After Effects Tips – Installment 1

Learn something new everyday…

In contrast to the columns and tutorials we’ve been posting so far in CMG Keyframes, we thought it would be useful to also post quick-hit random tips for working more productively with Adobe After Effects CS3. This is the first installment; hope you enjoy it. Please feel free to add your own questions and alternative solutions in the Comments field at the end.

Tip 1: Editing Photoshop Text

If you create Text layers in Photoshop then import this file as a Composition, its text layers default to being rendered as pixels. To make the text editable again, select the layer and go Layer > Convert to Editable Text. The layer will now behave like any other After Effects vector text layer and you can add text animators to it. AE CS3 also automatically converts any Photoshop text on a path to text on a mask shape; you can then edit or even animate this mask shape over time.

Tip 2: Video Voodoo

If you work with 3D animations (or Artbeats stock footage) rendered at 30fps and place it in a 29.97 fps composition, you may know that you need to conform the sources to 29.97 fps so that the frame rate matches the comp rate. But conforming the frame rate is also a cure for what we call “video voodoo” (when odd things happen to nice footage).

For instance, let’s say you have a movie source that according to the Project panel is “29.97 fps.” But when you start working with it in a 29.97 comp, a frame is being skipped for no apparent reason. Or maybe a different image is rendered from that showing in the Composition panel, especially if time stretched or time remapped. Before you pull your hair out, select your source in the Project panel and go File > Interpret Footage > Main. In the Frame Rate section of the Interpret Footage dialog, select “Conform to frame rate” and enter “29.97”. Using an exact frame rate overrides the frame rate being reported by QuickTime, which can vary as footage is being captured. In fact, this has proven to cure so many oddities that it’s a good habit to conform all your footage on critical projects.

(For more on frame rates, download this PDF from Artbeats.com on other frame rate issues.)

Tip 3: Skip to the top of the Queue

Tired of always selecting the right Render Setting or Output Module in the Render Queue? Then you need to change the “default” so that every time you add a new comp to the queue, it uses your favorite templates (you are making templates, right?!). The easiest way to change the default used is to hold Command on Mac (Control on Windows) as you select a template from the popup menu in the Render Queue. Your selection will become the new default.

Tip 4: Let Me Be Your Guide

If you want a layer to be visible (and audible!) as you work, but not render in the next composition in the chain or in your final movie, select it and go Layer > Guide Layer. The obvious use for guide layers is for using custom templates or grids, but consider these uses also:

  • You may need to place an audio layer in a precomp so you can animate to music. When you do this, make the audio a guide layer so that it won’t render when nested. This avoids the possibility of doubling up the audio in the main comp (which will result in distortion).
  • Make a text layer with notes, make it a guide layer (so it doesn’t render) but leave it enabled when you archive the job so that your notes are visible the next time you (or your colleague) open the project.

Tip 5: Same Size, Same Specs

You may know that to make a New Composition with the same size and frame rate as a source movie, you can drag footage to the New Composition button at the bottom of the Project panel. But try dragging multiple sources – the New Composition from Selection dialog will open. This allows you to create multiple compositions and add them to the Render Queue, or create a single comp and apply the Sequence Layers assistant at the same time.

The content contained in our books, videos, blogs, and articles for other sites are all copyright Crish Design, except where otherwise attributed.

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Chris & Trish Meyer founded Crish Design (formerly known as CyberMotion) in the very earliest days of the desktop motion graphics industry. Their design and animation work has appeared on shows and promos for CBS,…