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Session 1:Getting Started With After Effects CS5

Learning Outcomes

In this session, you will learn to-

  • Identify the main functions and purpose of the Adobe After Effects software
  • Identify the latest additions to After Effects CS5
  • Discuss about the basic functionalities of the After Effects Workspace
  • Get familiar on how to customize your suitable workspace
  • Discuss about importing files from Photoshop or Illustrator to use for a project
  • Discuss how to create a composition for a project

Adobe After Effects CS5 is a very powerful tool used by motion graphic designers, visual effects artists, video editors and other post-production professionals as well as interactive designers in coming up with outstanding visual effects and motion graphics in today's media industry.

If you are a movie fanatic, you can easily tell how improved and sophisticated movie creation has become over the years. Simple storyboarding, masking, opening and ending credits, and most importantly, the show-stopping animated scenes are all done in After Effects.

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Not only that, After Effects is also used to composite together elements in movies that you don't think of as being visual-effects-heavy.

A feature film uses this software mainly (along with other tools such as Photoshop) to create and/or composite elements in a lot of visual-effects-heavy movies. It allows users to explore, experiment and come up with visual effects in 2d and 3d space.

In this session, you will learn the basics and latest features of using After Effects CS5. You will also learn on how to get started with After Effects by importing files that you'll need to create a project and how to create a composition to create high-resolution animation and visual effects.

System Requirements:

The system requirements necessary for the installation of Adobe After Effects CS5 for Windows and Macintosh OS listed in Table 1.1:


After Effects CS5 for Windows


AfterEffects CS5 for Macintosh OS

Intel® Pentium® 4 or AMD Athlon® 64 processor (Intel Core™2 Duo or AMD Phenom® II recommended); 64-bit support required

Multicore Intel processor with64-bit support

64-bit operating system required: Microsoft® Windows Vista® Home Premium, Business, Ultimate, or Enterprise with Service Pack 1 or Windows® 7

Mac OS X v10.5.7 or v10.6

2 GB of RAM

2 GB of RAM

3 GB of available hard-disk space plus 2 GB of space for optional content; additional free space required during installation (cannot install on removable flash-based storage devices)

4 GB of available hard-disk space plus 2 GB of space for optional content; additional free space required during installation (cannot install on a volume that uses a case-sensitive file system or on removable flash-based storage devices)

1280 x 1024 display withOpenGL 2.0-compatiblevideo card

1280 x 900 display withOpenGL 2.0-compatiblevideo card

DVD-ROM drive

DVD-ROM drive

QuickTime 7.6.2 software required for QuickTime features

QuickTime 7.6.2 software required for QuickTime features

Broadband Internet connection required for online services

Broadband Internet connection required for online services

Table 1.1: System Requirements for InstallingAdobeAfter Effects CS5

1.1 Introduction to After Effects CS5

Adobe After Effects CS5 is a 64-bit native that allows you to use more of your computer's power to work efficiently especially when dealing with complex projects.

This software has a wide range of the latest features to cope and deliver to the ever-changing media culture's needs and expectations. Anyone can work like a pro with this software.

1.1.1 What's New In After Effects CS5?

There are notable improvements made in the CS5 version. Here are some of the following features that can help you maximize productivity, efficiency and creativity for any project:

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* Native 64-bit application: Being a native 64-bit application entails more advantages. This means that it already has the ability to fully use your machine's memory capacity to ensure fluid, dramatic improvements when dealing with high-resolution projects. Previewing a 30-second HD comp at full resolution would be easy on your computer.

* Integrated Memory Management: Version CS5 already has a cross-component memory management giving you the ability to coordinate RAM allocation for After Effects, Premiere Pro, Encore, and Media Encoder. You don't have to go through any complicated memory-management settings to make the most of your system resources.

* Roto Brush: The After Effects environment basically lets you separate objects or elements such as the foreground object from its background to create a totally new environment for it. Roto Brush makes this job easier for you. It provides a quick and fluid solution in isolating foreground elements especially in complex scenes. Back in the day, rotoscoping was very time-consuming and expensive and as a result, was only used for feature films. Today, sophisticated rotoscoping is already possible on any object without out spending too much time and money for this technique. By just drawing simple paint strokes on the elements you want to remove, After Effects can easily calculate where the rest of the foreground or background object is, or if they are on subsequent frames.

