After Effects Basic Tutorial

After Effects can produce nearly any type of image effect.

Adobe After Effects is a powerful post-processing program that adds special effects and manipulations to photos and video. Due to its wide range of features, the program can be difficult to learn. You should have a strong knowledge of video editing and image processing programs before trying it out. As of 2010, the latest version of After Effects is CS5, however, the skills learned in the basic program are transferable between versions.


Basic Layout

1. Open After Effects and create a new project by clicking “New Project” from the “File” menu. A single project will hold all the media for a video or series of videos. Adjust the size of the project, the background color and the frame rate from the dialog box that appears and click “OK”.

2. Locate the “Project” window on the left. This contains your list of media. To import files, double-click the empty area to open the import box.

3. Click the “New Composition” button, which looks like a movie frame with shapes inside it, at the bottom of the project panel. A composition is the basic working area of After Effects: it can hold movie files, images, graphics, sound, etc. Adjust any settings in the dialog box and click “OK’.

4. A new tab appears in the time line window at the bottom. This window houses all of your compositions. Drag a media item from your project window into the left-hand side of the time line to add it to a composition. The order of the media acts as layers.

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5. Create a new composition and then drag your original composition into your new one. It will act as its own media. This is what makes After Effects so potent: Media can be manipulated, then layered, and then repeated.

6. Locate the toolbar at the top of the program, which contains the text, shape, paths, erase, zoom and rotate tools. Also locate the text window, which is on the right of the stage. To enable or disable layers, select them from the “Window” menu at the top of the program.

Adding Effects

7. Select a media item within a composition and then locate the Effects panel on the right. If it is not visible, select it from the Window menu.

8. Click the arrow next to each folder to reveal the effects inside. The folders are classified by effect type: image, generate, lightning, animation, etc. Alternatively, you can type into the text bar to quickly search for effects.

9. Double-click an effect to apply it to the media item. The settings for the effect can be viewed in the “Effect Controls” window next to the Project window. You may need to research an advanced effect before using it effectively.

10. Repeat this process to add several effects to a single item.

Viewing and Exporting

11. To view the visual part of your movie, press the space bar. To preview the audio, press the “.” on the number pad. To view both, which is called a “RAM Preview,” press the “0” key on the number pad. After Effects will load your movie into your systems RAM and then play it when it’s finished or when it runs out of RAM.

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12. Drag the curved ends of the time line number line to specify which parts of the movie to preview.

13. Click “Composition” then “Add to Render Queue” to begin exporting your movie. The render queue is located in the time line window as a tab.

14. Click the text next to “Output Module” to select the video and sound encoding, and click “OK.” Click the text next to “Output to” to select the file destination.

15. Click “Render” on the far right to begin exporting. After Effects will make a chime sound when finished.