AE I Owe U: pt. 2. – 10 Advanced Ways After Effects Saves Editor’s Lives 12/22/11

A couple of weeks ago I showed you some bread and butter ways that After Effects saves editor’s lives daily. Now let’s look at the advanced ways that AE helps you take it to the next level.
You probably won’t use these features on every editorial project but when you need them it’s good to know you can.
1. CONVERT AUDIO WAVEFORM TO KEYFRAMES – The Convert Audio To Keyframes keyframe assistant analyzes audio amplitude within the work area and creates keyframes for audio amplitude. Essentially, this feature gives you the ability to have your audio drive a visual element.
This works well with rhythmic music or even voices. In this tutorial you’ll see how they got animated clouds to pulsate to music.
2. ROTOSCOPING – A common kind of rotoscoping is the tracing of a path around an object in a movie and using that path as a mask to separate the object from its background.
It would be easier to push a camel through the eye of a needle than to try this in a typical non-linear editor.
Scott Squires created this pt. 1 and pt. 2 intro to rotoscoping 5 years ago but it is still very relevant today. Also, the introduction of the Roto Brush and Refine Matte in CS5 make this even easier.
3. BETTER BLEND MODES – Blending modes (a.k.a. composite modes or transfer modes) are settings for layers that control how each layer blends with or interacts with layers beneath it. Blending modes for layers in After Effects are identical to blending modes in Adobe Photoshop.
In FCP 7 and FCP X you can do the basic blending modes while Avid Media Composer supports these modes with the Composite effect in the BCC bundle and the built Paint effect. You can also use the free DMN transfer plugin for Avid Media Composer.
4. 2 AND A HALF-D – No it’s not a new Charlie Sheen spinoff, it’s admitting that AE doesn’t have 3-D in the strictest sense. For true 3D you will have to look to apps like Cinema 4D, 3D Studio Max and Maya.
But even AE’s “fake” 3D can take your edits to the next level. There is a great group of AE tutorials on on the Dimensional Stills Technique (If you’re not a Lynda member you can watch a Videocopilot tutorial of it here).
This is a popular effect where you freeze on a single frame and the individual objects inside the frame separate in Z space. You can see an example of it in the trailer for “The Kid Stays in the Picture”. Try doing this inside any NLE that is not a Smoke.
5. PARENTING – Again with the sitcom titles. But all jokes aside, it’s a huge drag trying to automate any kind of interaction or dependencies between layers in an NLE.
For instance, it would be cool if instead of copying the crop parameter from clip A and pasting it to clip B, I could just have clip A control the crop parameter on clip B.
That’s what parenting does in AE – it allows one layer or set of layers to control other layers. This layer synchronicity can really make complex animations a lot more manageable. Here is a minute long tutorial on Parenting.
6. EXPRESSIONS– And if you really want to take your relationships to the next level, then you should consider using expressions. When you want to create and link complex animations, but would like to avoid creating tens or hundreds of keyframes by hand, try using expressions.
Expressions usually frighten non-coders but if you start off slowly wrapping your head around the basic idea of how they work it can be a lot less intimidating. Two excellent sites for this (in order) are Introduction to Expressions and Dan Ebbert’s Mastering Expressions.
Even knowing just a few bread and butter expressions can speed up your workflow tremendously.
7. BETTER MATTE OPTIONS – Even though you can create track mattes and travelling mattes in Final Cut Pro, there are better options for manipulating them in After Effects. You can even convert a layer into a track matte using the TrkMat menu.
This menu in combination with the Blending Modes menu give you far more options for how layers interact with one another. Just using these 2 menus in tandem can sometimes negate the need for using effect filters at all.
Check out the illustrated introduction to mattes “All about Track Mattes” created by the AE dynamic duo Chris and Trish Meyer.
8. INTEGRATION WITH ILLUSTRATOR – I use to think an .ai file had something to do with the Spielberg movie. Now I know it just stands for a file that I can’t open with any other friggin’ app except Illustrator (even though there are few ways around this).
But what’s great about AE is that it will not only support any .ai file, it will also support it’s vector properties. The means that among other things, the image is infinitely scalable. This makes Illustrator objects great candidates for zoom transitions and other creative uses of the scale parameter.
Here is an Adobe TV tutorial on understanding the After Effects and Illustrator Workflow.
9. INTEGRATION WITH PHOTOSHOP – As of press time, Final Cut Pro X does not support layered Photoshop files. It flattens the .psd file on import.
But I’m sure this feature is coming because, well – it has to. Until then, you know where you gotta go if you want to animate your.psd layers.
But even beyond the basic functionality of being able to import layered .psd files, AE give you the option of preserving individual layer styles, transparent areas and layer masks, and adjustment layers (preserving the individual elements for animation).
Check out the documentation on preparing images for use in After Effects.
10. INTEGRATION WITH PREMIER PRO – So we’ve finally made it to the best feature of all.
In the same way that Apple Motion works hand in glove with Final Cut Pro, so works After Effects with Premier Pro. This is a power couple if ever there were.
There is a tutorial on that shows you the synergy you can create between the two. Again, if you are not a member of Lynda you can view a tutorial here on the Dynamic Link feature in Premiere that lets you use AE comps inside of Premiere.
So there you have it. 10 advanced ways AE saves countless editors lives.
What did I miss?

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3 Responses to this article

nicky December 22, 2011 Reply

…you missed that if we’re not a lynda subscriber, we can’t follow the link ; )

Eric Wise December 22, 2011 Reply

Ouch, I wondered if that might happen. I’ll try to find YouTube alternatives were possible.

Eric Wise December 22, 2011

Ok, I found free alternatives to the 2 Lynda tutorials

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