January, 2010 Archives
Adobe and Wacom have recently identified a problem with some Wacom drivers that can impair After Effects performance.
If you’re having problems with After Effects being sluggish, and you use a Wacom tablet, read this thread on the After Effects user-to-user forum and the pages and threads that it points to.
If you have bugs to report or additional information to provide, please use the bug-report/feature-request form. Those submissions are read directly by the After Effects engineering team. Leaving comments on this blog is not the most effective way to communicate directly with the After Effects engineering team.
I see evidence that a lot of people just dive into the deep end with After Effects (and other creative software). I understand the temptation to get straight to doing the cool stuff, but I always find myself guiding people back to learning the basics first because–well, to stick with my metaphor–I want people to swim, not flail and drown in the deep end. Hence this post, which I hope will give beginners a good idea of how to start learning After Effects.
Then read this brief introduction to the basic workflow and fundamental concepts in After Effects. This page covers much of the same information as the video, but it also gives links to additional resources for more information.
2. Hello, world.
Take a few minutes to follow the step-by-step instructions in this tutorial. It’s just a quick warm-up that takes you from nothing to creating a simple movie. You won’t learn many details, but you’ll break the ice and get a sense that this After Effects thing isn’t going to be so hard, after all.
3. Quick tours introducing the fundamentals
You’ll see that on this page there are a few links to other resources that give a general overview of what After Effects is and the basics of how it works. I especially recommend the excerpt from Chris and Trish Meyer’s After Effects Apprentice and the excerpt from the After Effects Classroom in a Book, both of which guide you by the hand through creating some simple animations, explaining things along the way. Actually, I recommend those books in their entirety for beginners.
If you prefer video training, then I recommend the Classroom: After Effects CS5 video series by Adam Shaening-Pokrasso.
4. Extensive courses that get into some details
Once you’ve gotten a general sense of where things are and how the software works, you can really dig into a set of video tutorials that walk you through the basics.
I recommend starting with this set of video tutorials provided by Adobe, Andrew Devis’s After Effects Basics series, or Andrew Kramer’s Video Copilot Basic Training series, all of which are free.
There are also many free video tutorials from the After Effects CS6: Learn By Video series and After Effects CS5: Learn By Video series by Angie Taylor and me, a DVD and book series created specifically to teach the basics of After Effects.
For After Effects CS5, we added this overview page, which also serves as a good starting point.
5. Real exploration and creativity begin, now that you have the tools
After you’ve gotten a good grounding in the fundamentals, I encourage you to just play and create, frequently consulting After Effects Help to learn about more and more features and possibilities. Whenever you have a question, try searching for an answer using the After Effects Community Help search. If you can’t find an answer yourself, come on over to the After Effects user-to-user forum.
6. Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
Even after you’ve learned the basics, there are still some things that might be confusing. I recommend that everyone read through this set of frequently asked questions and answers, or at least watch these short FAQ videos.
This is just a quick note to tell you to go and read Michael Coleman’s blog, where he has a post about 64-bit plug-ins for the next version of After Effects.
I know that it’s no news to anyone that Andrew Kramer makes great video tutorials that show people how to use After Effects. But it surprises me how few people seem to notice the Video Copilot Basic Training series that he provides.
I know that people want to jump right into doing cool stuff, but the only way that you’re going to be able to learn how to create anything that you can imagine—rather than just regurgitating what you see someone else do—is by learning the fundamentals. Clearly, Andrew agrees; otherwise he wouldn’t have spent so much time putting together this great introductory series.
Here’s my summary of what each episode shows especially well, as well as some links to documents that provide more information on the same topics.
- 01. Introduction: Introduces the basics of importing files and interpreting footage and managing footage items. Goes into the basics of compositions. Shows the basics of previewing and some tips about the user interface.
- 02. Effects: Shows how to make a composition with settings that match those of a footage item. Introduces effects, including how to apply and modify them.
- 03. Animation: Introduces animation with keyframes and motion blur. Discusses anchor points. Explains bezier interpolation and Easy Ease for keyframes. Shows some useful keyboard shortcuts. Runs through some of the switches in the Timeline panel and introduces parenting and adjustment layers.
- 04. Keying & Transparency: Demonstrates keying and discusses masks and other means of compositing. Shows how to make and use a garbage mask. Introduces blending modes (though he uses the not-quite-correct term transfer modes). Demonstrates track mattes.
- 05. Motion Tracking: Covers the use of the built-in point tracker to do motion tracking and stabilization.
