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Getting to Know the After Effects CS3 Workflow

Article Description

Whether you use After Effects to animate a simple DVD title sequence or to create complex special effects, you generally follow the same basic workflow. The Adobe Creative Team demonstrates how to use this workflow to create a simple animated video.

Creating a Project and Importing Footage

When you begin each new project, it's a good idea to restore the default preferences for After Effects. (See the section "Restoring Default Preferences.") You can do this with a simple keyboard shortcut: Press Ctrl-Alt-Shift (Windows) or Option-Command-Shift (Mac OS) while starting After Effects. When prompted, click OK to delete your preferences file. After Effects opens to display an empty, untitled project.

An After Effects project is a single file that stores references to all the footage you use in that project. It also contains compositions, which are the individual containers used to combine footage, apply effects, and ultimately to drive the output.

When you begin a project, often the first thing you'll do is add footage to it. There are many ways to import footage into a project:

  • Choose File > Import > File, or press Ctrl-I (Windows) or Command-I (Mac OS).
  • Double-click in the lower area of the Project panel to open the Import File dialog box.
  • Choose File > Import > Multiple Files to select files located in different folders.
  • Drag-and-drop files from Explorer or the Finder.
  • Use Adobe Bridge to search for, manage, preview, and import footage.

Navigate to the Assets folder in your AECS3_CIB/Lessons/Lesson01 folder. Shift-click to select all of the files in the folder, and then click Open.

A footage item is the basic unit in an After Effects project. You can import many types of footage items, including moving-image files, still-image files, still-image sequences, audio files, layered files from Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator, other After Effects projects, and projects created in Adobe Premiere Pro. As you build a project, you can import footage items at any time.

Because one of the footage items for this project is a multilayer Photoshop file, After Effects provides options for importing it. In the bgwtext.psd dialog box, choose Composition from the Import Kind menu to import the layered Photoshop file as a composition. Select Editable Layer Styles in the Layer Options area, and then click OK. The footage items appear in the Project panel (see Figure 2).

In the Project panel, deselect all footage items and then click to select any of the them. Notice that a thumbnail preview appears at the top of the Project panel. You can also see the file type and size, as well as other information about each item, in the Project panel columns (see Figure 3).

When you import files, After Effects doesn't copy the footage item itself into your project. Instead, it creates a reference link to the footage item in the Project panel. This technique saves disk space. If you use another application to modify footage that's used in a project, the changes appear in After Effects the next time you open the project.

To save time and minimize the size and complexity of a project, import a footage item once and then use it multiple times in a composition. In some cases, you may need to import a footage item more than once, such as if you want to use it at two different frame rates.

After you've imported footage, it's a good idea to save the project. Choose File > Save or press Ctrl-S (Windows) or Command-S (Mac OS). In the Save As dialog box, navigate to the AECS3_CIB/Lessons/Lesson01/Finished_Project folder. Name the project Lesson01_Finished.aep, and then click Save.

4. Creating a Composition and Arranging Layers | Next Section Previous Section