Posts in Category "Adobe After Effects"

The Fabulous Fifth Dimension

Usually I get ideas for “tips & tricks” postings going about my daily business of working in Production Studio. Then I have to think of a heading for the posting, and sometimes that thought process triggers memories, and in today’s posting, which is on After Effects’ 3D Camera, I was thinking “Third Dimension,” which led to “Fifth Dimension” (i.e. the famous ’60’s pop group), and then the “Fabulous Fifth Dimension,” which is what the Fifth Dimension were called when I played with them back in the early ’90’s.

The Fifth Dimension had loads of hits in the ’60’s, like “The Age of Aquarius,” “Up, Up And Away,” and a song that could have only been written & recorded in the ’60’s, “Stoned Soul Picnic.” I mean . . . lyrics like these:

Surry down to a stoned soul picnic
There’ll be lots of time and wine
Red yellow honey, sassafras and moonshine

Moonishine? You’ve gotta be freaking kidding me! Anyhow, by the time I played with them, the 2 most well-known of the 5 singers, Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis Jr., had long since departed the group. For legal reasons, the remaining 3 singers had to add “Fabulous” to the name of the act, and the act itself in the 1990’s was a half-hour “revue” of their most famous songs.

The first night I played with them, Florence La Rue (one of the singers) introduced me onstage, remembering my first and last name (which impressed me because we’d just met right before the show). Every show thereafter, she had to turn to me before introducing me and ask me what my name was. Too much moonshine in the ’60’s, eh Florence?

Alright, enough of that.

I find that many After Effects users never explore the powerful 3D capabilities within, which is a shame because you can do some really amazing things. One of the key things you need to understand in order to work in 3D are the Camera Settings.

The Camera Settings dialog in After Effects 7.0

The Camera Settings dialog appears whenever you select Layer > New > Camera or double-click a Camera in the timeline. There are loads of settings in here, but when you’re just getting started with 3D you should stick to one of the lens presets. In the above screencap, you can see the selections in the Preset menu. The smaller the lens, the more depth-of-field you will get.

The default setting of 50mm will not adjust depth-of-field at all, meaning that your work will look pretty much the same way it did in 2D. A smaller lens gives a more exaggerated 3D, while a larger (wider) lens flattens things out.

I suggest starting out with a 20mm lens as it’s easier to get interesting results quickly. Another good idea is to add one camera to your comp for each of the lens presets, and then toggle them on & off to see the difference.

I Can See Clearly Now

And no, this has nothing to do with my winetasting jaunt through Napa Valley on Saturday. This is a tip for those of you running After Effects 7.0 on Windows XP.

AE7 uses the ClearType technology found in WinXP to smooth the appearance of fonts in it’s User Interface. Here’s how to make sure you have ClearType enabled:

1) Right-mouse-click anywhere on your desktop and select “Properties”. The Display Properties dialog appears.

2) Click on the “Appearance” tab and then click on the “Effects” button. (screencap below)


3) In the second pulldown menu from the top, select “ClearType”, and click OK.


This’ll keep the AE UI smooth, smooth smooth, regardless of the “After Effects of Weekend Hijinks”. Oh that’s just sad.

Exporting Flash Video from After Effects 7.0

A tutorial I wrote for Studio Monthly magazine on exporting Flash Video from After Effects 7.0 is now online at Studio Monthly’s sister web publication Studio Daily (let’s see how long it takes for “Studio Hourly” to show up).

Read the tutorial here.

BTW, Studio Monthly is an excellent magazine that has more tutorials per issue than any other magazine. You can get a free subscription here.


One of the best online resources for tutorials on Adobe’s Video & Audio products is Creative COW (mooooooo) — COW actually stands for “Communities of the World”, so it’s really “Creative Communities of the World”. They still use a cow as their logo, and give away neat promotional items like “Bovine Bessie’s Chicken Sauce” at trade shows. The COW’s founders, Ron & Kathlyn Lindeboom, are extremely smart, creative industry vets who have built one of the best onine user forums for Video & Audio on the planet. I used to host the forum for a competitor’s editing product there before I started working at Adobe, and if you seach the archives you’ll see some of the product reviews & industry reports that I did for them over the years. Ron also happens to be a mean drummer and despite being extremely busy running the COW still manages to produce records & do session work now & then.

Here are direct links to the COW tutorials for After Effects, Premiere Pro, and Audition. In particular, there are some really good ones for AE7 and Premiere Pro 2 for those of you starting to work with the new versions.

They also just started a print magazine which you can get a free subscription to, and they have a podcast, hosted by Franklin McMahon, which discusses creative & business issues in our industry. Well worth checking out.

Killer Advanced After Effects Training

In an earlier post, I wrote that Dean Velez (a multiple Emmy Award winning broadcast designer & former Adobe SE) has a new After Effects training DVD (from Total Training, where he’s now the Creative Director). Upon arriving back to my office today, I was delighted to find a copy of it in my mailbox — “Total Training for Advanced Adobe After Effects 7 Pro – Broadcast Design Secrets“. Dean is one of the rare talents that can start with absolutely nothing, create some artwork in Photoshop, animate it in After Effects, and come out with an incredibly deep, dynamic motion design piece. I guess it comes from all those years he spent in TV News, having to create graphics packages with an average deadline of 1/2 hour (!).

I just watched the first part — creating a News Bumper — which uses the Fractal Noise effect to great effect (sorry) in creating the animated clouds. Fractal Noise is one of those effects that you should always turn to when creating animated backgrounds as the possibilities are virtually endless. Here’s a screencap from the training.


Anybody involved in Broadcast Design should have a copy of this disc.