* Mocha For After Effects CS5: The newly improved mocha for After Effects CS5 is a very smart feature. It has a unique planar tracker that makes any complex stabilization and motion tracking simple to do. This includes the mocha shape plug-in that allows you to copy and paste multiple motion-tracked mask from mocha to any layer from After Effects without damaging the quality or settings of the mask. Bezier or X-spline animated roto shapes created in mocha can be transformed into mask shapes when in After Effects so that manipulation of elements can already be done within After Effects. Mocha also allows you to re-create motion blur that occurred in the original footage because motion blur data is now included in the exported tracking data.

* DigiEffectsFreeForm: DigiEffercts FreeForm increases your creative process and lets you more 3D design options such as bending floating video panels, warping and extruding layers in 3D space without using a different 3D software anymore. This feature automatically works with After Effects' 3D camera and lights effects to easily integrate them into the desired scenes.

* Color Finesse 3 LE: The latest release of this very powerful correction tool already includes hue and saturation curve controls for finer control when color correcting. It also includes auto color and auto exposure for quick corrections. The new highlight-recovery feature helps you lose less image detail when dealing with high dynamic range footage still taking into consideration the limitations of the video.

* Auto-keyframe Mode: When the auto-keyframe mode is on, Stopwatch is automatically turned on when modifying a property, then adding a keyframe at the current time. Keyframing automatically applies for the position, shape and mask properties, effect point controls, rotation and camera manipulation parameters. This basically simplifies keyframing process helping you to avoid mistakes of forgetting to enable keyframing for particular properties.

1.1.2 The After Effects CS5 Work Area

After Effects CS5 has a user-friendly interface which offers you consistency, flexibility and accessibility to any tool or element needed to work on a project. All the tools and panels are organized in the workspace within the main window called the application window. When using the program for the first time, you should see a predefined workspace to optimize the arrangement of panels for specific tasks. The default workspace contains both stand alone and grouped panels as shown in Figure 1.1 on the next page.

The panels seen on a default workspace are the tools panel, project panel, composition panel, timeline panel, time graph, grouped panels (containing info and audio), preview panel, and effects and presets panel.

Work Area Customization

It is easy to customize your own workspace depending on your project's needs. Customizing your workspace is just a matter of dropping the panel into the arrangement that best fits your style. You can easily drag and drop into or out of a group. You also have the option of placing panels beside each other. You can have the panels float in a new window above the application window by simply undocking them. Panels automatically resize to fit properly within the application window when rearranged.

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A drop zone is an area to where you can drop a panel you want to change place. After transferring a panel from one area to another, drop zone becomes highlighted. You can either group panels or dock them by just dropping them into the drop zone. Panels dock next to an existing group when dropped along the edge of another panel, group, or window.

Grouping a panel does not resize other groups. A panel is added to the existing group and be placed at the top of the stack when dropped in the middle of another group or panel.

To undock a panel, you can do so by either selecting the panel of your choice, clicking on Undock Panel or Undock Frame from the panel menu.

[IMPORTANT/TIP] To change the screen layout, use the Workspace menu in the Tools panel. You can create custom Workspace by choosing Window, and then Workspace, then New Workspace.

Quick Test 1

1. ___________ is After Effects CS5's new feature that allows you to isolate foreground elements from the background element especially in complex scenes.

2. A workspace consists of standalone and ________ panels.

1.2 Importing Files

To begin a project, the first thing you need to do is add a footage to it. A footage item is the basic unit in an After Effects project. You can import many types of footage items. Most of the time you would be importing still-image sequences and moving-image files. You can also import audio files, layered files created in Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator, other projects from Adobe After Effects and Adobe Premiere Pro.

The Info Panelas shown in figure 1.2 below, shows you the transfer progress when importing files into After Effects.

On the left side of the interface, you will see theProject Window. This is where all the media and files are stored. You can refer to figure 1.3 below.

1.2.1 How To Import Files

After Effects' workflow begins with importing media files into the application. There are two ways of importing files.

First, just click File, select Import, then File. A dialog box should pop-up. Locate the files, select them and click Open as shown in figure 1.4.

