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After Effects 5 for Macintosh and Windows: Visual QuickPro Guide


After Effects is Adobe's remarkably powerful motion graphics and visual effects software. It's used by film and video producers who want to add visual effects to their films, as well as Web designers who want to add motion to their typography and design work. Version 5.0 now offers exciting new features, such as 3D compositing, hierarchical layering, 16-bit color channel capability, and powerful new animation and masking enhancements. After Effects 5 for Macintosh and Windows: Visual QuickPro Guide uses ...

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After Effects is Adobe's remarkably powerful motion graphics and visual effects software. It's used by film and video producers who want to add visual effects to their films, as well as Web designers who want to add motion to their typography and design work. Version 5.0 now offers exciting new features, such as 3D compositing, hierarchical layering, 16-bit color channel capability, and powerful new animation and masking enhancements. After Effects 5 for Macintosh and Windows: Visual QuickPro Guide uses practical, task-based, visually formatted lessons to lead intermediate-to-advanced users through the After Effects interface and work environment, then moves on to explain how to import and manage footage, create compositions, view and edit layers, create masks, apply effects, and much more. The Visual QuickPro Guide approach emphasizes step-by-step instructions and concise explanations.

If you're a seasoned graphics professional, After Effects 5 for Windows and Macintosh: Visual QuickPro Guide is the quickest, easiest way to take your skills to the next level, whether you have previous experience with After Effects or not.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780201750430
  • Publisher: Peachpit Press
  • Publication date: 8/9/2001
  • Series: Visual QuickPro Series
  • Pages: 594
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Antony Bolante is the author of After Effects 4.1 for Macintosh and Windows: Visual QuickPro Guide and Premiere 5.1 for Windows and Macintosh: Visual QuickStart Guide. He works at Video Arts, an editorial and design facility in San Francisco. A freelance editor, he teaches editing to graduate and undergraduate students using Avid Media Composer, Media 100, Premiere, and of course, After Effects.

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Read an Excerpt

Excerpt from
Chapter 1:

After Effects: The Big Picture

"It's the Photoshop of dynamic media."

Summing up After Effects often leads to a comparison to its more famous sibling, Photoshop. Just as Photoshop lends you precise control over still images, After Effects gives you startling command over moving images. And, like Photoshop, After Effects has established itself as one of the leading programs of its kind. But After Effects is much more than an imitation of Photoshop.

After Effects brings together typography and layout, photography and digital imaging, digital video and audio editing, even 31) animation. You can edit, composite, animate, and add effects to each element. And you can output the results for presentation in traditional media, like film and video, or in newer forms, like CD-ROM, DVD, or the Web.

In this sense, a more apt metaphor would be that After Effects is the opera of digital media. Just as Wagner sought to combine disparate forms of performance into a "total work of art"-or gesamtkuntzwerk-After Effects allows you to unite various media into a unique, dynamic whole. But that may sound a bit grandiose. If it's more convenient, "the Photoshop of dynamic media" works just fine.

Because After Effects draws from so many sources, it also appeals to a wide range of users. You may want to add motion to your typography or design work. Or perhaps your interest in photography and digital imaging brought you to After Effects. Maybe you're a film or video maker who requires visual effects. Or maybe you're an animator who wants to expand your repertoire of tools. Maybe you've heard that After Effects is fun. Whatever your background, whatever your goal, you're ready to get started. This chapter acquaints you with After Effects. It explains how it works and what you'll need to get started. And if you're not already familiar with the QuickStart and QuickPro series, this chapter will also introduce you to the book's step-by-step, visual approach to explaining After Effects. Now, let's get to gesamtkuntzwerk.

The QuickPro Series

Chances are, you're already familiar with Peachpit Press' QuickStart series of books. They're known for their concise style, stepby-step instructions, and ample illustrations.

As you might guess, the "Pro" appellation implies that the software under discussion appeals to more advanced users. After Effects is such a program. For this reason, this QuickPro guide is designed for intermediate to advanced users, and assumes you not only have significant experience with computers, but also with using some form of digital media.

