After Effects Apprentice Free Video: Working with Nested 3D Compositions

How you can be two places at once inside After Effects
Chris and Trish Meyer
By Chris and Trish Meyer 05.08.12

As we mentioned awhile back, we've been busy the past year and a half creating an extensive, multi-course video training series based on our popular beginner's book After Effects Apprentice. Buried in the shuffle of the release of After Effects CS6 is that we concluded this series with a 3+ hour course dedicated to that book's Final Project. Several movies from this course are available for free preview from; we'd like to share those with you here - including this movie that includes a selection of small but useful tricks.

In this wide-ranging course recorded in After Effects CS5.5 and applicable to all recent versions including CS6, you will pull together skills you've learned in the previous Apprentice lessons, including using masks, effects, shape layers, text, layered Illustrator files, blending modes, track mattes, collapsed transformations, nested compositions, motion blur, expressions, animation presets, audio, a 3D camera and light, and more. Along the way, we share the mental process we go through as we design a video project, including unifying the overall look and handling client changes.

In this particular video, we employ a couple of techniques that can improve your workflow. We start by taking a 3D composition built earlier in the lesson and using it as a single easy-to-handle layer inside a new comp, while retaining its 3D-ness using Collapse Transformations. We then take advantage of Edit This/Look At That (ETLAT) to edit layers in a precomp borrowing colors from and looking at the results in the final composition:


Next week we'll share a free movie on using parenting rather than precomposing to group layers in 3D, including tricks like using After Effects as a calculator to make easier to center layers. And just as a reminder, this and all the After Effects Apprentice video courses are available to subscribers of, as well as for individual purchase from Class On Demand.

FTC Disclosure: We make a bit of money whenever you purchase one of our courses from Class on Demand, or have a subscription and watch one of our courses. We do not make any money from either when you watch these free videos. We've worked with Adobe over the years, and they give us free access to their software in exchange for testing and consulting, but they did not subsidize the creation of these videos or the book they are derived from.

The content contained in After Effects Apprentice - as well as the CMG Blogs and CMG Keyframes posts on ProVideoCoalition - are copyright Crish Design, except where otherwise attributed.