The easier way to do it is just double click on the blank area of the Project Window. After doing so, the Import dialog box comes up. You just need to select the files you need, then select Open.

[NOTE] You can import footage using Adobe Bridge. This is a powerful and easier tool when you want to navigate through your system when looking for files. You can use Adobe Bridge to organize, browse, and locate media files to create a project. You can just easily drag assets into your layouts, projects, and compositions when needed. Adobe Bridge also allows you to quickly preview your files through thumbnail displays and even lets you add file information or the metadata to make it even more convenient to locate them.

You can do this by clicking on the Filemenu > Browse in Bridge > OK and browse through the folders to locate the file/s you need.

[IMPORTANT/TIP] Here are some tips on how to save time when selecting Specific Files:

  1. Select multiple items at once by holding left click and dragging onto the multiple files
  2. Hold down CTRL + click on the specific files you need
  3. Hold down SHIFT + click on a range of files
  4. If you need to select all files inside a folder, go out of the folder, select the folder and click Import Folder.

It's always a good idea to organize your media files within the Project Window to avoid any confusion in the future and to basically save time when working on a project. One effective way is by creating a new folder in the Project Window.

To do this, click on Folder Icon below the Project Window and rename folder. New folder is placed inside the main folder by default but you can simply drag it outside of the main folder to also make it a separate parent folder.

To transfer media, files or footage items into a different folder, simply drag the item to that specific folder - a good way to organize items into sub-folders

[NOTE] To rename a file within the Project Window, hit ENTER key (RETURN key) and rename. This does not actually rename the original file outside After Effects.

To check file's information, you can do one of the two options as seen in figures 1.6 and 1.7 below:

1. When you select an item in the Project Window, the information for that certain file shows up in the Project Panel.

2. Right click on the file > Select File > Interpret Footage > Nameand then item properties will be viewed and from the dialog box, you can change your preferences depending on the project files' needs.

Figure 1.6: File Info A Figure 1.7: File Info B

Other options you will see when you right click on a certain media file or footage item:

* Replace Footage - when you want to replace file with an updated version, it will replace all of the instances in the project

* Reload Footage - useful when using image-sequences and you want to update it

* Reveal in Windows Explorer - this will bring you to the actual location of where the file is stored

1.2.2 Importing Illustrator and Photoshop Files

When creating a project in After Effects, you will also be commonly using Photoshop (.PSD) and Illustrator (.AI) files. You have to remember that these are layered files. To organize layered files properly, you will need to import these type of files separately as a composition.

Double-click in the lower area of the Project Panel > Import File dialog box opens. Choose a .PSD or .AI file. From the Import As Menu dropdown, choose Composition> Open. Additional dialog box will open with options for the file you're importing. Select Composition from the Import Kind Menu to import layered Photoshop or Illustrator file as a composition. You may refer to figure 1.8.

In the Layer Options area, select Editable Layer Styles and then click OK. This should make the footage items appear in the Project Panel.

[NOTE] After Effects doesn't copy the video and audio data itself in your project when importing files. When After Effects need to use a certain image or audio data, it just reads from the source file through a reference link for the corresponding footage item. After Effects makes your project file at a small size but at the same time still allows you to update source files in another application without changing the project.

[IMPORTANT/TIP] Importing a footage item only once can help you work efficiently and lessen file size and complexity of project. You can just use it multiple times in a composition.

After importing a footage, it is best to save the project. Choose File > Save > Dialog box opens > navigate to the desired folder where you want to store project > Rename the filename > click Save.

Quick Test 2

1. You will be able to see the transfer progress when importing files into After Effects through the ________ panel.

2. A file and all its instances in the project file can be replaced with an updated version through the ________ Footage option.

1.3 Creating A Composition

The next step to the After Effects CS5 workflow is creating a composition. This is where all the animation, layering and special effects happen. A composition is composed of both spatial (space) and temporal (time) dimensions.

1.3.1 How To Create A Composition

To create a composition, simply click Composition menu or CTRL+N(For MAC OS: Command+N), a dialog box pops-up. This is where we change the composition settings or customize it depending on the project's preferences. You can also set the duration of the video in this dialog box. When you're done, click OK.

