Pre-Compositing and File Management

There were a lot of steps in today’s class, but the ultimate goal was to learn the importance of using pre-compositing and file management. We worked within our project to bring to life a Trim Paths logo Peter supplied for us. I took notes throughout the class, so this post might be more bullet-point in the explanation of the steps, which differs from my usual posting style.

We started with the vector layer on the left, right-clicking on the source name in the timeline bar and choosing to “Create Shapes from Vector Layer”. After that we needed to add a trim path (like we did last lesson), then key its end going from 0% to 100% in the 4 second clip. This entire endeavour will be kept in our first composition.


In a second composition, I dragged my Comp1 into the timeline of Comp2. We were doing this so we could get an offset effect via changing the start in the timeline – a leading edge to the original trim path. After adding a black solid layer, I dragged another copy of my Comp1 into the timeline, then made sure the black solid was sandwiched between the two Comp1 layers.


Using a track matte on the black solid layer and seeing it to Alpha Matte Comp1, it created something quite interesting:


We had to get rid of the double lines, so you go to Effect > Matte > Simple Choker, then set the Choke Matte to negative values (like -2, to get rid of the lines). I then treated this as a new composition – I selected the three layers, then went to Layer > Pre-Compose (leaving the settings as they were) which created a new composition in my project called Pre-comp1.

Once again, I made a new composition, then dragged in my Pre-comp1 into the timeline of Comp3. I probably should have come up with a better naming convention, which I’ll know for the future (better file management!).

Peter then said we needed to add a glow effect. I knew to go into Effects & Presets panel, search for, and then add a glow onto the layer. We fiddled a bit with the settings; I changed the glow radius up to 40 and the intensity up to 2.5. To make it even more (for lack of a better word) glow-y, we could add a new adjustment layer and then add a glow effect to that, upping the intensity/radius until we had a look we liked. On that adjustment layer, we were shown how to add a Curves colour correction (found in the effects & Presets panel) to play with the colours in the composition – I didn’t really find a setting that I liked, so I just left it alone. It’s still good to know it’s there! I still ended up with something I think looked very cool:


Pre-comping this layer (into Pre-comp2), I created a new Comp4; I then brought the original Matte layer into the composition window, added a Gradient Ramp onto it, and adjusted the colours however I wanted. I chose to go for a mix of green and orange, which I quite liked the look of. We could also choose to change the opacity of the Matte layer at this point, so it would fade in from 0% to 100%.

Peter also noticed that we’d forgotten to change the colour settings depth from 8-bit to 16-bit, which might help with any colour banding problems we have at this stage. We then needed to bring in Comp1 and change it to Add mode, bring in Pre-comp2 and change IT to add mode, then duplicate the Pre-comp2 to add a Radial Blur to it. I also changed the start time of it, to have a delay and make it look pretty awesome.


While this was a pretty mean feat from just a simple vector graphic, we were going to keep going by adding a background effect to the logo. Yet again, we needed to add a new composition (now up to Comp5), then draw a white, size 3px line with the pen tool – roughly through the middle of the canvas.

Once that was done, I added a Wave Warp effect to it and made a few adjustments to the settings: I changed the height and width to what I felt looked good, altered the line speed to -1, so it was flowing nicely, and then we needed to pin it to the right edge of the canvas.


To further change the look, we were going to add a Gradient Overlay to it (changing the angle of this to 180 and the offset to 25 on the x). This would cause a fade-out look that would make sense a little further along. Following that, we duplicated the layer twice over, making each of those Add mode, until we have three lines that we could Pre-comp to take into a new layer:


A new composition later (Comp6!), I added this lines Pre-comp into the timeline, duplicated it, then added a Turbulent Displace effect to it. The main end look we wanted was the layer to look electric, almost like lightening or static was coming out. I changed the Amount to about 40, the Size to about 20, and the Complexity as high as it could go (so 10). We were then told we could add a glow to the composition via an Adjustment Layer and just play with the look until we’re happy with it. Mine ended up looking like this:


From there, I created Pre-comp3, then a new Comp7, and added Pre-comp3 to it. We were looking to make something like a centralised point of four three-line effects… which likely isn’t an eloquent way of putting it. Regardless, I needed to change the position of the waves so they emanated from roughly the centre of the canvas, then duplicate-and-move it three times over, changing each new layer to Add mode.

Having looked at the Optics Composition previously when we were doing tracking a few lessons ago, I added the effect to bend the look with a reverse lens distortion and changing the FOV to about 90. Guess what came next? Pre-comping and a new layer (Comp8, the final one!).

Adding Pre-comp3 to Comp8 twice over, I added a Gaussian Blur effect to the bottom layer. With the top layer selected, I added a mask shape with the ellipse tool and feathered the mask, expanded it, then played with the settings to adjust the look. To polish it all off, I added Comp4 (the final Trim Paths logo) as the top layer and I was done!


To fully appreciate the usage of pre-compositing and file management, here is a look at the final project window:


I ended up with eight compositions, five pre-compositions, and the two original files we started with. As I mentioned further up, it would have been much easier if I’d stuck to a naming convention for each of these – something to keep in mind for future projects. Otherwise, I really like the end result of my endeavours!

Posted in VFX

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