Most After Effects workflows include these steps: import and organize footage, create compositions and arrange layers, add effects, animate elements, preview your work, and export the final composition.
A composition is where you create all animation, layering, and effects. An After Effects composition has both spatial dimensions and time. Compositions include one or more layers—video, audio, still images—arranged in the Composition panel and in the Timeline panel. Simple projects may include only one composition, while elaborate projects may include several compositions to organize large amounts of footage or intricate effects sequences.
You can manually preview your work in After Effects by moving the current-time indicator, or you can view either a standard or RAM preview. A standard preview plays your composition from the current-time indicator to the end of the composition, usually more slowly than real time. A RAM preview allocates enough RAM to play the preview (with audio) as fast as the system allows, up to the frame rate of the composition.
You can customize the After Effects workspace by dragging the panels into the configuration that best suits your working style. You can drag panels to new locations, move panels into or out of groups, place panels alongside each other, and undock a panel so that it floats above the application window. As you rearrange panels, the other panels resize automatically to fit the application window. You can save custom workspaces by choosing Window > Workspace > New Workspace.