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Legal notices
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Last updated 6/8/2015

iii

Contents
Chapter 1: What's new
New features summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1
Chapter 2: Workspace and workflow
Planning and setup . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6
Setup and installation

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10

General user interface items
Workflows

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14

Dynamic Link and After Effects

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17

Keyboard shortcuts reference

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20

Working with After Effects and other applications

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37

After Effects keyboard shortcuts

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42

Workspaces, panels, and viewers

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42

Preferences

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49

Sync Settings

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52

Modify keyboard shortcuts

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55

Chapter 3: Projects and compositions
Projects . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56
Precomposing, nesting, and pre-rendering
Composition basics

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 65

Timecode and time display units

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 71

Chapter 4: Importing footage
Importing and interpreting footage items

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 73

Importing and interpreting video and audio
Preparing and importing 3D image files
Working with footage items
CINEMA 4D and Cineware

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 92

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 96
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 101

Importing from After Effects and Adobe Premiere Pro
Preparing and importing still images

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 109

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 113

Chapter 5: Layers and properties
Creating layers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 122
Selecting and arranging layers

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 127

Managing layers

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 137

Layer properties

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 142

Blending modes and layer styles
3D layers

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 154

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 161

Cameras, lights, and points of interest

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 166

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Contents

Chapter 6: Views and previews
Previewing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 178
Modifying and using views

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 190

Video preview with Mercury Transmit

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 196

Chapter 7: Animation and Keyframes
Face Tracking . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 198
Animation basics

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 207

Setting, selecting, and deleting keyframes
Editing, moving, and copying keyframes
Assorted animation tools

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 220

Tracking and stabilizing motion
Speed

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 211
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 215

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 228

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 244

Animating with Puppet tools

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 251

Tracking 3D camera movement

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 258

Time-stretching and time-remapping

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 262

Keyframe interpolation

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 271

Chapter 8: Color
Creative Cloud Libraries

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 278

Color basics

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 280

Color management

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 291

Chapter 9: Drawing, painting, and paths
Paint tools: Brush, Clone Stamp, and Eraser

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 303

Overview of shape layers, paths, and vector graphics
Creating shapes and masks

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 312

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 318

Managing and animating shape paths and masks

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 329

Shape attributes, paint operations, and path operations for shape layers
Mask Tracking

Compositing Options and Mask Reference
Chapter 10: Text
Live Text Templates

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 349

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 352

Creating and editing text layers

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 353

Formatting characters and the Character panel
Examples and resources for text animation
Animating text

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 359

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 365

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 371

Extruding text and shape layers

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 382

Formatting paragraphs and the Paragraph panel

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 387

Chapter 11: Transparency and compositing
Roto Brush, Refine Edge, and Refine Matte effects | CC
Alpha channels, masks, and mattes

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 390

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 401

Compositing and transparency overview and resources
Keying

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 340

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 347

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 412

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 413

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Contents

Chapter 12: Effects and animation presets
Effects and animation presets overview . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 418
Detail-preserving Upscale effect
Effect list

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 446

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 446

Audio effects

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 455

Blur and Sharpen effects
Keying effects

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 458

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 465

Transition effects

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 477

Noise and Grain effects
Channel effects

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 483

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 504

Distort effects

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 510

Utility effects

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 527

Color Correction effects
Simulation effects

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 531

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 548

Obsolete effects

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 579

Generate effects

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 586

Matte effects

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 603

3D Channel effects
Stylize effects
Text effects

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 604

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 610
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 620

The Rolling Shutter Repair effect
Perspective effects

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 622

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 623

Chapter 13: Markers
Layer markers and composition markers
XMP metadata

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 628

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 632

Chapter 14: Memory, storage, performance
Improve performance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 638
GPU (CUDA, OpenGL) features
Memory and storage

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 641

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 643

Chapter 15: Expressions and automation
Plug-ins . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 654
Automation

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 656

Expression basics

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 656

Expression language reference
Expression examples
Scripts

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 670

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 693

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 698

Chapter 16: Rendering and Exporting
Basics of rendering and exporting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 700
Supported GPUs for ray-traced 3D renderer

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 717

Using the GoPro CineForm codec in After Effects

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 719

Rendering and exporting still images and still-image sequences
Automated rendering and network rendering

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 722

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 723

Export an After Effects project as an Adobe Premiere Pro project

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 730

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AFTER EFFECTS
Contents

Rendering and exporting for Flash Professional and Flash Player
Converting movies

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 731

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 738

Chapter 17: System Requirements
System requirements for After Effects

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 744

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Chapter 1: What's new

New features summary
Create dynamic, visually stunning motion graphics and visual effects wherever inspiration strikes. After Effects
connects with Creative Cloud mobile and desktop apps seamlessly, allowing your creativity to inspire you — wherever
you are.

Creative Cloud Libraries
New in After Effects CC 2015 | June
The inclusion of Creative Cloud Libraries in After Effects CC 2015 puts all your creative assets right at your finger tips.
All your favorite assets can now be accessed from within the Libraries panel in After Effects.
You can save, access, and reuse assets stored in Creative Cloud Libraries across Adobe's desktop (such as Photoshop,
Illustrator, and more) and mobile apps (such as Adobe Hue CC).
Library sharing makes it easy to collaborate with teams and maintain consistency across projects with common assets
like graphics, colors, Looks, or type styles.
Select Window > Libraries to open the Libraries panel in After Effects.
You can also choose assets from the Creative Cloud Market.
For more information about using Creative Cloud Libraries, see .

Integration with Adobe Stock
Adobe Stock is a new service that sells millions of high-quality, royalty-free photos, illustrations, and graphics.
You can search for Adobe Stock content directly from within After Effects, using the Libraries panel (Window >
Libraries) by clicking the Search Adobe Stock button in the panel. You can then purchase a license for an asset you want
to use and include it in your After Effects Library. Or, you can add an unlicensed preview (watermarked) copy to your
Library and purchase a license for it later.
For more information, see Add photos using Adobe Stock .

Changes to Preview workflow

Uninterrupted Preview
Enhanced in After Effects CC 2015 | June 2015
You can now make changes to a project while previewing within After Effects. View design iterations, adjust properties,
and even resize panels without stopping playback of your compositions.

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What's new

In previous versions of After Effects, after you started a preview in a composition, layer, or footage viewer, clicking
anywhere in the user interface would stop preview. Previews will now continue, until you stop the preview manually.
For more information, see Previewing.

Unified and Configurable Preview
Enhanced in After Effects CC 2015 | June 2015
You can now customize Preview behaviors using the updated Preview panel. If you're new to After Effects, you will find
the default Preview, started by pressing Spacebar, intuitive with real-time playback of audio and cached frames. For you,
the experienced After Effects user, Preview options are configurable to suit your working style.
Note that the these new changes have dissolved the differences between the old RAM preview and Standard preview
(spacebar) behaviors, and After Effects no longer uses those terms. Preview is now considered to be unified, with userconfigurable behaviors.
New controls in the Preview panel allow you to configure preview behaviors for each keyboard shortcut: audio, looping,
caching, range, and layer controls.
For more information, see Previewing.

Face Tracker
New in After Effects CC 2015 | June 2015
After Effects CC 2015 now includes face tracking capabilities. You can detect and track human faces with exceptional
accuracy by managing the level of detail you track.
Simple mask tracking lets you quickly apply effects only to a face, such as selective color correction or blurring a
person’s face, and more. However, with Face Tracking, you can also track specific points on the face such as pupils,
mouth, and nose, allowing you to isolate and work on these facial features with greater detail. For example, change
colors of the eyes or exaggerate mouth movements without frame-by-frame adjustments.
Face Tracking also lets you extract and copy facial measurements. Tracking of facial measurements tells you details such
as how open the mouth is and how open each eye is. You can also export detailed tracking data to Adobe Character
Animator for performance-based character animation.
For more information, see Face Tracking.

Integration with Adobe Character Animator (Preview)
New in After Effects CC 2015 | June 2015
Adobe Character Animator (Preview), a companion application, tracks your facial movements, records a voice over,
and even triggers bodily movement with simple keyboard actions and automated features that give life to characters
you create in Illustrator or Photoshop. When you talk, your character talks. When you feign surprise, so does your
character. When you’re grumpy, your character is too.
Adobe Character Animator is for two different types of artists: those who want to rig complex characters without
creating a confusing tangle of expressions, and those who just want to create simple characters easily. Either way, once
the character is set up in Photoshop or Illustrator, Adobe Character Animator brings it to life. It does this by users acting
out a performance in front of their webcam and talking into their microphone.
For more information, see Adobe Character Animator .
Note: For the After Effects CC 2015 release, Adobe Character Animator is only available as a technological preview.

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What's new

Interactive performance improvements
Enhanced in After Effects CC 2015 | June 2015
There are significant architectural code changes in After Effects CC 2015 release that allow the user interface and image
rendering to be processed separately by the CPU. The following improvements are a direct result of these changes:

• The user interface is now much more responsive as it no longer needs to wait for frames to finish rendering.
Conversely, frames can continue to render while you work with the user interface. This responsiveness makes for a
smoother interaction with the user interface at all times.
• Far fewer instances of delays or beach ball during a Preview.
• You can now interrupt or cancel frame renders by making a change to the composition.
• Fast scrubbing, even when the frames take a long time to render.
• Faster image caching.
• More efficient evaluation of expressions.
• Previews continue to play back while After Effects is in the background.

Changes to expression evaluation
Enhanced in After Effects 2015 | June 2015
Evaluation of expressions in After Effects has been significantly enhanced. Overall, you may find that expressions are
evaluated faster; the improvement will vary depending on the expression.
When an expression fails to evaluate, there are two major changes:
1 Expression errors appear in a warning banner at the bottom of the Composition panel instead of in a dialog box.

The expression is not disabled.
2 The expression will continue to evaluate and will display the warning banner until the problem with the expression

is fixed.
On the right side of the expression error warning banner are Left, Down, and Right arrow buttons:
1 Click the Left or Right arrow buttons to display the previous or next expression error when multiple expressions fail

to evaluate.
2 Click the Down arrow to display the property with the failing expression in the Timeline panel. The expression error

text is clipped to the width of the Composition panel. To see the full expression error in a dialog box, click on the
yellow error triangle icon for the expression in the Timeline panel.

User interface enhancements
Color icons for compositions and image sequences
Icons for compositions and image sequences in the Project and Timeline panels are now multicolored instead of
monochrome.
Preference for user interface highlight brightness

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What's new

In Preferences > Appearance there is a new Highlight Colors section wherein you can in which you can adjust the
brightness of interactive controls and focus indicators.
You can see the changes to the slider values reflected live in the user interface behind the Preferences dialog.

Panel group enhancements
Several changes have been made to how panel groups work

• No tab well for single panels - When there is only one panel in a panel group, the tab well does not appear. You can
still drag other panels into the tab row to dock them in that panel group.
• Menu instead of scroll bar - When there are more panel tabs than that will fit in the width of a panel group, a menu
( >>) appears on the right side of the tab well instead of a scroll bar. You can choose a tab from the tab well.
• Panel Group Settings sub-menu - In panel menus, panel group commands have been moved to the Panel Group
Settings sub-menu:
• Close Panel Group
• Undock Panel Group
• Maximize Panel Group
• Close Other Panels In Group: In panel menus, there is a new command to close other panels in the same group.

Maxon Cineware 2.0.15 plug-in
Enhanced in After Effects CC 2015 | June 2015
Cineware 2.0.15 for After Effects includes the following enhancements:

• CINEMA 4D Layers are no longer automatically synchronized - When adding multiple instances of a CINEMA 4D
scene layer in a composition, including adding Multi-Pass layers, Cineware no longer automatically synchronizes
CINEMA 4D Layers. You will see an on/offcheckbox at the top of the Effect Controls panel that has been relabeled
to Synchronize AE Layer. When this preference is enabled, the Render Settings and Camera options on all instances
of the layer will automatically synchronize as before, but CINEMA 4D layers can be set independently. If this
checkbox is disabled for a specific CINEMA 4D scene layer, then none of that layer's settings will synchronize with
the rest of the layers in the composition.
• Updated CINEMA 4D Layers dialog window - "Non-Layer Items" has been renamed "Items not on Layers". By
unchecking this setting, all objects that are not associated with any CINEMA 4D Layers will be turned off.
• Resizable dialog windows - The CINEMA 4D Layers and Cineware Settings dialogs have been updated so they can
be resized as needed.

Miscellaneous updates
Removal of Memory and Multiprocessing preference
The Multiprocessing preference has been removed due to the inclusion of new threading architecture in After Effects
CC 2015. The preference that was earlier named Memory and Multiprocessing is now named only Memory.
The Composition > Cache Work Area In Background command was dependent on the Multiprocessing feature. This
functionality has been removed.

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What's new

• Brainstorm has been removed in After Effects CC 2015. You can still use Brainstorm in After Effects CC 2014 and
earlier versions/releases. You can read about using Brainstorm in AFter Effects in the Use Brainstorm to experiment
and explore settingsarticle.
• RED camera raw (.r3d) file decoding has been updated with the newest RED SDK. New functionality includes
Dragon Enhanced Blacks, REDcolor4, and DRAGONcolor 2.

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Chapter 2: Workspace and workflow

Planning and setup
Planning your work
Correct project settings, preparation of footage, and initial composition settings can help you to avoid errors and
unexpected results when rendering your final output movie. Before you begin, think about what kind of work you’ll be
doing in After Effects and what kind of output you intend to create. After you have planned your project and made some
basic decisions about project settings, you’ll be ready to start importing footage and assembling compositions from
layers based on that footage.
The best way to ensure that your movie is suitable for a specific medium is to render a test movie and view it using the
same type of equipment that your audience will use to view it. It’s best to do such tests before you have completed the
difficult and time-consuming parts of your work, to uncover problems early.
Aharon Rabinowitz provides an article on the Creative COW website about planning your project with the final
delivery specifications in mind.
For more information about encoding and compression options, see this FAQ entry: “FAQ: What is the best format for
rendering and exporting from After Effects?”

Storyboards and scripts (screenplays)
Before you begin shooting footage or creating animations, it is often best to start by planning your movie with
storyboards and a script (screenplay).
You can use Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator to create storyboards. You can use Adobe Story to collaboratively
write and manage screenplays. Adobe Story also converts information from a screenplay into XMP metadata that can
automate the creation of shooting scripts, shot lists, and more.

Acquiring, choosing, and preparing footage
Before importing footage, first decide which media and formats you'll use for your finished movies, and then determine
the best settings for your source material. Often, it’s best to prepare footage before importing it into After Effects.
For example, if you want an image to fill your composition frame, configure the image in Adobe Photoshop so that the
image size and pixel aspect ratio match the composition size and pixel aspect ratio. If the image is too large when you
import it into After Effects, you’ll increase the memory and processor requirements of the compositions that use it. If
the image is too small, you’ll lose image quality when you scale it to the desired size. See Pixel aspect ratio and frame
aspect ratio.
If you can shoot footage with consistent lighting and colors—and otherwise prevent the need to do a lot of tedious
utility work in post-production—then you’ll have more time for creative work.

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Workspace and workflow

If possible, use uncompressed footage or footage encoded with lossless compression. Lossless compression means
better results for many operations, such as keying and motion tracking. Certain kinds of compression—such as the
compression used in DV encoding—are especially bad for color keying, because they discard the subtle differences in
color that you depend on for good bluescreen or greenscreen keying. It’s often best to wait until the final rendering
phase to use compression other than lossless compression. See Keying introduction and resources.
If possible, use footage with a frame rate that matches that of your output, so that After Effects doesn’t have to use frame
blending or similar methods to fill in missing frames. See Frame rate.
The kind of work that you’ll be doing in After Effects and the kind of output movie that you want to create can even
influence how you shoot and acquire your footage. For example, if you know that you want to animate using motion
tracking, consider shooting your scene in a manner that optimizes for motion tracking—for example, using tracking
markers. See Motion tracking workflow.
Also consider shooting at a larger frame size than what you need for final delivery if you want "head-room" for postproduction, whether for fake pans and zooms, or for stabilization.

Project settings
Project settings fall into three basic categories: how time is displayed in the project, how color data is treated in the
project, and what sampling rate to use for audio. Of these settings, the color settings are the ones that you need to think
about before you do much work in your project, because they determine how color data is interpreted as you import
footage files, how color calculations are performed as you work, and how color data is converted for final output. See
Color managementand Timecode and time display units .
If you enable color management for your project, the colors that you see are the same colors that your audience will see
when they view the movie that you create.
Note: Click the color depth indicator at the bottom of the Project panel to open the Project Settings dialog box. Alt-click
(Windows) or Option-click (Mac OS) to cycle through color bit depths: 8 bpc, 16 bpc, and 32 bpc. See Color depth and high
dynamic range color.

Composition settings
After you prepare and import footage items, you use these footage items to create layers in a composition, where you
animate and apply effects. When you create a composition, specify composition settings such as resolution, frame size,
and pixel aspect ratio for your final rendered output. Although you can change composition settings at any time, it’s
best to set them correctly as you create each new composition to avoid unexpected results in your final rendered output.
For example, the composition frame size should be the image size in the playback medium. See Composition settings.
If you’ll be rendering and exporting a composition to more than one media format, always match the pixel dimensions
for your composition to the largest pixel dimensions used for your output. Later, you can use output modules in the
Render Queue panel to encode and export a separate version of the composition for each format. See Output modules and
output module settings.

Performance, memory, and storage considerations
If you work with large compositions, make sure that you configure After Effects and your computer to maximize
performance. Complex compositions can require a large amount of memory to render, and the rendered movies can
take a large amount of disk space to store. Before you attempt to render a three-hour movie, make sure that you have
the disk space available to store it. See Storage requirements for output files .
If your source footage files are on a slow disk drive (or across a slow network connection), then performance will be
poor. When possible, keep the source footage files for your project on a fast local disk drive. Ideally, you’ll have three
drives: one for source footage files, one from which the application runs, and one for rendered output.

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Workspace and workflow

For more information, see Improve performanceand Memory & Multiprocessing preferences .

Planning for playback on computer monitors and mobile devices
When you create a movie for playback on a personal computer—whether downloaded from the Web or played from a
CD-ROM—specify composition settings, render settings, and output module settings that keep file size low. Consider
that a movie with a high data rate may not play well from an older CD-ROM drive that cannot read data from the disc
fast enough. Similarly, a large movie may take a long time to download over a dial-up network connection.
When rendering your final movie, choose a file type and encoder appropriate for the final media. The corresponding
decoder must be available on the system used by your intended audience; otherwise they will not be able to play the
movie. Common codecs (encoders/decoders) include the codecs installed with media players such as Flash Player,
Windows Media Player, and QuickTime Player.
Aharon Rabinowitz provides an article on the Creative COW website about planning your project with the final
delivery specifications in mind.
Trish and Chris Meyer provide an article on the Artbeats website that describes some of the considerations for creating
video for the Web.
For more information about encoding and compression options for After Effects, see this FAQ entry: “FAQ: What is
the best format for rendering and exporting from After Effects?”
Mobile devices
Many of the considerations for creating movies for playback on mobile devices, such as mobile phones and the Apple
iPod, are similar to the considerations for creating movies for playback on personal computers—but the limitations are
even more extreme. Because the amount of storage (disk space) and processor power are less for mobile phones than
for personal computers, file size and data rate for movies must be even more tightly controlled.
Screen dimensions, video frame rates, and color gamuts vary greatly from one mobile device to another.
Use these tips when shooting video for mobile devices:

•Tight shots are better. It’s hard to see a face on a tiny screen unless it’s shot in relative close-up.
• Light your subjects well, and keep them separated from the background; the colors and brightness values between
background and subject should not be too similar.
• Avoid excessive zooming and rolling, which hinder temporal compression schemes.
• Because stable (non-shaky) video is easier to compress, shoot video with a tripod to minimize the shaking of the
camera.
• Avoid using auto-focus and auto-exposure features. When these features engage, they change the appearance of all
of the pixels in an image from one frame to the next, making compression using interframe encoding schemes less
efficient.
Use these tips when working in After Effects (for mobile devices):

•Use a lower frame rate (12-24 fps) for mobile devices.
• Use motion-stabilization tools and noise-reduction or blur effects before rendering to final output, to aid the
compressor in reducing file size.
• Match the color palette to the mobile devices that you are targeting. Mobile devices, in general, have a limited color
gamut.
• Consider using cuts and other fast transitions instead of zooming in and out or using fades and dissolves. Fast cuts
also make compression easier.

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Workspace and workflow

Cross-platform project considerations
After Effects project files are compatible with Mac OS and Windows operating systems, but some factors—mostly
regarding the locations and naming of footage files and support files—can affect the ease of working with the same
project across platforms.
Project file paths
When you move a project file to a different computer and open it, After Effects attempts to locate the project’s footage
files as follows: After Effects first searches the folder in which the project file is located; second, it searches the file’s
original path or folder location; finally, it searches the root of the directory where the project is located.
If you are building cross-platform projects, it’s best if the full paths have the same names on Mac OS and Windows
systems. If the footage and the project are on different volumes, make sure that the appropriate volume is mounted
before opening the project and that network volume names are the same on both systems.
It’s best to store footage in the same folder as the project file or in another folder within that folder. Here’s a sample
hierarchy:
/newproject/project_file.aep
/newproject/source/footage1.psd
/newproject/source/footage2.avi
You can then copy the new project folder in its entirety across platforms, and After Effects will properly locate all of the
footage.
Use the Collect Files feature to gather copies of all the files in a project into a single folder. You can then move the folder
containing the copied project to the other platform. See Collect files in one location.
File-naming conventions
Name your footage and project files with the appropriate filename extensions, such as .mov for QuickTime movies and
.aep for After Effects projects. If files will be used on the Web, be sure that filenames adhere to applicable conventions
for extensions and paths.
Note: For After Effects CS6 and earlier versions, do not use high-ASCII or other extended characters in filenames that will
be used cross-platform.
Supported file types
Some file types are supported on one platform but not others. See Supported import formatsand Supported output
formats.
Resources
Ensure that all fonts, effects, codecs, and other resources are available on both systems. Such resources are often plugins.
If you use a native After Effects effect in a project on one operating system, the effect will still work on the other
operating system to which you’ve transferred your project. However, some third-party effects and other third-party
plug-ins may not continue to operate, even if you have versions of these plug-ins on the target system. In such cases,
you may need to reapply some third-party effects.

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More Help topics
Adobe Story workflow
Composition settings
Output modules and output module settings
Render settings
Plug-ins
Fonts

Setup and installation
To submit a feature request or bug report about After Effects, choose Help > Send Feedback.

Installing the software
Before installing Adobe After Effects software, review the complete system requirements .
In addition to the full version of Adobe After Effects, you can also install additional copies on additional computers to
use as After Effects render engines to assist with network rendering. You install render engines in the same manner as
the full version of the application. You run the render engine using the Adobe After Effects Render Engine shortcut in
the Adobe After Effects folder.
Limitations of the trial version
The trial version of After Effects includes all of the codecs that are included with the full version of After Effects. This
means that you can import and export to all of the supported file formats using the trial version. The free trial version
of Adobe After Effects software does not include some features that depend upon software licensed from parties other
than Adobe. For example, Cycore (CC) effects, mocha-AE, mocha Shape, FreeForm, and Color Finesse are available
only with the full version of Adobe After Effects software. (Keylight is included, however.) If your installation of After
Effects is missing some third-party components, contact your system administrator to ensure that all licensed
components have been installed correctly.

Activate the software
Activation is a simple, anonymous process. After installation, your Adobe software attempts to contact Adobe to
complete the license activation process. No personal data is transmitted.
A single-user retail license activation supports two computers. For example, you can install the software on a desktop
computer at work and on a laptop computer at home.
For more information on product licensing and activation, see the Read Me file or go to the Adobe website.

More Help topics
Network rendering with watch folders and render engines
Plug-ins

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General user interface items
Activate a tool
The Tools panel can be displayed as a toolbar across the top of the application window or as a normal, dockable panel.
Note: Controls related to some tools appear only when the tool is selected in the Tools panel.

• Click the button for the tool. If the button has a small triangle at its lower-right corner, hold down the mouse button
to view the hidden tools. Then, click the tool you want to activate.
• Press the keyboard shortcut for the tool. (Placing the pointer over a tool button displays a tool tip with the name and
keyboard shortcut for the tool.)
• To cycle through hidden tools within a tool category, repeatedly press the keyboard shortcut for the tool category.
(For example, press the Q key repeatedly to cycle through the pen tools.)
• To momentarily activate a tool, hold down the key for the desired tool; release the key to return to the previously
active tool. (This technique does not work with all tools.)
• To momentarily activate the Hand tool, hold down the spacebar, the H key, or the middle mouse button. (The
middle mouse button does not activate the Hand tool under a few circumstances, including when the Unified
Camera tool is active.)
To pan around in the Composition, Layer, or Footage panel, drag with the Hand tool. Hold Shift, too, to pan faster.
To show or hide panels most relevant to the active tool, click the panel button
if available. For example, clicking this
button when a paint tool is active opens or closes the Paint and Brushes panels. Select the Auto-Open Panels option in
the Tools panel to automatically open the relevant panels when certain tools are activated.

Open panel, viewer, and context menus
Panel menus provide commands relative to the active panel or frame. Viewer menus provide lists of compositions,
layers, or footage items that can be shown in the viewer, as well as commands for closing items and locking the viewer.
Context menus provide commands relative to the item that is context-clicked. Many items in the After Effects user
interface have associated context menus. Using context menus can make your work faster and easier.

• To open a panel menu, click the button

in the upper-right corner of the panel.

• To open a viewer menu, click the name of the active composition, layer, or footage item in the viewer tab.
• To open a context menu, right-click (Windows or Mac OS) or Control-click (Mac OS). This action is sometimes
referred to as context-clicking.

Columns
The Project, Timeline, and Render Queue panels contain columns.

• To show or hide columns, right-click (Windows) or Control-click (Mac OS) a column heading (or choose Columns
from the panel menu), and select the columns that you want to show or hide. A check mark indicates that the
column is shown.

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Note: In general, the search and filter functions in the Project and Timeline panels only operate on the content of columns
that are shown.

• To reorder columns, select a column name and drag it to a new location.
• To resize columns, drag the bar next to a column name. Some columns cannot be resized.
• To sort footage items in the Project panel, click the column heading. Click once more to sort them in reverse order.

Search and filter in the Timeline, Project, and Effects & Presets panels
The Project, Timeline, and Effects & Presets panels each contain search fields that you can use to filter items in the
panel.

• To place the insertion point in a search field, click in the search field.
• To place the insertion point in the search field for the active panel, choose File > Find or press Ctrl+F (Windows) or
Command+F (Mac OS).
• To clear the search field, click the

button that appears to the right of the text in the search field.

When you type in the search field, the list of items in the panel is filtered, showing some items and hiding others. Only
items with entries that match the search query that you’ve typed are shown. The folders, layers, categories, or property
groups that contain the matched items are also shown, to provide context.
In general, only text in columns that are shown is searched for this filtering operation. For example, you may need to
show the Comments column to search and filter by the contents of comments. (See Columns.)
If one or more layers are selected in a composition, the filtering operation in the Timeline panel only affects selected
layers. In this case, unselected layers are not filtered out (hidden) if they don’t match the search query. However, if no
layers are selected in the composition, the filtering operation applies to all layers in the composition. This behavior
matches that for showing and hiding of layer properties by pressing their property shortcut keys. (See Show or hide
properties in the Timeline panel.)
Clearing the search field and ending the search causes expanded folders and property groups to collapse (close).
Therefore, it’s easier to work with the items that are found by the filter operation if you operate on them before you clear
the search field and end the search.
If the text that you type in the search field in the Project or Timeline panel contains spaces, the spaces are treated as
and-based operators. For example, typing dark solid matches footage items or layers named Dark Red Solid and Dark
Gray Solid. In the Effects & Presets panel, spaces are treated as space characters in the search field. For example, typing
change color matches the Change Color effect, but not the Change To Color effect.
Project, Timeline, and Effects & Presets panels accept or-based searching. In an or-based search, a comma denotes an
or, with and-based operators taking precedence over or-based ones. For example, sometimes the name of the property
that determines the amount for a blur effect is Amount, sometimes it is Blurriness, and sometimes it is Blur Radius. If
you search for Amount, Blurriness, Radius, then you will see the equivalent values for all of your blur effects.
When you type in a search field, recent search strings that match your input appear.
This search method also allows a way to save items you use often via a menu that opens when you click the search icon
in the search field. The search menu consists of two lists, separated by a divider. The top list contains the six most recent
searches, with the most recent one at the top. The bottom list contains saved search items. As you type, the top list filters
to show matching terms.

• To save a search item, Shift-click it in the top list of the search menu. Up to ten items may be saved.
• To delete a saved search item from either list, hover the mouse over the the item to highlight it, and then press Delete
or Backspace.

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See this video on the Video2Brain website to learn about the new features for searching and filtering in panels.
Examples of searches in the Project panel

• To show only footage items for which the name or comment contains a specific string, start typing the string.
• To show only footage items for which the source file is missing, type the entire word missing. (This search works
whether or not the File Path column is shown, which is an exception to the general rule that only shown columns
are searched.)
• To show only unused footage items, type the entire word unused.
• To show only used footage items, type the entire word used.
• To show only Cineon footage items, type Cineon with the Type column shown.
Examples of searches in the Timeline panel

• To show only layers and properties for which the name or comment contains a specific string, type the string. For
example, type starch to show pins created by the Puppet Starch tool.
• To show only properties that have an expression that uses a specific method, type the method name.
• To show only layers with a specific label, type the label name. (See Color labels for layers, compositions, and footage
items.)
Click the swatch for a label to see the context menu that lists the label names. Alternatively, drag the right edge of the
Label column heading to expand the column to read the label names.

Scroll or zoom with the mouse wheel
You can use the mouse wheel to zoom in the Timeline, Composition, Layer, and Footage panels. You can use the mouse
wheel to scroll in the Timeline, Project, Render Queue, Flowchart, Effect Controls, Metadata, and Effects & Presets
panels.

• To zoom into the center of the panel, or into the feature region when tracking, roll the mouse wheel forward.
• To zoom out of the center of the panel, or out of the feature region when tracking, roll the mouse wheel backward.
• To zoom into the area under the pointer, hold down Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS) as you roll the mouse wheel
forward. In the Timeline, Footage, and Layer panels, this action zooms in time when the pointer is over the time
navigator or time ruler.
• To zoom out of the area under the pointer, hold down Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS) as you roll the mouse
wheel backward. In the Timeline, Footage, and Layer panels, this action zooms in time when the pointer is over the
time navigator or time ruler.
• To scroll vertically, roll the mouse wheel forward or backward.
• To scroll horizontally, hold down Shift as you roll the mouse wheel backward or forward. In the Timeline, Footage,
and Layer panels, Shift-rolling backward moves forward in time and vice versa when the pointer is over the time
navigator or time ruler.
You can scroll or zoom with the mouse wheel in a panel even if it is not currently active, as long as the pointer is over it.

Undo changes
You can undo only those actions that alter the project data. For example, you can undo a change to a property value,
but you cannot undo the scrolling of a panel or the activation of a tool.

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You can sequentially undo as many as 99 of the most recent changes made to the project.
To avoid wasting time undoing accidental modifications, lock a layer when you want to see it but do not want to modify
it.

• To undo the most recent change, choose Edit > Undo [action] or Ctrl-Z
• To undo a change and all changes after it, choose Edit > History, and select the first change that you want to undo.
• To revert to the last saved version of the project, choose File > Revert. All changes made and footage items imported
since you last saved are lost. You cannot undo this action.

After Effects user interface tips
• Use ClearType text anti-aliasing on Windows. ClearType makes the outlines of system text, such as menus and
dialog boxes, easier to read. See Windows Help for information on how to enable ClearType text anti-aliasing.
• To show tool tips, select the Show Tool Tips preference (Edit > General > Preferences (Windows) or After Effects >
Preferences > General (Mac OS)).
• Use a workspace that contains the Info panel, and leave that panel in front of other panels in its panel group
whenever possible. The Info panel shows messages about what After Effects is doing, information about items under
the pointer, and much more.
• In Windows, disable the Aero compositing mode. Hardware acceleration of panels and OpenGL features perform
better in After Effects when Windows is operating in Basic mode. For information, see the Microsoft website.
• Use context menus.
• Use keyboard shortcuts.

More Help topics
Activating tools (keyboard shortcuts)
Effects and Presets panel
Organize, view, manage, and trim footage items
Select layers
Zoom an image for preview
Zoom in or out in time for a composition
Move or adjust a camera or working 3D view with the Camera tools
Lock or unlock a layer

Workflows
General workflow in After Effects

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Overview of general workflow in After Effects
Whether you use Adobe After Effects to animate a simple title, create complex motion graphics, or composite realistic
visual effects, you generally follow the same basic workflow, though you may repeat or skip some steps. For example,
you may repeat the cycle of modifying layer properties, animating, and previewing until everything looks right. You
may skip the step of importing footage if you intend to create graphical elements entirely in After Effects.
1. Import and organize footage
After you create a project, import your footage into the project in the Project panel. After Effects automatically
interprets many common media formats, but you can also specify how you want After Effects to interpret attributes
such as frame rate and pixel aspect ratio. You can view each item in a Footage panel and set its start and end times to
fit your composition. For more information, see Importing and interpreting footage items .
2. Create, arrange, and composite layers in a composition
Create one or more compositions. Any footage item can be the source for one or more layers in a composition. You can
arrange the layers spatially in the Composition panel or arrange them in time using the Timeline panel. You can stack
layers in two dimensions or arrange them in three dimensions. You can use masks, blending modes, and keying tools
to composite (combine), the images of multiple layers. You can even use shape layers, text layers, and paint tools to
create your own visual elements. For more information, see Composition basics, Creating layers, Compositing and
transparency overview and resources, Overview of shape layers, paths, and vector graphics , and Creating and editing
text layers .
3. Modify and animate layer properties
You can modify any property of a layer, such as size, position, and opacity. You can make any combination of layer
properties change over time, using keyframes and expressions. Use motion tracking to stabilize motion or to animate
one layer so that it follows the motion in another layer. For more information, see Animation basics, Expression basics,
and Tracking and stabilizing motion (CS5) .
4. Add effects and modify effect properties
You can add any combination of effects to alter the appearance or sound of a layer, and even generate visual elements
from scratch. You can apply any of the hundreds of effects, animation presets, and layer styles. You can even create and
save your own animation presets. You can animate effect properties, too, which are simply layer properties within an
effect property group. For more information, see Effects and animation presets overview .
5. Preview
Previewing compositions on your computer monitor or an external video monitor is fast and convenient, even for
complex projects. You can change the speed and quality of previews by specifying their resolution and frame rate, and
by limiting the area and duration of the composition that you preview. You can use color management features to
preview how your movie will look on another output device. For more information, see Previewingand Color
management.
6. Render and export
Add one or more compositions to the render queue to render them at the quality settings you choose and to create
movies in the formats that you specify. You can use File > Export or Composition > Add to Render Queue.
For more information, see Basics of rendering and exporting and the encoding quick start section in Adobe Media
Encoder.

Online resources for general workflow in After Effects
Read a basic step-by-step introduction to the general workflow in an excerpt from After Effects Classroom in a Book.

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Read Trish and Chris Meyer’s step-by-step introduction to creating a basic animation in a PDF excerpt from their book,
The After Effects Apprentice.
For an overview of After Effects project navigtion, see the video tutorial, “Walking Through A Mini Project,” by Jeff
Sengstack and Infinite Skills.

Basic workflow tutorial: Create a simple movie
This tutorial assumes that you have already started After Effects and have not modified the empty default project. This
example skips the step of importing footage and shows you instead how to create your own synthetic visual elements.
After you have rendered a final movie, you can import it into After Effects to view it and use it as you would any other
footage item.
Some people prefer to use the mouse and menus to interact with After Effects, whereas others prefer to use keyboard
shortcuts for common tasks. For several steps in this example, two alternative commands are shown that produce the
same result—the first demonstrating the discoverability of menu commands and the second demonstrating the speed
and convenience of keyboard shortcuts. You’ll likely find that you use some combination of keyboard shortcuts and
menu commands in your work.
1 Create a new composition:

• Choose Composition > New Composition.
• Press Ctrl+N (Windows) or Command+N (Mac OS).
2 Change the Duration value in the Composition Settings dialog box by entering 5.00 (5 seconds), choose Web Video

from the Preset menu, and click OK.
3 Create a new text layer:

• Choose Layer > New > Text.
• Press Ctrl+Alt+Shift+T (Windows) or Command+Option+Shift+T (Mac OS).
4 Type your name. Press Enter on the numeric keypad or press Ctrl+Enter (Windows) or Command+Return (Mac

OS) on the main keyboard to exit text-editing mode.
5 Set an initial keyframe for the Position property:

• Click the triangle to the left of the layer name in the Timeline panel, click the triangle to the left of the Transform
group name, and then click the stopwatch button to the left of the Position property name.
• Press Alt+Shift+P (Windows) or Option+Shift+P (Mac OS).
6 Activate the Selection tool:

• Click the Selection Tool button in the Tools panel.
• Press V.
7 Using the Selection tool, drag your text to the bottom-left corner of the frame in the Composition panel.
8 Move the current-time indicator to the last frame of the composition:

• Drag the current-time indicator in the Timeline panel to the far right of the timeline.
• Press End.
9 Using the Selection tool, drag your text to the top-right corner of the frame in the Composition panel.

A new keyframe is created at this time for the Position property. Motion is interpolated between keyframe values.
10 Preview your animation using standard preview:

• Click the Play button

in the Preview panel. Click Play again to stop the preview.

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• Press the spacebar. Press the spacebar again to stop the preview.
11 Apply the Glow effect:

• Choose Effect > Stylize > Glow.
• Type glow in the search field at the top of the Effects & Presets panel to find the Glow effect. Double-click the
effect name.
12 In the Render Queue panel, click the underlined text to the right of Output To. In the Output Movie To dialog box,

choose a name and location for the output movie file, and then click Save. For the location, choose something easy
to find, like your desktop.
13 Click the Render button to process all items in the render queue. The Render Queue panel shows the progress of the

rendering operation. A sound is generated when rendering is complete.
You’ve created, rendered, and exported a movie.
You can import the movie that you’ve created and preview it in After Effects, or you can navigate to the movie and play
it using a movie player such as QuickTime Player or Windows Media Player.

More Help topics
Activating tools (keyboard shortcuts)
Import footage items

Dynamic Link and After Effects
Dynamic Link features work only between applications of the same major version, such as the 2014 release of After
Effects CC with the 2014 release of Premiere Pro CC. Dynamic Link features do not work between applications that are
not of the same major version, such as After Effects CC and Premiere Pro CS6. For CS6 versions of the applications,
Dynamic Link features are only available with the Creative Suite Production Premium and Creative Suite Master
Collection editions; Dynamic Link features do not work between CS6 applications that have been installed and
activated as separate applications.

About Dynamic Link
In the past, sharing media assets among post-production applications required you to render and export your work
from one application before importing it into another. This workflow was inefficient and time-consuming. If you
wanted to change the original asset, you rendered and exported the asset again. Multiple rendered and exported
versions of an asset consume disk space, and they can lead to file-management challenges.
Dynamic Link offers an alternative to this workflow. You can create dynamic links between After Effects and Adobe
Premiere Pro. Creating a dynamic link is as simple as importing any other type of asset. Dynamically linked assets
appear with unique icons and label colors to help you identify them. Dynamic links are saved in projects generated by
these applications.

