Adobe® After Effects® CC® Quick Start


Lesson Info

Using Effects

Now we're gonna move on from paths and shape layers and that whole cool thing to another one of the best parts of After Effects, which is the actual effects. Brace yourselves, if you're driving a car, put on a seatbelt, put on some headgear, head protection, maybe a mouth guard, it's gonna be really exciting. So, lets talk about effects, I mentioned them a little bit before, if I click on effects in presets, there's the glow that I looked for before. We can search through effects and presets, and see a bunch of effects or the presets in this little starred, this little asterisked animation presets. Drop down, bunch of different cool things you could apply that are already set up for you, like fade ins, fade outs, things like that. Uh, I tend to not use animation presets from this drop down or from this area here. So you can go to the fly out menu or the effects and presets layer menu, or panel menu. Uncheck animation presets if you don't wanna see those. Sometimes, like when I'm search...

ing for effects, it can get really confusing so I just typically deselect those. But all of these things right here, these are all categories of effects that come with After Effects, entire categories of effects. So under generate, there's all these things, these are all effects that make things from scratch, like light rays and light sweep and a cell pattern and checkerboard and a grid. All of these things make stuff and then you could add other effects on top of other effects, you just keep adding and adding and adding and building just insanely amazing things. So these effects are, there's hundreds of them, hundreds of them. One of the books that I wrote, The After Effects Illusionist is just, it's like 550, 600 pages, something like that. And it's just on the effects in After Effects. That's all it is, just like an encyclopedia of the effects and what they do. Just a huge fan of effects, so let's go ahead and start out in the fantasy scene. (laughs) And effects can really bring things to life as we'll see. So I have this hero hair and I take off the layer and this is Stu in all of his bald glory. But Stu's reading and literacy is great, literacy is power and Stu's mind as he reads, he has all the hairs, he has all the hairs. So we're going to play with the hairs that he has and make them even more grandiose with effects. So what I wanna do is I wanna apply an effect to his hair to make it grandiose. And the ultimate effect for this is something called turbulent displace, turbulent displace. What it does is it applies like this, this map of sorts, this lumpy map that distorts objects. It's actually created for waving flags, so the American flag in the space scene, you know, if you wanted it to wave, you could apply it to that where it just kind of like moves, it undulates. But if you're creative you can use things for really different purposes and I really wanna implore you to experiment with that. There's effects in After Effects like advanced lightning, we're gonna look at lightning in a second. And you might think, well I don't need lightning I'll never use effects, I'll never us that effect ever, but there's attributes of that effect that you could use creatively. You can fiddle with settings and make it do something that's completely different. So instead of having bright lightning one time that I used advanced lightning for example, is that I had this bright bolt of lightning I made it dark and I took off the glow and I made it like a hairline crack in a surface and that's when I used the lightning for cause it feels very much like a crack. Like a crack looks very organic and very, just fractally displaced just like a crack and lightning they're very similar. So when you see an effect, be really creative and open minded about what this could possibly do for you. So turbulent displace, meant for flags, we're gonna use it for hair. It does the same, it works. It works perfectly. So what happens in the work flow is, I'm gonna apply this effect and the way that we apply effects, there's a few different ways. A lot of people drag and drop them onto the object in the composition panel just because it's kind of like right here and it's easier. I don't like doing that because sometimes there's invisible layers that you can't see, and then you'll drag and drop it and you're like, "Where's my effect man?" And it was applied to a different layer and it just creates all kinds of problems because of that. A lot of people like to go to the effect menu and apply the effect. I don't like doing that for two reasons. Number one, like right now, it's grayed out. So you actually have to make sure, because right on the effects and presets panel, it's selected, you can see this little outline. And in After Effects what panel you have selected is critical, super important. And so because to do the effect menu you have to have both the layer and the composition selected in order for this to not be grayed out, this is really annoying to me. So I click on Hero Hair. And I click on this comp, now I can go to the effect menu and then apply the effects. But, with all this stuff you have to know in what category those effects are at. My brain has way more important things to remember than that. So I'm not gonna remember what category the effect's in, that's stupid. So I go to the effects and presets panel and I can just do a search on stuff. So I know it's called turbulent something something, and I can just do a search for T, U, R, B, and by the time that comes up there's only two effects that match T, U, R, B, and that's turbulent noise and turbulent displace, and I know that it's turbulent displace. Now, the way I like to apply effects, you can also drag and drop this here onto the layer in the timeline panel. That's way too much work. So what I like to do is select the layer and then double click the effect right here. And by the way, you Premiere users, this is such a handy feature that it wasn't in Premiere and After Effects users griped and whined endlessly for years like, "Put it in Premiere," and now it's in Premiere, and you can double click to apply effects to selected clips from Premiere which is really great. Now, you probably can't tell too much of what's gone on yet with this turbulent displace, it's not an automatically animating effect. So if I scrub in time you're not gonna see anything. But I can see the before and after of an effect by clicking this little effects icon. So the effect controls panel that just opened up, this