That said, the QuickPro series remains true to the essential QuickStart traditions. The approach still emphasizes step-by-step instructions and concise explanations. If the book looks a little thick for a "concise" guide, consider that there are literally hundreds of screen shots that clearly illustrate every task. You don't have to be a beginning user to find a visual, step-by-step guide appealing.

Occasionally, this guide does depart from the standard layout to accommodate larger screen shots, tables, or most notably, sidebars. Sidebars set aside important background information about the task at hand. If you are already familiar with the concept, feel free to skip ahead. If not, look to the sidebars for some grounding.

Because After Effects combines assets from several disciplines-typography, design, digital imaging, animation, film, and videoit also intersects with the vast bodies of information associated with each one of them. Explaining the fundamentals and background of each of these topics is outside the scope of this book (and even books that don't have the word quick in their titles). Nevertheless, this guide tries to provide enough information to keep you moving.

Adobe's Dynamic Media Suite

Because After Effects brings together a range of digital media, Adobe hopes you'll use it with Photoshop, Illustrator, and Premiere as a suite of tools. (In fact, these programs are sometimes offered as such.) As these software packages have matured, they have also become more integrated. Over time, it has become easier to move files from one program to the other without taking intermediate steps or sacrificing elements of your work. Even their interfaces have grown more consistent. (However, although the landscapes are similar, the customs aren't always the same: You may find that not all shared features employ exactly the same procedures, or keyboard shortcuts.)

Minimum Requirements

To use After Effects, your system must meet the following minimum requirements.

    Mac OS
  • Power Macintosh computer
  • 0S 9.0.4 or OS X Classic
  • At least 64 MB of application RAM


  • Intel Pentium II processor
  • Microsoft Windows 98, 2000, or Millennium Edition
  • At least 128 MB of RAM installed

    All Systems

  • At least 120 MB of available storage for full installation of the software, plus additional storage for source materials and rendered files
  • 16-bit color display or greater
  • CD-ROM drive

Suggested System Features

Although these features aren't required, they can make working with After Effects a lot more satisfying.

Faster/multiple processors-The faster your system can make calculations, the faster it can create the frames of your animation. After Effects takes advantage of the Mac's G4-velocity engine and its faster method of processing data. The program also makes full use of multiple processors on both Windows NT and the Mac (now that Apple again offers multiprocessor machines).

Additional RAM-The number of frames you can preview is directly related to the amount of RAM you can give After Effects. The same is true for the size of the images you can work with.

Large hard drives-Ample storage space allows you to work with large, high-quality files, and output longer animations. Like RAM, it seems you can never have enough drive space. Uncompressed full-screen, fullmotion video, for example, consumes nearly 30 MB for every second of footage. DV footage uses a more modest 3.6 MB for every second.

Fast hard drives- Your system's ability to play back footage smoothly relies partly on how quickly information can be read from the drives. Certain high-data-rate codecs and capture devices require speedy hard drives.

24-bit displays-If you're working with After Effects, you should be working in Millions of Colors (Mac) or TrueColors (Windows).

Large or multiple displays-After Effects can take up a lot of screen space. A large monitor is appropriate; two monitors are luxurious.

QuickTime 4.1.2 (or later)-QuickTime is a multimedia architecture used widely on both the Mac and Windows platforms. The Pro version is well worth the modest investment. QuickTime also permits you to export movies without using After Effects' Render Queue window. If you haven't already, update to QuickTime 5; its superior DV codec alone makes it a must-have update for most users.

Professionat System Additions

Other additions can elevate your motion graphics system for working on broadcast video or film projects.

After Effects Production Bundle-The Production Bundle includes a number of additional tools geared toward professionals in video and film. See "The Standard Version vs. the Production Bundle;" later in this chapter.

Third-party plug-ins-A multitude of third-party developers offer software plug-in effects. Some are enhanced versions of effects already available in After Effects, while others create highly specialized visual or audio effects otherwise unavailable in the program. The CD included with this book contains an assortment of samples and demo versions of some third-party plug-ins for you to check out.

Video capture/playback device-To capture or export video footage, you can add a hardware capture card to your system. Of course, you'll also need a deck to play and record tapes in your format of choice. Capture devices range from consumer-level gear that captures images comparable to VHS to professional cards that capture uncompressed, 10-bit video signals over a serial digital interface (SDI) connection. To use DV footage, your computer needs a Firewire or iLink connection (aka IEEE 1394 terminal) and a similarly equipped camera or deck.