Create and link to After Effects compositions with Dynamic Link
You can create new After Effects compositions, and dynamically link to them from Adobe Premiere Pro. You can also
dynamically link to existing After Effects compositions from Adobe Premiere Pro.

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Create a composition from clips in Adobe Premiere Pro
You can replace selected clips in Adobe Premiere Pro with a dynamically linked After Effects composition based on
those clips. The new composition inherits the sequence settings from Adobe Premiere Pro.
1 Open Premiere Pro and select the clips you want to replace.
2 Right-click any of the selected clips.
3 Select Replace With After Effects Composition.

After Effects opens (if it is not already open) and a new linked composition is created.

Create a dynamically linked composition from Adobe Premiere Pro
Creating a new dynamically linked composition from Adobe Premiere Pro launches After Effects. After Effects then
creates a project and composition with the dimensions, pixel aspect ratio, frame rate, and audio sample rate of the
originating project. (If After Effects is already running, it creates a composition in the current project.) The new
composition name is based on the Adobe Premiere Pro project name, followed by Linked Comp [x].
1 In Adobe Premiere Pro, choose File > Adobe Dynamic Link > New After Effects Composition. In the 2014 version

of Premiere Pro, you can import compositions using Media Browser. See the following sections in Premiere Pro for
more information:

• Import files with Media Browser
• Adobe Dynamic Link
2 If the After Effects Save As dialog box appears, enter a name and location for the After Effects project, and click Save.

When you create a dynamically linked After Effects composition, the composition duration is set to 30 seconds. To
change the duration, select the composition in After Effects, choose Composition > Composition Settings. Click the
Basic tab, and specify a new value for Duration.

Link to an existing composition
For best results, match composition settings (such as dimensions, pixel aspect ratio, and frame rate) to the settings in
the Adobe Premiere Pro.
❖ Do one of the following:

• In Adobe Premiere Pro, choose File > Adobe Dynamic Link > ImportAfter Effects Composition. Choose an After
Effects project file (.aep), and then choose one or more compositions.
• In Adobe Premiere Pro, choose an After Effects project file and click Open. Then choose a composition in the
displayed dialog box and click OK.
• Drag one or more compositions from the After Effects Project panel to the Adobe Premiere Pro Project panel.
• Drag an After Effects project file into the Premiere Pro Project panel. If the After Effects project file contains
multiple compositions, the Import Composition dialog box opens.
Note: You can link to a single After Effects composition multiple times in a single Adobe Premiere Pro project.

Modify a dynamically linked composition in After Effects
Use the Edit Original command in Adobe Premiere Pro to modify a linked After Effects composition. Once the
composition is open in After Effects, you can change the composition without having to use the Edit Original
command again.
1 Select the After Effects composition in Adobe Premiere Pro, or choose a linked clip in the Timeline, and choose Edit

> Edit Original.

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2 Change the composition in After Effects. Then, switch back to Adobe Premiere Pro to view your changes.

The changes made in After Effects appear in Adobe Premiere Pro. Adobe Premiere Pro stops using any preview files
rendered for the clip before the changes.
Note: You can change the name of the composition in After Effects after creating a dynamic link to it from Adobe Premiere
Pro. Adobe Premiere Pro does not update the linked composition name in the Project panel. Adobe Premiere Pro does retain
the dynamic link, however.

Delete a dynamically linked composition or clip
You can delete a linked composition from an Adobe Premiere Pro project at any time, even if the composition is used
in a project.
You can delete linked clips from the timeline of an Adobe Premiere Pro sequence or timeline at any time.
❖ In Adobe Premiere Pro, select the linked composition or clip and press the Delete key.

Create a linked sequence in Adobe Premiere Pro with Dynamic Link

Link to a new sequence
Creating an Adobe Premiere Pro sequence from After Effects launches Adobe Premiere Pro. Adobe Premiere Pro then
creates a project and sequence with the dimensions, pixel aspect ratio, frame rate, and audio sample rate of the
originating project. (If Adobe Premiere Pro is already running, it creates a sequence in the current project.)
❖ In After Effects, choose File > Adobe Dynamic Link > New Premiere Pro Sequence.

Link to an existing sequence
For best results, match sequence settings and project settings in Adobe Premiere Pro (such as dimensions, pixel aspect
ratio, and frame rate) to those settings in the After Effects project.
Do one of the following:

• In After Effects, choose File > Adobe Dynamic Link > Import Premiere Pro Sequence. Choose an Adobe Premiere
Pro project, and then choose one or more sequences.
• Drag one or more sequences from the Adobe Premiere Pro Project panel to the After Effects Project panel.

Dynamic Link performance
A linked clip can refer to a complex source composition. Actions you perform on the complex source composition
require additional processing time. After Effects takes time to apply the actions and make the final data available to
Adobe Premiere Pro. In some cases, the additional processing time delays preview or playback.
To reduce playback delays, do one of the following:

• take the linked composition offline
• disable a linked clip to temporarily stop referencing a composition
• render the composition and replace the dynamically linked composition with the rendered file
If you commonly work with complex source compositions, try adding RAM or a faster processor.

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Note: A linked After Effects composition will not support Render Multiple Frames Simultaneously multiprocessing. See
Improve performance by optimizing memory, cache, and multiprocessing settings.

More Help topics
Working with Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects
Importing from After Effects and Adobe Premiere Pro

Keyboard shortcuts reference
General (keyboard shortcuts)
Result

Windows

Mac OS

Select all

Ctrl+A

Command+A

Deselect all

F2 or Ctrl+Shift+A

F2 or Command+Shift+A

Rename selected layer, composition, folder,
effect, group, or mask

Enter on main keyboard

Return

Open selected layer, composition, or footage
item

Enter on numeric keypad

Enter on numeric keypad

Move selected layers, masks, effects, or render Ctrl+Alt+Down Arrow or Ctrl+Alt+Up Arrow
items down (back) or up (forward) in stacking
order

Command+Option+Down Arrow or
Command+Option+Up Arrow

Move selected layers, masks, effects, or render Ctrl+Alt+Shift+Down Arrow or
items to bottom (back) or top (front) of
Ctrl+Alt+Shift+Up Arrow
stacking order

Command+Option+Shift+Down Arrow or
Command+Option+Shift+Up Arrow

Extend selection to next item in Project panel, Shift+Down Arrow
Render Queue panel, or Effect Controls panel

Shift+Down Arrow

Extend selection to previous item in Project
Shift+Up Arrow
panel, Render Queue panel, or Effect Controls
panel

Shift+Up Arrow

Duplicate selected layers, masks, effects, text
selectors, animators, puppet meshes, shapes,
render items, output modules, or
compositions

Ctrl+D

Command+D

Quit

Ctrl+Q

Command+Q

Undo

Ctrl+Z

Command+Z

Redo

Ctrl+Shift+Z

Command+Shift+Z

Purge All Memory

Ctrl+Alt+/ (on numeric keypad)

Command+Option+/ (on numeric keypad)

Interrupt running a script

Esc

Esc

Display filename corresponding to the frame
at the current time in the Info panel

Ctrl+Alt+E

Command+Option+E

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Projects (keyboard shortcuts)
Result

Windows

Mac OS

New project

Ctrl+Alt+N

Command+Option+N

Open project

Ctrl+O

Command+O

Open most recent project

Ctrl+Alt+Shift+P

Command+Option+Shift+P

New folder in Project panel

Ctrl+Alt+Shift+N

Command+Option+Shift+N

Open Project Settings dialog box

Ctrl+Alt+Shift+K

Command+Option+Shift+K

Find in Project panel

Ctrl+F

Command+F

Cycle through color bit depths for project

Alt-click bit-depth button at bottom of Project Option-click bit-depth button at bottom of
panel
Project panel

Open Project Settings dialog box

Click bit-depth button at bottom of Project
panel

Click bit-depth button at bottom of Project
panel

Preferences (keyboard shortcuts)
Result

Windows

Mac OS

Open Preferences dialog box

Ctrl+Alt+; (semicolon)

Command+Option+; (semicolon)

Restore default preferences settings

Hold down Ctrl+Alt+Shift while starting After
Effects

Hold down Command+Option+Shift while
starting After Effects

Panels, viewers, workspaces, and windows (keyboard shortcuts)
Note: (Mac OS) Shortcuts involving function keys F9-F12 may conflict with shortcuts used by the operating system. See
Mac OS Help for instructions to reassign Dashboard & Expose shortcuts.
Result

Windows

Mac OS

Open or close Project panel

Ctrl+0

Command+0

Open or close Render Queue panel

Ctrl+Alt+0

Command+Option+0

Open or close Tools panel

Ctrl+1

Command+1

Open or close Info panel

Ctrl+2

Command+2

Open or close Preview panel

Ctrl+3

Command+3

Open or close Audio panel

Ctrl+4

Command+4

Open or close Effects & Presets panel

Ctrl+5

Command+5

Open or close Character panel

Ctrl+6

Command+6

Open or close Paragraph panel

Ctrl+7

Command+7

Open or close Paint panel

Ctrl+8

Command+8

Open or close Brushes panel

Ctrl+9

Command+9

Open or close Effect Controls panel for
selected layer

F3 or Ctrl+Shift+T

F3 or Command+Shift+T

Open Flowchart panel for project flowchart

Ctrl+F11

Command+F11

Last updated 6/8/2015

22
Workspace and workflow

Result

Windows

Mac OS

Switch to workspace

Shift+F10, Shift+F11, or Shift+F12

Shift+F10, Shift+F11, or Shift+F12

Close active viewer or panel (closes content
first)

Ctrl+W

Command+W

Close active panel or all viewers of type of
active viewer (closes content first). For
example, if a Timeline panel is active, this
command closes all Timeline panels.

Ctrl+Shift+W

Command+Shift+W

Split the frame containing the active viewer
and create a new viewer with opposite
locked/unlocked state

Ctrl+Alt+Shift+N

Command+Option+Shift+N

Maximize or restore panel under pointer

` (accent grave)

` (accent grave)

Resize application window or floating window Ctrl+\ (backslash)
to fit screen. (Press again to resize window so
that contents fill the screen.)

Command+\ (backslash)

Move application window or floating window Ctrl+Alt+\ (backslash)
to main monitor; resize window to fit screen.
(Press again to resize window so that contents
fill the screen.)

Command+Option+\ (backslash)

Toggle activation between Composition
panel and Timeline panel for current
composition

\ (backslash)

\ (backslash)

Cycle to previous or next item in active viewer Shift+, (comma) or Shift+. (period)
(for example, cycle through open
compositions)

Shift+, (comma) or Shift+. (period)

Cycle to previous or next panel in active frame Alt+Shift+, (comma) or Alt+Shift+. (period)
(for example, cycle through open Timeline
panels)

Option+Shift+, (comma) or Option+Shift+.
(period)

Activate a view in a multi-view layout in the
Composition panel without affecting layer
selection

click with middle mouse button

click with middle mouse button

Activating tools (keyboard shortcuts)
Note: You can activate some tools only under certain circumstances. For example, you can activate a camera tool only when
the active composition contains a camera layer.
To momentarily activate a tool with a single-letter keyboard shortcut, hold down the key; release the key to return to
the previously active tool. To activate a tool and keep it active, press the key and immediately release it.
Result

Windows

Mac OS

Cycle through tools

Alt-click tool button in Tools panel

Option-click tool button in Tools panel

Activate Selection tool

V

V

Activate Hand tool

H

H

Temporarily activate Hand tool

Hold down spacebar or the middle mouse
button.

Hold down spacebar or the middle mouse
button.

Activate Zoom In tool

Z

Z

Activate Zoom Out tool

Alt (when Zoom In tool is active)

Option (when Zoom In tool is active)

Last updated 6/8/2015

23
Workspace and workflow

Activate Rotation tool

W

W

Activate Roto Brush tool

Alt+W

Option+W

Activate and cycle through Camera tools
(Unified Camera, Orbit Camera, Track XY
Camera, and Track Z Camera)

C

C

Activate Pan Behind tool

Y

Y

Activate and cycle through mask and shape
tools (Rectangle, Rounded Rectangle, Ellipse,
Polygon, Star)

Q

Q

Activate and cycle through Type tools
(Horizontal and Vertical)

Ctrl+T

Command+T

Activate and cycle between the Pen and Mask G
Feather tools. Note - You can turn off this
setting in the Preferences dialog box.

G

Temporarily activate Selection tool when a
pen tool is selected

Command

Ctrl

Temporarily activate pen tool when the
Ctrl+Alt
Selection tool is selected and pointer is over a
path (Add Vertex tool when pointer is over a
segment; Convert Vertex tool when pointer is
over a vertex)

Command+Option

Activate and cycle through Brush, Clone
Stamp, and Eraser tools

Ctrl+B

Command+B

Activate and cycle through Puppet tools

Ctrl+P

Command+P

Temporarily convert Selection tool to Shape
Duplication tool

Alt (in shape layer)

Option (in shape layer)

Temporarily convert Selection tool to Direct
Selection tool

Ctrl (in shape layer)

Command (in shape layer)

Compositions and the work area (keyboard shortcuts)
Result

Windows

Mac OS

New composition

Ctrl+N

Command+N

Open Composition Settings dialog box for
selected composition

Ctrl+K

Command+K

Set beginning or end of work area to current
time

B or N

B or N

Set work area to duration of selected layers or, Ctrl+Alt+B
if no layers are selected, set work area to
composition duration

Command+Option+B

Open Composition Mini-Flowchart for active
composition

Tab

Tab

Activate the most recently active composition Shift+Esc
that is in the same composition hierarchy
(network of nested compositions) as the
currently active composition

Last updated 6/8/2015

Shift+Esc

24
Workspace and workflow

Time navigation (keyboard shortcuts)
Result

Windows

Mac OS

Go to specific time

Alt+Shift+J

Option+Shift+J

Go to beginning or end of work area

Shift+Home or Shift+End

Shift+Home or Shift+End

Go to previous or next visible item in time
ruler (keyframe, layer marker, work area
beginning or end)

J or K

J or K

Go to beginning of composition, layer, or
footage item

Home or Ctrl+Alt+Left Arrow

Home or Command+Option+Left Arrow

Go to end of composition, layer, or footage
item

End or Ctrl+Alt+Right Arrow

End or Command+Option+Right Arrow

Go forward 1 frame

Page Down or Ctrl+Right Arrow

Page Down or Command+Right Arrow

Go forward 10 frames

Shift+Page Down or Ctrl+Shift+Right Arrow

Shift+Page Down or Command+Shift+Right
Arrow

Go backward 1 frame

Page Up or Ctrl+Left Arrow

Page Up or Command+Left Arrow

Go backward 10 frames

Shift+Page Up or Ctrl+Shift+Left Arrow

Shift+Page Up or Command+Shift+Left Arrow

Go to layer In point

I

I

Go to layer Out point

O

O

Go to previous In point or Out point

Ctrl+Alt+Shift+Left Arrow

Command+Option+Shift+Left Arrow

Go to next In point or Out point

Ctrl+Alt+Shift+Right Arrow

Command+Option+Shift+Right Arrow

Scroll to current time in Timeline panel

D

D

note: Also goes to beginning, end, or base frame
of Roto Brush span if viewing Roto Brush in Layer
panel.

Previews (keyboard shortcuts)
Result

Windows

Mac OS

Start or stop preview

spacebar, 0 on numeric keypad, Shift+0 on
numeric keypad

spacebar, 0 on numeric keypad, Shift+0 on
numeric keypad

Reset preview settings to replicate RAM
Preview and Standard Preview behaviors

Alt + click Reset on Preview panel

Option + click Reset on Preview panel

Preview only audio, from current time

. (decimal point) on numeric keypad*

. (decimal point) on numeric keypad* or
Control+. (period) on main keyboard

Preview only audio, in work area

Alt+. (decimal point) on numeric keypad*

Option+. (decimal point) on numeric keypad*
or Control+Option+. (period) on main
keyboard

Manually preview (scrub) video

Drag or Alt-drag current-time indicator,
depending on Live Update setting

Drag or Option-drag current-time indicator,
depending on Live Update setting

Manually preview (scrub) audio

Ctrl-drag current-time indicator

Command-drag current-time indicator

Preview number of frames specified by
Alternate Preview preference (defaults to 5)

Alt+0 on numeric keypad*

Option+0 on numeric keypad* or
Control+Option+0 (zero) on main keyboard

Last updated 6/8/2015

25
Workspace and workflow

Toggle Mercury Transmit video preview

/ (on numeric keypad)

/ (on numeric keypad), Control+/ on main
keyboard

Take snapshot

Shift+F5, Shift+F6, Shift+F7, or Shift+F8

Shift+F5, Shift+F6, Shift+F7, or Shift+F8

Display snapshot in active viewer

F5, F6, F7, or F8

F5, F6, F7, or F8

Purge snapshot

Ctrl+Shift+F5, Ctrl+Shift+F6, Ctrl+Shift+F7, or Command+Shift+F5, Command+Shift+F6,
Ctrl+Shift+F8
Command+Shift+F7, or Command+Shift+F8

Fast Previews > Off

Ctrl+Alt+1

Command+Option+1

Fast Previews > Adaptive Resolution

Ctrl+Alt+2

Command+Option+2

Fast Previews > Draft

Ctrl+Alt+3

Command+Option+3

Fast Previews > Fast Draft

Ctrl+Alt+4

Command+Option+4

Fast Previews > Wireframe

Ctrl+Alt+5

Command+Option+5

Note: Some shortcuts are marked with an asterisk (*) to remind you to make sure that Num Lock is on when you use the
numeric keypad.

Views (keyboard shortcuts)
Result

Windows

Mac OS

Turn display color management on or off for
active view

Shift+/ (on numeric keypad)

Shift+/ (on numeric keypad)

Show red, green, blue, or alpha channel as
grayscale

Alt+1, Alt+2, Alt+3, Alt+4

Option+1, Option+2, Option+3, Option+4

Show colorized red, green, or blue channel

Alt+Shift+1, Alt+Shift+2, Alt+Shift+3

Option+Shift+1, Option+Shift+2,
Option+Shift+3

Toggle showing straight RGB color

Alt+Shift+4

Option+Shift+4

Show alpha boundary (outline between
transparent and opaque regions) in Layer
panel

Alt+5

Option+5

Show alpha overlay (colored overlay on
transparent regions) in Layer panel

Alt+6

Option+6

Show Refine Edge X-ray (After Effects CC 12.0
and later)

Alt+X

Option+X

Center composition in the panel

Double-click Hand tool

Double-click Hand tool

Zoom in in Composition, Layer, or Footage
panel

. (period) on main keyboard

. (period) on main keyboard

Zoom out in Composition, Layer, or Footage
panel

, (comma)

, (comma)

Zoom to 100% in Composition, Layer, or
Footage panel

/ (on main keyboard)

/ (on main keyboard)

Zoom to fit in Composition, Layer, or Footage
panel

Shift+/ (on main keyboard)

Shift+/ (on main keyboard)

Zoom up to 100% to fit in Composition, Layer, Alt+/ (on main keyboard)
or Footage panel

Last updated 6/8/2015

Option+/ (on main keyboard)

26
Workspace and workflow

Set resolution to Full, Half, or Custom in
Composition panel

Ctrl+J, Ctrl+Shift+J, Ctrl+Alt+J

Command+J, Command+Shift+J,
Command+Option+J

Open View Options dialog box for active
Composition panel

Ctrl+Alt+U

Command+Option+U

Zoom in time

= (equal sign) on main keyboard

= (equal sign) on main keyboard

Zoom out time

- (hyphen) on main keyboard

- (hyphen) on main keyboard

Zoom in Timeline panel to single-frame units
(Press again to zoom out to show entire
composition duration.)

; (semicolon)

; (semicolon)

Zoom out in Timeline panel to show the entire Shift+; (semicolon)
composition duration (Press again to zoom
back in to the duration specified by the Time
Navigator.)

Shift+; (semicolon)

Prevent images from being rendered for
previews in viewer panels

Caps Lock

Caps Lock

Show or hide safe zones

' (apostrophe)

' (apostrophe)

Show or hide grid

Ctrl+' (apostrophe)

Command+' (apostrophe)

Show or hide proportional grid

Alt+' (apostrophe)

Option+' (apostrophe)

Show or hide rulers

Ctrl+R

Command+R

Show or hide guides

Ctrl+; (semicolon)

Command+; (semicolon)

Turn snapping to grid on or off

Ctrl+Shift+' (apostrophe)

Command+Shift+' (apostrophe)

Turn snapping to guides on or off

Ctrl+Shift+; (semicolon)

Command+Shift+; (semicolon)

Lock or unlock guides

Ctrl+Alt+Shift+; (semicolon)

Command+Option+Shift+; (semicolon)

Show or hide layer controls (masks, motion
paths, light and camera wireframes, effect
control points, and layer handles)

Ctrl+Shift+H

Command+Shift+H

Footage (keyboard shortcuts)
Result

Windows

Mac OS

Import one file or image sequence

Ctrl+I

Command+I

Import multiple files or image sequences

Ctrl+Alt+I

Command+Option+I

Open movie in an After Effects Footage panel Double-click the footage item in the Project
panel

Double-click the footage item in the Project
panel

Add selected items to most recently activated Ctrl+/ (on main keyboard)
composition

Command+/ (on main keyboard)

Replace selected source footage for selected
layers with footage item selected in Project
panel

Ctrl+Alt+/ (on main keyboard)

Command+Option+/ (on main keyboard)

Replace source for a selected layer

Alt-drag footage item from Project panel onto Option-drag footage item from Project panel
selected layer
onto selected layer

Delete a footage item without a warning

Ctrl+Backspace

Last updated 6/8/2015

Command+Delete

27
Workspace and workflow

Open Interpret Footage dialog box for
selected footage item

Ctrl+Alt+G

Command+Option+G

Remember footage interpretation

Ctrl+Alt+C

Command+Option+C

Edit selected footage item in application with Ctrl+E
which it’s associated (Edit Original)

Command+E

Replace selected footage item

Ctrl+H

Command+H

Reload selected footage items

Ctrl+Alt+L

Command+Option+L

Set proxy for selected footage item

Ctrl+Alt+P

Command+Option+P

Effects and animation presets (keyboard shortcuts)
Result

Windows

Mac OS

Delete all effects from selected layers

Ctrl+Shift+E

Command+Shift+E

Apply most recently applied effect to selected Ctrl+Alt+Shift+E
layers

Command+Option+Shift+E

Apply most recently applied animation preset Ctrl+Alt+Shift+F
to selected layers

Command+Option+Shift+F

Layers (keyboard shortcuts)
Note: Some operations do not affect shy layers.
Result

Windows

Mac OS

New solid layer

Ctrl+Y

Command+Y

New null layer

Ctrl+Alt+Shift+Y

Command+Option+Shift+Y

New adjustment layer

Ctrl+Alt+Y

Command+Option+Y

Select layer (1-999) by its number (enter digits 0-9 on numeric keypad*
rapidly for two-digit and three-digit numbers)

0-9 on numeric keypad*

Toggle selection of layer (1-999) by its number Shift+0-9 on numeric keypad*
(enter digits rapidly for two-digit and threedigit numbers)

Shift+0-9 on numeric keypad*

Select next layer in stacking order

Ctrl+Down Arrow

Command+Down Arrow

Select previous layer in stacking order

Ctrl+Up Arrow

Command+Up Arrow

Extend selection to next layer in stacking
order

Ctrl+Shift+Down Arrow

Command+Shift+Down Arrow

Extend selection to previous layer in stacking
order

Ctrl+Shift+Up Arrow

Command+Shift+Up Arrow

Deselect all layers

Ctrl+Shift+A

Command+Shift+A

Scroll topmost selected layer to top of
Timeline panel

X

X

Show or hide Parent column

Shift+F4

Shift+F4

Show or hide Layer Switches and Modes
columns

F4

F4

Last updated 6/8/2015

28
Workspace and workflow

Setting the sampling method for selected
layers (Best/Bilinear)

Alt+B

Option+B

Setting the sampling method for selected
layers (Best/Bicubic)

Alt+Shift+B

Option+Shift+B

Turn off all other solo switches

Alt-click solo switch

Option-click solo switch

Turn Video (eyeball) switch on or off for
selected layers

Ctrl+Alt+Shift+V

Command+Option+Shift+V

Turn off Video switch for all video layers other Ctrl+Shift+V
than selected layers

Command+Shift+V

Open settings dialog box for selected solid,
light, camera, null, or adjustment layer

Ctrl+Shift+Y

Command+Shift+Y

Paste layers at current time

Ctrl+Alt+V

Command+Option+V

Split selected layers (If no layers are selected,
split all layers.)

Ctrl+Shift+D

Command+Shift+D

Precompose selected layers

Ctrl+Shift+C

Command+Shift+C

Open Effect Controls panel for selected layers Ctrl+Shift+T

Command+Shift+T

Open layer in Layer panel (opens source
composition for precomposition layer in
Composition panel)

Double-click a layer

Double-click a layer

Open source of a layer in Footage panel
(opens precomposition layer in Layer panel)

Alt-double-click a layer

Option-double-click a layer

Reverse selected layers in time

Ctrl+Alt+R

Command+Option+R

Enable time remapping for selected layers

Ctrl+Alt+T

Command+Option+T

Move selected layers so that their In point or
Out point is at the current time

[ (left bracket) or ] (right bracket)

[ (left bracket) or ] (right bracket)

Trim In point or Out point of selected layers to Alt+[ (left bracket) or Alt+] (right bracket)
current time

Option+[ (left bracket) or Option+] (right
bracket)

Add or remove expression for a property

Alt-click stopwatch

Option-click stopwatch

Add an effect (or multiple selected effects) to
selected layers

Double-click effect selection in Effects &
Presets panel

Double-click effect selection in Effects &
Presets panel

Set In point or Out point by time-stretching

Ctrl+Shift+, (comma) or Ctrl+Alt+, (comma)

Command+Shift+, (comma) or
Command+Option+, (comma)

Move selected layers so that their In Point is at Alt+Home
beginning of composition

Option+Home

Move selected layers so that their Out point is Alt+End
at end of composition

Option+End

Lock selected layers

Ctrl+L

Command+L

Unlock all layers

Ctrl+Shift+L

Command+Shift+L

Set Quality to Best, Draft, or Wireframe for
selected layers

Ctrl+U, Ctrl+Shift+U, or Ctrl+Alt+Shift+U

Command+U, Command+Shift+U,
Command+Option+Shift+U

Cycle forward or backward through blending
modes for selected layers

Shift+ - (hyphen) or Shift+= (equal sign) on
the main keyboard

Shift+ - (hyphen) or Shift+= (equal sign) on
the main keyboard

Find in Timeline panel

Ctrl+F

Command+F

Last updated 6/8/2015

29
Workspace and workflow

Note: Some shortcuts are marked with an asterisk (*) to remind you to make sure that Num Lock is on when you use the
numeric keypad.

Showing properties and groups in the Timeline panel (keyboard shortcuts)
Note: This table contains double-letter shortcuts (for example, LL). To use these shortcuts, press the letters in quick
succession.
Result

Windows

Mac OS

Find in Timeline panel

Ctrl+F

Command+F

Toggle expansion of selected layers to show
all properties

Ctrl+` (accent grave)

Command+` (accent grave)

Toggle expansion of property group and all
child property groups to show all properties

Ctrl-click triangle to the left of the property
group name

Command-click triangle to the left of the
property group name

Show only Anchor Point property (for lights
and cameras, Point Of Interest)

A

A

Show only Audio Levels property

L

L

Show only Mask Feather property

F

F

Show only Mask Path property

M

M

Show only Mask Opacity property

TT

TT

Show only Opacity property (for lights,
Intensity)

T

T

Show only Position property

P

P

Show only Rotation and Orientation
properties

R

R

Show only Scale property

S

S

Show only Time Remap property

RR

RR

Show only instances of missing effects

FF

FF

Show only Effects property group

E

E

Show only mask property groups

MM

MM

Show only Material Options property group

AA

AA

Show only expressions

EE

EE

Show only modified properties

UU

UU

Show only paint strokes, Roto Brush strokes,
and Puppet pins

PP

PP

Show only audio waveform

LL

LL

Show only properties with keyframes or
expressions

U

U

Show only selected properties and groups

SS

SS

Last updated 6/8/2015

30
Workspace and workflow

Result

Windows

Mac OS

Hide property or group

Alt+Shift-click property or group name

Option+Shift-click property or group name

Add or remove property or group from set
that is shown

Shift+property or group shortcut

Shift+property or group shortcut

Add or remove keyframe at current time

Alt+Shift+property shortcut

Option+property shortcut

Showing properties in the Effect Controls panel (keyboard shortcuts)
Result

Windows

Mac OS

Toggle expansion of selected effects to show
all properties

Ctrl+` (accent grave)

Command+` (accent grave)

Toggle expansion of property group and all
child property groups to show all properties

Ctrl-click triangle to the left of the property
group name

Command-click triangle to the left of the
property group name

Modifying layer properties (keyboard shortcuts)
Result

Windows

Mac OS

Modify property value by default increments

Drag property value

Drag property value

Modify property value by 10x default
increments

Shift-drag property value

Shift-drag property value

Modify property value by 1/10 default
increments

Ctrl-drag property value

Command-drag property value

Open Auto-Orientation dialog box for
selected layers

Ctrl+Alt+O

Command+Alt+O

Open Opacity dialog box for selected layers

Ctrl+Shift+O

Command+Shift+O

Open Rotation dialog box for selected layers

Ctrl+Shift+R

Command+Shift+R

Open Position dialog box for selected layers

Ctrl+Shift+P

Command+Shift+P

Center selected layers in view (modifies
Position property to place anchor points of
selected layers in center of current view)

Ctrl+Home

Command+Home

Move selected layers 1 pixel at current
magnification (Position)

arrow key

arrow key

Move selected layers 10 pixels at current
magnification (Position)

Shift+arrow key

Shift+arrow key

Move selected layers 1 frame earlier or later

Alt+Page Up or Alt+Page Down

Option+Page Up or Option+Page Down

Move selected layers 10 frames earlier or later Alt+Shift+Page Up or Alt+Shift+Page Down

Option+Shift+Page Up or Option+Shift+Page
Down

Increase or decrease Rotation (Z Rotation) of
selected layers by 1°

+ (plus) or - (minus) on numeric keypad

+ (plus) or - (minus) on numeric keypad

Increase or decrease Rotation (Z Rotation) of
selected layers by 10°

Shift++ (plus) or Shift+- (minus) on numeric
keypad

Shift++ (plus) or Shift+- (minus) on numeric
keypad

Increase or decrease Opacity (or Intensity for
light layers) of selected layers by 1%

Ctrl+Alt++ (plus) or Ctrl+Alt+- (minus) on
numeric keypad

Control+Option++ (plus) or
Control+Option+- (minus) on numeric keypad

Last updated 6/8/2015

31
Workspace and workflow

Result

Windows

Mac OS

Increase or decrease Opacity (or Intensity for
light layers) of selected layers by 10%

Ctrl+Alt+Shift++ (plus) or Ctrl+Alt+Shift+(minus) on numeric keypad

Control+Option+Shift++ (plus) or
Control+Option+Shift+- (minus) on numeric
keypad

Increase Scale of selected layers by 1%

Ctrl++ (plus) or Alt++ (plus) on numeric
keypad

Command++ (plus) or Option++ (plus) on
numeric keypad

Decrease Scale of selected layers by 1%

Ctrl+- (minus) or Alt+- (minus) on numeric
keypad

Command+- (minus) or Option+- (minus) on
numeric keypad

Increase Scale of selected layers by 10%

Ctrl+Shift++ (plus) or Alt+Shift++ (plus) on
numeric keypad

Command+Shift++ (plus) or Option+Shift++
(plus) on numeric keypad

Decrease Scale of selected layers by 10%

Ctrl+Shift+- (minus) or Alt+Shift+- (minus) on Command+Shift+- (minus) or Option+Shift+numeric keypad
(minus) on numeric keypad

Modify Rotation or Orientation in 45°
increments

Shift-drag with Rotation tool

Shift-drag with Rotation tool

Modify Scale, constrained to footage frame
aspect ratio

Shift-drag layer handle with Selection tool

Shift-drag layer handle with Selection tool

Reset Rotation to 0°

Double-click Rotation tool

Double-click Rotation tool

Reset Scale to 100%

Double-click Selection tool

Double-click Selection tool

Scale and reposition selected layers to fit
composition

Ctrl+Alt+F

Command+Option+F

Scale and reposition selected layers to fit
composition width, preserving image aspect
ratio for each layer

Ctrl+Alt+Shift+H

Command+Option+Shift+H

Scale and reposition selected layers to fit
Ctrl+Alt+Shift+G
composition height, preserving image aspect
ratio for each layer

Command+Option+Shift+G

3D layers (keyboard shortcuts)
Note: (Mac OS) Shortcuts involving function keys F9-F12 may conflict with shortcuts used by the operating system. See
Mac OS Help for instructions to reassign Dashboard & Expose shortcuts.
Result

Windows

Mac OS

Switch to 3D view 1 (defaults to Front)

F10

F10

Switch to 3D view 2 (defaults to Custom View
1)

F11

F11

Switch to 3D view 3 (defaults to Active
Camera)

F12

F12

Return to previous view

Esc

Esc

New light

Ctrl+Alt+Shift+L

Command+Option+Shift+L

New camera

Ctrl+Alt+Shift+C

Command+Option+Shift+C

Move the camera and its point of interest to
look at selected 3D layers

Ctrl+Alt+Shift+\

Command+Option+Shift+\

Last updated 6/8/2015

32
Workspace and workflow

With a camera tool selected, move the camera F
and its point of interest to look at selected 3D
layers

F

With a camera tool selected, move the camera Ctrl+Shift+F
and its point of interest to look at all 3D layers

Command+Shift+F

Turn Casts Shadows property on or off for
selected 3D layers

Option+Shift+C

Alt+Shift+C

Keyframes and the Graph Editor (keyboard shortcuts)
Note: (Mac OS) Shortcuts involving function keys F9-F12 may conflict with shortcuts used by the operating system. See
Mac OS Help for instructions to reassign Dashboard & Expose shortcuts.
Result

Windows

Mac OS

Toggle between Graph Editor and layer bar
modes

Shift+F3

Shift+F3

Select all keyframes for a property

Click property name

Click property name

Select all visible keyframes and properties

Ctrl+Alt+A

Command+Option+A

Deselect all keyframes, properties, and
property groups

Shift+F2 or Ctrl+Alt+Shift+A

Shift+F2 or Command+Option+Shift+A

Move keyframe 1 frame later or earlier

Alt+Right Arrow or Alt+Left Arrow

Option+Right Arrow or Option+Left Arrow

Move keyframe 10 frames later or earlier

Alt+Shift+Right Arrow or Alt+Shift+Left
Arrow

Option+Shift+Right Arrow or
Option+Shift+Left Arrow

Set interpolation for selected keyframes (layer Ctrl+Alt+K
bar mode)

Command+Option+K

Set keyframe interpolation method to hold or Ctrl+Alt+H
Auto Bezier

Command+Option+H

Set keyframe interpolation method to linear
or Auto Bezier

Ctrl-click in layer bar mode

Command-click in layer bar mode

Set keyframe interpolation method to linear
or hold

Ctrl+Alt-click in layer bar mode

Command+Option-click in layer bar mode

Easy ease selected keyframes

F9

F9

Easy ease selected keyframes in

Shift+F9

Shift+F9

Easy ease selected keyframes out

Ctrl+Shift+F9

Command+Shift+F9

Set velocity for selected keyframes

Ctrl+Shift+K

Command+Shift+K

Add or remove keyframe at current time. For
property shortcuts, see Showing properties
and groups in the Timeline panel (keyboard
shortcuts).