You will see a black square in the middle of the application window. This is called the Comp Monitor. The panel below this is called the Comp Timeline or Timeline Panel. To add media to the composition, you can either drag the footage item from the Project Panel to the Comp Monitor, or drag media file from Project Panel directly to Timeline Panel.

To add a footage item to the Comp Monitor, just drag your choice of item from the Project Window straight to the Comp Monitor or to the Timeline Panel.

A footage item appears as layers in the Timeline Panel. It becomes a source for a new layer. You can have several layers in a single composition. At several times, you would also be adding a composition in a composition, which is called nesting.

Composition Setting Dialog Box

The Composition dialog box allows you to alter your composition settings manually depending what your project needs. You can either do this or just use the composition settings preset to automatically set frame height and width size, frame rate, as well as pixel aspect ratio for many commonly used output formats. You may also create your own composition setting preset. Other settings you can tweak within the dialog box are the Start Frame, Resolution, and Duration.

[NOTE] The ideal maximum duration for a single composition is three hours. Exceeding to more than three hours causes time to display incorrectly in the application.

To show Composition dialog box on screen, you can either select a composition in the Project Panel or click the Timeline Panel or Composition Panel for a composition. Select Composition > Composition Settings. Or type CTRL+K (For MAC OS: Command+K) if you're savvier using keyboard shortcuts.

When saving a custom preset in the Composition Settings, you can set the Width, Height, Pixel Aspect Ratio and Frame Rate values and then just hit the Save button.

If you would like to delete a preset, simply choose that certain preset from the Preset Menu located still in the Composition Settings dialog box, and hit Delete button. To revert to default composition settings, all you need to do is ALT+ click the Delete or Save button within the dialog box.

Tools Panel

After Effects makes it easy for you to modify elements within your composition through the Tools Panel. A set of buttons automatically become available as soon as you create a composition. This panel is located in the upper left corner of the Application Window. There are total of 14 buttons in the Tools Panel. You can refer to figure 1.10 below.

Figure 1.10: Tools Panel

The Tools Panel include the following tools: Selection, Hand, Zoom, Rotation, Camera Tools, Pan Behind, Mask and Shape tools, Pen tools, Type tools, Brush, Clone Stamp, Eraser, Roto Brush and Puppet tools. You may notice that when you hover your mouse pointer over each button, a tool tip comes out identifying the name of the button and its keyboard shortcut. The small triangle in the lower-right corner of the button tells you that there are still other tools hidden that you can still use. When you click and hold the button, these hidden tools will be displayed and will be available for you to choose.

Timeline Panel

The Timeline Panel is a very powerful tool in After Effects because you will be using it all the time when working on any project. Using the After Effects application when animating videos is a big advantage precisely because of the Timeline Panel. This allows you to simultaneously time elements and animations and maintain control of their appearance.

Using the Timeline Panel, you can animate layer properties and set In and Out points (also known as the Start and End Brackets) for a layer. Aside from that, you can also arrange layers in time, and set blending modes for the layers. This pane is composed of columns and controls such as the CompositionName, Current Time, Time Graph/Graph Editor Area, Audio/Video Switches, Source Name/Layer Name, and the Layer Switches as shown in Figure 1.11.

[NOTE] The points at which a layer begins and ends in the composition are called In and Out points (or Start and End Brackets).

[IMPORTANT/TIP] To rename a footage item in After Effects, simply highlight it and press the ENTER key (RETURN) instead of clicking and hovering it.

When using After Effects for the first time, the default setting for the Timeline Panel would show you some tools you might or might not need for the project you are about to make. You can simply add or subtract the tools you'll need to make the application work for you much easier.

The layers at the bottom of the layer stacking order in the Timeline Panel are rendered first and appear farthest back in the Composition panel and in the final composite.

As you can see in Figure 1.12, the left side of the Timeline Panel consists of controls for layers arranged column-wise. The Time Graph / Graph Editor area is located at the right side.

The Time Graph contains a time ruler, markers, keyframes, expressions, duration bars for layers and the Graph Editor in your composition to help you animate your layers. This is also an essential tool in After Effects therefore you need to familiarize yourself first on how to operate this tool.

