AE I Owe U: pt. 1. – 10 Basic Ways After Effects Saves Editor’s Lives 12/07/11
When it comes to editing, there’s a lot that Avid Media Composer and Final Cut Pro 7 can do well. There are even things outside of traditional editing that can be done in these NLEs like complex titles, audio automation and motion graphics.
However, for advanced motion graphics I usually outsource these jobs to After Effects. Do I use Apple Motion and love the way it roundtrips with FCP? Yes and yes.
But let’s face it, After Effects is a superior app and it’s ubiquity on all levels of the industry makes it the linga franca of compositing in post.
For years I avoided using AE because I was so intimidated by all the complexity under the hood. This was even after I took classes at the trailblazing Bay Area Video Coalition.
What helped me take the plunge though, was when I finally bit the bullet and started running out on the AE battlefield for quick in and out missions. And little by little, the fundamentals I learned at BAVC came to the rescue.
By using AE for one quick task at first, over time, I was eventually able to do more than a few tasks in AE. This gave me the confidence to go on longer and more complex compositing missions.
I knew enough to be dangerous and it felt great. Although, often what would happen is that I would be able to fly the plane but not land it. Thank God for Lynda.com, YouTube and online forums.
After a while, working in AE was second nature and a lot of the gotchas and idiosyncrasies of the app were understandable.
As I start on my first project using Premiere Pro, I’m looking forward to finally having true round-tripping with AE and a NLE.
So what are the 10 common things that I think AE helps editors with?
1. BETTER KEYFRAMING – The frustration level of using keyframes in an NLE falls somewhere between the 7th and 8th level of Dante’s Hell. By contrast, keyframing in AE puts you on cloud 9 (sorry, I couldn’t resist). But don’t take my word for for it – check out this tutorial on animating layer properties.
2. BETTER TITLING – So maybe the 9th level of Dante’s Hell is reserved for titling. For some reason, after all these years, creating titles is still a pretty cumbersome affair; although things seem like they may have improved in FCP X. But look at what’s been possible with titling in AE for years now.
3. BETTER KEYING – Keying was never great in FCP 7 and only slightly better in Avid Media Composer. You know if you want to pull a decent key, you’re going to have to use a 3rd party keyer like DV Matte Pro or Shake (R.I.P.). Of course, if you’re trying to master the art of keying check out Jeff Foster’s, The Green Screen Handbook. Using Keylight, the native keyer in After Effects, you can get excellent results without leaving the app.
4. BETTER EFFECTS – Hey I like clock wipes as much as the next guy but it’s a given that AE is going to be better at that stuff. You know…it’s like – in their name. Check out these basic effects from Video Copilot.
5. BETTER COLOR CORRECTION – Ok, you can do curves adjustments in Avid but not FCP 7, of course you can’t do levels adjustments in either. In AE you can do both and more.
6. BETTER MASKING – Why am I only limited to 8 points in my garbage mask in FCP? In AE the points are unlimited and there are even “smart” masks.
7. INTEGRATION WITH ILLUSTRATOR – This means you can use vector objects to create resolution independent composites that would be impossible in any NLE – except of course if you are using Adobe Premiere Pro that supports these types of files.
8. INTEGRATION WITH PHOTOSHOP – Although both Media Composer and Final Cut Pro support layered Photoshop files only After Effects takes advantage of Photoshop Smart Objects.
9. MOTION TRACKING – Thank God for Mocha by Imagineer Systems. This 3rd party motion tracking software works with all the top NLEs. But with AE’s built in motion tracker you may not even need this app.
10. IMAGE STABILIZATION – The Smooth Cam filter in FCP has never given great results. Luckily, the native motion tracker in AE also does a good job at stabilizing images and correcting ‘rolling shutter’.
If you’re just getting starting in After Effects, check out the comprehensive FREE lessons at videocopilot.net.
And to get great motion graphics tips on twitter follow: @AdobeAE, @VisualFXtuts, @envatovideo, @theangietaylor, @MotionDesignLuv, @graymachine, @Motionworks, @nickvegas, @lesterbanks, @motionographer and @terrylwhite.
Next week I’ll look at the advanced ways AE saves video editors lives with.
1. convert audio waveforms to keyframes
3. better blend modes
4. 2.5 D
6. expressions (automation)
7. better matte options
8. integration with Illustrator
9. integration with Photoshop
10. integration with Premiere Pro
(Scrabble pieces courtesy of Leo Reynolds)