Alt+Shift+property shortcut

Option+property shortcut

Last updated 6/8/2015

33
Workspace and workflow

Text (keyboard shortcuts)
Result

Windows

Mac OS

New text layer

Ctrl+Alt+Shift+T

Command+Option+Shift+T

Align selected horizontal text left, center, or
right

Ctrl+Shift+L, Ctrl+Shift+C, or Ctrl+Shift+R

Command+Shift+L, Command+Shift+C, or
Command+Shift+R

Align selected vertical text top, center, or
bottom

Ctrl+Shift+L, Ctrl+Shift+C, or Ctrl+Shift+R

Command+Shift+L, Command+Shift+C, or
Command+Shift+R

Extend or reduce selection by one character
to right or left in horizontal text

Shift+Right Arrow or Shift+Left Arrow

Shift+Right Arrow or Shift+Left Arrow

Extend or reduce selection by one word to
right or left in horizontal text

Ctrl+Shift+Right Arrow or Ctrl+Shift+Left
Arrow

Command+Shift+Right Arrow or
Command+Shift+Left Arrow

Extend or reduce selection by one line up or
down in horizontal text

Shift+Up Arrow or Shift+Down Arrow

Shift+Up Arrow or Shift+Down Arrow

Extend or reduce selection by one line to right Shift+Right Arrow or Shift+Left Arrow
or left in vertical text

Shift+Right Arrow or Shift+Left Arrow

Extend or reduce selection one word up or
down in vertical text

Ctrl+Shift+Up Arrow or Ctrl+Shift+Down
Arrow

Command+Shift+Up Arrow or
Command+Shift+Down Arrow

Extend or reduce selection by one character
up or down in vertical text

Shift+Up Arrow or Shift+Down Arrow

Shift+Up Arrow or Shift+Down Arrow

Select text from insertion point to beginning
or end of line

Shift+Home or Shift+End

Shift+Home or Shift+End

Move insertion point to beginning or end of
line

Home or End

Home or End

Select all text on a layer

Double-click text layer

Double-click text layer

Select text from insertion point to beginning
or end of text frame

Ctrl+Shift+Home or Ctrl+Shift+End

Command+Shift+Home or
Command+Shift+End

Select text from insertion point to mouse click Shift-click
point

Shift-click

In horizontal text, move insertion point one
Left Arrow or Right Arrow; Up Arrow or Down
character left or right; one line up or down;
Arrow; Ctrl+Left Arrow or Ctrl+Right Arrow; or
one word left or right; or one paragraph up or Ctrl+Up Arrow or Ctrl+Down Arrow
down

Left Arrow or Right Arrow; Up Arrow or Down
Arrow; Command+Left Arrow or
Command+Right Arrow; or Command+Up
Arrow or Command+Down Arrow

In vertical text, move insertion point one
character up or down; one left or right; one
word up or down; or one paragraph left or
right

Up Arrow or Down Arrow; Left Arrow or Right Up Arrow or Down Arrow; Left Arrow or Right
Arrow; Ctrl+Up Arrow or Ctrl+Down Arrow; or Arrow; Command+Up Arrow or
Ctrl+Left Arrow or Ctrl+Right Arrow
Command+Down Arrow; or Command+Left
Arrow or Command+Right Arrow

Select word, line, paragraph, or entire text
frame

Double-click, triple-click, quadruple-click, or
quintuple-click with Type tool

Double-click, triple-click, quadruple-click, or
quintuple-click with Type tool

Turn All Caps on or off for selected text

Ctrl+Shift+K

Command+Shift+K

Turn Small Caps on or off for selected text

Ctrl+Alt+Shift+K

Command+Option+Shift+K

Turn Superscript on or off for selected text

Ctrl+Shift+= (equals)

Command+Shift+= (equals)

Turn Subscript on or off for selected text

Ctrl+Alt+Shift+= (equals)

Command+Option+Shift+= (equals)

Set horizontal scale to 100% for selected text

Ctrl+Shift+X

Command+Shift+X

Set vertical scale to 100% for selected text

Ctrl+Alt+Shift+X

Command+Option+Shift+X

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Result

Windows

Mac OS

Auto leading for selected text

Ctrl+Alt+Shift+A

Command+Option+Shift+A

Reset tracking to 0 for selected text

Ctrl+Shift+Q

Command+Shift+Control+Q

Justify paragraph; left align last line

Ctrl+Shift+J

Command+Shift+J

Justify paragraph; right align last line

Ctrl+Alt+Shift+J

Command+Option+Shift+J

Justify paragraph; force last line

Ctrl+Shift+F

Command+Shift+F

Decrease or increase font size of selected text Ctrl+Shift+, (comma) or Ctrl+Shift+. (period)
by 2 units

Command+Shift+, (comma) or
Command+Shift+. (period)

Decrease or increase font size of selected text Ctrl+Alt+Shift+, (comma) or Ctrl+Alt+Shift+.
by 10 units
(period)

Command+Option+Shift+, (comma) or
Command+Option+Shift+. (period)

Increase or decrease leading by 2 units

Alt+Down Arrow or Alt+Up Arrow

Option+Down Arrow or Option+Up Arrow

Increase or decrease leading by 10 units

Ctrl+Alt+Down Arrow or Ctrl+Alt+Up Arrow

Command+Option+Down Arrow or
Command+Option+Up Arrow

Decrease or increase baseline shift by 2 units

Alt+Shift+Down Arrow or Alt+Shift+Up Arrow Option+Shift+Down Arrow or
Option+Shift+Up Arrow

Decrease or increase baseline shift by 10 units Ctrl+Alt+Shift+Down Arrow or
Ctrl+Alt+Shift+Up Arrow

Command+Option+Shift+Down Arrow or
Command+Option+Shift+Up Arrow

Decrease or increase kerning or tracking 20
units (20/1000 ems)

Alt+Left Arrow or Alt+Right Arrow

Option+Left Arrow or Option+Right Arrow

Decrease or increase kerning or tracking 100
units (100/1000 ems)

Ctrl+Alt+Left Arrow or Ctrl+Alt+Right Arrow

Command+Option+Left Arrow or
Command+Option+Right Arrow

Toggle paragraph composer

Ctrl+Alt+Shift+T

Command+Option+Shift+T

Masks (keyboard shortcuts)
Result

Windows

Mac OS

New mask

Ctrl+Shift+N

Command+Shift+N

Select all points in a mask

Alt-click mask

Option-click mask

Select next or previous mask

Alt+` (accent grave) or Alt+Shift+` (accent
grave)

Option+` (accent grave) or Option+Shift+`
(accent grave)

Enter free-transform mask editing mode

Double-click mask with Selection tool or
Double-click mask with Selection tool or
select mask in Timeline panel and press Ctrl+T select mask in Timeline panel and press
Command+T

Exit free-transform mask editing mode

Esc

Esc

Scale around center point in Free Transform
mode

Ctrl-drag

Command-drag

Move selected path points 1 pixel at current
magnification

arrow key

arrow key

Move selected path points 10 pixels at current Shift+arrow key
magnification

Shift+arrow key

Toggle between smooth and corner points

Ctrl+Alt-click vertex

Command+Option-click vertex

Redraw Bezier handles

Ctrl+Alt-drag vertex

Command+Option-drag vertex

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Result

Windows

Mac OS

Invert selected mask

Ctrl+Shift+I

Command+Shift+I

Open Mask Feather dialog box for selected
mask

Ctrl+Shift+F

Command+Shift+F

Open Mask Shape dialog box for selected
mask

Ctrl+Shift+M

Command+Shift+M

Paint tools (keyboard shortcuts)
Result

Windows

Mac OS

Swap paint background color and foreground X
colors

X

Set paint foreground color to black and
background color to white

D

D

Set foreground color to the color currently
under any paint tool pointer

Alt-click

Option-click

Set foreground color to the average color of a Ctrl+Alt-click
4-pixel x 4-pixel area under any paint tool
pointer

Command+Option-click

Set brush size for a paint tool

Ctrl-drag

Command-drag

Set brush hardness for a paint tool

Ctrl-drag, then release Ctrl while dragging

Command-drag, then release Command
while dragging

Join current paint stroke to the previous
stroke

Hold Shift while beginning stroke

Hold Shift while beginning stroke

Set starting sample point to point currently
under Clone Stamp tool pointer

Alt-click

Option-click

Momentarily activate Eraser tool with Last
Stroke Only option

Ctrl+Shift

Command+Shift

Show and move overlay (change Offset value Alt+Shift-drag with Clone Stamp tool
of aligned Clone Stamp tool or change Source
Position value of unaligned Clone Stamp tool)

Option+Shift-drag with Clone Stamp tool

Activate a specific Clone Stamp tool preset

3, 4, 5, 6, or 7 on the main keyboard

3, 4, 5, 6, or 7 on the main keyboard

Duplicate a Clone Stamp tool preset in Paint
panel

Alt-click the button for the preset

Option-click the button for the preset

Set opacity for a paint tool

Digit on numeric keypad (for example,
9=90%, 1=10%)*

Digit on numeric keypad (for example,
9=90%, 1=10%)*

Set opacity for a paint tool to 100%

. (decimal) on numeric keypad*

. (decimal) on numeric keypad*

Set flow for a paint tool

Shift+a digit on numeric keypad (for example, Shift+a digit on numeric keypad (for example,
9=90%, 1=10%)*
9=90%, 1=10%)*

Set flow for a paint tool to 100%

Shift+. (decimal) on numeric keypad*

Move earlier or later by number of frames
specified for stroke Duration

Ctrl+Page Up or Ctrl+Page Down (or 1 or 2 on Command+Page Up or Command+Page
the main keyboard)
Down (or 1 or 2 on the main keyboard)

Shift+. (decimal) on numeric keypad*

Note: Some shortcuts are marked with an asterisk (*) to remind you to make sure that Num Lock is on when you use the
numeric keypad.

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Shape layers (keyboard shortcuts)
Result

Windows

Mac OS

Group selected shapes

Ctrl+G

Command+G

Ungroup selected shapes

Ctrl+Shift+G

Command+Shift+G

Enter free-transform path editing mode

Select Path property in Timeline panel and
press Ctrl+T

Select Path property in Timeline panel and
press Command+T

Increase star inner roundness

Page Up when dragging to create shape

Page Up when dragging to create shape

Decrease star inner roundness

Page Down when dragging to create shape

Page Down when dragging to create shape

Increase number of points for star or polygon; Up Arrow when dragging to create shape
increase roundness for rounded rectangle

Up Arrow when dragging to create shape

Decrease number of points for star or
polygon; decrease roundness for rounded
rectangle

Down Arrow when dragging to create shape

Down Arrow when dragging to create shape

Reposition shape during creation

Hold spacebar when dragging to create shape Hold spacebar when dragging to create shape

Set rounded rectangle roundness to 0 (sharp
corners); decrease polygon and star outer
roundness

Left Arrow when dragging to create shape

Left Arrow when dragging to create shape

Set rounded rectangle roundness to
maximum; increase polygon and star outer
roundness

Right Arrow when dragging to create shape

Right Arrow when dragging to create shape

Constrain rectangles to squares; constrain
ellipses to circles; constrain polygons and
stars to zero rotation

Shift when dragging to create shape

Shift when dragging to create shape

Change outer radius of star

Ctrl when dragging to create shape

Command when dragging to create shape

Markers (keyboard shortcuts)
Result

Windows

Mac OS

Set marker at current time (works during
preview and audio-only preview)

* (multiply) on numeric keypad

* (multiply) on numeric keypad or Control+8
on main keyboard

Set marker at current time and open marker
dialog box

Alt+* (multiply) on numeric keypad

Option+* (multiply) on numeric keypad or
Control+Option+8 on main keyboard

Set and number a composition marker (0-9) at Shift+0-9 on main keyboard
the current time

Shift+0-9 on main keyboard

Go to a composition marker (0-9)

0-9 on main keyboard

0-9 on main keyboard

Display the duration between two layer
markers or keyframes in the Info panel

Alt-click the markers or keyframes

Option-click the markers or keyframes

Remove marker

Ctrl-click marker

Command-click marker

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Motion tracking (keyboard shortcuts)
Result

Windows

Mac OS

Move feature region, search region, and
attach point 1 pixel at current magnification

arrow key

arrow key

Move feature region, search region, and
Shift+arrow key
attach point 10 pixels at current magnification

Shift+arrow key

Move feature region and search region 1 pixel Alt+arrow key
at current magnification

Option+arrow key

Move feature region and search region 10
pixels at current magnification

Option+Shift+arrow key

Alt+Shift+arrow key

Saving, exporting, and rendering (keyboard shortcuts)
Result

Windows

Mac OS

Save project

Ctrl+S

Command+S

Increment and save project

Ctrl+Alt+Shift+S

Command+Option+Shift+S

Save As

Ctrl+Shift+S

Command+Shift+S

Add active composition or selected items to
render queue

Ctrl+Shift+/ (on main keyboard)

Command+Shift+/ (on main keyboard)

Add current frame to render queue

Ctrl+Alt+S

Command+Option+S

Duplicate render item with same output
filename as original

Ctrl+Shift+D

Command+Shift+D

Note: On Mac OS, some keyboard commands used to interact with the operating system conflict with keyboard commands
for interacting with After Effects. Select Use System Shortcut Keys in the General preferences to override the After Effects
keyboard command in some cases in which there’s a conflict with the Mac OS keyboard command.

Keyboard shortcuts graphic
Click the link below to download a pdf of about 50 of the more commonly used and pouplar keyboard shortcuts.
AE_KeyboardShortcuts.pdf

Working with After Effects and other applications
Working with Adobe Bridge and After Effects
Adobe Bridge is the control center for Adobe Creative Suite software. Use Adobe Bridge to browse for project templates
and animation presets; run cross-product workflow automation scripts; view and manage files and folders; organize
your files by assigning keywords, labels, and ratings to them; search for files and folders; and view, edit, and add
metadata.

• To open Adobe Bridge from After Effects, choose File > Browse In Bridge.

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• To reveal a file in Adobe Bridge, select a file in the Project panel and choose File > Reveal In Bridge.
• To use Adobe Bridge to browse for animation presets, choose Animation > Browse Presets.
Adobe Bridge is part of the Creative Cloud suite of applications and can be downloaded and installed through Creative
Cloud. See the help documentation and the Adobe Bridge CC product page for more information.
See this video to get an overview of Adobe Bridge CC.
After Effects includes template projects that include entire DVD menus for you to use as a basis for your own DVD
menus. To use Adobe Bridge to browse and import these template projects, choose File > Browse Template Projects. (See
Template projects and example projects.)

Working with Photoshop and After Effects
If you use Photoshop to create still images, you can use After Effects to bring those still images together and make them
move and change. In After Effects, you can animate an entire Photoshop image or any of its layers. You can even
animate individual properties of Photoshop images, such as the properties of a layer style. If you use After Effects to
create movies, you can use Photoshop to refine the individual frames of those movies.

Comparative advantages for specific tasks
The strengths of After Effects are in its animation and automation features. This means that After Effects excels at tasks
that can be automated from one frame to another. For example, you can use the motion tracking features of After Effects
to track the motion of a microphone boom, and then automatically apply that same motion to a stroke made with the
Clone Stamp tool. In this manner, you can remove the microphone from every frame of a shot, without having to paint
the microphone out by hand on each frame.
In contrast, Photoshop has excellent tools for painting and drawing.
Deciding which application to use for painting depends on the task. Paint strokes in Photoshop directly affect the pixels
of the layer. Paint strokes in After Effects are elements of an effect, each of which can be turned on or off or modified
at any time. If you want to have complete control of each paint stroke after you’ve applied it, or if you want to animate
the paint strokes themselves, use the After Effects paint tools. If the purpose of applying a paint stroke is to permanently
modify a still image, use the Photoshop paint tools. If you are applying several paint strokes by hand to get rid of dust,
consider using the Photoshop paint tools.
The animation and video features in Photoshop Extended include simple keyframe-based animation. After Effects uses
a similar interface, though the breadth and flexibility of its animation features are far greater.
After Effects can also automatically create 3D layers to mimic the planes created by the Photoshop Vanishing Point
feature.

Exchanging still images
After Effects can import and export still images in many formats, but you will usually want to use the native Photoshop
PSD format when transferring individual frames or still image sequences between After Effects and Photoshop.
When importing or exporting a PSD file, After Effects can preserve individual layers, masks, layer styles, and most
other attributes. When you import a PSD file into After Effects, you can choose whether to import it as a flattened image
or as a composition with its layers separate and intact.
It is often a good idea to prepare a still image in Photoshop before importing it into After Effects. Examples of such
preparation include correcting color, scaling, and cropping. It is often better for you to do something once to the source
image in Photoshop than to have After Effects perform the same operation many times per second as it renders each
frame for previews or final output.

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By creating your new PSD document from the Photoshop New File dialog box with a Film & Video preset, you can start
with a document that is set up correctly for a specific video output type. If you are already working in After Effects, you
can create a new PSD document that matches your composition and project settings by choosing File > New > Adobe
Photoshop File.

Exchanging movies
You can also exchange video files, such as QuickTime movies, between Photoshop and After Effects. When you open a
movie in Photoshop, a video layer is created that refers to the source footage file. Video layers allow you to paint
nondestructively on the movie’s frames, much as After Effects works with layers with movies as their sources. When
you save a PSD file with a video layer, you save the edits that you made to the video layer, not edits to the source footage
itself.
You can also render a movie directly from Photoshop. For example, you can create a QuickTime movie from Photoshop
that can then be imported into After Effects.

Color
After Effects works internally with colors in an RGB (red, green, blue) color space. Though After Effects can convert
CMYK images to RGB, you should do video and animation work in Photoshop in RGB.
If relevant for your final output, it is better to ensure that the colors in your image are broadcast-safe in Photoshop
before you import the image into After Effects. A good way to do this is to assign the appropriate destination color
space—for example, SDTV (Rec. 601)—to the document in Photoshop. After Effects performs color management
according to color profiles embedded in documents, including imported PSD files.

Working with Flash and After Effects
If you use Adobe® Flash® to create video or animation, you can use After Effects to edit and refine the video. For
example, from Flash you can export animations and applications as QuickTime movies or Flash Video (FLV) files. You
can then use After Effects to edit and refine the video.
If you use After Effects to edit and composite video, you can then use Flash to publish that video.
Flash and After Effects use separate terms for some concepts that they share in common. The following table lists the
differences between the terms used in the two applications:
After Effects

Flash Professional

Composition

Movie Clip

Composition frame (Composition panel)

Stage

Project panel

Library panel

Project files

FLA files

Render and export a movie

Publish SWF file

Additional resources
The following articles provide additional information about using Flash and After Effects together:

• Richard Harrington and Marcus Geduld provide an excerpt, "Flash Essentials for After Effects Users", of their book
After Effects for Flash | Flash for After Effects on the Peachpit website. In this chapter, Richard and Marcus explain
Flash in terms that an After Effects user can understand. http://www.peachpit.com/articles/article.aspx?p=1350895

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• Richard Harrington and Marcus Geduld also provide "After Effects Essentials for Flash Users", another excerpt from
their book After Effects for Flash | Flash for After Effects. In this chapter, Richard and Marcus explain After Effects
in terms that a Flash user can understand. http://www.peachpit.com/articles/article.aspx?p=1350894
• Robert Powers provides a video tutorial on the Slippery Rock NYC website that shows the basics of using After
Effects from the perspective of someone who is familiar with Flash Professional.
Exporting QuickTime video from Flash
If you create animations or applications with Flash, you can export them as QuickTime movies using the File > Export
> Export Movie command in Flash. For a Flash animation, you can optimize the video output for animation. For a Flash
application, Flash renders video of the application as it runs, allowing the user to manipulate it. This lets you capture
the branches or states of your application that you want to include in the video file.
Importing and publishing video in Flash
When you import a movie file into Flash, you can use various techniques, such as scripting or Flash components, to
control the visual interface that surrounds your video. For example, you might include playback controls or other
graphics. You can also add graphic layers on top of the movie for composite results.
Composite graphics, animation, and video
Flash and After Effects each include many capabilities that allow you to perform complex compositing of video and
graphics. Which application you choose to use will depend on your personal preferences and the type of final output
you want to create.
Flash is the more web-oriented of the two applications, with its small final file size. Flash also allows for run-time
control of animation. After Effects is oriented toward video and film production, provides a wide range of visual effects,
and is generally used to create video files as final output.
Both applications can be used to create original graphics and animation. Both use a timeline and offer scripting
capabilities for controlling animation programmatically. After Effects includes a larger set of effects.
Both applications allow you to place graphics on separate layers for compositing. These layers can be turned on and off
as needed. Both also allow you to apply effects to the contents of individual layers.
In Flash, composites do not affect the video content directly; they affect only the appearance of the video during
playback in Flash Player. In contrast, when you composite with imported video in After Effects, the video file you
export actually incorporates the composited graphics and effects.
Because all drawing and painting in After Effects is done on layers separate from any imported video, it is always nondestructive. Flash has both destructive and nondestructive drawing modes.

Importing Flash SWF files into After Effects
Flash has a unique set of vector art tools that make it useful for a variety of drawing tasks not possible in After Effects
or Adobe® Illustrator®. You can import SWF files into After Effects to composite them with other video or render them
as video with additional creative effects. Interactive content and scripted animation are not retained. Animation
defined by keyframes is retained.
Each SWF file imported into After Effects is flattened into a single continuously rasterized layer, with its alpha channel
preserved. Continuous rasterization means that graphics stay sharp as they are scaled up. This import method allows
you to use the root layer or object of your SWF files as a smoothly rendered element in After Effects, allowing the best
capabilities of each tool to work together.

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Working with Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects
Adobe Premiere Pro is designed to capture, import, and edit movies. After Effects is designed to create motion graphics,
apply visual effects, composite visual elements, perform color correction, and perform other post-production tasks for
movies.
You can easily exchange projects, compositions, sequences, tracks, and layers between After Effects and Adobe
Premiere Pro:

• You can import an Adobe Premiere Pro project into After Effects. See Import an Adobe Premiere Pro project.
• You can export an After Effects project as an Adobe Premiere Pro project. See Export an After Effects project as an
Adobe Premiere Pro project .
• You can copy and paste layers and tracks between After Effects and Adobe Premiere Pro. See Copy between After
Effects and Adobe Premiere Pro.
• You can render and replace After Effects compositions in Premiere Pro to speed up VFX-heavy sequences. See
Render and Replace After Effects compositions in Adobe Premiere Pro .)
If you have Adobe Premiere Pro, you can do the following:

• Use Adobe Dynamic Link to work with After Effects compositions in Adobe Premiere Pro. A dynamically linked
composition appears as a clip in Adobe Premiere Pro.
• Use Adobe Dynamic Link to work with Adobe Premiere Pro sequences in After Effects. A dynamically linked
sequence appears as a footage item in After Effects.
• Start After Effects from within Premiere Pro and create a new composition with settings that match the settings of
your Premiere Pro project.
• Select a set of clips in Adobe Premiere Pro and convert them to a composition in After Effects.
For information on using Dynamic Link with After Effects and Premiere Pro, see Dynamic Link and After Effects and
Dynamic Link sections in Adobe Premiere Pro Help.

Working with Adobe Media Encoder and After Effects
You can use Adobe Media Encoder to export video from After Effects. Use Adobe Media Encoder to encode formats
like H.264, MPEG-2, and WMV. Formats such as these are encoded at a higher quality than the Render Queue. Other
formats, are available in Adobe Media Encoder, but not in After Effects. For example, the DNxHD format is available
in Adobe Media Encoder CC, but not in After Effects CC.
You can add After Effects project files to a watch folder in Adobe Media encoder, and the project is automatically added
to the encoding queue Adobe Media Encoder. See the Import files with Watch folder section in Adobe Media Encoder
for detailed information.
For details about using Adobe Media Encoder with After Effects, see Render and export with Adobe Media Encoder.
See this tutorial to learn how to export After Effects compositions using Adobe Media Encoder.

Edit in Adobe Audition
While working in After Effects, you can use the more comprehensive audio-editing capabilities of Adobe Audition to
fine-tune your audio. You can use the Edit in Adobe Audition command to start Adobe Audition from within After
Effects.

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If you edit an audio-only file (for example, a WAV file) in Adobe Audition, you change the original file. If you edit a
layer that contains both audio and video (for example, an AVI file), you edit a copy of the source audio file.
1 Select the layer that contains the audio that you want to edit. The item must be of a type that is editable in Adobe

Audition.
2 Choose Edit > Edit In Adobe Audition to open the clip in Edit view in Adobe Audition.
3 Edit the file, and then do one of the following:

• If you’re editing an audio-only layer, choose File > Save to apply your edits to the original audio file. You can also
choose File > Save As to apply your edits to a copy of the audio file. If you choose File > Save As, import the copy
of the file into After Effects.
• If you’re editing a layer that contains both audio and video, choose File > Save As. After you save the file, import
it into After Effects. Then, add it to the composition, and mute the original audio in the audio-video clip by
deselecting the Audio switch in the Timeline panel.
Note: Any effects applied to audio in After Effects aren’t included in the copy that is sent to Adobe Audition.
Tutorials and resources about using Adobe Audition to modify audio from After Effects can be found on this post from
the After Effects Region of Interest blog.

More Help topics
Adobe Bridge
Template projects and example projects
Animation presets overview and resources
Preparing and importing Photoshop files
3D object layers from Photoshop
Video and animation overview
3D
Vanishing Point
Web links, chapter links, cue points, and markers
Importing from Adobe After Effects

After Effects keyboard shortcuts
Keyboard shortcuts are a great way to speed up your tasks and also work more efficiently. Here is a downloadable
shortcuts graphic of about 50 of the more commonly used and popular After Effects shortcuts.
AfterEffects_KeyboardShortcuts.pdf
The complete list of After Effects keyboard shortcuts is available here .

Workspaces, panels, and viewers

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Workspaces and panels
Adobe video and audio applications provide a consistent, customizable user interface. Although each application has
its own set of panels, you move and group panels in the same way in each application.
The main window of a program is the application window. Panels are organized in this window in an arrangement
called a workspace.
Each application includes several predefined workspaces that optimize the layout of panels for specific tasks. You can
also create and customize your own workspaces by arranging panels in the layout that best suits your working style for
specific tasks.
You can drag panels to new locations, move panels into or out of a group, place panels alongside each other, and undock
a panel so that it floats in a new window above the application window. As you rearrange panels, the other panels resize
automatically to fit the window.

A Application window B Grouped panels C Individual panel

To increase the available screen space, use multiple monitors. When you work with multiple monitors, the application
window appears on the main monitor, and you place floating windows on the second monitor. Monitor configurations
are stored in the workspace.
Workspaces are stored in XML files in the preferences folder. With some caveats regarding monitor size and layout,
these workspaces can be moved to another computer and used there.

• (Windows) [drive]:\Users\[user_name]\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\After Effects\13.0\ModifiedWorkspaces
• (Mac OS) [drive]/Users/[user_name]/Library/Preferences/Adobe/After Effects/13.0/ModifiedWorkspaces
See this video tutorial about workspaces by Andrew Devis on the Creative Cow website for more details.

Choose a workspace
• Choose Window > Workspace, and select the desired workspace.
• Choose a workspace from the Workspace menu in the Tools panel.
• If the workspace has a keyboard shortcut assigned, press Shift+F10, Shift+F11, or Shift+F12.
To assign a keyboard shortcut to the current workspace, choose Window > Assign Shortcut To [Workspace Name]
Workspace.

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Save, reset, or delete workspaces
Save a custom workspace
As you customize a workspace, the application tracks your changes, storing the most recent layout. To store a specific
layout more permanently, save a custom workspace. Saved custom workspaces appear in the Workspace menu, where
you can return to and reset them.
❖ Arrange the frames and panels as desired, and then choose Window > Workspace > New Workspace. Type a name

for the workspace, and click OK.
Note: (After Effects, Premiere Pro) If a project saved with a custom workspace is opened on another system, the application
looks for a workspace with a matching name. If the application cannot find a match (or the monitor configuration doesn’t
match), it uses the current local workspace.
Reset a workspace
Reset the current workspace to return to its original, saved layout of panels.
❖ Choose Window > Workspace > Reset workspace name.

Delete a workspace
1 Choose Window > Workspace >Delete Workspace.
2 Choose the workspace you want to delete, and then click OK.

Note: You cannot delete the currently active workspace.

Dock, group, or float panels
You can dock panels together, move them into or out of groups, and undock them so they float above the application
window. As you drag a panel, drop zones—areas onto which you can move the panel—become highlighted. The drop
zone you choose determines where the panel is inserted, and whether it docks or groups with other panels.
Docking zones
Docking zones exist along the edges of a panel, group, or window. Docking a panel places it adjacent to the existing
group, resizing all groups to accommodate the new panel.

Grouping zones

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Grouping zones exist in the middle of a panel or group, and along the tab area of panels. Dropping a panel on a grouping
zone stacks it with other panels.

Dock or group panels
1 If the panel you want to dock or group is not visible, choose it from the Window menu.
2 Do one of the following:

• To move an individual panel, drag the gripper area in the upper-left corner of a panel’s tab onto the desired drop
zone.

• To move an entire group, drag the group gripper in the upper-right corner onto the desired drop zone.

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The application docks or groups the panel, according to the type of drop zone.
Undock a panel in a floating window
When you undock a panel in a floating window, you can add panels to the window and modify it similarly to the
application window. You can use floating windows to use a secondary monitor, or to create workspaces like the
workspaces in earlier versions of Adobe applications.
❖ Select the panel you want to undock (if it’s not visible, choose it from the Window menu), and then do one of the

following:

• Choose Undock Panel or Undock Frame from the panel menu. Undock Frame undocks the panel group.
• Hold down Ctrl (Windows®) or Command (Mac OS®), and drag the panel or group from its current location.
When you release the mouse button, the panel or group appears in a new floating window.
• Drag the panel or group outside the application window. (If the application window is maximized, drag the panel
to the Windows taskbar.)

Resize panel groups
To quickly maximize a panel beneath the pointer, press the ` (accent grave) key. (The accent grave is the unshifted
character under the tilde, ~, on standard US keyboards.) Press the key again to return the panel to its original size.
When you drag the divider between panel groups, all groups that share the divider are resized.
1 Do either of the following:

• To resize either horizontally or vertically, position the pointer between two panel groups. The pointer becomes
.
a double arrow
• To resize in both directions at once, position the pointer at the intersection between three or more panel groups.
.
The pointer becomes a four-way arrow
2 Hold down the mouse button, and drag to resize the panel groups.

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A Original group with resize pointer B Resized groups

Open, close, and show panels and windows
Even if a panel is open, it may be out of sight, beneath other panels. Choosing a panel from the Window menu opens it
and brings it to the front of its group.
When you close a panel group in the application window, the other groups resize to use the newly available space. When
you close a floating window, the panels within it close, too.

• To open or close a panel, choose the panel from the Window menu.
• To close a panel or window, click its Close button . If you accidentally close a panel, choose the panel from the
Window menu, and the panel will be displayed again.
• To open or close a panel, use its keyboard shortcut.
• If a frame contains multiple panels, place the pointer over a tab and roll the mouse scroll wheel forward or backward
to change which panel is active.
• If a frame contains more grouped panels than can be shown at once, drag the scroll bar that appears above the tabs.

Viewers
A viewer is a panel that can contain multiple compositions, layers, or footage items, or multiple views of one such item.
The Composition, Layer, Footage, Flowchart, and Effect Controls panels are viewers.

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Locking a viewer prevents the currently displayed item from being replaced when you open or select a new item.
Instead, when a viewer is locked and a new item is opened or selected, After Effects creates a new viewer panel for that
item. If you select the item from the viewer menu of a locked viewer, a new viewer isn't created; the existing viewer is
used.
Instead of housing multiple items in a single viewer and using the viewer menu to switch between them, you can choose
to open a separate viewer for each open composition, layer, or footage item. When you have multiple viewers open, you
can arrange them by docking or grouping them, like any other panels.
For example, you can create one Composition viewer each for different 3D views (Top, Bottom, Back, Front, custom
views) so that you can maximize each of the views with the ` (accent grave) keyboard shortcut, which maximizes or
restores the panel under the pointer.
To create a custom workspace with multiple viewers, ensure that all viewers are unlocked before you save the workspace.
Locked viewers are associated with a specific project context and are therefore not saved in the preferences file.

• To create a new viewer, choose New from the viewer menu. (See Open panel, viewer, and context menus.)
• To lock or unlock a viewer, choose Locked from the viewer menu, or click the Toggle Viewer Lock

button.

• To lock the current viewer, split the current frame, and create a new viewer of the same type in the new frame, press
Ctrl+Alt+Shift+N (Windows) or Command+Option+Shift+N (Mac OS).
• To cycle forward or backward through the items in the viewer menu list for the active viewer, press Shift+period (.)
or Shift+comma (,).

Edit this, look at that (ETLAT) and locked Composition viewers
If a Composition viewer is locked, the Timeline panel for another composition is active, and the Composition viewer
for the active composition is not shown, then most commands that affect views and previews operate on the
composition for which the viewer is shown.
For example, pressing the spacebar can start a standard preview for the composition visible in a locked Composition
viewer rather than the composition associated with the active Timeline panel.
This behavior facilitates a working setup sometimes referred to as edit-this-look-at-that (ETLAT). The most common
scenario in which this behavior is useful is the scenario in which you make a change in the Timeline panel for a nested
(upstream) composition and want to preview the result of the change in a containing (downstream) composition.
Note: ETLAT behavior works for keyboard shortcuts for zooming, fitting, previewing, taking and viewing snapshots,
showing channels, showing and hiding grids and guides, and showing the current frame on a video preview device.
To prevent this behavior, unlock the Composition viewer or show the Composition viewer for the composition that you
want to view or preview.
See this video on the Video2Brain website to learn about the improvements in ETLAT (edit-this-look-at-that) workflow
in After Effects CS5.5 and later.

More Help topics
Panels, viewers, workspaces, and windows (keyboard shortcuts)
Choose a viewer to always preview
Previews (keyboard shortcuts)
Views (keyboard shortcuts)
About precomposing and nesting

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Preferences
The following sections describe the Preferences menu and and the various tasks that can be performed using this menu.

The Preferences menu

To open the Preferences menu, go to:

• Edit > Preferences > [category name] (Windows)
• After Effects > Preferences > [category name] (Mac OS)
Use the following keyboard shortcuts to open the Preferences > General menu:

• Ctrl+Alt+; (semicolon) (Windows)
• Command+Option+; (semicolon) (Mac OS)

Reset preferences
To restore the default preference settings, press and hold the following keys while the application is starting.

• Ctrl+Alt+Shift (Windows)
• Command+Option+Shift (Mac OS)
To restore default keyboard shortcuts, Alt-click (Windows) or Option-click (Mac OS) the OK button.

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Reveal preferences
Preferences, including keyboard shortcuts and workspaces, are stored as files in the following locations:

• (Windows) \Users\\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\After Effects\13.0
• (Mac OS) /Users//Library/Preferences/Adobe/After Effects/13.0
To reveal the preferences in After Effects without searching on your hard drive, go to:

• Edit > Preferences > General and click Reveal Preferences in Explorer button (Windows)
• After Effects > Preferences > General and click Reveal Preferences in Finder button (Mac OS)
It is recommended that you do not modify the files in this directory manually; use the Preferences dialog box to modify
the preferences. For information on modifying keyboard shortcuts, see Modify keyboard shortcuts. For information
on managing workspaces, see Workspaces and Panels.
Note: The Library folder in Mac OS X is hidden. See the following article to learn how to access hidden user files on Mac
OS:http://helpx.adobe.com/x-productkb/global/access-hidden-user-library-files.html
The following list briefly describes the different options listed under the Edit > Preferences menu, especially those
options that are not self-explanatory.

General preferences
• Levels Of Undo: Undo changes
• Path Point Size: Specifies size of Bezier direction handles and vertices for masks and shapes, direction handles for
motion paths, and other similar controls.
• Show Tool Tips: After Effects user interface tips
• Create Layers At Composition Start Time: Layers overview
• Switches Affect Nested Comps: About precomposing and nesting
• Default Spatial Interpolation To Linear: About spatial and temporal keyframe interpolation
• Preserve Constant Vertex Count When Editing Masks: Designate the first vertex for a Bezier path
Pen Tool Shortcut Toggles Between Pen and MaskFeather Tools: Variable-width mask feather

• Synchronize Time Of All Related Items: Preferences and composition settings that affect nested compositions
• Expression Pick Whip Writes Compact English: Edit an expression with the pick whip
• Create Split Layers Above Original Layer: Split a layer
• Allow Scripts To Write Files And Access Network: Loading and running scripts
• Enable JavaScript Debugger: After Effects scripting guide at the Adobe After Effects Developer Center on the Adobe
website
• Use System Color Picker: Choose a color picker
• Create New Layers At Best Quality: Layer image quality and subpixel positioning
• Use System Shortcut Keys (Mac OS only): Keyboard shortcuts reference
• Dynamic Link with After Effects Uses Project File Name with Highest Number: About Dynamic Link (Production
Premium or Master Collection only)

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Previews preferences
• Adaptive Resolution Limit: Preview modes and Fast Previews preferences
Also, see Fast Previews (CS6).
The GPU Information dialog box is available to check the texture memory for your GPU, and to set the ray-tracing
preference to the GPU, if it is available. The OptiX version number is available, as well as the Copy button to copy
the general information at the top of the dialog box to the system clipboard.

• Viewer Quality (Zoom Quality and Color Management Quality): Viewer Quality preferences
• Audio Preview Duration: Preview video and audio

Display preferences
• Motion Path: Motion paths
• Disable Thumbnails In Project Panel: Composition thumbnail images
• Show Rendering Progress In Info Panel And Flowchart: Preview video and audio
• Hardware Accelerate Composition, Layer, And Footage Panels: Improve performance

Import preferences
• Still Footage: Create layers from footage items or change layer source
• Sequence Footage: Import a single still image or a still-image sequence
• Interpret Unlabeled Alpha As: Alpha channel interpretation: premultiplied or straight
• Drag Import Multiple Items As: Import footage items by dragging
• There is a dropdown menu to choose drop-frame or non-drop-frame timecode for Indeterminate Media NTSC,
which applies to imports like still image sequences in which timecode values are not present or are unknown.

Output preferences
• Segment Sequences At, Segment Movie Files At, and Audio Block Duration: Segment settings
• Use Default File Name And Folder: Name output files automatically

Grids & Guides preferences
• Safe zones, grids, guides, and rulers

Labels preferences
• Color labels for layers, compositions, and footage items

Media & Disk Cache preferences
• Enable Disk Cache and Maximum Disk Cache Size: Caches: RAM cache, disk cache, and media cache
• Conformed Media Cache and Clean Database & Cache: Media cache
• Create Layer Markers From Footage XMP Metadata and Write XMP IDs To Files On Import: XMP metadata in
After Effects

Video Preview preferences
• Preview on an external video monitor

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Appearance preferences
• Use Label Color For Layer Handles And Paths and Use Label Color For Related Tabs: Color labels for layers,
compositions, and footage items
• Cycle Mask Colors: Cycle through colors for mask paths
• Use Gradients: Use gradients in user interface.
• Brightness: Brightens or darkens user interface (UI) colors.

Auto-Save preferences
Project links embedded in QuickTime, Video for Windows files

Memory & Multiprocessing preferences
Memory & Multiprocessing preferences

Audio Hardware and Audio Output Mapping preferences
Preview video and audio

Sync Settings
The Sync Settings feature enables you to synchronize preferences and settings through the Creative Cloud. For detailed
information, see the Sync Settings article.

Migrate settings from previous versions
After Effects will prompt you to migrate settings from a previous version if it finds a preference folder from a previous
version and no preference folder for the current version. This occurs when you start After Effects for the first time and
when you delete the entire preferences folder.
If you want to migrate settings from your previous version of After Effects, see the Migrating your settings from a
previous minor version of After Effects section.

Sync Settings
When you work on multiple computers, managing and syncing preferences among the computers can be timeconsuming, complex, and error prone.
The new Sync Settings feature in After Effects enables you to sync preferences and settings via Creative Cloud. For
example, if you use two computers, the Sync Settings feature makes it easy for you to keep those settings synchronized
across these two computers.
The synchronization takes place via your Adobe Creative Cloud account. Settings are uploaded to your Creative Cloud
account and then are downloaded and applied on the other computer. You can also synchronize settings from another
Creative Cloud account. After Effects creates a user profile on your computer and uses it to synchronize settings to and
from the associated Creative Cloud account.
You can initiate the synchronization manually; it does not happen automatically and it cannot be scheduled.

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Synchronize your settings
To initiate the synchronization, choose Edit > [your Adobe ID] > Sync Settings Now (Windows) or After Effects > [your
Adobe ID] > Sync Settings Now.

• Download Settings: Synchronize Settings from Creative Cloud to your computer; overwrite the local version with
the Creative Cloud version of settings.
• Upload Settings: Synchronize settings from this local computer to Creative Cloud.
Progress and details about the synchronization is displayed in the Info panel (Window > Info).
Restart After Effects to apply downloaded preferences after using Sync Settings .

Synchronize settings from a different account
By default, the Adobe ID associated with the license for the product is used to synchronize the preferences. To use a
different Adobe ID to synchronize the settings, from the Edit menu (Windows) or After Effects menu (Mac OS), choose
[your Adobe ID] > Use Settings From a Different Account. Enter the Adobe ID and password.

Managing synchronization

Clear Settings
Select Edit > [your Adobe ID] > Clear Settings (Windows) or After Effects [your Adobe ID] > Clear Settings (Mac OS),
to clear all settings and reset them to the default state. Clear Settings also resets the token that is used to indicate the
user's settings that was used to sync the settings.

Click Quit to clear the current preferences, and close After Effects. When the application is launched again, default
preferences are set.

Manage Sync Settings
To change the settings for the Sync Settings feature (Windows):

• Click Edit > [your Adobe ID] > Manage Sync Settings
• Click Edit > Preferences > Sync Settings

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To change the settings for the Sync Settings feature (Mac OS):

• Click After Effects > [your Adobe ID] > Manage Sync Settings
• Click After Effects > Preferences > Sync Settings

You can change the following settings in the settings dialog:
Automatically clear user profile on application quit Enable this option to clear the user profile when you quit After
Effects. On next launch, preferences are fetched from the default Adobe ID used to license the product.

Select the preferences to synchronize.
1 Synchronizable Preferences
2 Keyboard Shortcuts
3 Composition Settings Presets
4 Interpretation Rules
5 Render Settings Templates
6 Output Module Settings Templates

Note: Synchronizable preferences refer to preferences that are not dependent on computer or hardware settings.
Note: Keyboard shortcuts created for Windows synchronize only with Windows and Mac OS keyboard shortcuts
synchronize only with Mac OS.
Choose one of the following options from the drop-down menu to instruct After Effects when to synchronize the
settings :

• Ask my preference
• Always Upload Settings
• Always Download Settings
Note: The Sync Settings feature does not synchronize files that are manually placed in the preferences folder location.