is where we change all of the controls of our effects. And if it's not showing again you got to the Window menu and there's Effect Controls and you can see the effect controls panel which is again, once you apply an effect, it shows up here in the effect controls panel for further fiddling. And this effects icon right here is the equivalent of the eye icon in the timeline panel, it controls the visibility of the effects. So I click effects, it turns off, this is the original, this is with turbulent displace. So again it creates this kind of wavy thing. I can adjust the evolution of it which makes it just kind of evolve, but it doesn't look organic for this. We want it to look like wind-blown hair. So for that I'm going to use offset turbulence, and, I don't know if you guys are gonna feel me on this, but I'm about to be really happy because once you adjust the X value of the offset turbulence I'm gonna shift this over, then I've created keyframes so I hit the letter U, and now I see my two keyframes, I preview this, and now Stu's long, luxurious flowing hair blows in the wind in triumphant majesty. Love it, love it. And actually it's a little bit too slow so I can just go to one of these keyframes, I can hit the End key or the K key or whatever, just get on that frame with the keyframe and just bump it up more, just bump it up way more. And so now I can increase that. And ... It's blowing a lot. Now the amount might be a little bit too much. I might want to take down the amount to like so it just doesn't blow that much. And maybe I might wanna take the size down so we get a little more fine detail in that. So we have a lot of parameters that we can adjust, and now, Stu is beautiful. Oh my goodness, I love Stu so much. Okay, now, let's make this even more epic by adding some After Effects lightning. So we have some great lightning created in the scene, but there's also a lightning effect that we can use. So what I'm gonna do is create a new solid layer. And the reason I'm gonna create a new solid layer is because whenever you apply an effect to something, a lot of times it completely replaces whatever content's on the layer. So if you have a video sometimes you apply an effect, the video's gone and it's just the effect. So what I want to do is I want to have my lightning on a separate layer separate from my art. So I'm gonna turn off the visibility of the lightnings and I'm going to right click in a blank area inside the composition panel, or the timeline panel, and I'm going to choose New, Solid. And in this case I don't really care what color it is but I'm just gonna make sure it's black just cause whatever, and I'm actually gonna name this. Black Solid 2 is not helpful. I'm just gonna call this Lightning Effects, maybe. Yeah, extra special now. And I'm gonna go into the effects and presets panel and the effect that we're actually looking for is called advanced lightning. It used to be called regular lightning but it kind of got its act together, went to school, and now it's advanced lightning. So you apply it to the solid. The content of the solid, the black, is all gone. It just replaced it. It's just completely gone, and it's been replaced by this effect. Now ... The later stacking order isn't right, we want this to be in the background. So I need to unshy my layers and drag this layer down back beneath. Drag it down, drag it down, where the other lightning was. Now I can reshy all my layers and just focus on my lightning. So the lightning effect, when we first applied it, there were these two control points, they're called effect control points where we can click and drag and move it around, and they're gone right now. So to get them back I go to the effect controls panel and I click on the name of the effect to highlight it, and now these little circles with the plus in the middle are now highlighted again, and we can see them. So I can click this one which is the origin of the lightning. Maybe move it over here. And then here is the direction of the lightning, like where the lightning's going towards, and I can click and drag this up here. We also have a bunch of other settings that we could use. There's conductivity state. (laughs) It's amazing how epic this is. If we want to animate this, we can animate conductivity state. Just a little keyframe, just adjust the value a little bit, and now (laughs). Just ridiculously epic for how cute this cartoon is. And of course right now the lightning does look a little cheesy. You have to spend a little bit of time fiddling with the settings and fiddling with the animation and things like that in order to get a really good result out of advanced lightning, although the shapes are very organic and very natural looking. But you can see the fun that we've had already with this by playing with effects. I mean this is definitely more alive, and he raises his sword because the parenting, and you can see where starting to really put this thing together by all the effects that we're adding. So I'm gonna go over to this galaxy scene, and there are a lot of fun things here. Again, just like the fantasy scene, a lot of cool things we can enhance with effects. So in this file from Joanna we have a bunch of really cool stars kind of built in, we have a nice little star field. But what I want to do is I want to create some stars from scratch in After Effects because we can, well let me just show you how cool that is, we're gonna create some stars from scratch. It's remarkably easy. I'm just gonna right click and make a new solid. Right click, New, Solid. And I'm gonna click on the color swatch and I'm gonna choose white. And the effect that we're going to apply is gonna make a bunch of stars, but it's gonna make those stars using this color. So if we had black as our solid color, it's gonna make black stars. We have a black background so we're not gonna really see any of those stars. So I want white so we'll have white stars, and I'm gonna called this Starfield, and I'm gonna click okay. And I'm going to drag this right above the stars layer, and I'm going to apply this effect called CC Star Burst. Now, when you type in CC. I'm just gonna maximize this temporarily, this is, just After Effects scholarship here. It can be a little confusing because CC is also Creative Cloud and so it might seem like these are new, cool CC effects, and that's not the case. So CC actually stands for CiCore, which is actually a third party plugin manufacturer, and Adobe got a bunch of their plugins and bought them, and now they are here in After Effects. So