| Learning how to use animation and motion graphics software can be an overwhelming prospect. When I decided to learn Adobe After Effects, I encountered a video training series called After Effects Apprentice. What I liked about this series was the project-based lessons. Seeing a software in action is the best way to learn. However, Iím one of those who learn best from a written tutorial. So I was happy to learn that the authors Trish and Chris Meyer had a book by the same title, After Effects Apprentice.|
The training book is divided into twelve lessons, each concentrating on real-world samples and ranging from simple to more advanced tasks. The first lessen is well titled Pre-Roll in that it covers the very basics of After Effects including the structure of an After Effects project, import basics, using layered Photoshop and Illustrator files and project composition organization. The authors discuss basic animation such as keyframes, layer properties, alpha channel and how to us the RAM preview. You will learn about animating layer opacity, scale and rotation properties while working through a snow storm project.
The second lessons covers more advanced animation with projects including a butterfly animation and a car race. You will learn how to create several motion graphics effects such as pan, zoom, motion paths and motion blur. The authors demonstrate After Effects tools including the Anchor Point tool, Keyframe Assistant, Graph Editor and Motion Sketch for hand drawing paths.
After Effectsís layers play an important role and there is a lot to cover in the third lesson which concentrates on layer control. The authors cover the basics of layers including trimming, frame rate, blend modes, stacking order and Adjustment Layers. They also discuss In and Out Points, Animation and Behavior Presets, slip editing, Time Stretch and the Effects and Preset panel. I especially liked learning about the filmic glow animation and creating a cartoon effect with After Effects Brainstorm feature.
Once the basics have been discussed, the authors move on to transparency, which is very important to motion graphics. They begin with making selections via the selection and freehand tools for masking techniques and animating mask paths. Moving on to the more advanced, they discuss adding effects to masked area, as well as variable mask feathering via dual masks, nesting, stencils and track mattes.
One of the most popular uses of After Effects is animating text. The authors begin with a discussion of the type tools, text animators and text animation presets. They also cover the use of Photoshop text layers, animating text by transforming the position, rotation and opacity, as well as text on a path, text blur effects and 3D animators. The second half of this lesson covers adding audio to your composition, as the authors cover the basics of working with audio including mixing audio, working with the waveform, using audio markers and presets.
Now itís time for more complex compositions. The authors discuss grouping layers, parenting and hierarchy. They cover the most used tools such as the Composition Navigator and the Mini Flowchart as well as some of the nicest features in After Effects, nesting and precomposing compositions, which allow you to create one composition and use it in another composition as a single layer. The render order is also discussed, especially continuous rasterization which renders on the fly and changes the render order.
If you search for After Effects on the Internet, you will find many discussions about Expressions because they are a great way to customize and control your compositions beyond the basic tools. The authors discuss several of the most useful features, which are the Wiggle expression to add randomness to your animation, the Pick Whip tool for easily linking parameters by dragging with your mouse and the master controller for multi layers. Timing also comes into play in this lesson, as the authors cover stop motion, freeze frames and time remapping.
I have to admit that working in 3D space is not may favorite task but the authors do a great job of covering how to use 3D space in After Effects including moving and rotating 3D layers and motion paths. As a fan of Disney, I especially liked the example of multiplaning layers. As in most 3D work, the authors also cover camera tools and camera rigging, as well as using lights and lighting effects such as light falloff and depth of field blur.
In the last few lessons, the authors cover some of the most common tasks that you might encounter such as the stabilizing video, motion tracking and using the green screen. As a big fan of Photoshop, I really enjoyed learning how to use the Paint, Roto Brush and Puppet Warp tools in After Effects. The authors then moved on to Shape Layers and how to use related tools such as shape Operators and shape Repeater. The final project pulls together everything youíve learned into a sample assignment, as you create a design, plan the project, create a mockup and test the final results. In the Appendix, the authors go into rendering options in more detail. The DVD includes project files and video training for working along with the lesson.
Trish and Chris Meyer have been using After Effects in their motion graphics design studio Crish Designs for many years. They have authored many books and training videos and teach at events throughout the country.
*Taylor and Francis Group provided a copy of this book to me for review purposes.
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