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Modify keyboard shortcuts
To modify keyboard shortcuts in After Effects, do the following:
1 In After Effects, depending on your operating system, select:

• Edit > Preferences > General (Windows)
• After Effects > Preferences > General (Mac OS)
2 On the Preferences dialog, click the Reveal Preferences in Explorer (Windows) or Reveal Preferences in Finder

(MAC OS) button.
3 The Install Directory is opened, with the Preferences file selected. Depending on your operating system, open either

of the following files:

• Adobe After Effects  Win en_US Shortcuts.txt OR
• Adobe After Effects  Mac en_US Shortcuts.txt
You can modify keyboard shortcuts in this text file.
Note: If you modify a keyboard shortcut to a combination that already exists, it results in a conflict. Ensure that the new
combination you enter has not been used already.
Note: On Mac OS, some keyboard commands for interacting with the operating system conflict with keyboard commands
for interacting with After Effects. Select Use System Shortcut Keys in the General preferences to override the After Effects
keyboard command in some cases in which there’s a conflict with the Mac OS keyboard command.

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Chapter 3: Projects and compositions

Projects
About projects
An After Effects project is a single file that stores compositions and references to all of the source files used by footage
items in that project. Compositions are collections of layers. Many layers use footage items (such as movies or still
images) as a source, though some layers—such as shape layers and text layers—contain graphics that you create within
After Effects.
A project file has the filename extension .aep or .aepx. A project file with the .aep filename extension is a binary project
file. A project file with the .aepx filename extension is a text-based XML project file.
The name of the current project appears at the top of the application window.
A template project file has the filename extension .aet. (See Template projects and example projects.)

XML project files
Text-based XML project files contain some project information as hexadecimal-encoded binary data, but much of the
information is exposed as human-readable text in string elements. You can open an XML project file in a text editor
and edit some details of the project without opening the project in After Effects. You can even write scripts that modify
project information in XML project files as part of an automated workflow.
Elements of a project that you can modify in an XML project file:

• Marker attributes, including comments, chapter point parameters, and cue point parameters
• File paths of source footage items, including proxies
• Composition, footage item, layer, and folder names and comments
Note: Footage item names are exposed in string elements in XML project files only if the names have been customized.
Footage item names derived automatically from the names of source files and solid color names are not exposed in string
elements
Some strings, such as workspace and view names, are exposed as human-readable strings, but modifications made to
these strings are not respected when After Effects opens the project file.
Note: Do not use the XML project file format as your primary file format. The primary project file format for After Effects
is the binary project file (.aep) format. Use the XML project file format to save a copy of a project and as an intermediate
format for automation workflows.
To save an XML project (.aepx) file as a binary project (.aep) file, choose File > Save As and enter a file name ending
with .aep, without the x. (See Save and back up projects in After Effects CS5 .)

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Project links embedded in QuickTime, Video for Windows files
When you render a movie and export it to a container format, you can embed a link to the After Effects project in the
container file.
To import the project, import the container file, and choose Project from the Import As menu in the Import File dialog
box. If the container file contains a link to a project that has been moved, you can browse to locate the project.

Create and open projects
Only one project can be open at a time. If you create or open another project file while a project is open, After Effects
prompts you to save changes in the open project, and then closes it. After you create a project, you can import footage
into the project.

• To create a project, choose File > New > New Project.
• To open a project, choose File > Open Project, locate the project, and then click Open.
Jeff Almasol provides a script on his redefinery website that creates and saves a new project for each selected
composition in the current project.

Template projects and example projects
A template project is a file with the filename extension .aet. You can use the many template projects included with After
Effects—including DVD menu templates—as the basis for your own projects, and you can create new templates base
on your projects
Note: After Effects CC does not install template projects, however, you can download the same template projects that came
with previous versions of After Effects on the After Effects Exchange. For more information, see this post on the After Effects
team blog.
When you open a template project, After Effects creates a new, untitled project based on the template. Saving changes
to this new project does not affect the template project.
A great way to see how advanced users use After Effects is to open one of the template projects included with After
Effects, open a composition to activate it, and press U or UU to reveal only the animated or modified layer properties.
Viewing the animated and modified properties shows you what changes the designer of the template project made to create
the template.
Often, the creator of a template project locks layers that should be left unmodified, and leaves layers that should be
modified unlocked. This is a convenient way to prevent accidental or inappropriate modifications.
For more sources of After Effects example projects and template projects, see After Effects community resources on the
Adobe website.
See this video tutorial by Andrew Devis on the Creative Cow website for information about where to find template
projects and sample expressions included with After Effects.

Open a template project
• To open a template project, choose File > Open Project. On Windows, choose Adobe After Effects Project Template
from the Files Of Type menu.

Create a template project
• To convert a project to a template project, change the filename extension from .aep to .aet.

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• To save a copy of a project as a template project, choose File > Save A Copy, and then rename the copy with the
filename extension .aet.

Save and back up projects in After Effects
• To save a project, choose File > Save.
• To save a copy of the project with a new automatically generated name, choose File > Increment And Save, or press
Ctrl+Alt+Shift+S (Windows) or Command+Option+Shift+S (Mac OS).
• A copy of the current project is saved in the same folder as the original project. The name of the copy is the name of
the original followed by a number. If the name of the original ends with a number, that number is increased by 1.
• To save the project with a different name or to a different location, choose File > Save As > Save As. The open project
takes the new name and location; the original file remains unchanged.
• To save the project as a copy in the XML project file format, choose File > Save As > Save A Copy As XML. (See
About projects.)
• To save a copy of the project with a different name or to a different location, choose File > Save As > Save A Copy.
The open project retains its original name and location, and a copy is created with the new settings but is not opened.
• In After Effects CC (12), to save a project that can be opened in After Effects CS6, choose File > Save As > Save A
Copy As CS6.
• In After Effects CC 2014, to save a project that can be opened in After Effects CC (12), choose File > Save As > Save
A Copy As CC (12).
To save a copy of the project and copies of assets used in the project to a single folder on disk, use the Collect Files
command. (See Collect files in one locationsection for details).
Note: New features in the current version of After Effects that are used in a project will be ignored in the project that is saved
in the format of the previous version of After Effects.

Flowchart panel
In the flowchart for each project or composition, individual boxes (or tiles) represent each composition, footage item,
and layer. Directional arrows represent the relationships between components.
Note: The Flowchart panel shows you only the existing relationships. You cannot use it to change relationships between
elements.
Nested compositions and other elements that make up the composition appear when you expand a composition tile.
Mid-gray lines between tiles in the flowchart indicate that the Video or Audio switch for those items is deselected in
the Timeline panel. Black or light gray lines indicate that the switch is selected, depending on the Brightness setting in
the Appearance preferences.

• To open the project flowchart, press Ctrl+F11 (Windows) or Command+F11 (Mac OS), or click the Project
button at the top of the vertical scroll bar on the right edge of the Project panel.
Flowchart
• To open a composition flowchart, select the composition and choose Composition > Composition Flowchart, or
button at the bottom of the Composition panel.
click the Composition Flowchart
• To activate (select) an item, click its tile in the Flowchart panel.
When you click a composition in the flowchart, it becomes active in the Project panel and the Timeline panel. When
you click a layer, it becomes active in the Timeline panel. When you click a footage item, it becomes active in the
Project panel.

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• To customize the appearance of the flowchart, use the Flowchart panel menu and the buttons along the bottom of
the panel.
For tool tips identifying the buttons in the Flowchart panel, let your pointer hover over a button until the tool tip
appears.

• To delete elements, select them and press Delete. If the selected element is a footage item or composition, it is deleted
from the project and no longer appears in the Timeline and Project panels. If the selected element is a layer, it is
deleted from the composition in which it appears.
• To access the context menu for a selected element, right-click (Windows) or Control-click (Mac OS) the icon to the
left of the name in the element tile. The icons have various appearances, depending on the element type, such as
and compositions
. For example, you can use the context menu for a layer to work with masks and
layers
effects, or to change switches, apply transformations, and adjust layer image quality.
Note: When you change element properties in the Flowchart panel, be careful to context-click the icon in the tile, not the
name of the element. The context menu associated with the element icon is different from the one that opens from the
element name.
Rich Young provides additional information about the Flowchart panel and the Composition Mini-flowchart on the
After Effects Portal website.

More Help topics
Automation
Import an After Effects project
Lock or unlock a layer
Layer switches and columns in the Timeline panel
Opening and navigating nested compositions

Precomposing, nesting, and pre-rendering
About precomposing and nesting
If you want to group some layers that are already in a composition, you can precompose those layers. Precomposing
layers places them in a new composition, which replaces the layers in the original composition. The new nested
composition becomes the source for a single layer in the original composition. The new composition appears in the
Project panel and is available for rendering or use in any other composition. You can nest compositions by adding an
existing composition to another composition, just as you would add any other footage item to a composition.
Precomposing a single layer is useful for adding transform properties to a layer and influencing the order in which
elements of a composition are rendered.
Nesting is the inclusion of one composition within another. The nested composition appears as a layer in the containing
composition.
A nested composition is sometimes called a precomposition, which is occasionally abbreviated in casual use to precomp
or pre-comp. When a precomposition is used as the source footage item for a layer, the layer is called a precomposition
layer.

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During rendering, the image data and other information can be said to flow from each nested composition into the
composition that contains it. For this reason, nested compositions are sometimes referred to as being upstream of the
compositions that contain them, and the containing compositions are said to be downstream of the nested compositions
that they contain. A set of compositions connected through nesting is called a composition network. You can navigate
within a composition network using the Composition Navigator and Mini-Flowchart. (See Opening and navigating
nested compositions.)
Precompositions in After Effects are similar to Smart Objects in Adobe Photoshop.

Uses for precomposing and nesting
Precomposing and nesting are useful for managing and organizing complex compositions. By precomposing and
nesting, you can do the following:

• Apply complex changes to an entire composition - You can create a composition that contains multiple layers, nest
the composition within the overall composition, and animate and apply effects to the nested composition so that all
of the layers change in the same ways over the same time period.
• Reuse anything you build - You can build an animation in its own composition and then drag that composition
into other compositions as many times as you want.
• Update in one step - When you make changes to a nested composition, those changes affect every composition in
which it is used, just like changes made to a source footage item affect every composition in which it is used.
• Alter the default rendering order of a layer - You can specify that After Effects render a transformation (such as
rotation) before rendering effects, so that the effect applies to the rotated footage.
• Add another set of transform properties to a layer - The layer that represents the composition has its own
properties, in addition to the properties of the layers that it contains. This allows you to apply an additional set of
transformations to a layer or set of layers.

Preferences and composition settings that affect nested compositions
Because a precomposition is itself a layer, you can control its behavior using layer switches and composition switches
in the Timeline panel. You can choose whether changes made to the switches in the containing composition are
propagated to the nested composition. To prevent layer switches from affecting nested compositions, choose Edit >
Preferences > General (Windows) or After Effects > Preferences > General (Mac OS), and then deselect Switches Affect
Nested Comps.
In the Advanced tab of the Composition Settings dialog box (Composition > Composition Settings), choose Preserve
Resolution When Nested or Preserve Frame Rate When Nested Or In Render Queue for a composition to retain its own
resolution or frame rate, and not inherit those settings from the containing composition. For example, if you
deliberately used a low frame rate in a composition to create a jerky, hand-animated result, you should preserve the
frame rate for that composition when it is nested. Similarly, the results of rotoscoping may look wrong when converted
to a different frame rate or resolution. Use this setting instead of the Posterize Time effect, which is less efficient.
Jeff Almasol provides a script on his redefinery website that makes toggling the Preserve Resolution When Nested or
Preserve Frame Rate When Nested Or In Render Queue preference setting more convenient.
Changing the current time in one panel updates the current time in other panels associated with that composition. By
default, the current time is also updated for all compositions related to the current composition by nesting. To prevent
compositions related by nesting from updating their current times when you change the current time in one
composition, deselect the Synchronize Time Of All Related Items preference (Edit > Preferences > General (Windows)
or After Effects > Preferences > General (Mac OS)).

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Online resources about precomposing and nesting
Angie Taylor provides an extensive discussion and explanation of animation using nesting, parenting, expressions, and
null object layers in a PDF excerpt from her book Creative After Effects 7: Workflow Techniques for Animation, Visual
Effects, and Motion Graphics.
Chris and Trish Meyer provide an introduction to precomposing and nesting in a PDF excerpt from the “Parenting and
Nesting” chapter of their book After Effects Apprentice: Real-World Skills for the Aspiring Motion Graphics Artist.
Chris and Trish Meyer share tips on setting up a composition hierarchy so that making changes in a project is easier in
this article from the ProVideo Coalition website.
See this page on aescripts website for the Un-Precompose script, which extracts layers from a precomposition.
See this page on aescripts website for the Zorro-The Layer Tagger script, which allows you to group layers in your
composition using tags rather than precomposing.

Precompose layers
Precomposing layers places them in a new composition (sometimes called a precomposition), which replaces the layers
in the original composition. Precomposing a single layer is useful for adding transform properties to a layer and
influencing the order in which elements of a composition are rendered.
1 Select the layers in the Timeline panel, and choose Layer > Pre-compose or press Ctrl+Shift+C (Windows) or

Command+Shift+C (Mac OS).
2 Select one of the following:
Leave All Attributes In Leaves the properties and keyframes of the precomposed layer in the original composition,
applied to the new layer that represents the precomposition. The frame size of the new composition is the same as
the size of the selected layer. This option is not available when you select more than one layer, a text layer, or a shape
layer.
Move All Attributes Into The New Composition Moves the properties and keyframes of the precomposed layers one

level further from the root composition in the composition hierarchy. When you use this option, changes you
applied to the properties of the layers remain with the individual layers within the precomposition. The frame size
of the new composition is the same as the frame size of the original composition.
Jeff Almasol provides a script on his redefinery website that precomposes selected layers to the duration of the selected
layers, with options for head and tail durations for more editing flexibility.

Opening and navigating nested compositions
Nested compositions are sometimes referred to as being upstream of the compositions that contain them, and the
containing compositions are said to be downstream of the nested compositions that they contain. The root composition
is the most downstream; the most deeply nested composition is the most upstream. A composition flow path is a chain
of compositions that are related to one another by containing or being nested within one another. A composition
network is the entire set of compositions that are related to one another through nesting.
After Effects provides several ways to open a nested composition (precomposition):

• Double-click the composition entry in the Project panel.
• Double-click a precomposition layer in the Timeline panel. Alt-double-click (Windows) or Option-double-click
(Mac OS) to open the precomposition layer as a layer in the Layer panel.

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Note: Double-clicking a precomposition layer when a paint tool or the Roto Brush tool is active opens the layer in the Layer
panel.

• To open the most recently active composition in the same composition network as the currently active composition,
press Shift+Esc.
• Use the Composition Navigator.
• Use the Composition Mini-Flowchart.
The Composition Navigator
The Composition Navigator is a bar along the top edge of the Composition panel that shows the composition active in
that viewer in relation to other compositions in the same composition network. The compositions shown are the most
recently active compositions in the flow path of the currently active composition.

A Active (current) composition B Arrow for opening Composition Mini-Flowchart C Panel menu button D Ellipsis

Arrows between the composition names indicate the direction in which pixel information flows for this flow path. The
default is to show compositions in the Composition Navigator bar with downstream compositions on the left and
upstream compositions on the right. This default is indicated by the Flow Right To Left option in the Composition
panel menu. To show compositions in the other order, choose Flow Left To Right. This setting is a global preference; it
applies to all compositions and to the Composition Mini-Flowchart view.
The names of downstream compositions are dim to indicate that their contents are not used or shown in the active
composition.

• To show or hide the Composition Navigator bar, choose Show Composition Navigator from the Composition panel
menu.
• To activate any composition shown in the Composition Navigator bar, click the composition name.
• If the flow path is too long to show in the Composition panel, an ellipsis
button appears at the left or right edge
of the Composition Navigator bar. To temporarily show the entire flow path, click the ellipsis button.
To scroll through a long flow path, place the pointer over a composition button in the Composition Navigator and roll
the mouse scroll wheel.
The Composition Mini-Flowchart
The Composition Mini-Flowchart is a transient control that you can use to quickly navigate within a composition
network. When you open the Composition Mini-Flowchart, it shows the compositions immediately upstream and
downstream of the selected composition.
Colors in the Composition Mini-Flowchart are based on the label colors assigned to compositions in the Project panel.
If a composition is used multiple times within one composition, the multiple instances of the nested composition
appear as one entry with a number in parentheses indicating the number of instances.
To open the Composition Mini-Flowchart, do one of the following:

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A Indicator that composition does not flow into other compositions B Flow direction C Active (current) composition D Upstream compositions
E Indicators that other compositions flow into these compositions

• Tap the Shift key when a Composition, Layer, or Timeline panel is active.
Note: Do not hold the Shift key down; press it briefly. Tapping the Shift key to open the Composition Mini-Flowchart doesn’t
work if the insertion point is in a search field, text field, or expression field.

• Click the arrow to the right of a composition name in the Composition Navigator bar.
• Choose Composition Mini-Flowchart from the Composition menu, the Composition panel menu, or the Timeline
panel menu.
• Click the Composition Mini-Flowchart

button at the top of the Timeline panel.

As with the Composition Navigator, you can choose whether to show the flow direction from left to right or from right
next to it instead of an arrow, then the
to left. Arrows indicate the direction of the flow. If a composition has a
composition either does not have any compositions flowing into it or it does not flow into any compositions.
Upstream compositions in the Composition Mini-Flowchart are sorted from top to bottom either alphabetically or by
layer order. To switch between these sorting orders, press the S key when the Composition Mini-Flowchart is open.
When sorting by layer order, a composition used multiple times is sorted according to its topmost instance in the
stacking order. Downstream compositions are always sorted alphabetically.
To navigate among and select compositions in the Composition Mini-Flowchart, use the arrow keys or click the arrow
buttons on either side of a composition. To activate the selected composition, press the spacebar or Enter
or
(Windows) or Return (Mac OS). To close the Composition Mini-Flowchart without taking any action, press Esc, tap
Shift, or click outside the Composition Mini-Flowchart.
Rich Young provides additional information about the Flowchart panel and the Composition Mini-flowchart on the
After Effects Portal website.

Pre-render a nested composition
A complex nested composition can take a long time to render, either for previews or for final output. If you have a
nested composition that you do not expect to work on further, you can save time during each rendering operation by
pre-rendering the nested composition into a movie and replacing the composition with the rendered movie. You can
still modify the original nested composition, because it remains in the Project panel. If you make a significant change
to the original nested composition, render it again.
Pre-rendering a nested composition is especially beneficial when you will use it multiple times in a project.
Note: Apply your final output settings when you pre-render the nested composition.
1 Select the composition in the Project or Composition panel.
2 Choose Composition > Pre-render.

The Pre-render command adds the composition to the render queue and sets the Import & Replace Usage postrender action to replace the composition with the rendered movie.
3 In the Render Queue panel, adjust settings as necessary, and click the Render button to render the composition.

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See this video tutorial on the Video2Brain website about how to save time with pre-rendering and proxies in After
Effects.
Note: An alternative to replacing the composition with the movie is to use the rendered movie as a proxy for the nested
composition.

Render order and collapsing transformations
A composition consists of layers stacked on top of one another in the Timeline panel. When the composition is
rendered—either for previewing or for final output—the bottom layer is rendered first. Within each raster (non-vector)
layer, elements are applied in the following order: masks, effects, transformations, and layer styles. For continuously
rasterized vector layers, the default rendering order is masks, followed by transformations, and then effects.
Transformations are changes to those properties grouped under the Transform category in the Timeline panel,
including Anchor Point, Position, Scale, Rotation, and Opacity. What you see in the Layer panel is the result of the
rendering before transformations are performed.
Note: For additional control over when transformations are performed, you can apply the Transform effect and reorder it
with respect to other effects.
In a group of effects or masks, items are processed from top to bottom. For example, if you apply the Circle effect and
then apply the Magnify effect, the circle is magnified. However, if you drag the Magnify effect above (before) the Circle
effect in the Effect Controls or Timeline panel, the circle is drawn after the magnification and isn’t magnified.
After a layer has been rendered, rendering begins for the next layer. The rendered layer below may be used as input to
the rendering of the layer above—for example, for determining the result of a blending mode.
If a composition contains other compositions nested within it, the nested composition is rendered before other layers
in the containing composition.
Note: Some effects ignore masks on the layer to which they’re applied. To have such an effect operate on a masked layer,
pre-compose the layer with the mask applied, and then apply the effect to the pre-composed layer. (See About precomposing
and nesting.)
Collapsing transformations
If the Collapse Transformations switch is selected for a nested composition, then the transformations for the nested
composition are not performed until after the masks and effects for the containing composition are rendered. This
render order allows the transformations for the nested composition and the containing composition to be combined—
or collapsed—and performed together. The same is true for vector layers that are not continuously rasterized.
Note: Instead of a Collapse Transformations switch, vector layers have a Continuously Rasterize switch in the same
location. Vector layers include shape layers, text layers, and layers with vector graphic files as the source footage. Text layers
and shape layers are always continuously rasterized.
Collapsing transformations can, for example, preserve resolution when a layer is scaled down by half in a nested
composition, and the nested composition is scaled up by a factor of two in the containing composition. In this case,
rather than performing both transformations and losing image data in the process, one transformation can be
performed—doing nothing, because the individual transformations cancel each other.
If transformations are not collapsed, a nested composition that contains 3D layers is rendered as a 2D image of the 3D
arrangement, using the default composition camera. This rendering prevents the nested composition from intersecting
with 3D layers, casting shadows on 3D layers, and receiving shadows from 3D layers in the containing composition.
The nested composition is also not controlled by the cameras and lights of the containing composition.

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If transformations are collapsed, the 3D properties of the layers in the nested composition are exposed to the containing
composition. Thus, the nested composition can intersect with 3D layers, cast shadows on 3D layers, and receive
shadows from 3D layers in the containing composition. The containing composition's camera and lights can also
control the nested composition.
Essentially, collapsing transformations for a nested composition tells After Effects to not flatten and crop the layers in
the precomposition. Because an adjustment layer operates on the composite of all of the layers beneath it within the
same composition, an adjustment layer within a nested composition with collapsed transformations will force the
flattening and cropping that collapsing transformations would normally prevent.
When a closed mask (with mask mode other than None), a layer style, or an effect is applied to a nested composition
with collapsed transformations, the layers in the nested composition are first rendered on their own, then masks and
effects are applied, and then the result is composited into the main composition. This rendering order means that the
blending modes of the nested layers are not applied to any underlying layers in the main composition, and that 3D
layers above and below the collapsed layer cannot intersect or cast shadows on each other.
Online resources
Chris and Trish Meyer explain collapsing transformations and continuous rasterization in this article on the ProVideo
Coalition website.

More Help topics
Create layers from footage items or change layer source
3D layer interactions, render order, and collapsed transformations
Layer switches and columns in the Timeline panel
Parent and child layers
Post-render actions
Placeholders and proxies
Basics of rendering and exporting
Change the stacking order for selected layers

Composition basics
About compositions
A composition is the framework for a movie. Each composition has its own timeline. A typical composition includes
multiple layers that represent components such as video and audio footage items, animated text and vector graphics,
still images, and lights. You add a footage item to a composition by creating a layer for which the footage item is the
source. You then arrange layers within a composition in space and time, and composite using transparency features to
determine which parts of underlying layers show through the layers stacked on top of them. (See Layers and properties
and Transparency and compositing .)
A composition in After Effects is similar to a movie clip in Flash Professional or a sequence in Premiere Pro.

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You render a composition to create the frames of a final output movie, which is encoded and exported to any number
of formats. (See Basics of rendering and exporting .)
Simple projects may include only one composition; complex projects may include hundreds of compositions to
organize large amounts of footage or many effects.
In some places in the After Effects user interface, composition is abbreviated as comp.
Each composition has an entry in the Project panel. Double-click a composition entry in the Project panel to open the
composition in its own Timeline panel. To select a composition in the Project panel, right-click (Windows) or Controlclick (Mac OS) in the Composition panel or Timeline panel for the composition and choose Reveal Composition In
Project from the context menu.
Use the Composition panel to preview a composition and modify its contents manually. The Composition panel
contains the composition frame and a pasteboard area outside the frame that you can use to move layers into and out
of the composition frame. The offstage extents of layers—the portions not in the composition frame—are shown as
rectangular outlines. Only the area inside the composition frame is rendered for previews and final output.
The composition frame in the Composition panel in After Effects is similar to the Stage in Flash Professional.
When working with a complex project, you may find it easiest to organize the project by nesting compositions—putting
one or more compositions into another composition. You can create a composition from any number of layers by
precomposing them. If you are finished modifying some layers of your composition, you can precompose those layers
and then pre-render the precomposition, replacing it with a rendered movie. (See Precomposing, nesting, and prerendering.)
You can navigate within a hierarchy of nested compositions using the Composition Navigator and Composition MiniFlowchart. (See Opening and navigating nested compositions.)
Use the Flowchart panel to see the structure of a complex composition or network of compositions.
Timeline button

Click this button at the bottom of the Composition panel to activate the Timeline panel for the

current composition.
Press the backslash (\) key to switch activation between the Composition panel and Timeline panel for the current
composition.
Click this button in the upper-right corner of the Timeline panel to activate the Composition panel
for the current composition.
Comp button

Flowchart button

Click this button at the bottom of the Composition panel to activate the Flowchart panel for the

current composition.

Learn tutorials
Go to the following tutorials to learn more about compositions:

• Create a composition
• Add assets to a composition
• Add layers to a composition

Create a composition
You can change composition settings at any time. However, it’s best to specify settings such as frame aspect ratio and
frame size when you create the composition, with your final output in mind. Because After Effects bases certain
calculations on these composition settings, changing them late in your workflow can affect your final output.

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Note: You can override some composition settings when rendering to final output. For example, you can use different frame
sizes for the same movie. For more information see Render settingsand Output modules and output module settings.
When you create a composition without changing settings in the Composition Settings dialog box, the new
composition uses the settings from the previous time that composition settings were set.
Note: New compositions do not inherit the previous Preserve Frame Rate When Nested Or In Render Queue and Preserve
Resolution When Nested settings.
Jeff Almasol provides a script on his redefinery website that creates and saves a new project for each selected
composition in the current project. If a folder is selected in the Project panel when you create a new composition, the
new composition is placed in the selected folder.

Create a composition and manually set composition settings
❖ Choose Composition > New Composition, or press Ctrl+N (Windows) or Command+N (Mac OS).

Create a composition from a single footage item
❖ Drag the footage item to the Create A New Composition button

at the bottom of the Project panel or choose File

> New Comp From Selection.
Composition settings, including frame size (width and height) and pixel aspect ratio, are automatically set to match
the characteristics of the footage item.

Create a single composition from multiple footage items
1 Select footage items in the Project panel.
2 Drag the selected footage items to the Create A New Composition button

at the bottom of the Project panel, or

choose File > New Comp From Selection.
3 Select Single Composition and other settings in the New Composition From Selection dialog box:
Use Dimensions From Choose the footage item from which the new composition gets composition settings,
including frame size (width and height) and pixel aspect ratio.
Still Duration The duration for the still images being added.
Add To Render Queue Add the new composition to the render queue.
Sequence Layers, Overlap, Duration, and Transition Arrange the layers in a sequence, optionally overlap them in
time, set the duration of the transitions, and choose a transition type.

Create multiple compositions from multiple footage items
1 Select footage items in the Project panel.
2 Drag the selected footage items to the Create A New Composition button

at the bottom of the Project panel, or

choose File > New Comp From Selection.
3 Select Multiple Compositions and other settings in the New Composition From Selection dialog box:
Still Duration The duration of the compositions created from still images.
Add To Render Queue Add the new compositions to the render queue.

Duplicate a composition
1 Select the composition in the Project panel.
2 Choose Edit > Duplicate or press Ctrl+D (Windows) or Command+D (Mac OS).

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Create compositions for playback on mobile devices
Screen dimensions and video frame rates vary from one mobile device to another. For information on acquiring footage
for playback on mobile devices, see Planning for playback on computer monitors and mobile devices.

Timeline panel
Each composition has its own Timeline panel. You use the Timeline panel to perform many tasks, such as animating
layer properties, arranging layers in time, and setting blending modes. The layers at the bottom of the layer stacking
order in the Timeline panel are rendered first and—in the case of 2D image layers— appear farthest back in the
Composition panel and in the final composite.
To cycle forward through Timeline panels, press Alt+Shift+period (.) (Windows) or Option+Shift+period (.) (Mac OS).
To cycle backward through Timeline panels, press Alt+Shift+comma (,) (Windows) or Option+Shift+comma (,) (Mac
OS).
The current time for a composition is indicated by the current-time indicator (CTI), the vertical red line in the time
graph. The current time for a composition also appears in the current time display in the upper-left corner of the
Timeline panel. For more information on moving the current-time indicator, see Move the current-time indicator
(CTI).
The left side of the Timeline panel consists of columns of controls for layers. The right side of the Timeline panel—the
time graph—contains a time ruler, markers, keyframes, expressions, duration bars for layers (in layer bar mode), and
the Graph Editor (in Graph Editor mode).

A Current-time display B Current-time indicator (CTI) C Time ruler D Layer switches E Time graph

Press the backslash (\) key to switch activation between the Composition panel and Timeline panel for the current
composition.

Composition settings
You can enter composition settings manually, or you can use composition settings presets to automatically set frame
size (width and height), pixel aspect ratio, and frame rate for many common output formats. You can also create and
save your own custom composition settings presets for later use. Resolution, Start Timecode (or Start Frame), Duration,
and Advanced composition settings are not saved with composition settings presets.
Note: The limit for composition duration is three hours. You can use footage items longer than three hours, but time after
three hours does not display correctly. The maximum composition size is 30,000x30,000 pixels. A 30,000x30,000 8-bpc
image requires approximately 3.5 GB; your maximum composition size may be less, depending on your operating system
and available RAM.

Working with composition settings
• To open the Composition Settings dialog box to change composition settings, do one of the following:
• Select a composition in the Project panel or activate the Timeline or Composition panel for a composition, and
choose Composition > Composition Settings, or press Ctrl+K (Windows) or Command+K (Mac OS).

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• Right-click (Windows) or Control-click (Mac OS) a composition in the Project panel or Composition panel (not
on a layer), and choose Composition Settings from the context menu.
• To save a custom composition settings preset, set Width, Height, Pixel Aspect Ratio, and Frame Rate values in the
Composition Settings dialog box, and then click the Save button .
• To delete a composition settings preset, choose it from the Preset menu in the Composition Settings dialog box, and
click the Delete button .
• To restore default composition settings presets, Alt-click (Windows) or Option-click (Mac OS) the Delete button
or the Save button in the Composition Settings dialog box.
Note: You cannot move custom composition settings presets from one system to another, as they are embedded into the
preferences file.

• To scale an entire composition, choose File > Scripts > Scale Composition.jsx.
Note: Ensure all layers are unlocked in the selected composition or the script will fail.
Jeff Almasol provides a script on his redefinery website to set the frame rate and duration of the current composition
and all compositions nested within it.
Christopher Green provides a script (Selected_Comps_Changer.jsx) on his website with which you can change the
composition settings for compositions selected in the Project panel.

Basic composition settings
Start Timecode or Start Frame Timecode or frame number assigned to the first frame of the composition. This value
does not affect rendering; it merely specifies where to start counting from.
Background Color Use the color swatch or eyedropper to pick a composition background color. (See Select a color or

edit a gradient.)
note: When you add one composition to another (nesting), the background color of the containing composition is
preserved, and the background of the nested composition becomes transparent. To preserve the background color of
the nested composition, create a solid-color layer to use as a background layer in the nested composition.
For information on specific Basic composition settings not listed here, see the related sections:

• Pixel aspect ratio and frame aspect ratio
• Frame rate
• Resolution

Advanced composition settings
After Effects includes an updated advanced section to allow for ray-traced 3D renderer options. The 3D renderer plugin has been renamed as, "Renderer" for these choices because you are choosing one renderer or another for a
composition.
To choose a composition type, select one of the following from the Renderer menu:

• Classic 3D
• Ray-traced 3D
Click the Options button to launch the Ray-traced 3D Renderer Options dialog box. You can also Ctrl-click (Windows)
or Command-click (Mac OS) the Current Renderer Indicator button in the upper-right of the Composition panel to
launch the dialog box.

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Here you can choose:

• Ray-tracing quality: Click the Ray-tracing quality setting to change it according to your workflow.
• Higher values for ray-tracing quality decrease noise but greatly increase render time.
• Ray-tracing quality controls the number of rays fired per pixel (for example, a value of 4 fires 16 or 4x4 rays, and
8 fires 64 rays).
• A larger number produces a more accurate pixel at the expense of computation time.
• A value of 1 will provide better performance, but there won't be any reflection blur (for example, it is always
sharp), soft shadow, depth of field, or motion blur.
Increasing the Ray-tracing Quality value will not increase the sharpness. Instead it decreases the noise inherent in point
sampling. You should use the lowest value that produces an acceptable amount of noise or no noise.

• Anti-aliasing Filter: Controls the method of averaging the fired rays for a pixel. None fires all rays within the
bounds of a pixel, whereas the others spreads the grid of fired rays partially across adjacent pixels to produce a better
average. Box, Tent, and Cubic (which is not bicubic) are listed in the order of better quality.
• None
• Box
• Tent
• Cubic
The anti-aliasing filter controls the amount of blurriness. None gives the sharpest result but the edges of the projection
catcher may look aliased, with Box blur, Triangle, and Cubic giving blurrier results.
Note: Ray-traced 3D layers use Ray-tracing Quality to control the appearance of motion blur.Depth of field calculations in
Ray-traced 3D are more accurate than they are in Classic 3D (and previously in Advanced 3D).
Anchor Click an arrow button to anchor layers to a corner or edge of the composition as it is resized.

For information on specific Advanced composition settings not listed here, see the related sections:

• Specify resolution to use for rendering shadows
• Preferences and composition settings that affect nested compositions
• Motion blur

Composition thumbnail images
You can choose which frame of a composition to show as a thumbnail image (poster frame) for the composition in the
Project panel. By default, the thumbnail image is the first frame of the composition, with transparent portions shown
as black.

• To set the thumbnail image for a composition, move the current-time indicator to the desired frame of the
composition in the Timeline panel, and choose Composition > Set Poster Time.
• To add a transparency grid to the thumbnail view, choose Thumbnail Transparency Grid from the Project panel
menu.
• To hide the thumbnail images in the Project panel, choose Edit > Preferences > Display (Windows) or After Effects
> Preferences > Display (Mac OS) and select Disable Thumbnails In Project Panel.

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More Help topics
Creating layers
Preview video and audio
Flowchart panel
Basics of rendering and exporting
About precomposing and nesting
Show and hide layers in the Timeline panel
The Graph Editor
Columns
Keyboard shortcuts

Timecode and time display units
Many quantities in After Effects are either points in time or spans of time, including the current time, layer In and Out
points, and durations of layers, footage items, and compositions.
By default, After Effects displays time in Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) timecode: hours,
minutes, seconds, and frames. You can change to another system of time display, such as frames, or feet and frames of
16mm or 35mm film.
You may want to see time values in feet plus frames format, for example, if you are preparing a movie for eventual output
to film; or in simple frame numbers if you plan to use your movie in an animation program such as Flash. The format
you choose applies to the current project only.
Note: Changing the time display format does not alter the frame rate of your assets or output—it changes only how frames
are numbered for display in After Effects.
Video-editing workstations often use SMPTE timecode that is recorded onto videotape for reference. If you are creating
video that will be synchronized with video that uses SMPTE timecode, use the default timecode display style.
In After Effects CS5.5 and later, timecode from source files can be displayed from a variety of file formats. Source
timecode is found in several areas of the interface including the Project panel, Project Settings dialog box, Composition
Settings dialog box and Preferences dialog box. See Source timecodefor more information.

Change time-display units
• To cycle through Timecode Base, or Frames / Feet + Frames (depending if you have the “Use Feet + Frames” option
checked in the Project Settings), Ctrl-click (Windows) or Command-click (Mac OS) the current-time display. The
current-time display is in the upper-left corner of the Timeline panel and at the bottom of the Layer, Composition,
and Footage panels. (See Timeline panel.) The option that is not selected in Project Settings will be displayed as
smaller text underneath.
• To change time display units, choose File > Project Settings, and choose from the options in the Time Display Style
section.

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Options for time-display units
Timecode Displays time as timecode in the time rulers of the Timeline, Layer and Footage panels, using either Use

Media Source (source timecode) or starting at 00:00:00:00. Select the Timecode option to use timecode instead of
Frames. Note that there are no options for choosing frame rate or drop-frame / non-drop-frame, as source timecode is
detected and used instead.
Note: You may have both drop-frame and non-drop-frame timecode in any composition within a project.
Frames Displays frame number instead of time. Use this setting for convenience when doing work that you are
integrating with a frame-based application or format, like Flash or SWF. To use Frames, select Frames and deselect Feet
+ Frames.
Feet + Frames Displays the number of feet of film, plus frames for fractional feet, for 16mm or 35mm film. To use Feet

+ Frames, select Frames and select Feet + Frames.
Frame Count Determines the starting number for the time display style for Frames.
Timecode Conversion Timecode value of the item is used for the starting number (if the item has source timecode). If

there is no timecode value, counting begins with zero. Timecode Conversion causes After Effects to behave as it has in
previous versions, where the frame count and the timecode count of all assets are mathematically equivalent.
Start at 0 The counting for frames begins at zero.
Start at 1 The counting for frames begins at one.

Note: The new options of “Start at 0” and “Start at 1” allow you to specify different frame counting schemes between the
“Frames” and “Timecode.” For example, you might choose to honor the source timecode of footage items, but count frames
beginning at zero or one.

Source timecode
Source timecode support file formats After Effects can read and use timecode for most formats including: QuickTime,
DV, AVI, P2, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, h.264, AVCHD, RED, XDCAM EX, XDCAM HD, WAV and DPX image sequence
importers.
Project panel Source timecode is displayed in columns in the Project panel: Media Start, Media End, Media Duration
and Tape Name. These refer to the source’s start, end and total duration. In addition, columns have been added for In,
Out, and Duration, which reflect the In and Out points set by the user in the Footage panel for footage item, or the work
area for compositions.
Project Settings The Project Settings dialog box has been substantially reworked to accommodate the source timecode

feature set. For details, see Options for time-display units .
Composition Settings dialog box The Composition Settings dialog box has been changed to accomodate the source
timecode feature set. For details, see Frame rate.
Preferences dialog box The Preferences dialog box’s Import pane has been changed to support source timecode
features. See Import preferences.

Online resources about timecode
Trish and Chris Meyer provide an article on the ProVideo Coalition website that describes the difference between dropframe and non-drop-frame timecode.
Chris Pirazzi provides technical details about timecode on his Lurker's Guide to Video website.

