Week 02

Week 02 – Topics

Overview of basic concepts
Exploring the After Effects interface
Building first animation

  • creating folders in the Project panel
  • creating a new composition
  • importing files and folders
  • interpreting alpha channels
  • adding layers to the Comp panel
  • changing the Background Color
  • scrubbing parameter values
  • interactively transforming layers
  • animating Position; RAM Preview
  • navigating between keyframes
  • adding a background layer
  • dragging footage to the Timeline panel
  • editing a keyframe’s Bezier handles
  • editing spatial keyframes; motion paths
  • animating Opacity, Scale, and Rotation
  • arranging and replacing layers
  • adding solid layers
  • applying, copying and pasting effects
  • rendering
  • understanding the comp’s alpha channel
  • importing layered Photoshop and Illustrator files

Week 02 Assignments

1) Reading from AEA (After Effects Apprentice) textbook: Chapters: “Pre-Roll,” “Lesson 1 – Basic Animation”

2) Complete animation outlined in Lesson 1 – Basic Animation. Use the Lesson 1 files included on the DVD of your AEA textbook. Also, see the class notes below to supplement the information in the AEA textbook. Using the information in the “Idea Corner” section on page 33 of the AEA textbook, incorporate all three ideas outlined there. Also go through Importing Layered Photoshop and Illustrator Files on page 34 of the AEA textbook.

Be prepared to hand-in the final files to instructor’s dropbox at the beginning of next class.

If you do not have your AEA textbook yet,  you may download the source files you need for this assignment from the class server here: http://www.everythingaboutweb.com/grdes71

Additional resources for the Lesson 1 – Basic Animation can be found in our other AE textbook:
“After Effects CS4: Visual QuickPro Guide.”
Chapter 1: After Effects: The Big Picture
Chapter 2: Importing Footage into a Project
Chapter 3: Managing Footage
Chapter 4: Compositions
Chapter 5: Layer Basics
Chapter 7: Properties and Keyframes

3) Reading for next week from AEA book – Chapter 2 “Lesson 2 –  Advanced Animation”

4) If you haven’t done so already, post the URL for your Tumblr blog to the comments section below the class notes. Find movie titles that inspire you, (try YouTube and Vimeo), and post a link to your Tumblr blog. Tell us why these titles inspire you. What is done well?

Special announcement

The Graphic Design Club’s first meeting will be this Thursday, February 24 at 1:00pm in Room 104.

There are various reasons to join the Graphic Design Club. The first is the sense of community that is built by the club members, a sense of belonging with others who have the same interest. This is especially important for a commuter college like SMC. It is also a chance for students to learn about Graphic Design topics, see exhibits, and hear lectures that are outside the tight frame of class curriculum.

This Week’s Inspiration

Exploring the After Effects Landscape
The After Effects Project

Let’s take a few minutes to view the User Interface Guided Tour from the DVD included with our textbook, “After Effects Apprentice” (AEA). Take advantage of viewing this on your own when you need to.

Project structure

Three things to remember about the process for workflow:

  1. Importing. Bringing assets into your project. Double click in Project panel ot import assets.
  2. Adjusting assets and manipulating them.
  3. Render or output. Rendering means outputting  the final project as a movie.

Folder structure — KEEP IT ORGANIZED. Remember the footage you import into your project is not embedded inside the file. If it were embedded your project file would be HUGE. You are only importing a link, not embedding the source into the file. Therefore as you add more sources, it doesn’t change the size of your project.

SAVE OFTEN !! After Effects crashs frequently. Better yet, set your preferences to “Auto Save.”

Your sources are linked to your files and therefore you need to keep everything organized.  You cannot move or rename the file. If your footage no longer links, right click to re-find and re-link the file.

You may want to use the following organization for your assets.

Main application window diagram

Be sure you know where the following panels and windows are located in the After Effects interface. This will be one of the questions on the final exam, so be sure to study this.

A – Application window
B – Tools panel
C – Project panel
D – Composition panel
E – Timeline panel
F – Time graph
G – Grouped panels (Info and Audio)
H – Time Controls panel
I – Effects & Presets panel


The main window of a program is the application window. Panels are organized in this window in an arrangement called a workspace.

Each application includes several predefined workspaces that optimize the layout of panels for specific tasks. You can also create and customize your own workspaces by arranging panels in the layout that best suits your working style for specific tasks.

You can drag panels to new locations, move panels into or out of a group, place panels alongside each other, and undock a panel so that it floats in a new window above the application window. As you rearrange panels, the other panels resize automatically to fit the window

Lesson 1: Basic Animation

Your assignment for this week is to follow the instructions in “Lesson 1 – Basic Animation” of our textbook “After Effects Apprentice.” (AEA).

