Adobe After Effects – Introduction

In our VFX class today we started working in After Effects, using stock footage to create what looked like an homage to ’80s music videos. First, we had to look at and understand the basic components of the tool:

  1. We needed to create a new project and import the footage we would be editing. This was rather straight-forward, since the footage was provided for us and we merely needed to use File > Import and select the files to bring in.
  2. Create our composition and arrange our layers was next; the project panel was where our footage was stored once we imported, so we needed to drag these down to the left side of our timeline panel. After that, we could sort the layers into the appropriate order, which is simple in this exercise. The layers show in the composition in the order they’re stacked (for the most part). So we wanted the dancers at the forefront and the text at the very back, with the other effects in between.
  3. Navigating the tools and interface was easier than expected, but I think this is merely because After Effects is an Adobe product and we’ve already used a few of them. It has a project window, a main composition window, and a timeline controller.

It was important to remember that the timeline acted like layers in Photoshop, where the topmost asset would be most visible and the back most asset would be the under layer. Knowing this, we wanted the text of our 15 second clip to be on bottom while the girls dancing would be at the forefront.

Time is also something to keep in mind, since different mediums require different FPS in different regions. We would be using 15 frames (the length of our dancing video) per second.

We ended up being asked to “spice up” the video by adding some effects – a radial blur and exposure – to the girls. It was suggested that we duplicate a layer we’re adding effects to, so we’ll always have access to the original in case we want to revert or change anything we’ve already done. Adding a zoom bubble effect to the text, we were ready to see the results:

The final video – although it’s missing the music.

Having done this, we were introduced to keyframes, which we’ve heard about before in other classes. There are three main kinds of transitions you can have in an animation:



A linear animation is straight from A to B, while an ease takes into account slowing down at either end of the motion (like how an arm would slow down at the height of its swing before coming down again).

The constant transition between frames isn’t commonly used, but it’s best for claymation and cell animation.


In After Effects, any effects with a blue clock has an animation – so in the example we’ve done with the dancers, our text layer with its zoom bubble is an animation. Clicking into the layer, we can see the clock as well as the ease transitions we added:


In the final part of the class, we went through the next stage of the VFX pipeline; what would happen after you’ve had the initial meeting with the client:



You will have made up a shot-list storyboard and communicate with a few key people while getting ready to work.

The agency has hired the production company, who then hired you (the post-production company).

You’ll end up being a part of the shots on set and the rest of the pipeline, which will be looked at in the next class.

Posted in VFX

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