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Chapter 4: Importing footage

Importing and interpreting footage items
About imported files and footage items
You import source files into a project as the basis for footage items and use them as sources for layers. The same file can
be the source for multiple footage items, each with its own interpretation settings. Each footage item can be used as the
source for one or more layers. You work with collections of layers in a composition.
You primarily work with footage items in the Project panel. You can use the Footage panel to evaluate footage and
perform simple editing tasks, such as trimming the duration of a footage item.
You can import many different kinds of files, collections of files, or components of files as sources for individual footage
items, including moving image files, still-image files, still-image sequences, and audio files. You can even create footage
items yourself within After Effects, such as solids and precompositions. You can import footage items into a project at
any time.
When you import files, After Effects does not copy the image data itself into your project but creates a reference link to
the source of the footage item, which keeps project files relatively small.
If you delete, rename, or move an imported source file, you break the reference link to that file. When a link is broken,
the name of the source file appears in italics in the Project panel, and the File Path column lists it as missing. If the
footage item is available, you can reestablish the link—usually just by double-clicking the item and selecting the file
again.
You can find footage items for which the source items are missing by typing missing in the search field in the Project
panel. See Search and filter in the Timeline, Project, and Effects & Presets panels.
To reduce rendering time and increase performance, it is often best to prepare footage before you import it into After
Effects. For example, it is often better to scale or crop a still image in Photoshop before you bring it into After Effects,
rather than scaling and cropping the image in After Effects. It is better to perform an operation once in Photoshop than
to force After Effects to perform the same action many times per second—once for each frame in which the image
appears.
To save time and minimize the size and complexity of a project, import a source item as a single footage item and then
use it multiple times in a composition. It is occasionally useful, however, to duplicate a footage item and interpret each
differently. For example, you can use the same footage at two different frame rates.
If you use another application to modify a footage item that is used in a project, the changes appear in After Effects the
next time that you open the project or select the footage item and choose File > Reload Footage.
To replace the source footage item for a layer with another footage item, without affecting changes made to the layer
properties, select the layer and then Alt-drag (Windows) or Option-drag (Mac OS) the new footage item onto the layer
in the Timeline panel.

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To replace all uses of selected footage items with another footage item, select footage items in the Project panel, and then
Alt-drag (Windows) or Option-drag (Mac OS) the new footage item onto a selected footage item in the Project panel.
When After Effects imports video and audio in some formats, it processes and caches versions of these items that it can
readily access when generating previews. This caching greatly improves performance for previews, because the video
and audio items do not need to be reprocessed for each preview. See Media cache .
For more information about importing assets, see this video tutorial on the Creative COW website by Andrew Devis.

Native encoding and decoding of QuickTime files
After Effects can natively decode and encode QuickTime (.mov) files using the GoPro Cineform codecs on Mac OS and
Windows. This means that you do not need to install additional codecs to use and create such files.

Supported import formats
Some filename extensions—such as MOV, AVI, MXF, FLV, and F4V—denote container file formats rather than
denoting a specific audio, video, or image data format. Container files can contain data encoded using various
compression and encoding schemes. After Effects can import these container files, but the ability to import the data
that they contain is dependent on which codecs (specifically, decoders) are installed.
By installing additional codecs, you can extend the ability of After Effects to import additional file types. Many codecs
must be installed into the operating system (Windows or Mac OS) and work as a component inside the QuickTime or
Video for Windows formats. Contact the manufacturer of your hardware or software for more information about
codecs that work with the files that your specific devices or applications create.
Importing and using some files requires the installation of additional import plug-ins. (See Plug-ins.)
Adobe Premiere Pro can capture and import many formats that After Effects can’t import natively. You can bring data
from Adobe Premiere Pro into After Effects in many ways. (See Working with Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects.)
For workflow guides and updates for P2, RED, XDCAM, AVCCAM, and DSLR cameras and footage, see the Adobe
website.
Audio formats

• Adobe Sound Document (ASND; multi-track files imported as merged single track)
• Advanced Audio Coding (AAC, M4A)
• Audio Interchange File Format (AIF, AIFF)
• MP3 (MP3, MPEG, MPG, MPA, MPE)
• Video for Windows (AVI; requires QuickTime on Mac OS)
• Waveform (WAV)
Still-image formats

• Adobe Illustrator (AI, AI4, AI5, EPS, PS; continuously rasterized)
• Adobe PDF (PDF; first page only; continuously rasterized)
• Adobe Photoshop (PSD)
• Bitmap (BMP, RLE, DIB)
• Camera raw (TIF, CRW, NEF, RAF, ORF, MRW, DCR, MOS, RAW, PEF, SRF, DNG, X3F, CR2, ERF)
• Cineon/DPX (CIN, DPX; 10 bpc)
• Discreet RLA/RPF (RLA, RPF; 16 bpc; imports camera data)

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• EPS
• GIF
• JPEG (JPG, JPE)
• Maya camera data (MA)
• Maya IFF (IFF, TDI; 16 bpc)
• OpenEXR (EXR, SXR, MXR; 32 bpc)
• PICT (PCT)
• Portable Network Graphics (PNG; 16 bpc)
• Radiance (HDR, RGBE, XYZE; 32 bpc)
• SGI (SGI, BW, RGB; 16 bpc)
• Softimage (PIC)
Note: 3D Channel effect plug-ins from fnord software are included with After Effects to provide access to multiple layers
and channels of OpenEXR files. (See Using channels in OpenEXR files.)
Note: After Effects can also read ZPIC files corresponding to imported PIC files. See Importing and using 3D files from other
applications.)

• Targa (TGA, VDA, ICB, VST)
• TIFF (TIF)
You can import files of any still-image format as a sequence. See Preparing and importing still images .
Video and animation formats

• Animated GIF (GIF)
• Support for ARRIRAW files from the ARRI ALEXA, or ARRIFLEX D-21 cameras
• The following are known issues with ARRIRAW:
The importer works in 16 bit, so set your project to 16 or 32 bpc.
There is no exposure or color space control in the importer, and no importer options at all.
Footage is always decoded at full resolution, even if a lower frame size is needed.
Metadata is not exposed as XMP, so is not available in After Effects.
Collect Files does not work with ARRIRAW footage.

• CinemaDNG
Note:CinemaDNG is a subset of CameraRAW. A subset of CameraRAW settings can be accessed via More Options in
the Interpret Footage dialog box. Color management for CinemaDNG includes the same color spaces as After Effects
existing CameraRAW: Adobe RGB, sRGB IEC619662.1, ColorMatch RGB, and ProPhoto RGB.

• For more information on CinemaDNG, and to download the CinemaDNG importer, go to the Adobe Labs website.
• DV (in MOV or AVI container, or as containerless DV stream)
• Electric Image (IMG, EI)
Project formats

• Adobe Premiere Pro 1.0, 1.5, 2.0, CS3, CS4, CS5 (PRPROJ; 1.0, 1.5, and 2.0 Windows only)

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• Adobe After Effects 6.0 and later binary projects in After Effects CS5 (AEP, AET)
• Adobe After Effects 6.5 and later binary projects in After Effects CS5.5 and later (AEP, AET)
• Adobe After Effects CS4 and later XML projects (AEPX)
The Automatic Duck Pro Import AE plug-in is now bundled with the application, and called Pro Import After Effects.
With it, you can import AAF and OMF files from an Avid system, XML files from Final Cut Pro 7, or earlier, and project
files from Motion 4, or earlier. For more information on using Pro Import After Effects, see its User Guide, accessible
by choosing File > Import > Pro Import After Effects, then clicking the Help button.
You can also import Final Cut Pro projects into Premiere Pro and then bring that project's components into After
Effects.
In this video by Todd Kopriva and video2brain, learn how to import projects using Pro Import After Effects. We
demonstrate using a Final Cut Pro project, but the same procedure works for other formats, such as XML, AAF, and
OMF.
Note: After Effects can also read EIZ files corresponding to imported EI files. See Importing and using 3D files from other
applications.)

• FLV, F4V
• Media eXchange Format (MXF)
MXF is a container format. After Effects can only import some kinds of data contained within MXF files. After Effects
can import the Op-Atom variety of MXF files used by Panasonic video cameras to record to Panasonic P2 media. After
Effects can import video from these MXF files using the AVC-Intra 50, AVC-Intra 100, DV, DVCPRO, DVCPRO50,
and DVCPRO HD codecs. After Effects can also import XDCAM HD files in MXF format, the MXF OP1format, which
contains MPEG-2 video that complies with the XDCAM HD format.

• MPEG-1, MPEG-2, and MPEG-4 formats: MPEG, MPE, MPG, M2V, MPA, MP2, M2A, MPV, M2P, M2T, M2TS
(AVCHD), AC3, MP4, M4V, M4A
Note: Some MPEG data formats are stored in container formats with filename extensions that are not recognized by After
Effects; examples include .vob and .mod. In some cases, you can import these files into After Effects after changing the
filename extension to one of the recognized filename extensions. Because of variations in implementation in these container
formats, compatibility is not guaranteed.
For information about MPEG formats, see the MPEG website and the MPEG page on the Wikipedia website.

• PSD file with video layer (requires QuickTime)
• QuickTime (MOV; 16 bpc, requires QuickTime)
Note: David Van Brink provides the qt_tools toolset on his omino website. This toolset is useful for converting and
examining QuickTime files.

• RED (R3D)
Note: R3D files are interpreted as containing 32-bpc colors in a non-linear HDTV (Rec. 709) color space. The RED R3D
Source Settings color adjustments don't preserve overbright values. Color adjustments done within After Effects do preserve
overbright colors when you work in 32-bpc (bits per channel) color. To avoid clipping, manipulate exposure in After Effects,
rather than in the footage interpretation stage in the RED R3D Source Settings dialog box. (For more information on using
R3D files, see the RED website and the Adobe website.)

• SWF (continuously rasterized)

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Note: SWF files are imported with an alpha channel. Audio is not retained. Interactive content and scripted animation are
not retained. Animation defined by keyframes in the main, top-level movie is retained.

• Video for Windows (AVI, WAV; requires QuickTime on Mac OS)
• Windows Media File (WMV, WMA, ASF; Windows only)
• XDCAM HD and XDCAM EX
Note: After Effects can import Sony XDCAM HD assets if they were recorded to MXF files. After Effects cannot import
XDCAM HD assets in IMX format. After Effects can import Sony XDCAM EX assets stored as essence files with the .mp4
filename extension in a BPAV directory. For information about the XDCAM format, see this PDF document on the Sony
website.

Import footage items
You can import media files into your project either by using the Import dialog box or by dragging. The imported
footage items appear in the Project panel.
If the Interpret Footage dialog box appears after you import a footage item, it contains an unlabeled alpha channel, and
you must select an alpha channel interpretation method or click Guess to let After Effects determine how to interpret
the alpha channel. (See Alpha channel interpretation: premultiplied or straight.)

Import footage items using the Import dialog box
1 Choose File > Import > File, choose File > Import > Multiple Files, or double-click an empty area of the Project

panel.
If you choose Import Multiple Files, then you can perform the next step more than once without needing to choose
an Import command multiple times.
To display only supported footage files (excluding project files), choose All Footage Files from the Files Of Type
(Windows) or Enable (Mac OS) menu.
2 Do one of the following:

• Select a file, and then click Open.
• Ctrl-click (Windows) or Command-click (Mac OS) multiple files to select them, and then click Open.
• Click a file and then Shift-click another file to select a range of files, and then click Open.
• (Windows only) Select an entire folder, and then click Import Folder.
Note: If the Sequence option is selected, multiple files from the folder are imported as a sequence of still images.

Import footage items by dragging
If you always want the layered still-image files that you drag into After Effects to be imported as a composition, choose
Edit > Preferences > Import (Windows) or After Effects > Preferences > Import (Mac OS), and choose Composition or
Composition - Retain Layer Sizes from the Drag Import Multiple Items As menu. (See Import a still-image sequence as a
composition.)

• To import a single file, drag it from Windows Explorer (Windows) or the Finder (Mac OS) into the Project panel.
• To import the contents of a folder as a sequence of still images that appear in the Project panel as a single footage
item, drag a folder from Windows Explorer (Windows) or the Finder (Mac OS) into the Project panel.
• To import the contents of the folder as individual footage items that appear in the Project panel in a folder, Alt-drag
a folder from Windows Explorer (Windows) or Option-drag a folder from the Finder (Mac OS) into the Project
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• To import a rendered output file from the Render Queue panel, drag the corresponding output module from the
Render Queue panel into the Project panel.
Note: If you drag an output module from the Render Queue panel into the Project panel before rendering, After Effects
creates a placeholder footage item. References to the placeholder footage item are automatically replaced when the output
module is rendered; the placeholder footage item itself is not replaced.

Interpret footage items
After Effects uses a set of internal rules to interpret each footage item that you import according to its best guess for the
source file’s pixel aspect ratio, frame rate, color profile, and alpha channel type. If After Effects guesses wrong, or if you
want to use the footage differently, you can modify these rules for all footage items of a particular kind by editing the
interpretation rules file (interpretation rules.txt), or you can modify the interpretation of a specific footage item using
the Interpret Footage dialog box.
The interpretation settings tell After Effects the following about each footage item:

• How to interpret the interaction of the alpha channel with other channels (See Alpha channel interpretation:
premultiplied or straight.)
• What frame rate to assume for the footage item (See Frame rate.)
• Whether to separate fields and, if so, what field order to assume (See Interlaced video and separating fields.)
• Whether to remove 3:2 or 24Pa pulldown (See Remove 3:2 or 24Pa pulldown from video.)
• The pixel aspect ratio of the footage item (See Pixel aspect ratio and frame aspect ratio.)
• The color profile of the footage item (See Interpret a footage item by assigning an input color profile.)
Note: In all of these cases, the information is used to make decisions about how to interpret data in the imported footage
item—to tell After Effects about the input footage. The interpretation settings in the Interpret Footage dialog box should
match the settings used to create the source footage file. Do not use the interpretation settings to try to specify settings for
your final rendered output.
Generally, you don’t need to change interpretation settings. However, if a footage item isn’t of a common kind, After
Effects may need additional information from you to interpret it correctly.
You can use the controls in the Color Management section of the Interpret Footage dialog box to tell After Effects how
to interpret the color information in a footage item. This step is usually only necessary when the footage item does not
contain an embedded color profile.
When you preview in the Footage panel, you see the results of the footage interpretation operations.
Jeff Almasol provides a script on his redefinery website that you can use to make guessing the 3:2 pulldown, 24Pa
pulldown, or alpha channel interpretation more convenient.
Note: Select Preview in the Interpret Footage dialog box to preview the results of the settings made in this dialog box before
you accept the changes.

Interpret a single footage item using the Interpret Footage dialog box
❖ Select a footage item in the Project panel and do one of the following:

• Click the Interpret Footage

button at the bottom of the Project panel.

• Drag the footage item to the Interpret Footage button.
• Choose File > Interpret Footage > Main.
• Press Ctrl+Alt+G (Windows) or Command+Option+G (Mac OS).

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Interpret a proxy using the Interpret Footage dialog box
❖ Select the original footage item in the Project panel and do one of the following:

• Alt-click (Windows) or Option-click (Mac OS) the Interpret Footage
panel.

button at the bottom of the Project

• Alt-drag (Windows) or Option-drag (Mac OS) the footage item to the Interpret Footage button.
• Choose File > Interpret Footage > Proxy.

Apply Interpret Footage settings to multiple footage items
You can ensure that different footage items use the same settings by copying interpretation settings from one item and
applying them to others.
1 In the Project panel, select the item with the interpretation settings that you want to apply.
2 Choose File > Interpret Footage > Remember Interpretation.
3 Select one or more footage items in the Project panel.
4 Choose File > Interpret Footage > Apply Interpretation.

Edit interpretation rules for all items of a specific kind
The interpretation rules file contains the rules that specify how After Effects interprets footage items. In most cases,
you don’t need to customize the interpretation rules file. When you import a footage item, After Effects looks for a
match in the interpretation rules file, and then determines interpretation settings for the footage item. You can override
these settings after importing, using the Interpret Footage dialog box.
In most cases, the name of the interpretation rules file is interpretation rules.txt; however, some updates to After Effects
install a new interpretation rules file with a name that indicates the updated version number, and the updated
application uses this new file. If you’ve made changes to the old interpretation rules file, you may need to apply those
changes to the new file, too.
Locations of the interpretation rules file in After Effects CC:

• (Windows) \Users\\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\After Effects <13.0>
• (Mac OS) /Users//Library/Preferences/Adobe/After Effects <13.0>
Locations of the interpretation rules file in previous versions of After Effects CC:

• (Windows) \Users\\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\After Effects <12.x>
• (Mac OS) /Users//Library/Preferences/Adobe/After Effects <12.x>
1 Quit After Effects.
2 As a precaution, make a backup copy of the interpretation rules file. By default, this file is in the same location as the

After Effects application.
3 Open the interpretation rules file in a text editor.
4 Modify the settings according to the instructions in the file.

Note: You must supply a four-character file-type code for each footage type or codec. If you don’t know the code for a
file or codec in a project, press Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS) as you select the file in the Project panel. The filetype code and codec code (if the file is compressed) appear in the last line of the file description at the top of the Project
panel.
5 Save interpretation rules.txt.

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Alpha channel interpretation: premultiplied or straight
Image files with alpha channels store transparency information in one of two ways: straight or premultiplied. Although
the alpha channels are the same, the color channels differ.
With straight (or unmatted) channels, transparency information is stored only in the alpha channel, not in any of the
visible color channels. With straight channels, the results of transparency aren’t visible until the image is displayed in
an application that supports straight channels.
With premultiplied (or matted) channels, transparency information is stored in the alpha channel and also in the visible
RGB channels, which are multiplied with a background color. Premultiplied channels are sometimes said to be matted
with color. The colors of semitransparent areas, such as feathered edges, are shifted toward the background color in
proportion to their degree of transparency.
Some software lets you specify the background color with which the channels are premultiplied; otherwise, the
background color is usually black or white.
Straight channels retain more accurate color information than premultiplied channels. Premultiplied channels are
compatible with a wider range of programs, such as Apple QuickTime Player. Often, the choice of whether to use images
with straight or premultiplied channels has been made before you receive the assets to edit and composite. Adobe
Premiere Pro and After Effects recognize both straight and premultiplied channels, but only the first alpha channel they
encounter in a file containing multiple alpha channels.
Setting the alpha channel interpretation correctly can prevent problems when you import a file, such as undesirable
colors at the edge of an image or a loss of image quality at the edges of the alpha channel. For example, if channels are
interpreted as straight when they are actually premultiplied, semitransparent areas retain some of the background color.
If a color inaccuracy, such as a halo, appears along the semitransparent edges in a composition, try changing the
interpretation method.

You can use the Remove Color Matting effect to remove the fringes from the semi-transparent areas of a layer by
unmultiplying it.
Aharon Rabinowitz provides a video tutorial on the Creative COW website that describes how and when to use the
Remove Color Matting effect.

Set the alpha channel interpretation for a footage item
1 In the Project panel, select a footage item.
2 Choose File > Interpret Footage > Main.
3 If you want to switch the opaque and transparent areas of the image, select Invert Alpha.

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4 In the Alpha section, select an interpretation method:
Guess Attempts to determine the type of channels used in the image. If After Effects cannot guess confidently, it

beeps.
Ignore Disregards transparency information contained in the alpha channel.
Straight - Unmatted Interprets the channels as straight.
Premultiplied - Matted With Color Interprets channels as premultiplied. Use the eyedropper or color picker to

specify the color of the background with which the channels were premultiplied.

Set the default alpha channel preferences
1 Choose Edit > Preferences > Import (Windows) or After Effects > Preferences > Import (Mac OS).
2 Choose options from the Interpret Unlabeled Alpha As menu. The options in this menu are similar to the options

in the Interpret Footage dialog box. Ask User specifies that the Interpret Footage dialog box opens each time a
footage item with an unlabeled alpha channel is imported.

Frame rate
The composition frame rate determines the number of frames displayed per second, and how time is divided into
frames in the time ruler and time display. In other words, the composition frame rate specifies how many times per
second images are sampled from the source footage items, and it specifies the time divisions at which keyframes can be
set.
Note: After Effects contains a menu for drop-frame or non-drop-frame timecode in the Composition Settings dialog box.
In previous releases, this option was a global setting per project.
This video form the “After Effects CS5: Learn by Video” series provides an introduction to frame rates for footage items,
compositions, and rendered movies, and how to modify each kind of frame rate to achieve the desired result.
Composition frame rate is usually determined by the type of output that you are targeting. NTSC video has a frame rate
of 29.97 frames per second (fps), PAL video has a frame rate of 25 fps, and motion picture film typically has a frame
rate of 24 fps. Depending on the broadcast system, DVD video can have the same frame rate as NTSC video or PAL
video, or a frame rate of 23.976. Cartoons and video intended for CD-ROM or the web are often 10–15 fps.
Setting the composition frame rate to twice the rate of the output format causes After Effects to display each field of
interlaced source footage as its own, separate frame in the Composition panel. This process lets you set keyframes on
individual fields and gain precision when animating masks.
When you render a movie for final output, you can choose to use the composition frame rate or another frame rate.
The ability to set the frame rate for each output module is useful when you are using the same composition to create
output for multiple media.
Each motion-footage item in a composition can also have its own frame rate. The relationship between the footage-item
frame rate and the composition frame rate determines how smoothly the layer plays. For example, if the footage-item
frame rate is 30 fps and the composition frame rate is 30 fps, then whenever the composition advances one frame, the
next frame from the footage item is displayed. If the footage-item frame rate is 15 fps and the composition frame rate
is 30 fps, then each frame of the footage item appears in two successive frames of the composition. (This assumes, of
course, the simple case in which no time stretching or frame blending has been applied to the layer.)
Ideally, use source footage that matches the final output frame rate. This way, After Effects renders each frame, and the
final output does not omit, duplicate, or interpolate frames. If, however, the source footage has a frame rate slightly
different from what you want to output to (for example, 30-fps footage and 29.97-fps final output), you can make the
footage frame rate match the composition frame rate by conforming it.

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Conforming the frame rate of a footage item does not alter the original file, only the reference that After Effects uses.
When conforming, After Effects changes the internal duration of frames but not the frame content. Afterward, the
footage plays back at a different speed. For example, if you conform the frame rate from 15 fps to 30 fps, the footage
plays back twice as fast. In most cases, conform the frame rate only when the difference between the footage frame rate
and the output frame rate is small.
Note: Conforming can change the synchronization of visual footage that has an audio track, because changing the frame
rate changes the duration of the video but leaves the audio unchanged. If you want to stretch both audio and video, use the
Time Stretch command. (See Time-stretch a layer.) Keyframes applied to the source footage remain at their original
locations (which retains their synchronization within the composition but not the visual content of the layer). You may need
to adjust keyframe locations after conforming a footage item.
You can change the frame rate for any movie or sequence of still images. For example, you can import a sequence of ten
still images and specify a frame rate for that footage item of 5 frames per second (fps); this sequence would then have
a duration of two seconds when used in a composition.
Note: When you import a sequence of still images, it assumes the frame rate specified by the Sequence Footage preference
in the Import category. The default rate is 30 frames per second (fps). You can change the frame rate after importing by
reinterpreting the footage item. (See Interpret footage items.)
Lower frame rates tend to give the impression of unreality, so many people prefer to work at a lower frame rate such as
24 frames per second for creative work instead of working at the 29.97 frames per second that is standard for NTSC
video.
Note: If you remove 3:2 pulldown from interlaced video footage, After Effects automatically sets the frame rate of the
resulting footage item to four-fifths of the original frame rate. When removing 3:2 pulldown from NTSC video, the resulting
frame rate is 24 fps.
The frame rate of the composition should match the frame rate of the final output format. In most cases, you can simply
choose a composition settings preset. In contrast, set the frame rate for each footage item to the frame rate of the
original source footage.
Trish and Chris Meyer provide tips and tricks regarding conforming footage items to a specific frame rate in an article
(PDF) on Artbeats website.
Trish and Chris Meyer provide links to technical reference materials about frame rates and other details of digital video
on the ProVideo Coalition website.

Change frame rate for a footage item
1 Select the footage item in the Project panel.
2 Choose File > Interpret Footage > Main.
3 Select Conform To Frame Rate, enter a new frame rate for Frames Per Second, and then click OK.

Instead of using Interpret Footage to change a footage item’s frame rate, you can time-stretch a layer based on the footage
item. For example, time-stretch a layer by 100.1% to convert between 30fps and 29.97fps. Time-stretching modifies the
speed of audio as well as video. (See Time-stretch a layer.)

Change frame rate for a composition
1 Choose Composition > Composition Settings.
2 Do one of the following:

• Choose a composition settings preset from the Preset menu.
• Set the Frame Rate value.

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Note: Jeff Almasol provides a script on is redefinery website to set the frame rate and duration of the current composition
and all compositions nested within it.

Pixel aspect ratio and frame aspect ratio
Pixel aspect ratio (PAR) is the ratio of width to height of one pixel in an image. Frame aspect ratio (sometimes called
image aspect ratio or IAR) is the ratio of width to height of the image frame.

Most computer monitors use square pixels, but many video formats—including ITU-R 601 (D1) and DV—use nonsquare rectangular pixels.
Some video formats output the same frame aspect ratio but use a different pixel aspect ratio. For example, some NTSC
digitizers produce a 4:3 frame aspect ratio, with square pixels (1.0 pixel aspect ratio), and a frame with pixel dimensions
of 640x480. D1 NTSC produces the same 4:3 frame aspect ratio but uses nonsquare pixels (0.91 pixel aspect ratio) and
a frame with pixel dimensions of 720x486. D1 pixels, which are always nonsquare, are vertically oriented in systems
producing NTSC video and horizontally oriented in systems producing PAL video.
If you display nonsquare pixels on a square-pixel monitor without alteration, images and motion appear distorted; for
example, circles distort into ellipses. However, when displayed on a video monitor, the images are correct. When you
import D1 NTSC or DV source footage into After Effects, the image looks slightly wider than it does on a D1 or DV
system. (D1 PAL footage looks slightly narrower.) The opposite occurs when you import anamorphic footage using
D1/DV NTSC Widescreen or D1/DV PAL Widescreen. Widescreen video formats have a frame aspect ratio of 16:9.
Note: To preview non-square pixels on a computer monitor, click the Toggle Pixel Aspect Ratio Correction button at the
bottom of the Composition panel. The quality of the pixel aspect ratio correction for previews is affected by the Zoom
Quality preference in the Previews category. (See Viewer Quality preferences.)

A Square pixels and 4:3 frame aspect ratio B Nonsquare pixels and 4:3 frame aspect ratio C Nonsquare pixels displayed on a square-pixel
monitor

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If a footage item uses nonsquare pixels, After Effects displays the pixel aspect ratio next to the thumbnail image for the
footage item in the Project panel. You can change the pixel aspect ratio interpretation for individual footage items in
the Interpret Footage dialog box. By ensuring that all footage items are interpreted correctly, you can combine footage
items with different pixel aspect ratios in the same composition.
After Effects reads and writes pixel aspect ratios directly from QuickTime movies. For example, if you import a movie
captured as widescreen (16:9 DV), After Effects automatically tags it correctly. Similarly, AVI and PSD files contain
information that explicitly indicates the pixel aspect ratio of the images.
If a footage item does not contain information that explicitly indicates the pixel aspect ratio of the image, After Effects
uses the pixel dimensions of the footage item frame to make a guess. When you import a footage item with either the
D1 pixel dimensions of 720x486 or the DV pixel dimensions of 720x480, After Effects automatically interprets that
footage item as D1/DV NTSC. When you import a footage item with the D1 or DV pixel dimensions of 720x576, After
Effects automatically interprets that footage item as D1/DV PAL. However, you can make sure that all files are
interpreted correctly by looking in the Project panel or the Interpret Footage dialog box.
Note: Make sure to reset the pixel aspect ratio to Square Pixels when you import a square-pixel file that happens to have a
D1 or DV pixel dimensions—for example, a non-DV image that happens to have pixel dimensions of 720x480.
The pixel aspect ratio setting of the composition should match the pixel aspect ratio of the final output format. In most
cases, you can simply choose a composition settings preset. In contrast, set the pixel aspect ratio for each footage item
to the pixel aspect ratio of the original source footage.
Trish and Chris Meyer provide tips and tricks regarding pixel aspect ratio in two PDF documents on the Artbeats
website:

• Pixel aspect ratio, part 1
• Pixel aspect ratio, part 2
Chris Pirazzi provides technical details about aspect ratios on his Lurker's Guide to Video website.

Upgrade pixel aspect ratios to correct values
After Effects CS3 and earlier used pixel aspect ratios for standard-definition video formats that ignore the concept of
clean aperture. By not accounting for the fact that clean aperture differs from production aperture in standard-definition
video, the pixel aspect ratios used by After Effects CS3 and earlier were slightly inaccurate. The incorrect pixel aspect
ratios cause some images to appear subtly distorted.
Note: The clean aperture is the portion of the image that is free from artifacts and distortions that appear at the edges of
an image. The production aperture is the entire image.
Chris Meyer explains why the corrected pixel aspect ratios are better and how some workflows are affected in the “New
Pixel Aspect Ratios” video in the After Effects CS4 New Creative Techniques series on the Lynda.com website.
Todd Kopriva summarizes information about the corrected pixel aspect ratios in a post on the Adobe website.
The following table provides details about pixel aspect ratio values in After Effects:
format

value in After Effects CS4 and later

previous value

D1/DV NTSC

0.91

0.9

D1/DV NTSC Widescreen

1.21

1.2

D1/DV PAL

1.09

1.07

D1/DV PAL Widescreen

1.46

1.42

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This discrepancy is limited to these older, standard-definition formats for which clean aperture differs from production
aperture. This discrepancy doesn’t exist in newer formats.
New projects and compositions created in After Effects CS4 and later use the correct pixel aspect ratio values by default.
Projects and compositions created in After Effects CS3 or earlier are upgraded to use the correct pixel aspect ratios
when these projects are opened in After Effects CS4 and later.
Note: If you have a custom interpretation rules file, then you should update it with the correct pixel aspect ratio values.
If you use square-pixel footage items that are designed to fill the frame in a composition with non-square pixels, you
may find that the change in pixel aspect ratios causes a difference in behavior. For example, if you previously created
768x576 square-pixel footage items to use in a PAL D1/DV composition, you should now create those items with
square-pixel dimensions of 788x576.
Composition settings presets for square-pixel equivalents of standard definition formats have changed as follows:
format

pixel dimensions in After Effects CS4 and
later

previous pixel dimensions

NTSC D1 square-pixel equivalent

720x534

720x540

NTSC D1 Widescreen square-pixel equivalent

872x486

864x486

PAL D1/DV square-pixel equivalent

788x576

768x576

PAL D1/DV Widescreen square-pixel
equivalent

1050x576

1024x576

Change pixel aspect ratio interpretation for a footage item
1 Select a footage item in the Project panel.
2 Choose File > Interpret Footage > Main.
3 Choose a ratio from the Pixel Aspect Ratio menu and click OK.

Change pixel aspect ratio for a composition
1 Choose Composition > Composition Settings.
2 Do one of the following:

• Choose a composition settings preset from the Preset menu.
• Choose a value from the Pixel Aspect Ratio menu.

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Common pixel aspect ratios
Pixel aspect ratio

When to use

Square pixels

1.0

Footage has a 640x480 or 648x486 frame size,
is 1920x1080 HD (not HDV or DVCPRO HD), is
1280x720 HD or HDV, or was exported from an
application that doesn’t support nonsquare
pixels. This setting can also be appropriate for
footage that was transferred from film or for
customized projects.

D1/DV NTSC

0.91

Footage has a 720x486 or 720x480 frame size,
and the desired result is a 4:3 frame aspect
ratio. This setting can also be appropriate for
footage that was exported from an
application that works with nonsquare pixels,
such as a 3D animation application.

D1/DV NTSC Widescreen

1.21

Footage has a 720x486 or 720x480 frame size,
and the desired result is a 16:9 frame aspect
ratio.

D1/DV PAL

1.09

Footage has a 720x576 frame size, and the
desired result is a 4:3 frame aspect ratio.

D1/DV PAL Widescreen

1.46

Footage has a 720x576 frame size, and the
desired result is a 16:9 frame aspect ratio.

Anamorphic 2:1

2.0

Footage was shot using an anamorphic film
lens, or it was anamorphically transferred from
a film frame with a 2:1 aspect ratio.

HDV 1080/DVCPRO HD 720, HD Anamorphic
1080

1.33

Footage has a 1440x1080 or 960x720 frame
size, and the desired result is a 16:9 frame
aspect ratio.

DVCPRO HD 1080

1.5

Footage has a 1280x1080 frame size, and the
desired result is a 16:9 frame aspect ratio.

More Help topics
Create layers from footage items or change layer source
Footage (keyboard shortcuts)
Camera Raw
Supported output formats
Import assets in Panasonic P2 format
Importing assets from tapeless formats
Importing XML project files from Final Cut Pro
Import a single still image or a still-image sequence
Footage (keyboard shortcuts)
Footage (keyboard shortcuts)
Remove Color Matting effect

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Render settings
Converting movies

Importing and interpreting video and audio
Interlaced video and separating fields
Interlacing is a technique developed for transmitting television signals using limited bandwidth. In an interlaced
system, only half the number of horizontal lines for each frame of video are transmitted at a time. Because of the speed
of transmission, the afterglow of displays, and the persistence of vision, the viewer perceives each frame in full
resolution. All of the analog television standards use interlacing. Digital television standards include both interlaced
and noninterlaced varieties. Typically, interlaced signals are generated from interlaced scanning, whereas noninterlaced
signals are generated from progressive scanning.
Each interlaced video frame consists of two fields. Each field contains half the number of horizontal lines in the frame;
the upper field (or Field 1) contains the odd-numbered lines, and the lower field (or Field 2) contains the even-numbered
lines. An interlaced video monitor displays each frame by first drawing all of the lines in one field and then drawing all
of the lines in the other field. Field order specifies which field is drawn first. In NTSC video, new fields are drawn to the
screen approximately 60 times per second, corresponding to a frame rate of approximately 30 frames per second.
Noninterlaced video frames aren’t separated into fields. A progressive-scan monitor displays a noninterlaced video
frame by drawing all the horizontal lines, from top to bottom, in one pass. Computer monitors are almost all
progressive-scan monitors, and most video displayed on computer monitors is noninterlaced.
The terms progressive and noninterlaced are thus closely related and are often used interchangeably, but progressive
scanning refers to the recording or drawing of the scan lines by a camera or monitor, whereas noninterlaced refers to the
fact that the video data itself isn’t separated into fields.

A For interlaced video, entire upper field (odd-numbered lines) is drawn to screen first, from top to bottom, in one pass. B Next, entire lower field
(even-numbered lines) is drawn to screen, from top to bottom, in one pass. C For noninterlaced video, entire frame (all lines in counting order)
is drawn to screen, from top to bottom, in one pass.

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Separate video fields
If you want to use interlaced or field-rendered footage (such as NTSC video) in an After Effects project, you get the best
results if you separate the video fields when you import the footage. After Effects separates video fields by creating a
full frame from each field, preserving all of the image data from the original footage.
Separating fields is critical if you plan to make significant changes to the image. When you scale, rotate, or apply effects
to interlaced video, unwanted artifacts, such as crossed fields, are often introduced. By separating fields, After Effects
accurately converts the two interlaced frames in the video to noninterlaced frames, while preserving the maximum
amount of image quality. Using noninterlaced frames allows After Effects to apply edits and effects consistently and at
the highest quality.
After Effects creates field-separated footage from a single formerly interlaced frame by splitting it into two independent
frames. Each new frame has only half the information of the original frame, so some frames may appear to have a lower
resolution than others when viewed at Draft quality. When you render the final composition, After Effects reproduces
high-quality interlaced frames for output. When you render a movie at Best quality, After Effects interpolates between
the scan lines of a field to produce maximum image quality.
If your output will not be interlaced, it’s best to use noninterlaced source footage, to avoid the need to separate fields.
However, if a noninterlaced version of your source footage is not available, interlaced footage will work fine.
Always separate fields for interlaced footage. Never separate fields for noninterlaced footage items.
You can only remove pull-down after you have separated fields.
When you render a composition containing field-separated footage, set the Field Rendering option to the same field
order as your video equipment. If you don’t field-render the composition, or if you field-render with the incorrect
settings, the final movie may appear too soft, jerky, or distorted.
To quickly give video footage a more film-like appearance, import the footage twice, and interpret each footage item
with a different field order. Then add them both to the same composition and blend them together. The misinterpreted
layer adds some film-like blur.
After Effects automatically separates fields for D1 and DV video footage items. You can manually separate fields for all
other types of video footage in the Interpret Footage dialog box.
1 Select the footage item in the Project panel.
2 Choose File > Interpret Footage > Main.
3 Choose an option from the Separate Fields menu.
4 Click Preserve Edges (Best Quality Only) to increase image quality in nonmoving areas when the image is rendered

at Best quality. Then click OK.
Note: If the field settings in the Interpret Footage dialog box are correct for the input footage and the field settings in the
Render Settings dialog box are correct for the output device, you can mix footage items of different field orders in a
composition. If either of these settings is incorrect, however, the frames will be in the correct order, but the field order may
be reversed, resulting in jerky, unacceptable images.

Determine the original field order
The field order for an interlaced video footage item determines the order in which the two video fields (upper and
lower) are displayed. A system that draws the upper lines before the lower lines is called upper-field first; one that draws
the lower lines before the upper lines is called lower-field first. Many standard-definition formats (such as DV NTSC)
are lower-field first, whereas many high-definition formats (such as 1080i DVCPRO HD) are upper-field first.
The order in which the fields are displayed is important, especially when the fields contain motion. If you separate video
fields using the wrong field order, motion does not appear smooth.

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Some programs, including After Effects, label the field order when rendering interlaced video files. When you import
a labeled video file, After Effects honors the field order label automatically. You can override this field order by applying
different footage interpretation settings.
If a file does not contain a field order label, you can match the original field order of your footage. If you are not sure
which field order was used to interlace a footage item, use this procedure to find out.
1 Select the item in the Project panel.
2 Choose File > Interpret Footage > Main.
3 In the Interpret Footage dialog box, select Upper Field First from the Separate Fields menu, and then click OK.
4 In the Project panel, press Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS) as you double-click the footage to open it in the

Footage panel.
5 If the Preview panel is not visible, choose Window > Preview.
6 In the Footage panel, find a segment that contains one or more moving areas.
7 Using the Next Frame button

in the Preview panel, step forward at least five frames in the Footage panel. Moving
areas should move consistently in one direction. If the moving areas move backward every other frame, the wrong
field-separation option has been applied to the footage.

Online resources about fields and interlaced video
Chris Pirazzi provides technical details of fields and interlacing on his Lurker's Guide to Video website.
This video from the “After Effects CS5: Learn by Video” series provides an introduction to fields and interlacing, and
shows how to avoid common problems.
Trish and Chris Meyer provide a variety of materials about interlacing, field order, field dominance, field rendering,
and separating fields:

• article (PDF) introducing interlacing and field separation on the Artbeats website
• article introducing interlacing and field order on the ProVideo Coalition website
• article clarifying meanings of the terms field order and field dominance on the ProVideo Coalition website
• video overview of fields and interlacing on the Lynda.com website

Remove 3:2 or 24Pa pulldown from video
When you transfer 24-fps film to 29.97-fps video, you use a process called 3:2 pulldown, in which the film frames are
distributed across video fields in a repeating 3:2 pattern. The first frame of film is copied to fields 1 and 2 of the first
frame of video, and also to field 1 of the second video frame. The second frame of film is then spread across the next
two fields of video—field 2 of the second video frame and field 1 of the third frame of video. This 3:2 pattern is repeated
until four frames of film are spread over five frames of video, and then the pattern is repeated.
The 3:2 pulldown process results in whole frames (represented by a W) and split-field frames (represented by an S). The
three whole video frames contain two fields from the same film frame. The remaining two split-field frames contain a
video frame from two different film frames. The two split-field frames are always adjacent to each other. The phase of
3:2 pulldown refers to the point at which the two split-field frames fall within the first five frames of the footage.
Phase occurs as a result of two conversions that happen during 3:2 pulldown: 24-fps film is redistributed through 30fps video, so each of four frames of 24-fps film is spread out over five frames of 30(29.97)-fps video. First, the film is
slowed down 0.1% to match the speed difference between 29.97 fps and 30 fps. Next, each film frame is repeated in a
special pattern and mated to fields of video.