View the file First Animation_final.mov  in the 01- Finished Movie folder to see what the final animation should look like.

Below is a outline of the skills demonstrated in the textbook. The notes below are a supplement to the Chapter in your textbook and should not be used instead of following the directions there. The numbers preceding each item corresponds to the textbook page where you can find instructions on the item.

16. creating folders in the Project panel
17. creating a new composition
17. importing files and folders
18. interpreting alpha channels
19. adding layers to the Comp panel
20. changing the Background Color
20. scrubbing parameter values
20. interactively transforming layers
21. animating Position; RAM Preview
22. navigating between keyframes
22. adding a background layer
23. dragging footage to the Timeline panel
24. editing a keyframe’s Bezier handles
25. editing spatial keyframes; motion paths
26. animating Opacity, Scale, and Rotation
28. arranging and replacing layers
30. adding solid layers
30. applying, copying and pasting effects
32. rendering
33. understanding the comp’s alpha channel
34. importing layered Photoshop and Illustrator files

Page 16. Creating folders in the Project panel

Create 2 folders in the Project panel when you are importing footage*

  1. Sources
  2. Comps

* important note: all assets imported are referred to as “footage,” even if they are still images, audio etc.

Save project as “Basic Animation v1″
Save to Lesson 1 folder. Note AE gives it the extension .aep

Page 17. Creating a new composition

Create a New Composition

Click on Composition > New Composition. Name it “First Animation.”

Determine size, duration, and frame rate by selecting the following settings:

  • Preset: Custom
  • Uncheck Lock Aspect Ration box
  • Set width at 640 px
  • Set Height at 480 px
  • Select Square pixels for Pixel Aspect Ratio
  • Frame rate 29.97
  • Resolution: Full
  • Duration 4.00 seconds, set time code 0;00;04;00

Composition name: save as “First Animation”

Page 17. Importing files and folders

Import sources into your Project panel
Select Sources folder > Import > File

Select the file Snowflake Title.tif

Interpret Footage dialog (Command + I or double-click on empty space in Project panel)

Page 18. Interpreting alpha channels

Two types of Alpha channels:

  1. Straight: The color has been “painted beyond” the edges of the alpha channel
  2. Premultiplied: the color is mixed (“matted”)with the background color around the edges.

Click on “Guess” AE will choose “Premultiplied.” Click OK.

Double-click on empty area of Project panel to open Import dialog and add Movies folder to your Sources folder.

Click here for more information about Alpha Channels.

Page 19. Adding layers to the Comp panel

Start to build your comp
Drag Snowstorm Title gif from your Sources folder over to image area of the Composition panel.
Use align panel properties to center the image in the comp panel.

Page 20. Changing the Background Color

Change Background color > Compostion > Composition Settings > Background Color

If your background color is Black, change it to White.

Page 20. Scrubbing parameter values

Place your cursor over a numerical value and then click and drag to see the value change. This is a quick way to change values and to see the result of the value change. This is known as “scrubbing” parameter values.

Page 20. Interactively transforming layers

In the timeline panel, on the Snowstorm Title layer, Click on the arrow (twirl down) to the left to reveal the word “Transform.”

Twirl down (Click on the arrow to the left of) “Transform” to reveal all the Transform properties (shortcut key is in parentheses):

  • Anchor Point (A)
  • Position (P)
  • Scale (S)
  • Rotation (R)
  • Opacity (T)

If you need to, click on “Reset” to the right of the Word “Transform” to reset your properties

Keyframing: This is the most important principle to understand about After Effects. It is the basis for animation in AE.

Type “P” to reveal just the Position property.
Drag image off stage to the pasteboard

  • Click on the stopwatch icon to enable keyframing and animation
  • Move the current time indicator to to 1:10 in the timeline.
    (You can see the time in the yellow text right below the composition name in the timeline panel.)
  • Drag your image where you want it to end up. A new keyframe will automatically be created for you.
  • Notice the line that appeared. It’s called a motion path.
  • Drag the current time indicator back and forth (scrubbing) along the top of the timeline to see your animation.

Animation 3 Step Process
(Move to where you want to start, sometimes you may want to start at the end of the animation and keyframe back to the beginning)

  1. Click Stopwatch: this tell AE we want to change something over time. AE will remember the current value at this time. When you click the stopwatch it will create a diamond symbol.
  2. Move in time. Either back or forward to the first or last frame of the animation.
  3. Change the value here.After Effects will remember the value at both keyfames and animate all frames inbetween. We create the keyframes and AE creates all the frames in-between.

Control Z will undo keyframe or last action.
Unclicking Stopwatch wipes slate clean Be careful.

Page 21. Animating Position; RAM Preview

Click on the RAM preview button to view your animation. Hit any key to stop play.

