only be using a portion of it, and there will be dead space at the end. Depending on you you export this can add unnecessary time and disk space on your computer, so it’s best to avoid if possible. Bring your playhead to the start of the composition where you want your video to start. To set the in point, hit the b key.  You can think of B for beginning. And then go to the end point where you want your video to end, and hit the N key.  You can think of N for END i guess.

Great, now lets go over how to render.  To get to your render settings, simply go to file, export, add to render queue. Or you can simply get there by having your timeline highlighted and hitting Control or Command + M. From here you should have this render queue pop up and you can set the parameters of how you want to render out your clip. Where I like to start is by hitting the blue name beside the output option. This will allow you to choose a name and location in order to export to. Name it something that will tell you in an instant what the video is about so you can distinguish it from other video files. Also, I would suggest creating a folder within your project so that you don’t have to search through your computer to find it.

Next up lets go to render settings. This can totally be a matter of preference and what your specific project needs. But if you’re just beginning, we’ll go over a quick run of the settings that will be most likely what you need. Make sure quality is set to best and resolution is set to full. Unless you’re using proxies, which you’re probably not because we didn’t go over it in this course, keep it at use no proxies. Have effects and solo switches set to current settings. Make sure all guide layers are off, and keep color depth at current settings.

Next for time sampling, keep frame blending for check layers, field render off, motion blur for checked layers, and time span work area only. Use the composition frame rate that’s been set, but if for some reason you know the specific frame rate that you want and it’s different, then this is where you’d change that. But I would suggest if that’s the case it’s best to have that done at the beginning of your project. Hit OK and we’ve got one last setting block.

Output Module. Don’t worry about color management we’re just going to go over main options. Format I would choose Quicktime but as you can see there’s a lot of different options. If you have a specific need for your project, feel free to research what would work best for your situation, but Quicktime is always a safe bet.

Now to go more into detail with formats, go down to format options here. And under video codec, we can see again that like we had a lot of format options, we also have a lot of codec options for that format. Each codec is a particular program that compresses the data of your video in a different way. There’s a bunch of different options and again, depending on your needs, you can research to see what would be best for your project needs, but a safe bet is Animation. This is what’s called a lossless codec. That’s good for now so click ok to go back.

Keep post render action at none. Have include project link checked. For video output have channels set to RGB. But if there’s any parts of your composition that’s transparent, showing this checkered box pattern in the background, then if you want it to be transparent you need to make sure the alpha channel is also checked. If you don’t then when you export it will automatically fill in the transparency with a solid color, either black or white depending on how your composition is set up.

To make sure that transparency is kept, you would choose under channels, RGB plus alpha. Keep depth at millions of colors, and color at premultiplied (Matted). Try not to resize or crop unless absolutely necessary and you have a firm understanding of what you’re doing, and as for audio, chances are it won’t be vital to the project you are doing and can easily be added back into your main Non Linear Editor. But for now keep it at default settings. And guys that’s it. Now when you hit Render, you can see it’s progression and estimated output along this line here. And when it’s finished it will be available where you originally labeled it to be sent to.

And that’s how you export in After Effects. But there’s another way of getting your project where it needs to go that might be more attractive and more flexible. If you’re using premiere pro to compile your video and just using After Effects for one piece, you can actually let Premiere and After Effects talk to each other with dynamic linking.

The first thing you quickly want to note is the name of the composition that you have at the top most part of your project.  Basically the main composition that every other composition sits inside of.  You want to look at this because you’ll have to pull it up by name later.  Again, if you can’t seem to figure out which one it is, hit tab and look for the far left composition.

Next, open up Premiere Pro and then find the After Effects project file on your computer. Now you’re just going to drag and drop it right into your premiere pro project window and you should have a new tab pop up. It’s going to ask you for the composition you want to import, and this is where you need to select the specific one. But because you looked it up earlier, you know what it is. So choose that composition, and now that final result of your after effects project is sitting right inside of your premiere pro project. It will require rendering to play properly, but the great benefit of doing it this way is that if you end up doing some later changes to the after effects project file, you won’t have to re-export the video again. Adobe’s dynamic linking system will recognize that it’s been changed in After Effects and will update your premiere pro project version to match.  It’s just that easy.  So now you’ve officially integrated your After Effects Project into your larger video.

And when you find yourself doing another project in Premiere Pro. Keep in mind that you can do this same process really quickly in reverse. You can take a video clip that you’re working on in Premiere Pro, or highlight a selection of clips, then right click and go to replace with After Effects Composition. This will send your selection from Premiere Pro so that you can work on it inside of after effects!

Guys I hope this video has been helpful. And I hope that this whole course has been able to teach you more about how to work effectively with After Effects! If you guys liked this video, or the entire course, feel free to share it with a fellow video editor friend!

And as you keep learning and growing in After Effects, we’d highly encourage you to check out all our other after effects tutorials. We’ve got a huge number of helpful After Effects tutorials here at And you can find a link to all those videos right here!

But guys that’s it for me, thanks so much for watching and I can’t wait to see you in the next video!