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When importing interlaced video that was originally transferred from film, you can remove the 3:2 pulldown that was
applied during the transfer from film to video as you separate fields so that effects you apply in After Effects don’t
appear distorted.
It’s important to remove 3:2 pulldown from video footage that was originally film so that effects you add in After Effects
synchronize perfectly with the original frame rate of film. Removing 3:2 pulldown reduces the frame rate by 1/5—from
30 to 24 fps or from 29.97 to 23.976 fps, which also reduces the number of frames you have to change. To remove 3:2
pulldown, you must also indicate the phase of the 3:2 pulldown.
After Effects also supports Panasonic DVX100 24p DV camera pulldown, called 24P Advance (24Pa). Some cameras
use this format to capture 23.976 progressive-scan imagery using standard DV tapes.
Before you remove 3:2 pulldown, separate the fields as either upper-field first or lower-field first. Once the fields are
separated, After Effects can analyze the footage and determine the correct 3:2 pulldown phase and field order. If you
already know the phase and field order, choose them from the Separate Fields and the Remove menus in the Interpret
Footage dialog box.
1 In the Project panel, select the footage item from which to remove 3:2 pulldown.
2 Choose File > Interpret Footage > Main.
3 In the Fields and Pulldown section, select Upper Field First or Lower Field First from the Separate Fields menu.
4 Do one of the following and click OK:

• If you know the phase of the 3:2 or 24Pa pulldown, choose it from the Remove menu.
• To have After Effects determine the correct settings, click Guess 3:2 Pulldown or Guess 24Pa Pulldown.
Note: If your footage file contains frames from different sources, the phase may not be consistent. If the phase is
inconsistent, import the footage multiple times, once for each phase, and interpret each footage item with a different
setting. Then, add each footage item to your composition and trim each layer to use only the appropriate frames. In
other words, if you have an asset that has multiple pulldown phases, then you need to cut that asset into pieces and
remove pulldown separately for each of the pieces. This can come up if the asset is a movie that has been edited together
from several sources in an NLE.

Online resources about pulldown
Chris Meyer provides a video tutorial on identifying pulldown on the Lynda.com website.
Chris and Trish Meyer provides an overview of 3:2 pulldown in an article on the Artbeats website.
Chris Meyer provides links to resources about pulldown on the ProVideo Coalition website.

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Import assets in Panasonic P2 format
A P2 card is a solid-state memory device that plugs into the PCMCIA slot of a Panasonic P2 video camera. The digital
video and audio data from the video camera is recorded onto the card in a structured, codec-independent format
known as MXF (Media eXchange Format). Specifically, Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects support the Panasonic
Op-Atom variant of MXF, with video in AVC-Intra 50, AVC-Intra 100, DV, DVCPRO, DVCPRO50, and DVCPRO HD
formats. A clip is said to be in the P2 format if its audio and video are contained in Panasonic Op-Atom MXF files, and
these files are located in a specific folder structure.
The root of the P2 folder structure is a CONTENTS folder. Each essence item (an item of video or audio) is contained
in a separate MXF wrapper file; the video MXF files are in the VIDEO subfolder, and the audio MXF files are in the
AUDIO subfolder. The relationships between essence files and the metadata associated with them are tracked by XML
files in the CLIP subfolder.
Note: Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects do not support proxies recorded by Panasonic P2 camcorders in P2 card
PROXY folders.
The video and audio on a P2 card are already in a digital form, as if the P2 card were a hard disk, so no capture step is
involved in importing media from a P2 card. The process of reading the data from the card and converting it to a format
that can be used in a project is sometimes referred to as ingest.
For your computer to read P2 cards, you must install the appropriate driver, which you can download from the
Panasonic website. Panasonic also provides the P2 Viewer application, with which you can browse and play media
stored on a P2 card.
Because Panasonic P2 cards use the FAT32 file system, each file is limited to a size of 4 GB. When a shot is recorded
that requires more than the 4 GB, a P2 camera creates another file and continues recording the shot to the new file
without interruption. This is referred to as clip spanning, because the shot spans more than one file or clip. Similarly, a
camera may span a shot across files on different P2 cards: if the camera has more than one P2 card loaded, it will record
the shot until it runs out of room on the first P2 card, create a new file on the next P2 card with available space, and
continue recording the shot to it. Although a single shot can be recorded to a group of multiple spanned clips, the
multiple-file shot is designed to be treated as a single clip or footage item in a video editing application. For After Effects
to automatically import a group of spanned clips simultaneously and assemble them into a single footage item, they
must all have been recorded to the same P2 card and none of the files can be missing, including the associated XML
metadata file.
1 (Optional) Copy the entire contents of the P2 card to a hard disk.

Though it is possible to import assets into Adobe Premiere Pro or After Effects directly from a P2 card, it is usually
more efficient to copy the contents of the P2 card to a hard disk before importing.
2 Choose File > Import.
3 Navigate to the CONTENTS folder.
4 Select one or more MXF files:

• To import a video essence item and its associated audio essence items, select the MXF files from the VIDEO
folder.
• To import only the audio essence items, select the MXF files from the AUDIO folder.
• To import a group of spanned clips for a shot that were recorded onto the same P2 card, select only one of the
MXF files in the group from the VIDEO folder. The group is imported as a single footage item with a duration
equal to the total duration of all the spanned clips it includes. If you select more than one of these spanned clips,
you import duplicates of the whole group of spanned clips, as duplicate footage items in the Project panel.

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You cannot import spanned clips from a shot that spans two different cards as a single footage item. Rather, you must
select a single MXF file belonging to the shot from each card to create a separate footage item for the part of the shot
recorded on each card. For example, if a group of spanned clips for a single shot itself spans two cards, you must
select a spanned clip from the group on card 1 and another from the group on card 2. This imports the contents of
the shot into two footage items in the Project panel.
The Date column in the Project panel shows when each source clip was acquired. After you import spanned clips, you
can use the Date value to determine their correct chronological order within the shot.
Note: After Effects can’t directly export to the P2 format. To render and export to the P2 format, use Adobe Media Encoder
or Premiere Pro.
For additional information on the Panasonic P2 format and workflows with Adobe digital video software, see the
Adobe website:

• Adobe workflow guides for P2, RED, XDCAM, AVCCAM, and DSLR cameras and footage
• P2 workflow guide for Adobe digital video products
• Dave Helmly’s video introduction to the P2 workflow in After Effects

More Help topics
Interpret footage items
Introduce 3:2 pulldown
Importing assets from tapeless formats
Export to Panasonic P2 format
File formats supported for export

Preparing and importing 3D image files
Importing 3D images from Photoshop and Illustrator
3D object layers in PSD files
Adobe Photoshop CC can import and manipulate 3D models (3D objects) in several popular formats. Photoshop can
also create 3D objects in basic, primitive shapes.
After Effects cannot import 3D objects from PSD files.
See working with 3d layers video on the learn tutorials page.
Vanishing Point exchange
When you use the Vanishing Point feature in Photoshop Extended, you can then use the File > Export For After Effects
(.vpe) command to save the results as a collection of PNG files—one for each plane—and a .vpe file that describes the
geometry of the scene. You can then import the .vpe file into After Effects. After Effects uses the information in the .vpe
file to re-create the scene as a composition containing a camera layer and one perspective-corrected 3D layer for each
PNG file.

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The camera is on the negative z axis, at (x,y)=(0,0). The point of interest for the camera is in the center of the
composition. The camera zoom is set according to the field of view in the Vanishing Point scene.
The 3D layers for the planes in the scene have a parent layer with its anchor point at the center of the composition, so
the whole scene can be transformed together.
Vanishing Point exchange only works well for images that have square pixels in Photoshop.
Bob Donlon provides a tutorial on his blog that shows how to use Vanishing Point Exchange.
Aharon Rabinowitz provides a video tutorial on the Creative COW website that shows how to use Vanishing Point
Exchange.
Lester Banks provides a video tutorial on his website that demonstrates how to use Vanishing Point in Photoshop
Extended and then either bring the 3D scene into After Effects as a .vpe file or bring the 3D scene in as a 3D object layer
in a PSD file.
Andrew Kramer provides a video tutorial on his Video Copilot website that shows how to use Vanishing Point
Exchange.
Importing PSD files as 3D scenes
Paul Tuersley provides a script on the AE Enhancers website that turns a layered PSD file into a 3D scene in After
Effects. The script creates a composition and adds expressions to the layers from the PSD file. When you move the
layers along the z axis, the scene looks exactly like the original artwork through the Active Camera view. You can
animate the camera around the scene to see that the layers are at different depths in 3D space.
Illustrator 3D effects
The effects in the 3D category in Illustrator—Extrude & Bevel, Revolve, and Rotate—give a three-dimensional
appearance to any vector graphics object, including text and drawings. If you want to add depth to your vector art and
text, consider creating it in Illustrator, using the 3D effects, and then importing the results into After Effects.

Importing and using 3D files from other applications
After Effects can import 3D-image files saved in Softimage PIC, RLA, RPF, OpenEXR, and Electric Image EI format.
These 3D-image files contain red, green, blue, and alpha (RGBA) channels, as well as auxiliary channels with optional
information, such as z depth, object IDs, texture coordinates, and more.
Though you can import composited files with 3D information into After Effects, you cannot modify or create 3D
models directly with After Effects.
After Effects treats each composited 3D file from another application as a single 2D layer. That layer, as a whole, can be
given 3D attributes and treated like any After Effects 3D layer, but the objects contained within that 3D file cannot be
manipulated individually in 3D space. To access the 3D depth information and other auxiliary channel information in
3D image files, use the 3D Channel effects. (See 3D Channel effects.)
3D Channel effect plug-ins from fnord software are included with After Effects to provide access to multiple layers and
channels of OpenEXR files. (See Using channels in OpenEXR files.)
After Effects can also import baked camera data, including focal length, film size, and transformation data, from Maya
project files as a single composition or two compositions. (See Baking and importing Maya data.)
After Effects imports camera data saved with RLA or RPF sequence files. (See Import RLA or RPF data into a camera
layer.)

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Softimage PIC files have a corresponding ZPIC file that contains the z-depth channel information. Although you can’t
import a ZPIC file, you can access the additional channel information as long as the ZPIC file is stored in the same
folder as the imported PIC file.
Similarly, Electric Image (EI) files can have associated EIZ files with z-depth channel data. As with ZPIC files, you
cannot import EIZ files into After Effects; instead, you simply store them in the same folder as the EI files. For
information about creating EIZ files, see your Electric Image documentation.
Note: Some 3D applications, such as Cinema 4D, can export an After Effects composition directly.
A common technique when working in a 3D modeling application is to insert null objects, such as null lights or null
locator nodes in the locations where you want to composite in an image in After Effects. Then, after you have imported
the 3D file into After Effects, you can use these null objects as a reference for the placements of other visual elements.

Online resources about importing and using 3D files from other applications
Lutz Albrecht provides a two-part document on the Adobe website about integrating 3D applications with After Effects.
These articles cover the creation of UV maps, mattes, and channels from various 3D applications, including Maxon
Cinema 4D, NewTek Lightwave, and Luxology modo. The articles then show you how to use RE:Vision Effects RE:Map
and fnord ProEXR plug-ins to use that data in After Effects.
Tyson Ibele provides tutorials on his website that show how to use output from 3ds Max (3D Studio MAX) in After
Effects.
Dave Scotland provides a pair of tutorials on the CG Swot website in which he demonstrates how to create RPF files in
a 3D application and how to use RPF files in After Effects. The first part explains the RPF format and how to create RPF
files in 3DS Max. The second part shows how to use the Object ID and Z depth information in an RPF file within After
Effects, using the ID Matte, Depth of Field, Depth Matte, and Fog 3D effects.
Eran Stern provides a video tutorial on the Artbeats website that demonstrates the use of 3D tracking software that
solves for camera movement so that additional elements can be composited into the scene and appear to honor the
same camera movement. This video tutorial uses Pixel Farm PFHoe, but the techniques can be applied to almost any
matchmoving software.
Bartek Skorupa provides a tutorial on his website about using Blender and exporting the animation to After Effects.
You can also watch the camera tracking in Blender tutorial that shows focuses on lens distortion issues.
Harrison Ambs provides a two-part video tutorial on the CGTUTS+ website that demonstrates how to import data
from Cinema 4D into After Effects:

• part 1
• part 2
Paul Tuersley provides a script on the AE Enhancers website for transferring a composition from After Effects to
Cinema 4D.

Import RLA or RPF data into a camera layer
After Effects imports camera data saved with RLA or RPF sequence files. That data is incorporated into camera layers—
one for each camera in the sequence—that After Effects creates in the Timeline panel. You can access the camera data
of an imported RLA or RPF sequence and create a camera layer containing that data.
1 Add the sequence to a composition, and select its layer in the Timeline panel.
2 Choose Animation > Keyframe Assistant > RPF Camera Import.

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Note: To create an RLA or RPF file with the camera data in 3D Studio Max, save your rendering in RPF format with
Coverage, Z Depth, and Alpha Channels enabled.
Dave Scotland provides a pair of tutorials on the CG Swot website in which he demonstrates how to create RPF files
in a 3D application and how to use RPF files in After Effects. The first part explains the RPF format and how to create
RPF files in 3DS Max. The second part shows how to use the Object ID and Z depth information in an RPF file
within After Effects, using the ID Matte, Depth of Field, Depth Matte, and Fog 3D effects.

Baking and importing Maya data
After Effects imports camera data from Maya project files. Before importing Maya camera information, you need to
bake it. Baking camera data makes it easier to animate with keyframes later in your project. Baking places a keyframe
at each frame of the animation. You can have 0, 1, or a fixed number of keyframes for each camera or transform
property. For example, if a property is not animated in Maya, either no keyframes are set for this property or one
keyframe is set at the start of the animation. If a property has more than one keyframe, it must have the same number
as all of the other animation properties with more than one keyframe.
Reduce import time by creating or saving the simplest Maya file possible. In Maya, reduce keyframes by deleting static
channels before baking, and save a version of the Maya project that contains the camera animation only.
Note: The following transformation flags are not supported: query, relative, euler, objectSpace, worldSpace,
worldSpaceDistance, preserve, shear, scaleTranslation, rotatePivot, rotateOrder, rotateTranslation, matrix, boundingBox,
boundingBoxInvisible, pivots, CenterPivots, and zeroTransformPivots. After Effects skips these unsupported flags, and no
warnings or error messages appear.
By default, After Effects treats linear units specified in the Maya file as pixels.
You can import camera data from Maya project files (.ma) and work with the data as a single composition or two
compositions.
For each Maya file you import, After Effects creates either one or two compositions:

• If the Maya project has a square pixel aspect ratio, After Effects creates a single, square-pixel composition containing
the camera data and transformations.
• If the Maya project has a nonsquare pixel aspect ratio, After Effects creates two compositions. The first composition,
which has a filename prefixed by Square, is a square-pixel composition containing the camera data. The second, or
parent, composition is a nonsquare-pixel composition that retains the dimensions of the original file and contains
the square-pixel composition. When working with imported camera data, use 3D layers and square-pixel footage in
the square-pixel composition, and use all nonsquare-pixel footage in the containing composition.
When you import a Maya file with a 1-node camera, After Effects creates a camera in the square-pixel composition that
carries the camera’s focal length, film size, and transformation data.
When you import a Maya file with a 2-node or targeted camera, After Effects creates a camera and an additional parent
node in the square-pixel composition. The parent node contains only the camera’s transformation data. After Effects
imports 2-node cameras automatically with the locator node as the point of interest, with the Auto-Orientation option
of the camera set to Orient Towards Point Of Interest.
After Effects doesn’t read 3-node cameras.
Note: After Effects reads only the rendering cameras in Maya files and ignores the orthographic and perspective cameras.
Therefore, always generate a rendering camera from Maya, even if it’s the same as the perspective camera. If you apply the
FilmFit camera setting, make sure to use either horizontal or vertical FilmFit, not fill.

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After Effects can read Maya locator nodes, which enable you to track objects from the Maya scene as it is translated into
After Effects. After Effects creates a null layer and applies the relevant transformations to it if the name of a Maya locator
node contains the word Null, NULL, or null. Avoid parenting locator nodes to each other in Maya; instead, parent the
locator nodes to geometry.
Note: After Effects doesn’t read World or Underworld coordinates in the LocatorShape. Use a transform node to place them.

More Help topics
3D layers
Cameras, lights, and points ofinterest

Working with footage items
Organize, view, manage, and trim footage items
Compositions and footage items are listed in the Project panel. Unlike items in the Timeline panel and Effect Controls
panel, the order of items in the Project panel has no influence on the appearance of the movies that you create. You can
organize footage items and compositions however you like, including organizing them using folders. Solid-color
footage items are automatically placed in the Solids folder.
Folders that you create in the Project panel exist only in the Project panel. You can expand a folder to reveal its contents,
and put folders inside other folders. To move a file or folder to the top level of the Project panel, drag it to the gray
information area at the top of the panel.
You can use the search field in the Project panel to find footage items that meet various criteria, such as those with
missing source files. See Search and filter in the Timeline, Project, and Effects & Presets panels.
For a helpful video tutorial about organizing assets in the Project panel, see this video tutorial by Jeff Sengstack and
Infinite Skills.

Scripts for managing footage items
Jeff Almasol provides a script on his redefinery website that automatically writes specified information about footage
items or layers to the Comment fields for the respective items in the Project panel or Timeline panel.
Christopher Green provides a script (Project_Items_Renamer.jsx) on his website with which you can rename
compositions and footage items selected in the Project panel. You can search and replace text in the names, append
characters to the beginning or end of the names, or trim a specified number of characters from the beginning or end
of the names.
Lloyd Alvarez provides a script on the After Effects Scripts website with which you can search an After Effects project
and replace the file paths for the sources of footage items. This is convenient for swapping out source files, updating a
project after moving sources, or updating a project after moving it to a different computer system.

Show information for items
• To show information about a footage item or composition, select it in the Project panel. Information is displayed at
the top of the Project panel next to the thumbnail image.
• To show the file creator ID for a footage item, Alt-click (Windows) or Option-click (Mac OS) it in the Project panel.

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Create a folder
❖ Choose File > New > New Folder, or click the Create A New Folder icon

at the bottom of the Project panel.

Rename and sort items
• To rename a composition, footage item, or folder, do one of the following:
• Select the item in the Project panel, press Enter (Windows) or Return (Mac OS), and enter the new name.
• Right-click (Windows) or Control-click (Mac OS) the item, choose Rename, and enter the new name.
• To rename the Comment column, right-click (Windows) or Control-click (Mac OS) the column heading and choose
Rename This.
You can use the Comment column to create a custom sorting option. Rename the column, enter corresponding
information for each item (for example, camera number), and then sort by that column.

• To sort items by entries in any column, click the column name in the Project panel.

Copy items
• To duplicate or copy an item in the Project panel, select it and choose Edit > Duplicate or Edit > Copy.
• To copy a footage item to Windows Explorer (Windows) or the Finder (Mac OS), drag the footage item from the
Project panel to the desktop.

Reveal footage items
• To reveal where a footage item is used in a composition, right-click (Windows) or Control-click (Mac OS) the
footage item in the Project panel and choose Reveal In Composition; then select the specific instance you want to
reveal (composition name, layer name).
• To reveal the source footage item for a layer in the Project panel, right-click (Windows) or Control-click (Mac OS)
the layer in the Timeline panel, and then choose Reveal Layer Source In Project.
• To reveal the location of a footage item in Adobe Bridge, Windows Explorer, or the Finder, right-click (Windows)
or Control-click (Mac OS) the footage item in the Project panel and choose Reveal In Bridge, Reveal In Windows
Explorer, or Reveal In Finder.

Refresh footage items
❖ To refresh footage items selected in the Project panel to use the current versions of the source footage files, choose

File > Reload Footage.

View footage item in the Footage panel or media player assigned by operating system
When items are previewed in the Footage panel, they show the results of the footage interpretation operations. (See
Interpret footage items.)

• To open a footage item in a Footage panel, double-click the footage item in the Project panel.
• To open selected footage items in the Footage panel, press Enter on the numeric keypad when the Project panel is
active.
Note: To open the source for a footage item using the player application associated with that file type, Alt-double-click
(Windows) or Option-double-click (Mac OS) the footage item in the Project panel. See the documentation for your
operating system for instructions for changing the associations between applications and file types.

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Trim footage items in the Footage panel
You can use the Set In Point , Set Out Point , Ripple Insert Edit
, and Overlay Edit
controls in the Footage
panel to trim a footage item and insert it into a composition. Trimming in the Footage panel can be more convenient
than adding the footage item to a composition and then trimming its layer in the Timeline panel.

Edit footage in its original application
You can open and edit a footage item in the application in which it was created, directly from an After Effects project.
The original application must be installed on the computer that you are using, which must have enough available RAM
for it to run. When you edit and save changes to the footage in the original application, the changes are applied to all
instances of the footage when After Effects becomes the active application.
Note: If you’re editing footage that has an alpha channel, make sure that you’re viewing and editing all of the channels,
including the alpha channel, in the other application. Otherwise, changes you make may not be applied to the alpha
channel, and it may become misaligned with the color channels.
When you edit a still-image sequence selected in the Timeline or Composition panel, the individual image that is
currently displayed opens. When you edit a still-image sequence selected in the Project panel, the first image in the
sequence opens.
1 In the Project panel, Composition panel, or Timeline panel, select the footage item or a layer that uses the footage

item as its source. If you selected a still-image sequence from the Composition or Timeline panel, move the currenttime indicator to the frame displaying the still image you want to edit.
2 Choose Edit > Edit Original.
3 Edit the footage in its original application, and save the changes.

Remove items from a project
Before reducing your project, removing unused footage, or consolidating footage, consider making a backup by
incrementing and saving your project first. (See Save and back up projects in After Effects .)
Carl Larsen demonstrates the use of the Collect Files command and the Consolidate All Footage command in a video
tutorial on the Creative COW website that shows how to organize, consolidate, and archive project files and footage.

• To remove an item from a project, select the item in the Project panel and press Delete.
• To remove all unused footage items from a project, choose File > Remove Unused Footage.
• To remove all duplicate footage items from a project, Choose File > Consolidate All Footage. After Effects considers
footage items to be duplicates only if they use the same Interpret Footage settings.
When a duplicate item is removed, layers that refer to the duplicate item are updated to refer to the remaining copy.

• To remove unselected compositions and unused footage items from selected compositions in the Project panel,
choose File > Reduce Project. This command is available only when the Project panel is active.
This command removes both unused footage items and all other compositions that are not included within a
selected composition as nested (subordinate) compositions.
If the selected composition includes items that are turned off (that is, the Video or Audio switch is deselected in the
Timeline panel), the Reduce Project command does not remove those items.

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If an expression in a selected composition refers to an element in a nonsubordinate composition, Reduce Project
removes the nonsubordinate composition and the applied expression. A message appears after you choose Reduce
Project to remind you of this possibility, so you can undo the command if needed. To avoid removing the
expressions from a nonsubordinate composition, drag the nonsubordinate composition into the composition that
refers to it. Then deselect the Audio and Video switches for the composition that you added.
The SaveCompAsProject script from Sebastian Perier on the AEScripts website saves selected compositions as
individual projects.

Placeholders and proxies
When you want to temporarily use a substitute for a footage item, use either a placeholder or a proxy.
Placeholder A still image of color bars used to temporarily take the place of a missing footage item. Use a placeholder

when you are building a composition and want to try out ideas for a footage item that is not yet available. After Effects
generates placeholders automatically, so you do not have to provide a placeholder footage item.
Proxy Any file used to temporarily replace a footage item, but most often a lower-resolution or still version of an

existing footage item used to replace the original. Often, storyboard images are used as proxies. You can use a proxy
either before you have the final footage or when you have the actual footage item but you want to speed up previewing
or rendering of test movies. You must have a file available to use as a proxy.
Any masks, attributes, expressions, effects, and keyframes that you apply to the layer are retained when you replace its
placeholder or proxy with the final footage item.
In the Project panel, After Effects marks the footage name to indicate whether the actual footage item or its proxy is
currently in use:

• A filled box indicates that a proxy item is currently in use throughout the project. The name of the proxy appears in
bold type at the top of the Project panel when the footage item is selected.
• An empty box indicates that the footage item is in use throughout the project, though a proxy has been assigned.
• No box indicates that no proxy is assigned to the footage item.

Work with placeholders and missing footage items
For best results, set the placeholder to the same size, duration, and frame rate as the actual footage.
If After Effects cannot find source footage when you open a project, the footage item appears in the Project panel
labeled Missing, and the name of the missing footage appears in italics. Any composition using that item replaces it
with a placeholder. You can still work with the missing item in the project, and any effects you applied to the original
footage remain intact. When you replace the placeholder with the source footage, After Effects places the footage in its
correct location in all the compositions that use it.
You can find footage items for which the source items are missing by typing missing in the search field in the Project
panel. See Search and filter in the Timeline, Project, and Effects & Presets panels.

• To use a placeholder, choose File > Import > Placeholder.
• To replace the selected footage item with a placeholder, choose File > Replace Footage > Placeholder.
• To replace a placeholder with the actual footage item, select the placeholder you want to replace in the Project panel,
choose File > Replace Footage > File, and locate the actual footage.

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Work with proxies for footage items
When you use a proxy, After Effects replaces the actual footage with the proxy in all compositions that use the actual
footage item. When you finish working, you can switch back to the actual footage item in the project list. After Effects
then replaces the proxy with the actual footage item in any composition.
When you render your composition as a movie, you may choose to use either all the actual high-resolution footage
items or their proxies. You may want to use the proxies for a rendered movie if, for example, you simply want to test
motion using a rough movie that renders quickly.
For best results, set a proxy so that it has the same frame aspect ratio as the actual footage item. For example, if the actual
footage item is a 640x480-pixel movie, create and use a 160x120-pixel proxy. When a proxy item is imported, After
Effects scales the item to the same size and duration as the actual footage. If you create a proxy with a frame aspect ratio
that is different from the frame aspect ratio of the actual footage item, scaling takes longer.
❖ In the Project panel, do any of the following:

• To locate and use a proxy, select a footage item, choose File > Set Proxy > File, locate, and select the file you want
to use as a proxy, and click Open.
• To toggle between using the original footage and its proxy, click the proxy indicator to the left of the footage
name.
• To stop using a proxy, select the original footage item, and choose File > Set Proxy > None.

Create a proxy
Use the Create Proxy command to create a proxy from footage or compositions selected in the Project panel or the
Timeline panel. This command adds the selected footage to the Render Queue panel and sets the Post-Render Action
option to Set Proxy.
1 Open a footage item or composition in the Project or Timeline panel.
2 Move the current-time indicator in the Footage panel to the frame that you want to use as the proxy still item, or for

the poster frame for the movie footage item.
3 Choose one of the following commands:

• File > Create Proxy > Still to create a still image proxy.
• File > Create Proxy > Movie to create a moving image proxy.
4 Specify a name and output destination for the proxy.
5 In the Render Queue panel, specify render settings, and click Render.

Create placeholders for output
You can create placeholder files that can be used in different compositions. For example, you can create a placeholder
for an item in the render queue that will create a 24-fps movie and then drag that placeholder into a 30-fps composition.
Then, when you render the 30-fps composition, After Effects first renders the placeholder at 24 fps and uses this
rendered version as it renders the 30-fps composition.
❖ Drag the Output Module heading for a queued item from the Render Queue panel to the Project panel. After Effects

creates a placeholder for output in the Project panel and sets the Post-Render Action option for the item to Import
& Replace Usage.

Additional resources for working with placeholders and proxies
Trish and Chris Meyer give tips on prerendering and proxies in After Effects in this article on the ProVideo Coalition
website.

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Andrew Kramer provides a video tutorial with tips for working with proxies, output modules, and output module
templates on the Video Copilot website.
Jeff Almasol provides a script on his redefinery website that creates, sets, and unsets proxies and placeholders.
Charles Bordenave (nab) provides a script on the After Effects Scripts website with which you can create proxies for
multiple selected items.
Chris and Trish Meyer explain how to use Footage Proxies with RED footage in After Effects with this article on the
Pro Video Coalition website.
See this video tutorial on the Video2Brain website by Todd Kopriva for information about saving time by pre-rendering
and using proxies in After Effects.

Loop a footage item
If you intend to loop a visual footage item continuously in your project, you only need to create one cycle of the footage
item in After Effects.
1 In the Project panel, select the footage item to loop.
2 Choose File > Interpret Footage > Main.
3 Type an integer value for Loop and click OK.

Lloyd Alvarez provides a script on the After Effects Scripts website that automatically loops a footage item,
composition, or layer.

More Help topics
Collect files in one location
Color labels for layers, compositions, and footage items
Projects (keyboard shortcuts)
Trim, extend, or slip-edit a layer
Footage (keyboard shortcuts)
Render settings
Post-render actions

CINEMA 4D and Cineware
Cinema 4D is a popular 3D modeling and animation software from Maxon(www.maxon.net).
Closer integration with CINEMA 4D allows you to use Adobe After Effects and Maxon CINEMA 4D together. You can
create a CINEMA 4D file (.c4d) from within After Effects and you can work with complex 3D elements, scenes, and
animations.
To enable interoperability, CINEWARE (previously CINERENDER), the Maxon CINEMA 4D rendering engine, is
integrated with Adobe After Effects. After Effects can render Cinema 4D files, and you can control some aspects of
rendering, camera, and scene content on a per-layer basis. This streamlined workflow does not require you to create
intermediate pass or image sequence files.

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Maxon CINEMA 4D Lite
Maxon CINEMA 4D Lite R16 application gets installed along with After Effects. You can create, import, and edit
Cinema 4D files. However, if you have another edition of CINEMA 4D, such as CINEMA 4D Prime, you can use it
instead. The CINEMA 4D Lite application gives you the ability to edit, create, and work with native Cinema 4D files.
The features in the Lite version are similar to CINEMA 4D Prime.
The default behavior uses the higher version of the installed Cinema 4D application.
See this tutorial to learn to use Cinema 4D Lite with After effects cameras and lights.
Watch this video Overview of CINEMA 4D Lite by Chris Meyer.

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Working with Cinema 4D files
There are several options available to create, import, and edit Cinema 4D files from within After Effects.

Import Cinema 4D files
To import Cinema 4D files into After Effects, do the following:
1 Choose File > Import > File.
2 Select the Cinema 4D file and click Import. The file is placed in the Project panel as a footage item. You can place

the footage item on an existing composition, or create a matching composition.
Note: When you place the footage on a new composition using the new composition icon in the project panel, a composition
is created that matches the Cinema 4D file settings and then a CINEMA 4D layer is created and the 3D scene is placed on
it. If you drop the footage in an existing composition, the footage will pick up the composition size/aspect instead.
Note: Before importing, enable Save Polygons For Melange and Save Animation For Melange preferences in CINEMA 4D
application preferences. These settings are especially useful in cases where Cinema 4D frames depend on previous frames.

Edit Cinema 4D files
You can edit Cinema 4D files placed in compositions or Cinema 4D source items in the Project window. The files open
in the CINEMA 4D Lite application. If you have a different version of CINEMA 4D installed, that is used to edit the
file instead. See Edit footage in its original application.
You can choose the version of Cinema 4D you want to use with Edit Original. See Updates to Cineware Effect
For more information, see the video by Jeff Sengstack on Importing and editing Cinema 4D files.

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Create Cinema 4D files
You can create a Cinema 4D file from within After Effects.
1 Choose File > New > Maxon CINEMA 4D File or Layer > New > Maxon CINEMA 4D File.
2 Specify a name and location of the file.
3 The CINEMA 4D application opens.
4 Create a C4D scene and choose File > Save to save the file.

For more information, see this video by Jeff Sengstack on Creating CINEMA 4D files.

CINEWARE effect
The integration of CINEWARE (previously CINERENDER), which is based on the CINEMA 4D render engine,
enables rendering of layers based on CINEMA 4D files directly in After Effects. The CINEWARE effect lets you control
the render settings, and provides some control over the render quality-speed tradeoff. You can also specify cameras,
passes, or C4D layers used for a render. The CINEWARE effect is automatically applied when you create a layer based
on C4D footage on the composition. Each CINEMA 4D layer has its own render and display settings.
For more information, see Understanding the CINEWARE effect and render engine on Adobe TV.

Synchronize Layer
The Synchronize Layer setting enables you to automatically synchronize your Cineware settings with all the layers in a
composition. When you add multiple instances of a CINEMA 4D scene layer in a composition, including adding MultiPass layers, you will see a new checkbox, Synchronize Layer at the top of the Effect Controls panel. When the box is
checked (default), the Cineware effect settings on all instances of the layer synchronize automatically. If the checkbox
is disabled for a specific CINEMA 4D scene layer, then that layer's settings will not synchronize with the rest of the
layers in the composition.

Render settings
The cineware render settings determine how to render the scene inside After Effects. These settings can help you speed
up the rendering process while you're working.
Renderer Determines which renderer to use. The following options are available :

• Standard (Final): Uses the Standard renderer as specified in the C4D file. Use the CINEMA 4D application to edit
these settings.
• Standard (Draft): Uses the Standard renderer but turns off slower settings like anti-aliasing for better interactivity.
• Software: Uses the settings to provide the fastest rendering, by letting you choose Display settings. Shaders and
multi-passes are not displayed. Use the Software renderer to preview while you continue to work on the
composition.
Note: Render Multiple Frames Simultaneously multiprocessing is disabled when using C4D layers.
Display This option is only enabled when you choose the Software renderer. The available options are Current Shading,
Wireframe, and Box. The wireframe and box modes provide a simplified representation of the scene.
No Textures/Shader Check this option to speed up your render by not rendering textures and shaders.
No pre-calculation Check this option to speed up your render by disabling pre-calculations for computing motion
dynamics or particle simulations. Do not check this option for final rendering.
Keep Textures in RAM Check this option to cache textures in the RAM so that they are not reloaded from disk and can

be accessed more quickly. On the other hand, if you cache large textures, it may lead to reduction in available RAM.

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Apply to All Each CINEMA 4D layer has its own Render settings. Click Apply to All to set the current settings to all
other instances of the C4D file in the composition. If you want different layers to have different settings, then don't use
this option. If settings are mismatched when they should be the same, it can slow down the rendering and cause render
mismatches.

Note: The Apply to All option has been removed in the October 2014 release of (Cineware) After Effects CC.

Project Settings
The following project settings are available in the Cineware effect:

• Camera
• Cinema 4D Layers
• Multi-Pass (Linear Workflow)
• Commands
Camera Choose the camera to use for rendering.

• CINEMA 4D Camera: Uses the camera that is defined as the render view camera in CINEMA 4D, or the default
camera if none is defined.
• Select CINEMA 4D camera: Use this option to choose a camera. When this option is enabled, click Set Camera.
• Centered Comp Camera: Use this option to use the After Effects camera, and recalculate the CINEMA 4D coordinates to adapt to the After Effect co-ordinates. When you import an existing C4D file (typically modeled around
0,0,0) to be rendered with a new After Effects camera (which is centered on the comp), use this option to render the
C4D model in the After Effects comp center. Otherwise the model may be unexpectedly shifted due to origin
difference.
• Comp Camera: Use this option to use the active After Effects camera. For this option to work, you must have added
an After Effects camera. For example, use this option for a camera that has been added by extracting it from a
Cinema 4D project (since those cameras reference Cinema 4D's coordinate system with 0,0,0 at the center of the
Cinema 4D viewport). This option is suited for cameras that are added to After Effects by using the Layer > New >
Camera command.
CINEMA 4D Layers Enable and select the CINEMA 4D layers to render.
Set Layers Click to choose layers. Click the Set Layers button to choose one or more layers. In CINEMA 4D, layers let

you organize multiple elements. You can use CINEMA 4D layers to composite between elements in the After Effects
comp.
Apply to All Click Apply to All to set the current layer's camera settings to all other instances of the C4D file in the
composition.

Note: The Apply to All option has been removed in the October 2014 release of (Cineware) After Effects CC.
Multi-Pass (Linear Workflow) Use the CINEMA 4D Multi-Pass option to specify which pass to render. The multi-pass

features are only available when using the Standard renderer.
Multi-Passes give you the ability to quickly make fine adjustments to a C4D scene by compositing different kinds of
passes together in After Effects, such as adjusting just the shadows or reflections in the scene. For the results to match
Cinema 4D's default Linear Workflow project setting, you must work in a project in which colors are blended in linear
light (either in a color-managed linear working space or with Blend Colors Using 1.0 Gamma set in the Project Settings
dialog box).
Set Multi-Pass Click to select which pass to render on this layer. This option is only available if CINEMA 4D Multi-

Pass option is enabled.

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Defined Multi-Passes When enabled, adds the passes explicitly added in the .c4d file. This can include passes other

than Image Layers.
Add Image Layers Use this option to create multiple pass layers with proper blending modes depending on the setting
of Defined Multi-Passes. When the Defined Multi-Passes option is enabled, Add Image Layers restricts you to just
adding the passes defined in the Cinema 4D render settings rather than adding all supported types.

Note: When adding image layers, the layer that was originally selected will be placed at the bottom of the Timeline stack,
and renamed with RGBA Image appended to the layer name to reflect its multi-pass type.
Commands Use the following commands.
Comp Camera into CINEMA 4D Click Merge to add the current After Effects camera as a C4D camera in the C4D file.
This modifies the C4D file. Use File > Revert to Saved in C4D to see the newly added After Effects camera. This
command is especially useful to transfer camera data created by the 3D Camera Tracker effect. AE is prefixed to the
camera name.

Note: If you merge again, the previous camera is not updated. A new copy is created instead.
CINEMA 4D Scene Data Click Extract to create 3D data such as cameras, lights, solids or nulls for objects that have an

External Compositing tag applied in the Cinema 4D project.
Always enable Save Polygons for Melange option and Save Animation for Melange option in the CINEMA 4D
preferences to avoid problems extracting scene data in After Effects.
Note: Depending on your computer's security settings, you may see some warnings about TCP communication. This is
because After Effects and the background Cinema 4D renderer communicate using TCP which some security software may
interpret as dangerous malware communication. For example , Mac OS may require you to confirm if you want to run this
software "downloaded from the internet". Confirm that you want to run this software.If you are able to import a .c4d file,
but it fails to render, check if your Mac OS gatekeeper or your firewall has blocked the background Cinema 4D renderer
from functioning and communicating with After Effects. For Mac users, set Allow Applications Downloaded From (under
the General tab of Security and Privacy system preferences) to Anywhere.The TCP port used is defined in the Options in
the CINEWARE effect, and this value is stored in the After Effects preferences file.

Updates to Cineware Effect
You can now specify the instance of Cinema 4D that you want to use in the Cineware plug-in.

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Click Cineware Effect > Options and choose from the following settings:

• Cinema 4D Render Path - Choose the version of Cinema 4D (R14, R15, or R16) for rendering in After Effects. For
example, you can choose to use Cinema 4D Studio, Broadcast, Prime, or Visualize if you have it installed.
• Cinema 4D Executable Path - Choose the version of Cinema 4D to use when opening a .c4d file with Edit Original
or when creating a new Cinema 4D file from After Effects. The default Cinema 4D Lite application is located at :
• C:\Program Files\Adobe\Adobe After Effects CC\Support Files\Plug-Ins\MAXON CINEWARE
AE\(CINEWARE Support)\lite\CINEMA 4D Lite.exe (Windows)
• /Applications/Adobe After Effects CC 2014/Plug-ins/MAXON CINEWARE AE/(CINEWARE
Support)/Lite/CINEMA 4D Lite.app (Mac OS).
After using a full retail version of CINEMA 4D as renderer, if you want to switch back to the default Cineware renderer,
click the Defaults button in the Cineware-Settings dialog box.