Page 22. Navigating between keyframes

Move keyframes to make the animation occur earlier or later in time.

Keyframe navigation arrows (see red circle above) allow you to navigate to the next keyframe in a layer.

Save File
Choose File > Increment and Save option

Page 22. Adding a background layer

Select Sources > Movies > Landscape.mov and drag it to the timeline panel and place it below the Snowflake Title layer so it sits behind it.

“Twirl” down to Tranform > Opacity
Make the background appear “ghosted” by changing the Opacity to 50%

Page 23. Dragging footage to the Timeline panel

To add a middle layer, drag snowflake.mov and drop in-between the first two layers
Can drag snowflake.mov into timeline to choose starting time and then move it to the layer in-between.

Page 24. Editing a keyframe’s Bezier handles

Crafting a Motion Path
Snowflake will start in top right of pasteboard and end up as “O” in the word “snowstorm.”

  • Click on the timecode to move cursor to exact location 1:20  on the timeline.
  • Move snowflake to position to place the missing “O” of “snowstorm.”
  • Scale using one of the handles. Hold down the Shift key AFTER you start scaling to keep aspect ration.
  • This will scale and position the snowflake at it’s final frame at 1:20.
Page 25. Editing spatial keyframes; motion paths
  • To Position (with Snowflake.mov selected) Hit “P”
  • Click on animation stopwatch.
  • Move the cursor to the beginning of the timeline.
  • Drag the snowflake to the upper right hand corner of he comp.
  • Grab the Auto Bezier handles to create a motion path that arcs.
  • Click on the timecode to 00:25 and then move snowflake.
  • Again tug on the handles to create a more interesting path.
Page 26. Animating Opacity, Scale, and Rotation
  • Click on the timecode to move to 01:20.
  • With the snowflake.mov layer selected, hold the shift key and press “T” and “S” to reveal Opacity and Scale properties
  • Enable stopwatch
  • Move cursor back to beginning
  • Scale snowflake using the handles
  • Do the same for the Opacity

To change the Rotation:

  • Go to 01:20 on timeline
  • Press R
  • Enable stopwatch
  • Move cursor back to beginning
  • Change rotation to -90
Page 28. Arranging and replacing layers
  • With cursor after the animation you created, drag snowboarding.mov to comp panel and scale.
  • Make a duplication by choosing Edit > Duplicate
  • Move duplicated movie to the right.
  • Replace 2nd Snowboarding.mov in composition with Car in Snow.mov.
  • With the target movie selected, hold down option key and drag to Composition panel.
Page 30. Adding solid layers

To add a solid layer:
Layer > New > Solid

Change the height to 60 pixels
Change the Opacity

Page 30. Applying, copying and pasting effects

To apply effects: Select Snowboarding.mov

Choose Effect > Color Correction > Auto Color
Adjust Blend with Original settings

Choose Effect > Perspective > Bevel Alpha
Adjust Edge Thickness

Choose Effect > Perspective > Drop Shadow
Increase Distance and Softness

To copy effects to another movie clip:
Click inside Effects panel: Choose Edit > Select All, followed by Edit > Copy
Then select Car in Snow.mov and choose Edit > Paste

Page 32. Rendering

Choose Composition > Make Movie.
Name your file and save it to your folder. Name it First Animation.mov

Your project will show up in the Render Queue. Click on “Render” to output your project as a QuickTime movie.

Page 33. Understanding the comp’s alpha channel

The background color of your project is not really a layer. If you save it in a file format that included an alpha channel the background color would disappear.

If you want the background of your comp to always be a color fill it in by using a new layer Layer > New > Solid.

Page 34. Importing layered Photoshop and Illustrator files

You can import Photoshop and Illustrator files as a merged file or as a layered file. As a layered file,  the layers of your Photoshop or Illustrator file will appear in your Project panel as separate assets and in your Timeline as separate layers.


  1. jamie February 21st

    Comment Arrow

    Feel free to post any questions that you have about this week’s notes to the comments section here.

  2. Becky February 27th

    Comment Arrow

    Hi Jamie, I know we can transfer projects back and forth between CS3 and CS5, but is it okay if we turn in CS3 project files? thanks!

  3. jamie March 1st

    Comment Arrow

    Yes, that’s fine. I will be able to open CS3 files but if you create an .aep file in After Effects CS5 in class and try to open it in CS3, you won’t be able to.

  4. Karen Bathker March 8th

    Comment Arrow

    If it’s okay, I am going to use the WordPress blog that I set up for Web 3. I don’t want to start another one and have all these blogs lying around.

Add Yours

  • Author Avatar


Comment Arrow

About Author


Instructor for Graphic Design 71