Reader Tutorial: Starting with After Effects

Hi, my name is Pascal Verstegen, aka Enkera from Noa Studios. In this tutorial i'm going to explain how easy it is for any photoshop users out there that create a lot of effects-added branding to transform their work into a great and simple animation using After Effects, presumably to spice up your client presentation or intro to your website.

Step 1

First, let's take a look at what the kind of work would be that would fit this purpose greatly!

This image is great for use because it’s primarily build up out of pen tool shapes, rasters are ok as well, but will greatly increase the loading rendering and wait in After Effects later on. As you can see you can leave any layer styles on, because it’s the miracle of Creative Suite, and these styles will all import directly into After Effects.

Step 2

Now, after you have saved your image as a .PSD, we’re going to open After Effects, if you’ve never opened this app before, now is a good time to get familiar with the interface.

On top is the toolbar, similar to photoshop’s, on the left you can see the info about your currently opened project and the files you have loaded into AE for easy-access. In the center is the screen that’s going to show previews of your movie. On the right is info about your cursor’s whereabouts and what colour it’s touching. Under that is a preview pane, then it shows Effects & Presents, the latter also holds all the photoshop effects and the AE animation effects. On the bottom is the layer menu and the timeline, the most important part of AE in this tut.

Step 3

We’ll now open up a new file, this isn't done in the traditional fashion (file>new), rather we have to open up a new composition. On top of the screen press Composition and choose New Composition. This will pop up a screen with settings for your new composition, if your in America you’ll be wanting to choose a pre-made NTSC format, and for Europeans it’ll be a PAL format, these are video settings supported by your localized DVD player and television set.

To see what setting you have to use if your outside of these areas goto: This shows a map of regions. After you’ve picked the correct setting, adjust the size of the composition to the one of your PSD file, or whatever size you’ll be working in. I normally choose 1920x1080 as this is full HD and most of my presentations are on an HD screen. Remember that the higher your resolution the longer the render time will eventually be, rendering an HD movie with all these photoshop effects will take around 3 hours on the highest-end iMac. You might want to judge what your machine can handle too. You can just leave it on the standard settings if your not sure. Make sure it’s set to something above 24 frames per second (fps). Press OK.

Step 4

You now see an empty presentation in the size you choose, it’s time to import your .PSD. Goto File > Import > File... Find and open your .PSD Another settings window will pop up, check if Editable Layer Styles and Live Photoshop 3D are marked (if you used 3D in PS). Hit OK. In the Project window left of your preview you can now see an image of your PSD on top. Double Click this.

Your screen should now look like this:

The timeline now shows each of your Photoshop layers individually, you should play around with it by pressing the white arrows in each layer, under Transform you can find the ways to edit the layer you selected.

Step 5

We’re now going to animate something simple, using this method you can also edit the other transformation settings. Select any part of your image that’s small yet easy to see, i picked one of the starts on the ball.

By pressing the white arrows in the timeline you can drop-down all the available options, layer styles like in my case Outer Glow, can be animated to pulse subtly etc in the same way the location, shape, rotation and transparency can be animated. First step I’m going to take is I’m going to bounce this little star into view.

Step 6 (important, stay focused)

This is the hardest part, once you know how this works you’ll have the all-clear in your brain to edit anything you like. The timeline works with the Time-Vary Stopwatch, which is the little stopwatch in front of any given option. On top of the timeline is a yellow slider, this manages where you are on the timeline. If you would press the stopwatch it will save the current state of the selected option onto the timeline where the yellow slider points towards. We will leave the slider at the start for now. Press the Stopwatch icon before Opacity, a yellow point will appear on the timeline marking the 100% visibility at the start of the movie.

We’ll want the star to slowly become visible over about a 2 second period. Move the slider over to 02s (2 seconds), and press the tilted square icon in front of the stopwatch icon:

This will mark another spot in time that we will insert an option, using the arrows in front and behind the tilted square we can quickly travel to the next and previous assigned options. Press the arrow pointing left to go back to the previous 100% visibility we created. Now, press and hold your left mouse button while holding your mouse above the 100% next to Opacity. Slide your mouse to the left to get a 0%. You can also click on the 100% once and type 0. Now, by pressing the spacebar, After effects will slowly render every image to reveal your star in 2 seconds. The green bar on top of the timeline indicates what frames have been rendered, you can put the slider back on 00s and press space again to see the animation’s result.

Step 7

We’re now going to make the star or whatever object you’ve selected “bounce” into view. This will go in the same manner as with the Opacity, first put the slider back to 0 seconds, now press the stopwatch icon in front of Scale, slide the timer to 01s, and adjust the scale value to 120%, slide it to 02s and adjust the scale value to 80%, 03s on 110%, 04s on 90%, 05s on 100%,

now press space to see the star or whatever you’ve used bounce into view.

Step 8

You should really play around with the time bar in order to get to know how it works a little better, by expanding the Layer Effects portion of a layer you can also adjust the magnitude or visibility of Bevel, Outer Glow, Inner Glow, or whatever you used in photoshop. You can also click on one of the yellow squares and hold shift to select multiple of them, then press Cmd+C (Ctrl+C on PC) and slide the slider to where you want the copies to go to, then press Cmd+V (Ctrl+V on PC). This will duplicate the values, making it more easy to make animations run longer. Extra Step, Motion Blur, 3D. To turn on motion blur on a layer, click this symbol:

In order to make a layer 3D press this symbol:

A 3D layer can be moved using the X,Y and Z axis which will be added to the properties of the layer in Transform, this works the same as other options do.

My Final Result:

Thank you for reading and i hope you understood the tutorial! Next time you do a presentation you'll blast those bastards away! Quick holler @ my boys Julien Kraal & Emin Sinani!

Enkera's picture
Pascal Verstegen



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