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Switch render paths
Follow the steps below to switch render paths (such as changing Cinema 4D rendering application):
1 Options > Browse To Set Render Path
2 Select the new application
3 Exit After Effects
4 Launch After Effects
5 Click Edit > Purge > All Memory & Disk Cache for the new settings to take effect.

If you experience a connection failure after switching the renderer, exit After Effects, wait for 20-30 seconds, and then
relaunch the application again.

New rendering capabilities
When you choose Cinema 4D R14, R15, or R16 (retail version) as the renderer, you can use new rendering capabilities
within the After Effects Cineware plug-in that is beyond the default renderer, such as Physical renderer and Sketch and
Toon.
To use the Physical renderer, do the following:
1 Choose the Physical renderer in the Cinema 4D Render Settings dialog.
1 From the Render menu, choose Render > Edit Render Settings.
2 In the Render Settings dialog, set the pop-up to Renderer: Physical.
3 Click Physical and set other settings such Depth of Field or Motion Blur options.
4 Save the .c4d file with the renderer settings.
5 The renderer specified in Cinema 4D is the one that will be used by the Cineware effect when the Renderer Settings

option in the effect is set to Standard (Final) and Standard (Draft).
To render Sketch and Toon, do the following:
1 From the Create menu in the Cinema 4D application, choose Create > Material > Sketch Material.
1 In the Render Settings dialog, set the pop-up to Renderer: Standard.
2 In the Render Settings dialog, ensure that Sketch and Toon post effects are added and checked.
3 Save the .c4d file with Sketch and Toon enabled.
4 Sketch and Toon will be rendered by the Cineware effect when the renderer settings in the effect is set to Standard

(Final).
Note: You can control Sketch and Toon for individual objects in the Object manager by adding Tags > Sketch Tags >
Sketch Style (see the Maxon Cinema 4D Help documentation for more information about Sketch and Toon).
Note: The following versions of Cinema 4D are compatible with this version of Cineware:

• R14.042 or above. Use the Cinema 4D online updater to install the current version.
• R15.037 or above
• R16
Note:

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Learn tutorial: Insert 3D objects
Learn how to create photorealistic visual content by inserting 3D objects directly into After Effects compositions
using the Live 3D Pipeline with the included Maxon Cinema 4D Lite.

Importing from After Effects and Adobe Premiere Pro
Import an After Effects project
You can import one After Effects project into another. Everything from the imported project—including footage items,
compositions, and folders—appears inside a new folder in the current Project panel.
You can import an After Effects project from a different operating system, as long as you maintain the filenames, folder
names, and either full or relative paths (folder locations) for all files in the project. To maintain relative paths, the source
footage files must reside on the same volume as the project file. Use the File > Collect Files command to gather copies
of all files in a project or composition into a single location. (See Cross-platform project considerations.)
1 Choose File > Import > File.
2 Select the After Effects project to import, and click Open.

If the operating system that you are using does not support a file format, if the file is missing, or if the reference link is
broken, After Effects substitutes a placeholder item containing color bars. You can reconnect the placeholder to the
appropriate file by double-clicking the entry in the Project panel and navigating to the source file. In most cases, you
need to relink only one footage file. After Effects locates other missing items if they’re in the same location.
Note: When you render a movie and export it to the QuickTime (MOV), Video for Windows (AVI) format, you can embed
a link to the project in the container file. To import the project, import the MOV, AVI, FLV, or F4V file, and choose Project
from the Import As menu in the Import File dialog box. If the file contains a link to a project that has been moved, you can
browse to locate the project..

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Import an Adobe Premiere Pro project
Note: Importing an Adobe Premiere Pro project into After Effects does not use Dynamic Link. After Effects can’t import a
Premiere Pro project if one or more sequences in it are already dynamically linked to After Effects. (See Working with Adobe
Premiere Pro and After Effects.)
When you import an Adobe Premiere Pro project, After Effects imports it into the Project panel as both a new
composition containing each Adobe Premiere Pro clip as a layer, and as a folder containing each clip as an individual
footage item. If your Adobe Premiere Pro project contains bins, After Effects converts them to folders within the Adobe
Premiere Pro project folder. After Effects converts nested sequences to nested compositions.
Not all features of an Adobe Premiere Pro project are preserved when the project is imported into After Effects. The
same features are preserved when you import a Premiere Pro project into After Effects as when you copy and paste
between Premiere Pro and After Effects. (See Importing from After Effects and Adobe Premiere Pro .)
After Effects preserves the order of clips in the timeline, the footage duration (including all trimmed In and Out points),
and marker and transition locations. After Effects bases the arrangement of layers in the Timeline panel on the
arrangement of clips in the Adobe Premiere Pro Timeline panel. After Effects adds Adobe Premiere Pro clips to the
Timeline panel as layers in the order in which they appeared—from the bottom up and from left to right—in the Adobe
Premiere Pro Timeline panel. After Effects preserves changes made to the speed of a clip, for example, with the Clip >
Speed command, and these changes appear as a value in the Stretch column in the After Effects Timeline panel.
After Effects imports effects common to Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects, and preserves keyframes for these
effects.
Transitions and titles (except for dissolves) included in your Adobe Premiere Pro project appear in the After Effects
composition as solid layers with their original location and duration.
Audio Level keyframes are preserved.
1 Choose File > Import > File or File > Import > Adobe Premiere Pro Project.

If you choose Import > Adobe Premiere Pro Project, then only Adobe Premiere Pro projects are shown.
2 Select a project, and click OK.
3 Do any of the following:

• To import only one sequence, choose a sequence from the menu.
• To import audio, select Import Audio.
To add a single item from a track in an Adobe Premiere Pro project, copy the item in Adobe Premiere Pro, and choose
Edit> Paste in After Effects.

Copy between After Effects and Adobe Premiere Pro
• From the After Effects Timeline panel, you can copy layers based on audio or video footage items (including solids)
and paste them into the Adobe Premiere Pro Timeline panel.
• From the Adobe Premiere Pro Timeline panel, you can copy assets (any items in a track) and paste them into the
After Effects Timeline panel.
• From either After Effects or Adobe Premiere Pro, you can copy and paste footage items to the other’s Project panel.
Note: You can’t, however, paste footage items from the After Effects Project panel into the Adobe Premiere Pro Timeline
panel.
If you want to work with all clips or a single sequence from an Adobe Premiere Pro project, use the Import command
instead to import the project into After Effects.

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Use Adobe Dynamic Link to create dynamic links, without rendering, between new or existing compositions in After
Effects and Adobe Premiere Pro. (See About Dynamic Link)

Copy from After Effects to Adobe Premiere Pro
You can copy a layer based on a footage item from an After Effects composition and paste it into an Adobe Premiere
Pro sequence. Adobe Premiere Pro converts these layers to clips in the sequence and copies the source footage item to
its Project panel. If the layer contains an effect that is also used by Adobe Premiere Pro, Adobe Premiere Pro converts
the effect and all of its settings and keyframes.
You can also copy nested compositions, Photoshop layers, solid-color layers, and audio layers. Adobe Premiere Pro
converts nested compositions to nested sequences, and solid-color layers to color mattes. You cannot copy shape, text,
camera, light, or adjustment layers to Adobe Premiere Pro.
1 Start Adobe Premiere Pro (you must start Adobe Premiere Pro before you copy the layer in After Effects).
2 Select a layer (or layers) from the After Effects Timeline panel.

Note: If you select multiple layers and the layers don’t overlap in After Effects, they’re placed on the same track in Adobe
Premiere Pro. On the other hand, if the layers overlap in After Effects, the order in which you select them determines
the order of their track placement in Adobe Premiere Pro. Each layer is placed on a separate track, and the last selected
layer appears on Track 1. For example, if you select layers from top to bottom, the layers appear in the reverse order in
Adobe Premiere Pro, with the bottom-most layer on Track 1.
3 Choose Edit > Copy.
4 In Adobe Premiere Pro, open a sequence in the Timeline panel.
5 Move the current-time indicator to the desired location, and choose either Edit > Paste or Edit > Paste Insert.

Results of pasting into Adobe Premiere Pro
When you paste a layer into an Adobe Premiere Pro sequence, keyframes, effects, and other properties in the copied
layer are converted as follows:
After Effects item

Converted to in Adobe Premiere Pro

Audio volume property

Channel Volume filter

Blending modes

Blending modes supported by Adobe
Premiere Pro are converted

Effect properties and keyframes

Effect properties and keyframes, if the effect
also exists in Adobe Premiere Pro

Expressions

Not converted

Layer markers

Clip markers

Masks and mattes

Not converted

Stereo Mixer effect

Channel Volume filter

Time Remap property

Time Remapping effect

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Notes

Adobe Premiere Pro lists unsupported effects
as offline in the Effect Controls panel. Some
After Effects effects have the same names as
those in Adobe Premiere Pro, but since they’re
actually different effects, they aren’t
converted.

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After Effects item

Converted to in Adobe Premiere Pro

Notes

Time Stretch property

Speed property

Speed and time stretch have an inverse
relationship. For example, 200% stretch in
After Effects converts to 50% speed in Adobe
Premiere Pro.

Transform property values and keyframes

Motion or Opacity values and keyframes

The keyframe type—Bezier, Auto Bezier,
Continuous Bezier, or Hold—is retained.

Source settings for R3D source files

Source settings for R3D source files

Copy from Adobe Premiere Pro to After Effects
You can copy a video or audio asset from an Adobe Premiere Pro sequence and paste it into an After Effects
composition. After Effects converts assets to layers and copies the source footage items into its Project panel. If the asset
contains an effect that is also used by After Effects, After Effects converts the effect and all of its settings and keyframes.
You can copy color mattes, stills, nested sequences, and offline files, too. After Effects converts color mattes into solidcolor layers and converts nested sequences into nested compositions. When you copy a Photoshop still image into After
Effects, After Effects retains the Photoshop layer information. You cannot paste Adobe Premiere Pro titles into After
Effects, but you can paste text with attributes from the Adobe Premiere Titler into After Effects.
1 Select an asset from the Adobe Premiere Pro Timeline panel.
2 Choose Edit > Copy.
3 In After Effects, open a composition in the Timeline panel.
4 With the Timeline panel active, choose Edit > Paste. The asset appears as the topmost layer in the Timeline panel.

Note: To paste the asset at the current-time indicator, place the current-time indicator and press Ctrl+Alt+V (Windows)
or Command+Option+V (Mac OS).

Results of pasting into After Effects
When you paste an asset into an After Effects composition, keyframes, effects, and other properties in a copied asset
are converted as follows:
Adobe Premiere Pro asset

Converted to in After Effects

Notes

Audio track

Audio layers

Audio tracks that are either 5.1 surround or
greater than 16-bit aren’t supported. Mono
and stereo audio tracks are imported as one or
two layers.

Bars and tone

Not converted

Blending modes

Converted

Clip marker

Layer marker

Color mattes

Solid-color layers

Crop filter

Mask layer

Frame Hold

Time Remap property

Motion or Opacity values and keyframes

Transform property values and keyframes

Keyframe type—Bezier, Auto Bezier,
Continuous Bezier, or Hold—is retained.

Sequence marker

Markers on a new solid-color layer

To copy sequence markers, you must either
copy the sequence itself or import the entire
Adobe Premiere Pro project as a composition.

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Adobe Premiere Pro asset

Converted to in After Effects

Notes

Speed property

Time Stretch property

Speed and time stretch have an inverse
relationship. For example, 50% speed in
Adobe Premiere Pro is converted to 200%
stretch in After Effects.

Time Remapping effect

Time Remap property

Titles

Not converted

Universal counting leaders

Not converted

Video and audio transitions

Opacity keyframes (Cross dissolve only) or
solid-color layers

Video effect properties and keyframes

Effect properties and keyframes, if the effect
also exists in After Effects

After Effects doesn’t display unsupported
effects in the Effect Controls panel.

Volume and Channel Volume audio filters

Stereo mixer effect

Other audio filters are not converted.

Source settings for R3D source files

Source settings for R3D source files

Note: When you import a Premiere Pro project into After Effects, features are converted in the same manner as they are
converted when copying from Premiere Pro to After Effects.

More Help topics
Collect files in one location
Placeholders and proxies
About precomposing and nesting

Preparing and importing still images
Preparing still-image files for importing
You can import individual still images into After Effects or import a series of still images as a sequence. For information
about the still-image formats that After Effects imports, see Supported import formats.
After Effects works internally in an RGB color space, but it can import and convert CMYK images. However, when
possible, you should work in an RGB color space in applications such as Illustrator and Photoshop when creating
images for video, film, and other non-print media. Working in RGB provides a larger gamut and more accurately
reflects your final output.
Before you import a still image into After Effects, prepare it as completely as possible to reduce rendering time. It is
usually easier and faster to prepare a still image in its original application than to modify it in After Effects. Consider
doing the following to an image before importing it into After Effects:

• Make sure that the file format is supported by the operating system you plan to use.
• Crop the parts of the image that you do not want to be visible in After Effects.

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Note: Illustrator files can have fractional dimensions (for example, 216.5x275.5 pixels). When importing these files, After
Effects compensates for the fractional dimensions by rounding up to the next whole number of pixels (for example, 217x278
pixels). This rounding results in a black line at the right (width) or bottom (height) edge of the imported image. When
cropping in Illustrator, make sure that the dimensions of the cropped area are whole numbers of pixels.

• If you want to designate areas as transparent, create an alpha channel or use the transparency tools in applications
such as Photoshop or Illustrator.
• If final output will be broadcast video, avoid using thin horizontal lines (such as 1-pixel lines) for images or text
because they may flicker as a result of interlacing. If you must use thin lines, add a slight blur so that the image or
text appears in both video fields instead of flickering between them. (See Interlaced video and separating fieldsand
Best practices for creating text and vector graphics for video.)
• If final output will be broadcast video, make sure that important parts of the image fall within the action-safe and
title-safe zones. When you create a document in Illustrator or Photoshop using a preset for film and video, the safe
zones are shown as guide lines. (See Safe zones, grids, guides, and rulers.)
• If the final output will be broadcast video, keep colors within the broadcast-safe ranges. (See Broadcast-safe colors.)
• Save the file using the correct naming convention. For example, if you plan to import the file into After Effects on
Windows, use a three-character filename extension.
• Set the pixel dimensions to the resolution and frame aspect ratio that you will use in After Effects. If you plan to
scale the image over time, set image dimensions that provide enough detail at the largest size the image has in the
project. After Effects supports a maximum image size of 30,000x30,000 pixels for importing and rendering files. The
size of image that you can import or export is influenced by the amount of physical RAM available to After Effects.
The maximum composition dimensions are also 30,000x30,000 pixels.
Note: The image size or pixel dimensions setting in Photoshop (or other image-editing application) is relevant for the
preparation of image data for import into After Effects—not dpi (dots per inch) or ppi (pixels per inch) settings. The image
size determines how many pixels wide and tall an image is, whether those pixels are the tiny ones on a mobile device or the
big ones on a motion billboard. The dpi or ppi settings are relevant to printing an image and to the scale of copied and
pasted paths.

Import a single still image or a still-image sequence
You can import still image files as individual footage items, or you can import a series of still image files as a still-image
sequence, which is a single footage item in which each still image is used as a single frame.
To import multiple image files as a single still-image sequence, the files must be in the same folder and use the same
numeric or alphabetic filename pattern (such as Seq1, Seq2, Seq3).
When you import a file that appears to After Effects to be one file in a still-image sequence, After Effects by default
imports all other files in the same folder that appear to be in the same sequence. Similarly, when you select multiple
files that appear to be in a sequence, After Effects by default imports them as a sequence. You can see what After Effects
is about to import by looking at the bottom of the Import dialog box. You can also import images and sequences by
dragging files and folders into the Project panel.
To prevent After Effects from importing unwanted files when you want to import only a single file, or to prevent After
Effects from interpreting multiple files as a sequence, deselect the Sequence option in the Import dialog box. After Effects
remembers this setting and thereafter uses it as the default.
You can import multiple sequences from the same folder simultaneously by selecting files from different sequences and
selecting Multiple Sequences at the bottom of the Import dialog box.

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When importing a sequence of still images, you can use the Force Alphabetical Order option in the Import dialog box
to import a sequence with gaps in its numbering (for example, Seq1, Seq2, Seq3, Seq5). If you import a sequence with
gaps in its numbering without selecting this option, After Effects warns you of missing frames and replaces them with
placeholders.
After Effects uses settings of the first image in the sequence to determine how to interpret the images in the sequence.
If the image files in a sequence are of a layered file type—such as Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator documents—
then you can choose to import the sequence as a standard footage item, or as a composition in which each layer in each
file is imported as a separate sequence and appears as a separate layer in the Timeline panel.
Note: When you render a composition that contains a numbered sequence, the output module uses the start frame number
as the first frame number. For example, if you start to render on frame 25, the name of the file is 00025.

Import a still-image sequence as a single footage item
1 Choose File > Import > File.
2 Select any file in the sequence. To import a subset of files in a sequence, select the first file, hold down Shift, and then

select the last file to import.
3 Choose Footage from the Import As menu.
4 Click Open (Windows) or Import (Mac OS).
5 In the [filename] dialog box, choose one of the following from the Choose Layer menu:
Merged Layers Imports the sequence as a sequence footage item in which the layers in the file, if any, are merged

into one layer.
Choose Layer Imports the sequence as a sequence footage item in which the same layer from each source file—for
example, layer 3—is imported and used in the sequence. If you choose this option for a PSD sequence, then you can
also choose whether to ignore layer styles or merge them into the layer. You must also choose a Footage Dimensions
option: Layer Size matches the dimensions of the layer to the content of the layer; Document Size matches the
dimensions of the layer to the size of the original document.

6 Click OK.

If at any time you decide that you want access to the individual components of the footage item, you can convert it to
a composition. See Convert a merged footage item into a composition.

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Import a still-image sequence as a composition
When you import a Photoshop or Illustrator file as a composition, you have access to the individual layers, blending
modes, adjustment layers, layer styles, masks, guides, and other features created in Photoshop or Illustrator. The
imported composition and a folder containing each of its layers as footage items appears in the Project panel.
1 Choose File > Import > File.
2 Select any file in the sequence. To import a subset of files in a sequence, select the first file, hold down Shift, and then

select the last file to import.
3 Choose one of the following from the Import As menu:
Composition - Retain Layer Sizes Import the layers, each with its original dimensions.

One reason to import as a composition with layers at their original dimensions (rather than importing each layer at
the composition frame size) is so that each layer has its anchor point set at the center of the cropped graphics object,
rather than at the center of the composition frame. This more often makes transformations work more as you’d
expect and prefer when animating individual layers of an imported graphic item. For example, if you have a car with
a separate layer for each wheel, importing as a composition with layers at their original sizes puts the anchor point
of each wheel in the center of the wheel, which makes rotating the wheels work as you’d expect.
Composition Import layers and have the dimensions of each match the dimensions of the composition frame.

4 Click Open (Windows) or Import (Mac OS).

Convert a merged footage item into a composition
When you import a layered file, such as a Photoshop or Illustrator file, as footage, all of its layers are merged together.
If at any time you decide that you want access to the individual components of the footage item, you can convert it to
a composition.

• To convert all instances of a footage item, select it in the Project panel and choose File > Replace Footage > With
Layered Comp.
• To convert only one instance of the footage item, select the layer in the Timeline panel, and choose Layer > Convert
To Layered Comp.
Note: It may take a few moments to convert a merged footage item to a layered composition.

Change the frame rate of a sequence
When you import a sequence of still images, it assumes the frame rate specified by the Sequence Footage preference in
the Import category. The default rate is 30 frames per second (fps). You can change the frame rate after importing by
reinterpreting the footage item:
❖ Select the sequence in the Project panel, choose File > Interpret Footage > Main, and then enter a new value for

Assume This Frame Rate.
For more information, see Frame rate.

Preparing and importing Photoshop files
Note: For information and instructions that apply to all kinds of still image files, see Preparing still-image files for
importingand Import a single still image or a still-image sequence.
Because After Effects includes the Photoshop rendering engine, After Effects imports all attributes of Photoshop files,
including position, blending modes, opacity, visibility, transparency (alpha channel), layer masks, layer groups
(imported as nested compositions), adjustment layers, layer styles, layer clipping paths, vector masks, image guides, and
clipping groups.

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Before you import a layered Photoshop file into After Effects, prepare it thoroughly to reduce preview and rendering
time. Avoid problems importing and updating Photoshop layers by doing the following:

• Organize and name layers. If you change a layer name in a Photoshop file after you have imported it into After
Effects, After Effects retains the link to the original layer. However, if you delete a layer, After Effects is unable to
find the original layer and lists it as Missing in the Project panel.
• Make sure that each layer has a unique name. This is not a requirement of the software, but helps to keep you from
becoming confused.
• If you think that you might add layers to the Photoshop file in Photoshop after you have imported it into After
Effects, go ahead and add a small number of placeholder layers before you import the file into After Effects. When
you refresh the file in After Effects, it will not pick up any layers that have been added since the file was imported.
• Unlock layers in Photoshop before importing into After Effects. This is not necessary for most kinds of layers, but
it is required for some kinds of layers. For example, background layers that must be converted to RGB may not be
imported correctly if they are locked.
A convenient command within After Effects is Layer > New > Adobe Photoshop File, which adds a layer to a
composition and then opens the source of that layer in Photoshop for you to begin creating a visual element, such as a
background layer for your movie. The layer in Photoshop is created with the correct settings for your After Effects
composition. As with many of the Creative Suite applications, you can use the Edit Original command in After Effects
to open a PSD file in Photoshop, make and save changes, and have those changes appear immediately in the movie that
refers to the PSD source file. Even if you don’t use Edit Original, you can use the Reload Footage command to have After
Effects refresh its layers to use the current version of the PSD file. (See Create a layer and new Photoshop footage
itemand Edit footage in its original application.)
Note: One good way to prevent interlace flicker from thin horizontal lines in still images is to run the Interlace Flicker
Removal action in Photoshop before you bring the still images into After Effects. Photoshop includes several video actions
for utility purposes such as this.
Online resources about preparing and importing Photoshop files
Richard Harrington and Ian Robinson provide a free sample chapter from their “Motion Graphics with Adobe Creative
Suite 5 Studio Techniques” book on the Peachpit Press website. This chapter shows how to prepare Illustrator and
Photoshop files.
See this video tutorial by Andrew Devis on the Creative Cow website about importing and using Photoshop PSD files
in After Effects.
Color modes
Layered Photoshop (PSD) files need to be saved in RGB or Grayscale color mode for After Effects to import them as a
composition and to separate the layers. CMYK, LAB, Duotone, Monotone, and Tritone color modes are not supported
for layered files; After Effects will import a file that uses one of these color modes as a single, flattened image.
(Regarding the other color modes available in Photoshop such as Bitmap and Indexed: Photoshop does not support
layers in these color modes.)
To determine or change the color mode of a document in Photoshop, choose Image > Mode. (The color mode is also
displayed in the title bar of the document window.)
Masks and alpha channels
Adobe Photoshop supports a transparent area and one optional layer mask (alpha channel) for each layer in a file. You
can use these layer masks to specify how different areas within a layer are hidden or revealed. If you import one layer,
After Effects combines the layer mask (if present) with the transparent area and imports the layer mask as a straight
alpha channel.

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If you import a layered Photoshop file as a merged file, After Effects merges the transparent areas and layer masks of
all the layers into one alpha channel that is premultiplied with white.
When you import a Photoshop file as a composition, vector masks are converted to After Effects masks. You can then
modify and animate these masks within After Effects.
Photoshop clipping groups, layer groups, and Smart Objects
If the layered Photoshop file contains clipping groups, After Effects imports each clipping group as a precomposition
nested within the main composition. After Effects automatically applies the Preserve Underlying Transparency option
to each layer in the clipping-group composition, maintaining transparency settings. These nested precompositions
have the same dimensions as the main composition.
Paul Tuersley provides a script on the AE Enhancers forum that crops the precompositions to the size of their contents,
while retaining their correct position in the main composition.
Photoshop layer groups are imported as individual compositions.
It is often valuable to group layers into Smart Objects in Photoshop so that you can import meaningful collections of
Photoshop layers as individual layers in After Effects. For example, if you used 20 layers to create your foreground
object and 30 layers to create your background object in Photoshop, you probably don’t need to import all of those
individual layers into After Effects if all that you want to do is animate your foreground object flying in front of your
background object; consider grouping them into a single foreground Smart Object and a single background Smart
Object before importing the PSD file into After Effects.
Photoshop layer styles and blending modes
After Effects also supports blending modes and layer styles applied to the file. When you import a Photoshop file with
layer styles, you can choose the Editable Layer Styles option or the Merge Layer Styles Into Footage option:
Editable Layer Styles Matches appearance in Photoshop and preserves supported layer style properties as editable.

Note: A layer with a layer style interferes with intersection of 3D layers and the casting of shadows.
Merge Layer Styles Into Footage Layer styles are merged into the layer for faster rendering, but the appearance may not

match the appearance of the image in Photoshop. This option doesn’t interfere with intersection of 3D layers or casting
of shadows.
Photoshop video layers
Photoshop files can contain video and animation layers. After Effects can import these files like any other Photoshop
files, either as a footage item with all layers merged together or as a composition with each Photoshop layer separate
and editable in After Effects. (Working with Photoshop video layers requires QuickTime 7.1 or later.)
Note: After Effects can’t import a Photoshop video layer that uses an image sequence as its source.
In After Effects CS6 and later, video layer support in Photoshop .psd documents has been removed. The layers will still
have a duration, but won't play. Animating layers with available properties in the Photoshop animation timeline (like
Position and Opacity) are supported.
3D object layers in PSD files
Adobe Photoshop Extended can import and manipulate 3D models (3D objects) in several popular formats. Photoshop
can also create 3D objects in basic, primitive shapes. See 3D object layers from Photoshop .
Scaling and resizing
Though it's not very well suited for movies, the content-aware scaling feature in Photoshop is very useful for extending
and scaling still images. This feature can be useful when repurposing images for wide-screen formats that were created
for standard-definition formats.

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Preparing and importing Illustrator files
Note: For information and instructions that apply to all kinds of still image files, see Preparing still-image files for
importingand Import a single still image or a still-image sequence.
Before you save an Illustrator file for importing into After Effects, consider doing the following:

• Create your document in Illustrator using one of the Video And Film document profiles. In addition to creating a
document at the appropriate size for video or film work, this creates a document with two artboards: one at the
appropriate frame size, and one much larger. When you bring such a document into After Effects, the area outside
the smaller artboard isn’t cropped and lost; it’s retained outside of the composition frame. This only works for an
Illustrator document with multiple layers imported as a composition.
• To ensure that Illustrator files appear correctly in After Effects, select Create PDF Compatible File in the Illustrator
Options dialog box.
• To copy paths between Illustrator and After Effects, make sure that the Preserve Paths option is selected in the Files
& Clipboard section of the Illustrator Preferences dialog box.
• To ensure that files rasterize most faithfully in After Effects, save your file in AI format instead of Illustrator 8.x or
9.x EPS format.
• To separate objects in an Illustrator file into separate layers, use the Release To Layers command in Illustrator. Then,
you can import the layered file into After Effects and animate the layers separately.
• If you are working with Edit Original to move objects and layers in Illustrator, import the Illustrator document into
After Effects as a composition with document-sized layers (not using the Retain Layer Size option).
When you import an Illustrator file, After Effects makes all empty areas transparent by converting them into an alpha
channel.
Note: When you’ve imported an Illustrator file, you can specify whether anti-aliasing is to be performed at higher quality
or at higher speed. Select the footage item in the Project panel and choose File > Interpret Footage > Main, and click the
More Options button at the bottom of the dialog box.
After Effects does not read embedded color profiles from Illustrator files. To ensure color fidelity, assign an input color
profile to the Illustrator footage item that matches the color profile with which the Illustrator file was created.
After Effects can’t read blending modes from AI documents saved as a version later than Illustrator CS2. If you need to
retain blending mode information when importing a file into After Effects from Illustrator, save the document as an
Illustrator CS2 document.
For information on preserving sharpness of vector graphics (avoiding pixelation), see Continuously rasterize a layer
containing vector graphics.

Online resources for preparing and importing Illustrator files
Eran Stern provides a video tutorial on the Creative COW website that shows how to create text in Illustrator for use in
After Effects.
Dave Nagel provides instructions on the DMN website for importing an Illustrator document into After Effects with
the Illustrator objects on separate layers in After Effects.
In a thread on the After Effects user-to-user forum, JETalmage provides a script that converts sub-layers in Illustrator
into top-level layers. This is a necessary step in preparing an Illustrator file for importing into After Effects if you intend
to animate these items independently.
Steve Holmes provides a tutorial on the Layers Magazine website that shows how to create and prepare vines, swirls,
and flourishes in Illustrator and then import, reveal, and animate them in After Effects using the Stroke effect.

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Richard Harrington and Ian Robinson provide a free sample chapter from their “Motion Graphics with Adobe Creative
Suite 5 Studio Techniques” book on the Peachpit Press website. This chapter shows how to prepare Illustrator and
Photoshop files.

Importing camera raw files with Camera Raw
You can import sequences of camera raw files much as you import sequences of other kinds of still image files.
After Effects applies the settings for the first camera raw image in the sequence to all of the images in the sequence that
do not have their own XMP sidecar files. After Effects does not check the Camera Raw database for image settings.
Note: Camera raw files are uncompressed. Their large size may increase rendering time.

• Choose File > Import > File.
• Select the camera raw file, and click Open.
• Make any necessary adjustments in the Camera Raw dialog box, and click OK.
You can adjust a camera raw image after importing it. To open the image in the Camera Raw dialog box, select the
footage item in the Project panel, choose File > Interpret Footage > Main, and click More Options.
Note: You can’t assign an input color profile to a camera raw image for use in a color-managed project. For information on
how colors are automatically interpreted, see Interpret a footage item by assigning an input color profile.
Todd Kopriva provides links to free excerpts from books about Camera Raw by Conrad Chavez, Bruce Fraser, Jeff
Schewe, Ben Willmore, and Dan Ablan on his blog.

Cineon and DPX footage items
A common part of the motion-picture film production workflow is scanning the film and encoding the frames into the
Cineon or DPX file format. The DPX (Digital Picture Exchange) format is a standard format closely related to the
Cineon format.
You can import Cineon 4.5 or Digital Picture Exchange (DPX) files directly into an After Effects project as individual
frames or as a sequence of numbered stills. Once you have imported a Cineon or DPX file, you can use it in a
composition and then render the composition as an image sequence.
To preserve the full dynamic range of motion-picture film, Cineon files are stored using logarithmic 10-bpc color.
However, After Effects internally uses 8-bpc, 16-bpc, or 32-bpc color, depending on the color bit depth of the project.
Work with Cineon files in a 16- or 32-bpc project—by default, After Effects stretches the logarithmic values to the full
range of values available.
Cineon data has a 10-bit white point of 685 and a 10-bit black point of 95. Values above 685 are retained, but are treated
as highlights. Rather than abruptly clipping highlights to white, After Effects interprets highlights using a gradual ramp
defined by the Highlight Rolloff value. You can modify the 10-bit white point and 10-bit black point input levels and
the output (converted) white point and black point levels to match your specific footage items or creative needs.
Use a project color depth of 32 bpc when working with Cineon footage items so that highlights are preserved, in which
case you don’t need to roll off the highlights.
When you choose DPX/Cineon Sequence from the Format menu in the Output Module Settings dialog box, you can
then open the Cineon Settings dialog box to set output options. Choose whether to output DPX (.dpx) files or
FIDO/Cineon 4.5 (.cin) files in the File Format section of the Cineon Settings dialog box.

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After Effects provides three basic ways of working with the colors in Cineon footage items:

• The easiest—and recommended—way is to enable color management and assign an input color profile to a Cineon
footage item in the Color Management tab of the Interpret Footage dialog box, corresponding to the film stock on
which the footage was recorded. If creating output for film, use the same profile as the output color profile so that
the output file matches the film stock. One advantage of using color management features to work with Cineon
footage items is that compositing with images from other footage types is made easier. See Interpret a footage item
by assigning an input color profile.
• If you need the settings for the interpretation of the Cineon footage item to change over time, then you can apply
the Cineon Converter effect to a layer that uses the Cineon footage item as its source. See Cineon Converter effect.
• If you need to manually modify the settings for a Cineon footage item, or if you don’t want to use color management,
then you can use the Cineon Settings dialog box. To open this dialog box, click the Cineon Settings button in the
Color Management tab of the Interpret Footage dialog box.
Manual settings in the Cineon Settings dialog box:
Converted Black Point Specifies the black point used for the layer in After Effects.
Converted White Point Specifies the white point used for the layer in After Effects.
10 Bit Black Point Specifies the black level (minimum density) for converting a 10-bit Cineon layer.
10 Bit White Point Specifies the white level (maximum density) for converting a 10-bit Cineon layer.
Current Gamma Specifies the target gamma value.
Highlight Rolloff Specifies the rolloff value used to correct bright highlights. To get over range values when working in
32 bpc, set the value to 0.
Logarithmic Conversion Converts the Cineon sequence from log color space to the target gamma specified by the
Current Gamma setting. When you’re ready to produce output from the Cineon file, it is important that you reverse the
conversion. (To convert from logarithmic to linear, set Current Gamma to 1.)
Units Specifies the units After Effects uses to display dialog values.

More Help topics
Memory and storage
Copy a path from Illustrator, Photoshop, or Fireworks
Output modules and output module settings
Import footage items
Layer styles
Working with Photoshop and After Effects
Interpret a footage item by assigning an input color profile
Copy a path from Illustrator, Photoshop, or Fireworks
Importing camera raw files with Camera Raw
Color management

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Chapter 5: Layers and properties

Creating layers
Layers overview
Layers are the elements that make up a composition. Without layers, a composition is only an empty frame. Use as many
layers as necessary to create your composition. Some compositions contain thousands of layers, whereas some
compositions contain only one layer.
Layers in After Effects are similar to tracks in Adobe Premiere Pro. The primary difference is that each After Effects
layer can have no more than one footage item as its source, whereas a Premiere Pro track typically contains multiple
clips. Layers in After Effects are also similar to layers in Photoshop, though the interface for working with layers differs.
Working with layers in the Timeline panel in After Effects is similar to working with layers in the Layers panel in
Photoshop.
You can create several kinds of layers:

• Video and audio layers that are based on footage items that you import, such as still images, movies, and audio tracks
• Layers that you create within After Effects to perform special functions, such as cameras, lights, adjustment layers,
and null objects
• Solid-color layers that are based on solid-color footage items that you create within After Effects
• Synthetic layers that hold visual elements that you create within After Effects, such as shape layers and text layers
• Precomposition layers, which use compositions as their source footage items
When you modify a layer, you do not affect its source footage item. You can use the same footage item as the source for
more than one layer and use the footage differently in each instance. (See Importing and interpreting footage items.)
Changes made to one layer do not affect other layers, unless you specifically link the layers. For example, you can move,
rotate, and draw masks for one layer without disturbing any other layers in the composition.
After Effects automatically numbers all layers in a composition. By default, these numbers are visible in the Timeline
panel next to the layer name. The number corresponds to the position of that layer in the stacking order. When the
stacking order changes, After Effects changes all numbers accordingly. The layer stacking order affects rendering order
and therefore affects how the composition is rendered for previews and final output. (See Render order and collapsing
transformations.)
New layers for most commands are created immediately above an existing selected layer. If no layer is selected, the
new layer is created at the top of the stack. This behavior applies to the following layers:

• Layer > New > Text
• Layer > New > Solid
• Layer > New > Light
• Layer > New > Camera

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• Layer > New > Null Object
• Layer > New > Shape Layer
• Layer > New > Adjustment Layer
• Layer > New > Adobe Photoshop File
• Layer > New > MAXON CINEMA 4D File
It is possible to match the duration of the new layer to the duration of the selected layer.
Earlier versions of After Effects created new layers at the top of the stack by default.

Layers in the Layer, Composition, and Timeline panels
After you add a layer to a composition, you can reposition the layer in the Composition panel. In the Timeline panel,
you can change a layer’s duration, starting time, and place in the layer stacking order. You can also change any of the
properties of a layer in the Timeline panel. (See Layer properties in the Timeline panel.)
You can perform many tasks—such as drawing masks—in either the Composition panel or the Layer panel. However,
other tasks—such as tracking motion and using the paint tools—must be performed in the Layer panel.
The Layer panel shows you a layer before any transforms are applied to the layer. For example, the Layer panel does not
show the result of modifying the Scale property of a layer. To see a layer in context with other layers and with the results
of transforms, use the Composition panel.
Layers that are not based on a source footage item are synthetic layers. Synthetic layers include text layers and shape
layers. You cannot open a synthetic layer in the Layer panel. You can, however, precompose a synthetic layer and open
the precomposition in the Layer panel.
To view changes to a layer (such as masks or effects) in the Layer panel, select Render in the Layer panel. Deselect
Render to view the original, unaltered layer.

Opening layers and layer sources
• To open a layer other than a precomposition layer in the Layer panel, double-click the layer, or select the layer and
choose Layer > Open Layer.
• To open the source composition of a precomposition layer in the Composition panel, double-click the layer, or select
the layer and choose Layer > Open Composition.
• To open the source footage item of a layer, Alt-double-click (Windows) or Option-double-click (Mac OS) the layer,
or select the layer and choose Layer > Open Layer Source.
If you right-click (Windows) or Control-click (Mac OS) a layer, you can choose Open Footage or Open Composition to
open the layer’s source item.

• To open a precomposition layer in the Layer panel, Alt-double-click (Windows) or Option-double-click (Mac OS)
the layer, or select the layer and choose Layer > Open Layer.

Create layers from footage items or change layer source
You can create a layer from any footage item in the Project panel, including another composition. After you add a
footage item to a composition, you can modify and animate the resulting layer.
When you add a composition to another composition, you create a layer that uses the composition that you added as
its source. (See Precomposing, nesting, and pre-rendering.)

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The Still Footage preference setting (Preferences > Import) controls the default duration of layers that use still footage
items as their sources. By default, when you create a layer with a still image as its source, the duration of the layer is the
duration of the composition. You can change the duration of the layer after it’s created by trimming the layer.
Note: By default, new layers begin at the beginning of the composition duration. You can instead choose to have new layers
begin at the current time by deselecting the Create Layers At Composition Start Time preference (Edit > Preferences >
General (Windows) or After Effects > Preferences > General (Mac OS)).
Often, the next step after adding a layer to a composition is scaling and positioning the layer to fit in the frame. (See
Scale or flip a layer.)

Create layers from one or more footage items
When you create layers from multiple footage items, the layers appear in the layer stacking order in the Timeline panel
in the order in which they were selected in the Project panel.
1 Select one or more footage items and folders in the Project panel.
2 Do one of the following:

• Drag the selected footage items to the Composition panel.
Hold Shift while dragging to snap the layer to the center or edges of the composition.

• Drag the selected footage items to the Timeline panel. When you drag the item into the layer outline, a highlight
bar indicates where the layer will appear when you release the mouse button. If you drag the item over the time
graph area, a time marker indicates where the In point of the layer will be when you release the mouse button.
Hold Shift while dragging to snap the In point to the current-time indicator.

