Shape Layers in After Effects CS3

Do you remember when they integrated key components of Photoshop into After Effects, well they did it again with Illustrator!
We all know how using Adobe Illustrator files in AE has been in the past, well maybe some of you don’t, but it did work, although, you did need to know a few tricks to get it all working seamlessly. We have all been hoping for better integration and now you have it and it is called Shape Layers!

I have been showing this for a month or two now and it is definitely one of the coolest new features of AE CS3. The AE team integrated the necessary parts of Adobe Illustrator into AE and then some.

So what’s the deal?…you can create vector graphics natively in AE8 and animate them. When you look at Shape layers, think of 2 things: Illustrator and AE Text Layers. Why, well thinking AI is obvious, but the same engineer who created Text Layers also implemented Shape Layers, and they do have a similar feel to them…and it has helped me get my head around how they work.So, you have basic shapes, and also the pen tool to draw freeform shapes, all vector of course, and they all scale up infinitely and keep their smooth edge no matter how large you make them. All of the tools allow you to draw shapes or masks. Each shape: rectangle, ellipse, polygon and star have stroke and fill options just like Illustrator…and I think easier to implement and use as these options appear next to the toolbar above the comp window.All shapes have varying options of size, position, rotation, scale, skew and opacity. The Polygons have control for the number of sides and the Stars have 5 options to create shape variations.OK, now the fun begins….Grouping and Shape Effects.With Groups, the benefits are obvious, and here again think Illustrator. Groups have their own transformations as well as the Shapes inside the group and then add the layer transformation itself and you have 3 levels of transformations. Now lets add Shape Effects which give you a plethora (favorite word lately) of effects and one more set of transformations to total 4 if you use the “Repeater.” You can grab these by using the “add” flyout button in the Timeline or directly below the title bar. One extra plus is that you can re-order attributes (say fill and stroke) to create a fill over stroke or stroke over fill, but be careful here as some re-ordering, based on top to bottom method can negate some attributes, but that in most cases becomes obvious. You can also re-order the vector shapes within a group to create different looks based on transparency and blend modes applied to each shape.Lastly, did I mention Presets for Shape Layers, just hit the “Browse” button in the Effects and Presets panel and voila, you have 4 folders, Backgrounds, Elements, Sprites Animated and Sprites Still.Oh, and saving the best for last…..they can be 3D layers as well, see the movie included.So, take your lunch today in front of the computer and play for 30 minutes…yeah, so you’ve never done that!