At this point you've got the basics of creating animation in After Effects, but moving things around onscreen is only the beginning. If you've done any work in photoshop you will be familiar with the concept of filters - filters are applied to a layer and can modify all the pixels of that layer according to settings you specify. After Effects has very similar filters, although they are officially called, appropriatley enough, Effects.
While Photoshop's filters and AE's effects are very similar (AE actually can use Photoshop filters), there is one key difference - effect settings can change over time. Each effect has it's own set of properties which can be keyframed just like we did with the transform properties.
Effects are given their own menu in AE. Within this menu they are seperated into categories; for instance, all the effects which blur the pixels in an image are listed within a submenu called 'blur'. This is neccessary because of the sheer number of effects which are available in AE.
If AE doesn't have enough filters, or doesn't have one that does what you want, you can always buy more filters from third-party software companies. These filters adhere to a standard plug-in format which allows you to simply drop them in AE's plug-in folder - they'll be available the next time you start AE. There are filters which can do almost anything you can imagine...but they can be expensive, starting around $200 and sometimes costing more than AE itself. One of the big differences between the AE Standard and Production bundles is the number of effects which are included.
Fortunately for us, even the standard bundle comes with more effects than we have time to cover individually. We'll mostly look at how filters work in general, and then I'll leave it up to you to explore the many filters themselves.
In After Effects, effects are always applied to a layer. As with most things in AE, there are several ways to do this:
- Select a layer in the timeline. Once the layer is selected, go to the effects menu and choose the effect you want to apply to that layer. The Effect will be applied to the layer, and a new window will appear with the controls for that layer.
- If you control-click on a layer's name, a contextual menu will appear, and one of the choices is 'effects'. Select effects and you can access all available effects in a series of submenus. Once you have selected the effect you want it will be applied to the layer and the effects control window will appear.
Setting Effect Properties
The Effects Control Window is where you can both view all the effects applied to a layer and change the parameters of those effects. Each layer which has an effect applied will have a tab at the top of this window. If you click a tab you will see a list of the effects applied to that layer, and each effect has a small triangle toggle next to it's name which allows you to drop down the controls for it's properties.
Effect properties are usually adjusted either numerically or with sliders - each effect varies though based on it's available properties, so you will probably need to experiment with each one to get a feel for how it works. As you make changes in the effects control window, the comp window will update to reflect those changes.
In addition to the Effects Control Window, you can view and change effect settings on a layer-by-layer basis in the timeline. Just like the transform properties, effects have a very easy keyboard shortcut to remember - E. Simply select a layer and click 'E' and any effects applied to that layer will appear in a list below the layer.
Each effect has a triangle next to it's name which lets you toggle down the properties for that effect. Once visible you can set numerical values for the properties in the same way you do for the transform properties.
You can animate most properties of an effect over time. Notice when you make an effect's properties visible in the timeline, most properties have the same small stopwatch icon next to them that the transform properties did. These work in exactly the same way:
- First click the stopwatch icon once next to the effect property you want to animate. This turns on keyframes for that property and automatically creates the first keyframe at the current time.
- Now move the playhead to a different time on the timline. Remember animation requires a minimum of two keyframes with some time between them, so if you don't change the current time before setting your next keyframe, you won't see any animation.
- Finally, change the effect property. This will automatically set a new keyframe at the current time. If you preview now you should see the results of the effect changing over time in the comp window.
Animating effects in AE can be simple or complex, depending on the effect. You may need to experiment quite a bit with effects to get the look you are after, but after you've spent some time working with them you'll learn to predict how an effect will work when animated. For now, just try as many as you can to give yourself an idea of what is available to you.