After Effects is a 2D/3D compositor for creating and modifying clips of footage. Select below to see the relevant tutorials/lessons.

Final Result:

To get to grips with the basics behind Adobe After effects, the first lesson looked at simple animating effects using key-frames and the graph editor. To show this we have used the iconic Archigram Image ‘Instant City’ (1969). We were provided with a layered PSD file with some items already cut out.

  1. The first task I completed was to modify the original photoshop file to remove some extra items including the couple from the image. I have then used the clone tool behind the couple to allow me to move them slightly without losing detail behind them. The image to the left shows the original image with some modifications to remove the couple.

2. This screenshot shows the cut out objects on there own layers separate from the background. By using a layered photoshop file you can import a large number of images without having to save them all separately, this saves a considerable amount of time and also makes organization easier. In terms of an architectural animation this technique can be used very well to animate existing architectural drawings without having to re-position all the items when you import them.

3. When we get into after effects the first step is to create a new composition. It is important to get this right when you start a project to ensure everything is scaled correctly when you come to export it. For the purpose of this demonstration we are creating a standard PAL widescreen animation. This is the default used to broadcast to British television. I have therefore selected ‘PAL D1/DV Widescreen Square Pixel’, The square pixel is used to ensure all devices read the animation at the same aspect ratio. Conventionally films will use rectangular pixel to shoot a widescreen image onto a square 35mm sensor/film, which is then stretched to emulate the original 21:9 aspect ratio without any data loss.

4. With After Effects setup it is time to import our content setup in Photoshop. To do this I have saved the Photoshop file and on the Project browser within After Effects I can either double click or right click and import file. Within the window browser I can navigate to my layered Photoshop file and select import, this will then open a new dialog box requesting how to open the file. To ensure I import all of my layers and their positioning information I select ‘Composition – Retain Layer Sizes’ and ‘Editable Layer Styles’. If i did not want to keep any of the layer information I can select ‘Merge Layer Styles into Footage’.

This has now imported each individual layer into a folder along with its own composition showing everything as setup in Photoshop. As I intend to re-position all of the items within my scene I will use the composition I set up earlier.  Then drag just my edited background layer into the timeline. As the image is larger than my default comp size i will tap ‘S’ and drag the scale down to a usable size 38% in this case, I can then re position the background to ensure it fills the comp.

5. To start with the animation we need to keyframe the different positions of the extra objects. So firstly we need to bring in one of the cut layers onto our comp. Firstly I will bring over one of the balloons and position it where i want the animation to start, making sure it sits above the background layer. Then making sure my timeframe is at 0 seconds, with the balloon layer selected i can tap ‘P’ to bring up the position tab and click the stopwatch to the left. to set the second step I can drag the timeline forward to 3 seconds and by alterating the X and Y coordinates a new keyframe has been created and will automatically animate the movement. I repeat this until I have created an animation I like. To ease the object in better I can select all of the keyframes and tap F9 to convert them to easy-ease frames.

6. To animate the waving spot lights uses a very similar process, however it requires an extra step to start. As we are going to rotate these they have to rotate around a single point which by default is the center. To do this we can tap ‘A’ to show the anchor point and then adjust the X/Y coordinates to bring the point onto the origin of the light ray. With this completed we can move the light to our start position and repeat step 5 however rather than animating the position we will animate the rotation using the ‘R’ shortcut.

In order to clean up my composition by I have repeated the above with 3 lights and then I can select all of the lights and right click > Pre Compose. Then select Move all attribute to new comp. Within here I can modify all of my lights separately without cluttering up the master composition. I have also added some effects including a Rotation Blur and Tint simulate lights more closely and add more of a motion blur to add more depth to the shot.

Another reason for using pre-compose is that on my master comp I can now add a mask to the bridge, giving more depth, if i were to add a mask on the light itself the mask would rotate with the light.

7. To add some additional animation to the drawing I have downloaded an image of a car and animated both the position and scale to give the affect of it driving along the road. As i need the car to sit behind the existing cars I have created a mask tool around the existing cars and inverted the mask to hide the new car when it is behind the black and white cars.

To match the style of this car I have added a posterise effect to reduce the number of colours used down to 4, which simulates the rest of this image very well. I have then added a tint and vibrance effect to make the car pop from its surroundings.

Finally to finish off the look I have added a camera with a subtle Pan and an adjustment layer which fades in and out with a pop-art effect and also a sketch effect to give a more interesting fade in.

Final Video:

After Effects has moved on considerably from just basic 2D animations and has a powerful 3D model space to create animations in three dimensions. Conventionally modelling everything in 3D with realistic textures is not a time efficient process if a physical model or place already exists. An easy way to create a virtual 3D environment within After Effects is by layering together multiple images with a camera.

  1. To start this process, as with before we have an image, although this is just a flattened jpeg image. So first we open this with Photoshop and need to create multiple layers for each row of shelves, so that we can separate them within After Effects. To get started with the foreground image we can duplicate our background and then deleted everything except our front level of shelves.

2. We now have to repeat this step for each row of shelves, however this time we will clone out the row before with extra rows of sweets and biscuits, so that from the camera’s perspective you dont see errors in the image. This supermarket image as taken by Andreas Gursky in 1999 is very easy for this because of the repetitive nature of supermarket shelves.

This process can be repeated 7 times to separate all of the shelves. The background shelves do not require as much detail because of the size of the output resolution, however an important step is to remove the columns from all of the shelves behind the main columns, so they are not duplicated across the background, the clone tool can be used to remove all of these along with extending the shelves.

3. With the image file divided into 7 separate layers and a background image file we can save the photoshop file with layers and import it to After Effects, as we did in tutorial 01 keeping all of the positioning and layers intact. We will also create a DV PAL composition the same as before with square pixels, then selecting all of the layers we can drag them down into the composition and they will all be dropped in the same location.

To get started with the 3D effect we have to select the 3D cube next to each layer and then go to Layer > New > Camera. This will put a camera on top of all the images. To see within the 3D workspace you need to select ‘1 View’ under the preview window and select ‘2 Views’. By default this will bring up a plan view and camera view. The plan view will allow you to see the Z location of each image. To create the 3D effect we now need to position each layer on different locations on the Z axis. For this image I have used multiples of 500. You can add this information by tapping ‘P’ on each layer and typing in a new Z position.

4. With each image separated by 500 points we now have to scale each of the images up to create a triangle look on our plan view. This can be done by selecting each layer and going to scale ‘S’ on each item. If the camera cannot see the whole of the front image, you should move the Z position of the camera until the front image fills the screen. You can then proceed to stretch each of the images so they all fill the screen and form a triangle.

From here we can animate the camera in a very simple slider movement by key framing the Point of Interest and Position keys. As we are now working within a 3D space with a camera we can use the drop down menu on the camera to add a focus distance and depth. This effect gives a more realistic simulation of a camera and can also hide any of the clone and cut lines out of focus.

5. With a 3D looking animation complete it is now important to finish off the animation with some colour correction and colour compositing. To do this I can select all of my layers including the camera and Pre-Compose, by moving all attributes. In the master comp I can now add effects to the 1 layer that remains. For this animation I have decreased the saturation added a CC Lens effect to warp the field of view slightly. The final changes is to add some colour curves, film grain and noise.

Now to export the video and share it above, for this I am exporting Via Adobe Media Encoder which allows me to queue up multiple exports with an easy interface to choose the output quality. The settings used here are Quicktime with a H.264 compression using 25 frames per second and the original aspect ratio and size.

Coming soon…


Coming soon…


Coming soon…