- 06. Time Remapping: Shows how to slow a movie down with time stretching. Explains frame blending (though he confuses frame mix with frame blending—frame blending is the general term; frame mix is the specific kind of frame blending that just mixes two frames). Shows the more flexible time remapping feature.
- 07. 3D Integration: Shows the basics of 3D layers, cameras, and lights. From the title, I expected this to be about integration with 3D applications.
- 08. Titles: 1 & 2: Starts with a detailed walkthrough of text layers and text animation, including text animation presets. Digresses into CC Particle World, one of the Cycore (CC) effects that come with the full version of After Effects, and then the Glow effect. Shows how to use a null object layer to control another layer. In this section, Andrew deviates from the “basic training” theme, but the tutorial is still good; it’s just more like his other work.
- 09. Expressions: Andrew says that “expressions are the scripting language in After Effects”. Not exactly. An expression is a little piece of software–much like a script–that evaluates to a single value for a single layer property at a specific point in time. Whereas scripts tell an application to do something, an expression says that a property is something. For information about the actual After Effects scripting features, see “Scripts”. For information about expressions, see “Expressions”. Andrew spends most of this video on the wiggle expression method and the Slider Expression Control effect.
- 10. Rendering: Runs through the basics of rendering and exporting using the render queue. He mistakenly says that Animation codec is uncompressed. The Animation codec does do compression—it’s just lossless compression. But his main point is true, which is that the files are still pretty big. Also, heed what he says about not using the File > Export commands in most cases. See this page for details on the few times when the commands in the File > Export menu are a good idea.
Just don’t follow Andrew’s one bad habit: referring to effects as filters. Filters are destructive operations in applications like Photoshop. Effects are non-destructive operations, and all such image operations in After Effects are non-destructive.
For more resources for getting started with After Effects, see “Getting started with After Effects (CS4 and CS5)”
I just installed Final Cut Pro 7, and I was pleased to find when I did some tests that it’s using the same pixel aspect ratio values for older standard-definition formats (like NTSC DV) as we’re using in After Effects CS4 and other Adobe Creative Suite 4 applications.
As some of you know quite well, we corrected the pixel aspect ratios (PARs) for some older standard-definition formats. This change caused some confusion and consternation, and we tried to explain the issue and ease the transition for people. But one of the questions that we got was about why other software makers hadn’t made the same corrections. Well, it appears that some have.
I’m not a frequent user of Final Cut Pro, myself, so I’d appreciate it if others who have more experience with this application can tell us how this change is affecting their work as they use Final Cut Pro 7 and After Effects together.
Thanks to Thomas for alerting me to this change.
|There’s a new one-stop portal for Pixel Bender, the Pixel Bender Technology Center.
Pixel Bender, in case you didn’t know, is a language and software development toolkit for creating plug-ins for several Adobe applications, including After Effects, Flash, and Photoshop.
The new Pixel Bender Technology Center has links to the toolkit, examples, tutorials, and a whole lot more.
Creating plug-ins written with Pixel Bender tends to be easier than creating plug-ins written using the C/C++ SDK. Also, the ability to share extensions between Photoshop, Flash, and After Effects is a pretty big advantage.
Don’t just take my word for it. Go and read more about this on the Pixel Bender Technology Center page. You can also see what Kevin Goldsmith has to say on the matter; he’s the engineering manager in charge of Pixel Bender, so he should know what he’s talking about.
Recently, on an After Effects forum, I asked someone why they were using plain ol’ Google search instead of the much more efficient After Effects Community Help search. The answer was that he wasn’t sure that the Community Help search would find all of the good things that Google would.
Since I’d bet that many other people have the same idea, I thought that I should try to remove this misconception. Hence this post.
I assure you that the After Effects Community Help search will find virtually everything worthwhile about After Effects that a regular search on Google.com would—and the Community Help search will filter out a tremendous amount of noise/garbage.
The Community Help search is actually a Google custom search engine that I maintain. I enter websites that I have vetted as being of high quality and as providing free resources about After Effects, as well as other Adobe software.
If you find something free on the Web that is useful for After Effects users but doesn’t come up in a Community Help search, tell me, and I’ll evaluate it for inclusion. (One of the ways to tell me about a resource is to add a comment to a relevant page of After Effects Help on the Web, pointing to the resource.)
The After Effects Community Help search is available from the upper-right corner of the After Effects CS4 application and from the upper-right corner of every page of After Effects Help on the Web.
You can also do this search from the main After Effects support center page.
Note that you can just search within the After Effects CS4 Help document, too.