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)”