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February 18, 2009 /Region of Interest /

Some After Effects Things you had Trouble Finding Recently

Every once in a while, I go through the search logs and through the responses to various surveys, looking for ways to improve your ability to find information about After Effects.

In an attempt to figure out what issues people were having and to elevate the visibility of the pages that I think would have helped with these problematic searches, I’m presenting them here and asking for your assistance. Please try these searches and let me know if there are some pages that aren’t coming up that should (or are coming up that shouldn’t). You can leave a comment on this blog entry or use the “Give us feedback” link on the Community Help search results page to report how your searches are working.

After Effects Help

People still report that they are having a hard time finding After Effects Help. I think that this is because people are confused when they end up on the After Effects Help & Support page. But if you’ve installed the After Effects 9.0.1 update, then you won’t end up on that page when you press F1 or choose Help > After Effects Help.

Some people look for After Effects Help using terms like manual, user guide, and documentation. I’ll add some key words.

And remember, if you want up-to-date information for when you don’t have an Internet connection, download the PDF version of After Effects Help. There’s a link at the top of every page of After Effects Help. I just updated it this week.

error codes

We tend to have a pretty good collection of documents in our Technical Support Knowledgebase for After Effects error codes, but Mylenium (Lutz Albrecht) has done a much better job of bringing together information on error codes, possible causes, and possible solutions in his Mylenium error code database.

expression reference

I think that the introduction and overview of expressions in the first part of the “Expressions” chapter of After Effects Help does a pretty good job of introducing expressions—in part by linking to material on some other websites.

And I think that the various subsections of the “Expression elements reference” are what most people are looking for when they’re looking for reference material about expressions.

I did get one response that said that someone wanted to just search the expressions reference part of Help. Other than searching using the PDF version of Help, I can offer this as a workaround: Search from within the Help document (with the This Help System Only checkbox checked) and include the word ‘expression’ in your search. This search is an example of searching for ‘gaussrandom expression’ in the Help document.

camera shake

It seems that the people who were well served by searching for ‘camera shake’ were the ones who wanted to add simulated camera shake to their movies. But those who wanted to remove camera shake with motion tracking and stabilization weren’t as well served.

draw line

When some people searched for ‘draw line’, it appears that they wanted to know how to underline text.

When others searched for ‘draw line’, it appears that they wanted to know how to draw a line in the sense of a simple vector graphics element. There are lots of ways of drawing lines in After Effects. Here are a few:

– a stroked mask
– the Write-On effect
– a thin solid layer
– a shape layer with a stroked path
– an animated series of tightly spaced (kerned) underscore or dash characters

Using shapes or masks to draw a line (path) is probably what makes the most sense in most cases.


I think that a lot of people searching for ‘fog’ are trying to simulate fog, but they end up seeing the Fog 3D effect, and that is just confusing (because that effect is for a pretty limited use case involving renders from 3D applications). I would hope that people would go to the “Fog, smoke, clouds, and such” section, which points to a wonderful document by Mark Christiansen on simulating fog. (You do know that you should buy his book, right? Seriously.) There’s also a good blog entry by Daniel Broadway about compositing fog linked to from that page.

slow motion speed

This seems like an odd search string, but it came up a lot in the logs. Sure, I expect to see ‘slow motion’ or ‘fast motion’, but ‘slow motion speed’ is weird. I just added some more keywords to the relevant sections of After Effects Help.

FLV export

You should definitely read this section for FLV export. There’s an important note there that warns you away from using the FLV exporter that QuickTime installs.

Color Finesse

The fine folks at Synthetic Aperture provide documentation for Color Finesse. It’s in the folder that contains the plug-in.

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