You'll be able to tell how long a composition, a footage item, or a layer runs through the time graph. The Current Time Indicator (CTI) indicates the current time for a composition. This tool is identified as the red line in the time graph. The current time display in the upper-left corner of the Timeline Panel. If you wish to move to a different time, simply drag the CTI in the time ruler or click the current-time field in the Timeline Panel or Composition Panel, input new time, and hit OK.

Quick Test 3

1. To add a media file to your composition, ________ a footage item to the Comp Monitor or to the Timeline Panel.

2. __________ tells you the duration of your composition, the layers and footage items inside the composition.

[KEYBOARD SHORTCUTS] Keyboard Shortcuts


Shortcut for Windows

Shortcut for Mac OS

New project



Open project



Open most recent project



New folder in Project panel



Open Project Settings dialog box



Find in Project panel



Cycle through color bit depths for project

Alt-click bit-depth button at bottom of Project panel

Option-click bit-depth button at bottom of Project panel

Open Project Settings dialog box

Click bit-depth button at bottom of Project panel

Click bit-depth button at bottom of Project panel

New composition



Open Composition Settings dialog box for selected composition



Set beginning or end of work area to current time

B or N

B or N

Set work area to duration of selected layers or, if no layers are selected, set work area to composition duration



Open Composition Mini-Flowchart for active composition

Note: If you tap Shift several times without any intervening keystrokes, you may invoke a feature of your operating system's Sticky Keys or Sticky Keys accessibility software. See your operating system's documentation for disabling this feature.

Tap Shift

Tap Shift

Activate the most recently active composition that is in the same composition hierarchy (network of nested compositions) as the currently active composition



Hands-On Project

1.4 Summary

In this session, you have learned that:

* Adobe After Effects CS5 is a highly recommended program for animating, editing and creating sophisticated visual effects and motion graphics.

* Adobe After Effects CS5 is a native 64-bit support and therefore maximizes your machine's capacity to work fluidly especially when working on complex projects.

* There are new features included in Adobe After Effects CS5 such as the Roto Brush, Mocha for After Effects CS5, Integrated Memory Management, Color Finesse 3, DigiEffects Freeform and Auto-keyframe mode amongst all the others.

* There are several important components in After Effects' interface that you need to be familiar with such as the workspace, project panel, timeline panel, tools panel and composition panel.

* You can import any type of media file in After Effects. These can be still-image sequences, moving-image files, audio files, layered files created in Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator, other projects from Adobe After Effects and Adobe Premiere Pro.

* A footage item is the most basic unit in After Effects.

* A composition is where you animate your footage items and create visual effects.

* You can change your composition's settings anytime through the Composition Settings dialog box.

* Using After Effects for animating footage items is a big advantage because of the Timeline panel feature.

* You can customize your workspace depending on what your project needs anytime you want by simply dragging stand-alone or grouped panels into the drop zones within the application window.

1.5 Exercise

1. Adobe After Effects is a program specializing in:

a. Editing photos

b. Making sounds

c. Visual Effects

d. Vector Art

2. One important requirement when installing Adobe After Effects CS5 on a Mac OS machine is:

a. A minimum of 4 GB of RAM

b. A minimum of 2 GB of RAM

c. A maximum of 2 GB of RAM

d. None of the above

3. This feature has a unique planar tracker used in complex stabilization and motion tracking:

a. Timeline Panel

b. Current Time Indicator

c. Application Window

d. Mocha

4. After creating a composition, a black square called the _____ appears in the middle:

a. Comp Monitor

b. Project Monitor

c. Timeline Monitor

d. All of the above

5. The keyboard shortcuts when opening a project are:

a. Ctrl+Alt+N (Windows) / Command+O (Mac OS)

b. Ctrl+O (Windows) / Command+N (Mac OS)

c. Ctrl+Alt+Shift+N (Windows) / Command+Option+Shift+N (Mac OS)

d. Ctrl+O (Windows) / Command+O (Mac OS)


Quick Test 1

Quick Test 2

Quick Test 3

1. Roto Brush

2. Grouped

1. Info

2. Replace

1. Drag

2. Timeline Panel


1. Visual Effects (c)

2. A minimum of 2 GB of RAM (b)

3. Mocha (d)

4. Comp Monitor (a)

5. Ctrl+O (Windows) / Command+O (Mac OS) (d)