NTSC monitor-NTSC monitor is really just a fancy way of saying a very good video monitor, with professional inputs and excellent color reproduction. Video monitors and computer monitors display images differently, so if your work is destined for video or broadcast, a good NTSC monitor will allow you to judge it more accurately. A video capture device typically supports both your computer and video monitor. By the way, NTSC stands for the National Television Standards Committee, the folks who develop the television standards used in North America and Japan, and whose name describes everything /Chat meets those standards.

Hardware acceleration-For the serious user, add-on cards offer accelerated effect rendering and can markedly decrease turnaround time on projects.

New Features

After Effects 5's major new features make for an exciting upgrade to an already great program. Some of the more notable of these include the following:

3D compositing-Use this feature to composite and animate layers (including lights and cameras) in true three-dimensional space, to combine 2D and 3D layers in the same composition, and to view and render the animation from any camera's perspective.

Parenting-Use this feature to assign hierarchical relationships between layers so that child layers "inherit" the Transform properties of their parent layer-a capability that greatly simplifies the process of animating related layers.

Expressions-Use this feature to determine the values of properties using a mathematical expression (rather than keyframes) as well as to create relationships between properties (so that a change in one property prompts a change in another).

Enhanced previewing-Use the intelligent caching feature to preserve unchanged frames and the dynamic resolution feature to view screen updates interactively. You can also optimize RAM previews by defining a region of interest as well as by setting other RAM playback options.

Enhanced masking-Use the new mask expansion property to control mask size and feather. Enhanced masking also allows you to view and manipulate color-coded masks in both the Layer and Composition windows, as well as to apply Motion Blur to masks.

New effects-Apply improved versions of the Shatter, Stroke, Drop Shadow, and Path Text effects as well as download a new set of effects from the Adobe Web site (offered as an incentive for registering your copy of After Effects 5).

Enhanced integration-After Effects 5 supports the latest features of other Adobe programs, allowing you to move files from one program to another without sacrificing elements of your work or interrupting your workflow.

Enhanced user interface-Take advantage of After Effect 5's improved interface to more easily manage footage items; edit layers using common non-linear editing commands; more easily make adjustments to effects and property values; and to save time and effort with numerous other new features.Expanded export-Use this feature to output in Flash format, to embed URLs in Web output, to compress audio using QuickTime and MP3 codecs, and to export movies greater than 2 GB on both Mac and Windows.

New in the Production Bundle

16-bit/per-channel support-By working in 16-bpc mode, you'll be able to process high-bit-depth images and maintain maximum color fidelity.

Vector paint-Use this feature to paint strokes directly in the Composition window; use onion skinning for frame-by-frame animation, or choose from several other options to play back paint strokes.

New effects-These include Lens Compensation, Fractal Noise, and an Inner/Outer key much like the one found in Photoshop.

Improved tracker/stabilizer-Use the improved controls in the Layer window to track or stabilize motion...

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Table of Contents

Ch. 1 After Effects: The Big Picture 1
Ch. 2 Importing Footage into a Project 19
Ch. 3 Managing Footage 69
Ch. 4 Compositions 107
Ch. 5 Layer Basics 143
Ch. 6 Layer Editing 161
Ch. 7 Properties and Keyframes 191
Ch. 8 Playback, Previews, and RAM 223
Ch. 9 Mask Essentials 249
Ch. 10 Effects Fundamentals 289
Ch. 11 Standard Effects in Action 323
Ch. 12 More Layer Techniques 365
Ch. 13 Keyframe Interpolation 387
Ch. 14 3D Layers 431
Ch. 15 Complex Projects 467
Ch. 16 Production Bundle Techniques 503
Ch. 17 Output 547
Index 579
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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2001

    Tells you everything except how to use After Effects

    This books comes with a disk which does not provide any tutorials. It shows samples, but doesn't fully explain how to recreate them. I read through page 70 and did not learn a thing about how to use the program. This is the only Visual Quickstart Guide that failed to teach me a thing.

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