any time you see CC anything, that's what this is talking about. These are CiCore effects. They're now part of After Effects which is really cool, and they add a lot of extra functionality which is awesome. So now I'm going to CC Star Burst and I'm going to make sure that my Starfield solid is selected, and I'm going to double click CC Star Burst. Okay. Now, this effect just like so much of After Effects, it initially just like shape layers, it just looks super stupid, super lame, what would I ever do this for. So I play this and this is the starfield which is like circa 2001 cheese level. But we can fiddle with this and make this really great. So I want to for example slow this down. I don't need that kind of speed so I'm gonna do .01 for the speed and now we just have a really slow, looks like we're moving through space, drifting through space, that's very, very cool. You can take that up to .02 if you want, but I like that much better like that. Now the size I want to take down a lot. And with the size of about 40, this is looking pretty good. Now, before when I first started the class if you go to this drop down here, we talked about this resolution drop down. Now some effects like glow, like CC Star Burst, they look different at full resolution than they do when approximated at half resolution. So when you see this drop down that says Half, it means that we're not quite seeing everything and when we zoom in, maybe that's a little too big then, so I might wanna take this down into the 20s which actually looks a little bit too small here, and actually I'm gonna turn off the visibility of the Illustrator stars so we're just seeing the CC Star Burst stars. Now I'm gonna preview this from a little bit farther away, so temporarily I'll just leave this size here but because this effect is auto animating I hit play, and now we have a really elegant starfield. Again this is too fast, driving me crazy. .01 let's do that, try it again. And there we go. And just because the way that this effect is the stars appear to kind of twinkle as they're going, this is a very nice, organic effect that adds a lot of life to this scene that we really didn't have to do too much to it. We didn't have to do too much. Let's keep going. I'm gonna play with this tail feather here, this exhaust fire from this rocket ship. I am going to apply roughen edges. And the roughen edges effect will roughen the edges of something. So if I increase the border that allows the roughen edges effect to come in a little bit more which creates this kind of turbulent look. Now we can fiddle with these settings, take down the scale, up the scale, take down the fractal influence. All these settings, sharpness, all that kind of stuff. So that way we took our regular flat Illustrator art and gives it this kind of roughened edge which is really cool, and again we can increase the border more. There's a lot of things we can do with this fiddling with these settings to create this look. This effect also has an offset turbulence so we can click this little effect control point here and we can animate it so it's moving like that. Also making your sound effects with your mouth like I just did, you're gonna think it's crazy but when you're alone you're gonna do it because it's so fun, it makes After Effects more fun, so. It's really fun. Okay, so that's how we roughen the edges of fire to create this kind of organic fire look to our objects. And with roughen edges you can take a simple white solid and make it look like it's kind of roughed up, old antique paper, or whatever, the roughen edges effect comes in handy all over the place. Get a little bit of damage, a little variation, a little randomness on the edge of something really makes something really organic. One of the most common effects, popular effects, is something called fractal noise. Select this, just show you that it exists to study it on your own. But I'm gonna select the fractal noise effect, and I have this solid and I've got a bunch of other layers going on that I don't really want to see, I just want to isolate just this one layer. So I can click this little icon right here underneath this circle that will solo this solid. So that's what this little icon is. I click it again, now I can see everything, but I click it once and it solos the layer. And I'm gonna apply the fractal noise effect here. The fractal noise effect is a texture generator but it is a brilliant and amazing texture generator. When you first apply it it's just like shape layers, just like effects it looks stupid, it looks like Photo Shop clouds, it looks nearly worthless but the power here is absolutely incredible so if you're looking for texture, if you're looking to damage something, to make something look dirtier or any kind of organic pattern that you want to add to anything, fractal noise is absolutely an essential thing to master, to explore, to play around with. So that's all we have time for for that, but that is nut and bolts of playing around with effects. There's definitely a million more things to cover in that arena, but that's just a super quick overview of some of the types of things that you can do with effects.

Knowing how to utilize the tools and opportunities in After Effects® can take your video from amateur to professional. Award-winning filmmaker and author Chad Perkins will help you get started with utilizing this motion software. This course covers the basics of starting a project and how to make the most of the many ways to bring life to a video. You’ll learn:

  • How to start a project and create a composition
  • Working with layers
  • Creating text
  • Understanding animation
  • Working with textures and shapes
  • Creating 3D motion with lighting and camera
  • Compositing techniques

Learn to enhance your video projects by animating text or creating transitional effects with this quick start into Adobe® After Effects® CC®.

Software used: Adobe® After Effects® CC®



  • Excellent introduction to After Effects. Definitely delivers on being a quick start to the features and capabilities of the software. Chad's passion and enthusiasm really shines through.
  • Chad is an incredible teacher. He makes what would seem like daunting projects and tasks to the common person become both possible and even simple! He keeps his audience engaged by taping into one's inner child of creativity. Keep your hand hovering over the pause button because this presentation is crammed full of incredible information. Thanks again, Chad and all the folks at CreativeLive in Seattle!