• Drag the selected footage items to the composition name or icon in the Project panel, or press Ctrl+/ (Windows)
or Command+/ (Mac OS). New layers are created immediately above a selected layer and at the center of the
composition. If no layer is selected, then new layers are created at the top of the layer stack.

Create a layer from a trimmed footage item
You can trim a moving-image footage item in the Footage panel before inserting a layer based on that footage item into
a composition.
1 Double-click a footage item in the Project panel to open it in the Footage panel. (See View footage items in the

Footage panel.)
2 Move the current-time indicator in the Footage panel to the frame that you want to use as the In point of the layer,

and click the Set In Point button at the bottom of the Footage panel.
3 Move the current-time indicator in the Footage panel to the frame that you want to use as the Out point of the layer,

and click the Set Out Point button at the bottom of the Footage panel.
4 To create a layer based on this trimmed footage item, click an Edit button at the bottom of the Footage panel:
Overlay Edit

Creates the new layer at the top of the layer stacking order, with the In point set at the current time in the Timeline
panel.
Ripple Insert Edit

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Also creates the new layer at the top of the layer stacking order, with the In point set at the current time in the
Timeline panel, but splits all other layers. Newly created split layers are moved later in time so that their In points
are at the same time as the Out point of the inserted layer.

Replace layer sources with references to another footage item
1 Select one or more layers in the Timeline panel
2 Alt-drag (Windows) or Option-drag (Mac OS) a footage item from the Project panel onto a selected layer in the

Timeline panel.

Solid-color layers and solid-color footage items
You can create layers of any solid color and any size (up to 30,000x30,000 pixels). Solid-color layers have solid-color
footage items as their sources. Solid-color layers and solid-color footage items are both usually called solids.
Solids work just like any other footage item: You can add masks, modify transform properties, and apply effects to a
layer that has a solid as its source footage item. Use solids to color a background, as the basis of a control layer for a
compound effect, or to create simple graphic images.
Solid-color footage items are automatically stored in the Solids folder in the Project panel.
Jeff Almasol provides a script on his redefinery website with which you can rename the selected solid footage items in
the Project panel. You can use this script to, for example, include the pixel dimensions, aspect ratio, and RGB color
values in the name.
Note: In After Effects CS6 and later, new solid layers are 17% gray (45/255) so they can contrast with the new default darker
user interface brightness

Create a solid-color layer or solid-color footage item
• To create a solid footage item but not create a layer for it in a composition, choose File > Import > Solid.
• To create a solid footage item and create a layer for it in the current composition, choose Layer > New > Solid or
press Ctrl+Y (Windows) or Command+Y (Mac OS).
To create a layer that fits the composition when you create a solid-color layer, choose Make Comp Size.

Modify settings for solid-color layers and solid-color footage items
• To modify settings for the selected solid-color layer or footage item, choose Layer > Solid Settings.
To apply the changes to all solid-color layers that use the footage item, select Affect All Layers That Use This Solid.
If you don’t select this option, you create a new footage item, which becomes the source for the selected layer.

Adjustment layers
When you apply an effect to a layer, the effect applies only to that layer and no others. However, an effect can exist
independently if you create an adjustment layer for it. Any effects applied to an adjustment layer affect all layers below
it in the layer stacking order. An adjustment layer at the bottom of the layer stacking order has no visible result.
Because effects on adjustment layers apply to all layers beneath them, they are useful for applying effects to many layers
at once. In other respects, an adjustment layer behaves like other layers; for example, you can use keyframes or
expressions with any adjustment layer property.
Note: A more accurate description is that the adjustment layer applies the effect to the composite created from all layers
below the adjustment layer in the layer stacking order. For this reason, applying an effect to an adjustment layer improves
rendering performance compared with applying the same effect separately to each of the underlying layers.

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If you want to apply an effect or transformation to a collection of layers, you can precompose the layers and then apply
the effect or transformation to the precomposition layer. (See Precompose layers.)
Use masks on an adjustment layer to apply an effect to only parts of the underlying layers. You can animate masks to
follow moving subjects in the underlying layers.

• To create an adjustment layer, choose Layer > New > Adjustment Layer, or press Ctrl+Alt+Y (Windows) or
Command+Option+Y (Mac OS).
• To convert selected layers to adjustment layers, select the Adjustment Layer switch
panel or choose Layer > Switches > Adjustment Layer.

for the layers in the Timeline

Note: You can deselect the Adjustment Layer switch for a layer to convert it to a normal layer.

Online resources about adjustment layers
Andrew Kramer provides a video tutorial on his Video Copilot website in which he shows how to use an adjustment
layer to apply an effect to only a short duration and to only specific portions of a movie.
Eran Stern provides a video tutorial on the Creative COW website that demonstrates the use of lights as adjustment
layers, to precisely control which layers are affected by which lights.
Lloyd Alvarez provides a script on his After Effects Scripts website that creates an adjustment layer above each selected
layer, with each new adjustment layer trimmed to the duration of the selected layer.

Create a layer and new Photoshop footage item
When you create an Adobe Photoshop file from After Effects, Photoshop starts and creates a new PSD file. This PSD
file consists of a blank Photoshop layer that has the same dimensions as your composition, with the appropriate titlesafe, and action-safe guides. The color bit depth of the PSD file is the same as the color bit depth of your After Effects
project.
The newly created PSD file is automatically imported into After Effects as a footage item. Any changes that you save in
Photoshop appear in the footage item in After Effects.

• To create a Photoshop footage item and use it as the source for a new layer in the current composition, choose Layer
> New > Adobe Photoshop File. The Photoshop layer is added as the top layer in your composition.
• To create a Photoshop footage item with the settings of the most recently open composition, without adding it to a
composition, choose File > New > Adobe Photoshop File.

More Help topics
Layers (keyboard shortcuts)
Precompose layers
Creating and editing text layers
3D layers
Cameras, lights, and points of interest
About shapes and shape layers
Null object layers
Working with footage items
Trim, extend, or slip-edit a layer

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Apply an effect or animation preset
Creating masks
Preparing and importing Photoshop files
Working with Photoshop and After Effects

Selecting and arranging layers
Select layers
Selected layers that also have properties selected are indicated with a hollow highlight in the Timeline panel. A selected
layer that has no properties selected is indicated with a solid highlight.

To scroll the topmost selected layer to the top of the Timeline panel, press X.

• To select a layer, click the layer in the Composition panel, click its name or duration bar in the Timeline panel, or
click its name in the Flowchart panel.
• To select a layer that is obscured in the Composition panel, right-click (Windows) or Control-click (Mac OS) over
the layer in the Composition panel, and choose Select > [layer name].
• To select a layer if the layer is open in its own Layer panel, choose the layer name from the Window menu or the
Layer panel viewer menu.
• To select a layer by position number, type the layer number on the numeric keypad. If the layer number has more
than one digit, type the digits quickly so that After Effects can recognize them as one number.
• To select the next layer in the stacking order, press Ctrl+Down Arrow (Windows) or Command+Down Arrow (Mac
OS). To select the previous layer, press Ctrl+Up Arrow (Windows) or Command+Up Arrow (Mac OS).
• To extend the selection to the next layer in the stacking order, press Ctrl+Shift+Down Arrow (Windows) or
Command+Shift+Down Arrow (Mac OS). To extend the selection to the previous layer in the stacking order, press
Ctrl+Shift+Up Arrow (Windows) or Command+Shift+Up Arrow (Mac OS).
• To select all layers, choose Edit > Select All while the Timeline or Composition panel is active. To deselect all layers,
choose Edit > Deselect All. If the composition’s Hide Shy Layers switch is selected, using Select All when the
Timeline panel is active doesn’t select shy layers. (See Show and hide layers in the Timeline panel.)
• To deselect any currently selected layers and select all other layers; with at least one layer selected, choose Invert
Selection from the context menu in the Composition or Timeline panel.
• To select all layers that use the same color label, click the color label in the Timeline panel, and choose Select Label
Group, or select a layer with that color label and choose Edit > Label > Select Label Group.

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• To select all child layers assigned to a parent layer, select the parent layer and choose Select Children from the
context menu in the Composition or Timeline panel. The child layers are added to the existing selection.
• You can select multiple layers in the Composition panel . Drag with the Selection tool to create a selection box
(marquee) around the layers to select them. Hold Shift while clicking or dragging to select additional layers or to
deselect layers.
Lloyd Alvarez provides a script on his After Effects Scripts website with which you can tag layers and then select, shy,
and solo layers according to their tags. The tags are appended to comments in the Comments field in the Timeline
panel.

Change the stacking order for selected layers
The vertical arrangement of layers in the Timeline panel is the layer stacking order, which is directly related to the
render order. You can change the order in which layers are composed with one another by changing the layer stacking
order.
Note: Because of their depth properties, the stacking order of 3D layers in the Timeline panel does not necessarily indicate
their spatial position in the composition.

• In the Timeline panel, drag the layer names to a new position in the layer stacking order.
• To move the selected layers up one level in the layer stacking order, press Ctrl+Alt+Up Arrow (Windows) or
Command+Option+Up Arrow (Mac OS); to move the selected layers down one level, press Ctrl+Alt+Down Arrow
(Windows) or Command+Option+Down Arrow (Mac OS).
• To move the selected layers to the top of the layer stacking order, press Ctrl+Alt+Shift+Up Arrow (Windows) or
Command+Option+Shift+Up Arrow (Mac OS); to move the selected layers to the bottom, press
Ctrl+Alt+Shift+Down Arrow (Windows) or Command+Option+Shift+Down Arrow (Mac OS).
• Choose Layer > Arrange, and then choose Bring Layer Forward, Send Layer Backward, Bring Layer To Front, or
Send Layer To Back.
When you copy (or cut) and paste layers, the layers are pasted so that they appear from top to bottom in the Timeline
panel in the same order in which they were selected before the copy (or cut) operation. You can Ctrl-click (Windows) or
Command-click (Mac OS) layers to select them in any arbitrary order, cut them, and then immediately paste them to
reorder the layers in the order in which they were selected.
Jeff Almasol provides a script on his redefinery website with which you can change the stacking order of layers in a
composition by sorting according to In point, Out point, selection order, layer name, or random order.

Coordinate systems: composition space and layer space
The coordinate system for each layer is its layer space. The coordinate system for each composition is its composition
space. Property values for items that exist within a layer—such as effect control points and anchor points—exist in layer
space and are measured from the origin in the layer space of that layer. The Position property of a layer, however,
describes where the layer is within a composition and is therefore measured in the composition space of that
composition.
As you move the pointer over the layer frame in the Layer panel, the Info panel displays the coordinates of the pixel
under the pointer in layer space. The X coordinate represents position on the horizontal axis, and the Y coordinate
represents position on the vertical axis. Values for these coordinates are in pixels. The X and Y coordinates are relative
to the origin (0,0), which is fixed at the upper left corner of the layer.

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You can modify the zero point of the rulers, but you can’t modify the origin of layer space. If the zero point differs from
the origin, X' and Y' coordinates appear in the Info panel below the X and Y coordinates, indicating coordinates based
on the zero point of the rulers.
When you move the pointer over the composition frame in the Composition panel, the Info panel displays coordinates
in composition space. As you drag a layer, the lower portion of the Info panel displays the coordinates of the anchor
point of the layer.

Move layers in space
When you move a layer in space, you modify its Position property.
You can separate the components of a Position property into individual properties—X Position, Y Position, and (for 3D
layers) Z Position—so that you can modify or animate each independently. (See Separate dimensions of Position to
animate components individually.)
Jeff Almasol provides a script on his redefinery website that places a new null layer on the line between the anchor
points of two selected layers; you use a slider control on the null layer to reposition the null layer along this line.
To move selected layers so that their anchor points are at the center in the current view, choose Layer > Transform >
Center In View or press Ctrl+Home (Windows) or Command+Home (Mac OS).
To move a layer so that its anchor point is at the center of the composition, right-click (Windows) or Control-click (Mac
OS) the Position property, choose Edit Value, choose % Of Composition in the Units menu, and enter 50 for each of the
components of the Position property.
To avoid softening of an image that is not moving, make sure that a layer’s Position values are non-fractional values.
This avoids resampling that is used when a layer with image quality set to Best is placed on subpixels.

Move layers by dragging in the Composition panel
To snap the edges of a layer to grids or guides as you drag, choose View > Snap To Grid or View > Snap To Guides.

• Select one or more layers, and then drag a selected layer using the Selection tool

.

When you move a layer by dragging it in the Composition panel, the Info panel shows the change in the Position
property as you drag.

Move layers by directly modifying the Position property
1 Select one or more layers.
2 Press P to show the Position property in the Timeline panel.
3 Modify the Position property in the Timeline panel.

Move layers with arrow keys
1 Select one or more layers.
2 To move selected layers one pixel left, right, up, or down, press an arrow key. To move 10 pixels, hold Shift as you

press the arrow key.
The arrow keys move the layer one pixel at the current magnification. To move a layer more precisely with the arrow
keys, zoom in the Composition panel. (See Zoom an image for preview.)

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Separate dimensions of Position to animate components individually
By default, each Position property has two or three components, with each holding the value for one of the spatial
dimensions (axes). You can separate the components of a Position property into individual properties—X Position, Y
Position, and (for 3D layers) Z Position. Separating dimensions allows you to modify or animate the position of a layer
along the x axis, y axis, and z axis independently.
To decompose selected Position properties into individual X Position, Y Position, and (for 3D layers) Z Position
properties, do one of the following:

• Choose Animation > Separate Dimensions.
• Right-click (Windows) or Control-click (Mac OS) a Position property and choose Separate Dimensions from the
context menu.
• Click the Separate Dimensions

button at the bottom of the Graph Editor.

To recompose a set of individual Position properties into a single Position property with multiple components, use the
same commands that you use to separate dimensions.
Note: When you recompose separate Position properties into a single Position property, some information about the motion
path and speed is lost, because the multiple Bezier curves used to represent the individual components are collapsed into a
single Bezier curve at each keyframe. When you separate dimensions, some information about speed is lost, but the motion
path does not change. You should work with separate dimensions or without separate dimensions for each property for an
entire project, rather than toggling back and forth.
The decision of whether to work with separate dimensions depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. Using one
property for position has the advantage of providing smooth motion more easily. Also, using a single property for
position enables the use of roving keyframes, which provides uniform speed. Working with separate dimensions for
position sacrifices some of this automatic smoothing to gain greater control of spatial animation. Working with
separate dimensions also makes some simulations easier, especially in cases in which the simulated forces acting on a
layer are orthogonal (perpendicular) to one another.
For example, if you are animating a ball flying horizontally and bouncing vertically, you can do so more easily by
separating dimensions. The X Position property can be animated with two keyframes, one for the start position and
one for the end position. This horizontal animation represents the speed of the throw. The Y Position property can be
animated with a single expression that simulates the acceleration due to gravity and the vertical bouncing from the
floor. A similar example is a boat drifting down a river in a variable crosswind.
Note: After Effects CS3 included a Separate XYZ Position animation preset that accomplished something similar to the
Separate Dimensions feature, though the animation preset is not as robust.

Align or distribute layers in 2D space
Use the Align panel to line up or evenly space selected layers. You can align or distribute layers vertically or horizontally.
1 Select the layers to align or distribute.
2 Choose Selection or Composition from the Align Layers To menu.
Selection Aligns selected layers according to the layer boundaries of the selected layers.
Composition Aligns selected layers according to the boundaries of the composition frame.

3 In the Align panel, click the button representing the desired type of alignment or distribution.

• To distribute, you must select three or more layers. When Selection is chosen in the Align Layers To menu, you must
select two or more layers to align. When Composition is chosen in the Align Layers To menu, you must select one
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• When Selection is chosen in the Align Layers To menu, each alignment option aligns selected layers to the layer that
most closely represents the new alignment. For example, for right-edge alignment, all selected layers align to the
selected layer with the edge that is farthest to the right.
• A distribution option evenly spaces selected layers between the two most extreme layers. For example, for a vertical
distribution option, the selected layers are distributed between the topmost and bottommost selected layers.
• When you distribute layers of different sizes, the spaces between layers may not be uniform. For example,
distributing layers by their centers creates equal space between the centers—but different-sized layers extend by
different amounts into the space between layers.
• Alignment or distribution options cannot move locked layers.
• The Align panel does not affect alignment of characters within a text layer.
To move selected layers so that their anchor points are at the center in the current view, choose Layer > Transform >
Center In View or press Ctrl+Home (Windows) or Command+Home (Mac OS).
Charles Bordenave (nab) provides a script on the After Effects Scripts website, with which you can distribute layers in
3D space.

Trim, extend, or slip-edit a layer
The beginning of the duration of a layer is its In point, and the end is its Out point. The duration is the span between
the In point and the Out point, and the bar that extends from the In point to the Out point is the layer duration bar.
To trim a layer is to modify its In or Out point so that the layer has a different duration. When you trim a layer that is
based on moving source footage, you affect which frames of the source footage item are shown in the layer; the first
frame to appear is at the In point, and the last frame to appear is at the Out point. Trimming a layer doesn’t cut frames
from the footage item; it only affects what frames are played for the layer.

A Original In point B Negative layer time indicator for still image layer C Original In point D Slip-edit bar, representing excluded frames for
motion footage layer E New In points

When you use a footage item as a source for different layers, you can trim each layer differently to show different
portions of the source. Trimming a layer does not alter the footage item or the original source file.
You can trim a layer by changing the In and Out points in the Layer panel or the Timeline panel. (You can also trim a
footage item before using it to create a layer. See Create layers from footage items or change layer source.)
The In point , Out point , and duration values for a layer are shown at the bottom of the Layer panel. To show this
information for all layers in the Timeline panel, click the In/Out/Duration/Stretch button
in the lower-left corner of
the Timeline panel. The duration, In point, and Out point for the selected layer are also shown in the Info panel.
In the Layer panel, In and Out points are expressed in layer time. In the Timeline panel, In and Out points are expressed
in composition time. The duration is the same in both cases (unless time-remapping or time-stretching is enabled for
the layer).

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You can extend many kinds of layers for any duration, extending their In points and Out points out past their original
times. This capability applies to time-remapped layers, shape layers, layers based on still-image footage items, camera
layers, light layers, and text layers. If you extend a layer back in time so that the layer extends into negative layer time
(past layer time zero), a series of hash marks on the bottom of the layer bar indicates the portions of the layer that are
in negative layer time. This indication is useful if you’ve applied effects to the layer—such as Particle Playground or
Shatter—that use layer time to calculate their results.

Online resources for trimming, extending, and editing layers
Jeff Almasol provides a script on his redefinery website that creates a panel with controls for moving various
combinations of items in time: layer In point, layer Out point, layer source frames, keyframes, and markers.

Trim or extend layers in the Timeline panel

1 Select one or more layers in the Timeline panel.
2 Do one of the following:

• Drag either end of a layer duration bar.
• Move the current-time indicator to the time at which you want to set the In point or Out point. To set the In point
to the current time, press Alt+[ (Windows) or Option+[ (Mac OS). To set the Out point to the current time, press
Alt+] (Windows) or Option+] (Mac OS).

Trim or extend a layer in the Layer panel
• Open the layer in the Layer panel and drag either end of the layer duration bar.
• Move the current-time indicator in the Layer panel to the time at which you want the footage to begin or end, and
then click the In or Out button to set the In or Out point to the current time.

Slip-edit a layer
After you’ve trimmed a layer based on moving footage, a pale slip-edit bar represents the frames of the footage item that
you are excluding from the composition. This pale rectangle does not appear for a trimmed layer based on a still footage
item. You can choose which frames are played within a trimmed duration by dragging the slip-edit bar. The In and Out
points of the layer are not affected.
Moving only the In or Out point of a layer doesn’t move keyframes. Dragging the layer duration bar moves all
keyframes. Dragging the slip edit bar moves selected keyframes, but does not move unselected keyframes.
When performing a slip edit, you probably want to move some keyframes with the source footage—such as mask
keyframes. Other keyframes should stay where they are in time. Press Shift+F2 to deselect keyframes and leave the layer
selected.

• Drag the slip-edit bar to the left or right.
• Drag the layer to the left or right with the Pan Behind (Anchor Point) tool.

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Remove part of the duration of a layer
1 In the Timeline panel, set the work area to include only the portion of the layers’ duration to remove: Move the

current-time indicator to the time that the work area is to begin, and press B. Move the current-time indicator to the
time at which the work area is to end, and press N.
2 Do one of the following:

• Select the layers from which to remove a section.
• Select the Lock switch

for layers that you do not want affected by the extraction. Press F2 to deselect all layers.

Note: If no layers are selected, the following step removes the section from all unlocked layers.
3 Do one of the following:

• To remove the section and leave a gap of the same duration as the removed section, choose Edit > Lift Work Area.
• To remove the section, choose Edit > Extract Work Area. The gap is closed by ripple deletion.

Place or move a layer in time
The layer duration bar represents the layer duration visually. The In, Out, and Duration columns in the Timeline panel
represent the layer duration numerically.
Note: To choose which columns are visible in the Timeline panel, choose Columns from the panel menu, or right-click
(Windows) or Control-click (Mac OS) a column heading.
These procedures move the entire layer in time.

• To set the In point or Out point numerically, click the number in the In or Out column for the layer in the Timeline
panel.
• To move the In point or Out point to the current time, Alt-click (Windows) or Option-click (Mac OS) the number
in the In or Out column for the layer in the Timeline panel.
• To move the In points of selected layers to the beginning of the composition, press Alt+Home (Windows) or
Option+Home (Mac OS).
• To move the Out points of selected layers to the end of the composition, press Alt+End (Windows) or Option+End
(Mac OS).
• To move selected layers one frame later, press Alt+Page Down (Windows) or Option+Page Down (Mac OS). To
move selected layers 10 frames later, press Alt+Shift+Page Down (Windows) or Option+Shift+Page Down (Mac
OS).
• To move selected layers one frame earlier, press Alt+Page Up (Windows) or Option+Page Up (Mac OS). To move
selected layers 10 frames earlier, press Alt+Shift+Page Up (Windows) or Option+Shift+Page Up (Mac OS).
• To move the entire layer in time by dragging, drag the layer duration bar to the left or right. To snap the layer
duration bar to significant points in time (such as markers, or the start or end of the composition), Shift-drag the
layer duration bar.
Note: When you drag a layer in the Timeline panel, the Info panel displays the name, duration, change in time, and In and
Out points for the layer.

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Jeff Almasol provides a script on his redefinery website with which you can move selected layers as a group, aligning
the group to a specific time in the composition.

Arrange layers in time sequentially
Use the Sequence Layers keyframe assistant to automatically arrange layers in a sequence. When you apply the
keyframe assistant, the first layer you select remains at its initial time, and the other selected layers move to new times
in the Timeline panel based on the order in which you selected them.

For a layer to be put into a sequence, its duration must be less than the length of the composition so that it leaves time
for other layers. (See Trim, extend, or slip-edit a layer.)
1 In the Timeline panel, hold down Ctrl (Windows) or Command (Mac OS) and select layers in sequential order,

beginning with the layer to appear first.
2 Choose Animation > Keyframe Assistant > Sequence Layers.
3 In the Sequence Layers dialog box, do one of the following:

• To arrange the layers end to end, leave the Overlap option unselected.
• To overlap layers, select Overlap, enter a Duration value for the duration of the overlap, and select a transition.
Select Cross Dissolve Front And Back Layers to use the transparency of the selected layers; otherwise, choose
Dissolve Front Layer.
• To leave gaps between the layers, select Overlap and enter a negative Duration value.

Copy or duplicate a layer
When you copy a layer, you copy all of its properties, including effects, keyframes, expressions, and masks.
Duplicating a layer is a shortcut with which you copy and paste the layer with one command. Duplicating a layer with
a track matte preserves the relative ordering of the layer and its track matte.

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When you paste layers, they are placed in the order in which you selected them before copying. The first layer selected
is the last one to be placed, so it ends up on the top in the layer stacking order. If you select layers from the top first,
they end up in the same stacking order when pasted.
If you have a component of a layer—such as a mask or keyframe—selected when you copy, you copy only that
component. Before copying, press Shift+F2 to deselect all of the components of a layer and leave the layer itself selected.

• To copy selected layers and place the In points of the copies at the current time, choose Edit > Copy, and then press
Ctrl+Alt+V (Windows) or Command+Option+V (Mac OS).
• To copy selected layers and place the copies at the same times as the originals, choose Edit > Copy, and then choose
Edit > Paste.
To place copies at the top of the layer stack in the Timeline panel instead of immediately above the originals, press F2 to
deselect the originals before you paste.

• To duplicate selected layers, choose Edit > Duplicate or press Ctrl+D (Windows) or Command+D (Mac OS).

Split a layer
In the Timeline panel, you can split a layer at any time, creating two independent layers. Splitting a layer is a time-saving
alternative to duplicating and trimming the layer—something you might do when you want to change the stackingorder position of the layer in the middle of the composition.
Note: To make new split layers appear above the original layer in the Timeline panel, select Create Split Layers Above
Original Layer (Edit > Preferences > General (Windows) or After Effects > Preferences> General (Mac OS)). Deselect this
option to make the layers appear below the original layer.
1 Select one or more layers.
2 Move the current-time indicator to the time at which to split the layers.
3 Choose Edit > Split Layer.

When you split a layer, both resulting layers contain all of the keyframes that were in the original layer in their original
positions. Any applied track mattes retain their order, on top of the layer.
After you split a layer, the duration of the original layer ends at the point of the split, and the new layer starts at that
point in time.
If no layer is selected when you choose Edit > Split Layer, all layers are split at the current time.
Paul Tuersley provides a script on the AE Enhancers forum for splitting layers at layer markers.
Lloyd Alvarez provides a script on his After Effects Scripts website that automatically detects edits in a footage layer and
splits it into a separate layer for each edit (or places a layer marker at each edit).

Auto-Orientation options
The auto-orientation options (Layer > Transform > Auto-Orient) for each layer specify how its orientation depends on
motion paths, points of interest, and cameras.
Off The layer rotates freely, independent of the motion path, point of interest, or other layers.
Orient Along Path The layer faces in the direction of the motion path. For example, use this option for a camera to

depict the perspective of a driver who is looking at the road ahead while driving.
Orient Towards Camera The layer is always oriented so that it faces the active camera. This option is available for 3D

layers; this option is not available for 2D layers, cameras, or lights. 3D text layers have an additional option, Orient Each
Character Independently, which orients each character around its individual anchor point. Selecting Orient Each

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Character Independently enables per-character 3D properties for the text layer if they aren’t already enabled. (See Percharacter 3D text properties.)
Orient Towards Point Of Interest The camera or light always points at its point of interest. This option is not available
for layers other than cameras and lights. (See Cameras, lights, and points of interest .)

Note: If you specify an auto-orientation option for a layer, and then change its Orientation or X, Y, or Z Rotation properties,
the layer orientation is offset by the new values. For example, you can set a camera with Orient Along Path, and then rotate
the camera 90 degrees to the right to depict the perspective of a passenger looking out the side window of a car as it moves.
The automatic orientation to point to the point of interest occurs before the Rotation and Orientation transformations
are applied. To animate a camera or light with the Orient Towards Point Of Interest option to look temporarily away
from the point of interest, animate the Rotation and Orientation transform properties.
Dan Ebberts provides an expression on his MotionScript website that auto-orients a layer along only one axis. This is
useful, for example, for having characters turn from side to side to follow the camera while remaining upright.

Additional resources for selecting and arranging layers
Jeff Almasol provides a script on his redefinery website that creates a panel with controls for moving various
combinations of items in time: layer In point, layer Out point, layer source frames, keyframes, and markers.
Trish and Chris Meyer provide an introduction to moving, trimming, reordering, and sequencing layers in a PDF
excerpt from the “Layer Control” chapter of their book After Effects Apprentice: Real-World Skills for the Aspiring
Motion Graphics Artist.

More Help topics
Parent and child layers
Color labels for layers, compositions, and footage items
Search and filter in the Timeline, Project, and Effects & Presets panels
Layers (keyboard shortcuts)
Render order and collapsing transformations
3D layer interactions, render order, and collapsed transformations
Safe zones, grids, guides, and rulers
Layer anchor points
Layer properties
Effects and animation presets overview
Modifying layer properties (keyboard shortcuts)
Safe zones, grids, guides, and rulers
Align and justify text
Timeline panel
Work area
Layer switches and columns in the Timeline panel
Timeline panel

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Copy and paste keyframes
3D layers
Motion paths

Managing layers
Jeff Almasol provides a script on his redefinery website that renders and exports each of the selected layers separately.
For example, use this script if layers represent different versions of an effect or different parts of an effect that you want
to render as separate passes for flexibility in how they get composited.

View and change layer information
• To rename a layer or property group, do one of the following:
• Select the item in the Timeline panel, press Enter (Windows) or Return (Mac OS), and enter the new name.
• Right-click (Windows) or Control-click (Mac OS) the item in the Timeline panel, choose Rename, and enter the
new name.
• To alternate between viewing the names of source footage items and the names of layers in the Timeline panel, click
the Layer Name/Source Name column heading in the Timeline panel.
Note: When the layer name and the source footage name are the same, square brackets appear around the layer name in
the layer name view, like this: [layer name]

• To show the name of the source footage file for a selected layer in the Info panel, press Ctrl+Alt+E (Windows) or
Command+Option+E (Mac OS).
• To see what footage item is the source for a layer, right-click (Windows) or Control-click (Mac OS) the layer in the
Timeline panel and choose Reveal Layer Source In Project.
The source footage item is selected in the Project panel.
You can filter layers in the Timeline panel to show only layers with properties that match a search string or certain other
characteristics. See Search and filter in the Timeline, Project, and Effects & Presets panelsand Showing properties and
groups in the Timeline panel (keyboard shortcuts).
Jeff Almasol provides a script on his redefinery website that automatically writes specified information about footage
items or layers to the Comment fields for the respective items in the Project panel or Timeline panel.
Christopher Green provides a script (Selected_Layers_Renamer.jsx) on his website with which you can rename
multiple layers selected in the Timeline panel. You can search and replace text in the names, append characters to the
beginning or end of the names, trim a specified number of characters from the beginning or end of the names, or
replace the names with numbers in a series.

Layer switches and columns in the Timeline panel
Many of characteristics of a layer are determined by its layer switches, which are arranged in the Timeline panel in
columns. By default, the A/V Features column appears to the left of the layer name, and the Switches and Modes
(Transfer Controls) columns appear to the right, but you can arrange columns in a different order. (See Columns.)
To show or hide columns in the Timeline panel, click the Layer Switches
, Transfer Controls
, or
In/Out/Duration/Stretch
button in the lower-left corner of the Timeline panel. Press Shift+F4 to show or hide the
Parent column. Press F4 to toggle the Switches and Modes columns.

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The results of some layer switch settings depend on the settings of composition switches, which are in the upper right
of the layer outline in the Timeline panel.
Quickly change the state of a switch for multiple layers by clicking the switch for one layer and dragging up or down that
column for the adjacent layers.
Jeff Almasol provides a script on his redefinery website that creates a panel with which you can save and restore the
layer switch settings for all layers in a composition.
Switches in the A/V Features column
Video

Toggles layer visuals on or off. (See Toggle visibility or influence of a layer or property group.)
Audio

Toggles layer sounds on or off.
Solo

Includes the current layer in previews and renders, ignoring layers without this switch set. (See Solo a layer.)
Lock

Locks layer contents, preventing all changes. (See Lock or unlock a layer.)
Switches in the Switches column
Shy

Hides the current layer when the Hide Shy Layers composition switch
Timeline panel.)

is selected. (See Show and hide layers in the

Collapse Transformations/Continuously Rasterize

Collapses transformations if the layer is a precomposition; continuously rasterizes if the layer is a shape layer, text layer,
or layer with a vector graphics file (such as an Adobe Illustrator file) as the source footage. Selecting this switch for a
vector layer causes After Effects to rerasterize the layer for each frame, which improves image quality, but also increases
the time required for previewing and rendering. (See Render order and collapsing transformationsand Continuously
rasterize a layer containing vector graphics.)
Quality

Toggles between Best and Draft options for layer quality for rendering, including rendering to the screen for previews.
(See Layer image quality and subpixel positioning.)
Effect

Select to render the layer with effects. The switch does not affect the setting for individual effects on the layer. (See
Delete or disable effects and animation presets.)
Frame Blend

Sets frame blending to one of three states: Frame Mix , Pixel Motion , or off. If the Enable Frame Blending
composition switch
is not selected, the frame blending setting of the layer is irrelevant. (See Frame blending.)
Motion Blur

Toggles motion blur on or off for the layer. If the Enable Motion Blur
blur setting of the layer is irrelevant. (See Motion blur.)
Adjustment Layer

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Identifies the layer as an adjustment layer. (See Adjustment layers.)
3D Layer

Identifies the layer as a 3D layer. If the layer is a 3D layer with 3D sublayers—as is the case for a text layer with percharacter 3D properties—the switch uses this icon: . (See 3D layers overview and resources.)

Toggle visibility or influence of a layer or property group
The Video (eyeball) switch for a layer controls whether the visual information for a layer is rendered for previews or
final output. If the layer is an adjustment layer, the Video switch controls whether the effects on the layer are applied to
the composite of the layers below it. If the layer is a camera or light, the Video switch controls whether the layer is on
or off.
Several components of layers—such as paint strokes, path operations in shape layers, and text animators in text layers—
each have their own Video switches. You can use the Video switch to toggle the visibility and influence of these items
individually.

• To turn off the visibility of a layer deselect the Video switch for the layer.
• To select the Video switch for all layers, choose Layer > Switches > Show All Video.
• To deselect the Video switch for all layers except the selected layers, choose Layer > Switches > Hide Other Video.

Solo a layer
You can isolate one or more layers for animating, previewing, or final output by soloing. Soloing excludes all other layers
of the same type from being rendered—both for previews in the Composition panel and for final output. For example,
if you solo a video layer, any lights and audio layers are unaffected, so they appear when you preview or render the
composition. However, the other video layers do not appear.

• To solo one or more layers, select the layers in the Timeline panel, and click the Solo icon
names.

to the left of the layer

• To solo one layer and unsolo all other layers, Alt-click (Windows) or Option-click (Mac OS) the Solo icon
left of the layer name.
The Video switch

to the

is dimmed for other layers when a layer is soloed, indicating that the other layers are not visible.

Lloyd Alvarez provides a script on his After Effects Scripts website with which you can tag layers and then select, shy,
and solo layers according to their tags. The tags are appended to comments in the Comments column in the Timeline
panel.

Lock or unlock a layer
The Lock switch prevents layers from being edited accidentally. When a layer is locked, you cannot select it in either
the Composition or Timeline panels. If you try to select or modify a locked layer, the layer flashes in the Timeline panel.
When a layer is locked, the Lock icon
the layer name in the Timeline panel.

appears in the A/V Features column, which appears by default to the left of

• To lock or unlock a layer, click the Lock switch for the layer in the Timeline panel.
• To unlock all layers in the active composition, choose Layer > Switches > Unlock All Layers.

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Color labels for layers, compositions, and footage items
You can use labels (colored boxes in the Label column) in the Project panel and Timeline panel to organize and manage
compositions, footage items, and layers. By default, different label colors indicate different kinds of footage items, but
you can assign label colors to indicate whatever categories you choose.
Rename label groups to help you to organize and categorize layers and footage items. To see label names in the Label
column, widen the column to greater than the default width.

• To select all layers with the same label color, select a layer with that label color and choose Edit > Label > Select Label
Group.
• To change the color of a label for one layer, click the label in the Timeline panel and choose a color.
• To change the color of a label for all layers with that label color, select one of the layers belonging to the label group,
choose Edit > Label > Select Label Group, and choose Edit > Label > [color name].
• To change the names and default colors for labels, choose Edit > Preferences > Labels (Windows) or After Effects >
Preferences > Labels (Mac OS).
• To change the default associations of label colors with source types, choose Edit > Preferences > Labels (Windows)
or After Effects > Preferences > Labels (Mac OS).
• To disable the use of a layer’s label color for layer handles and motion paths, choose Edit > Preferences > Appearance
(Windows) or After Effects > Preferences > Appearance (Mac OS), and deselect Use Label Colors For Layer Handles
And Paths.
• To disable the use of a layer, footage item, or composition’s label color in the tabs of corresponding panels, choose
Edit > Preferences > Appearance (Windows) or After Effects > Preferences > Appearance (Mac OS), and deselect
Use Label Colors For Related Tabs.
Note: By default, the panel label colors do not respond to the Brightness control in the Appearance preferences. To make the
Brightness control affect panel label colors, select the Affects Label Colors option in the Appearance preferences.

Show and hide layers in the Timeline panel
You can mark a layer as shy and then use the Hide Shy Layers
composition switch at the top of the Timeline panel
to hide all shy layers in the Timeline panel layer outline. Making layers shy is useful for making room in the Timeline
panel to show the layers and layer properties that you want to adjust.
The icon in the Switches column indicates whether a layer is shy

or not shy

.

Shy layers are still rendered, both for previews and for final output. To exclude layers from previews or final output, use
the Video switch or make the layer a guide layer.

• To toggle a layer between shy and not shy, click the Shy switch for the layer, or select the layer in the Timeline panel
and choose Layer > Switches > Shy.
• To toggle between hiding and showing all shy layers, click to select or deselect the Hide Shy Layers
switch at the top of the Timeline panel, or choose Hide Shy Layers from the Timeline panel menu.

composition

You can also filter layers in the Timeline panel to show only layers with properties that match a search string or certain
other characteristics. See Search and filter in the Timeline, Project, and Effects & Presets panelsand Showing properties
and groups in the Timeline panel (keyboard shortcuts).
Lloyd Alvarez provides a script on his After Effects Scripts website with which you can tag layers and then select, shy,
and solo layers according to their tags. The tags are appended to comments in the Comments field in the Timeline
panel.

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Layer image quality and subpixel positioning
The quality setting of a layer determines how precisely it is rendered, as well as influencing the precision of other
calculations involving the layer, such as motion tracking and the use of the layer as a control layer for a compound
effect.
The default quality of new layers is determined by the Create New Layers At Best Quality preference in the General
preferences category.
Duplicated or split layers retain the Quality setting of the original layer.
To toggle between Best and Draft quality of selected layers, click the Quality switch in the Timeline panel. To choose
from all three options, choose Layer > Quality:
Best Displays and renders a layer using subpixel positioning, anti-aliasing, 3D shading, and complete calculation of any
applied effects. Best requires the most time for rendering—both for previews and for final output.
Draft Displays a layer so that you can see it, but only at rough quality. Draft quality displays and renders a layer without

anti-aliasing and subpixel positioning, and some effects are not precisely calculated.
Wireframe Displays a layer as a box, without layer contents. Layer wireframes are displayed and rendered faster than
layers rendered with Best or Draft settings.

Subpixel positioning
Property values (like Position and Anchor Point) in After Effects are not restricted to integer values; they can have
fractional values, too. This allows for smooth animation, as a value is interpolated from one keyframe to another. For
example, if a Position value goes from [0,0,0] at a keyframe at time 0 to a value of [0,0,80] at time 1 second in a 25frames-per-second composition, then the value at frame 1 is [0,0,3.2].
After Effects calculates all spatial values, like Position and effect control points, to a precision of 1/65,536 of a pixel. This
is called subpixel precision.
If the pixels of a layer aren't positioned directly on the pixel boundaries of the composition, a small amount of blur
occurs—very similar to anti-aliasing. This blur is not a problem for an object in motion, because objects in motion have
motion blur, but it can soften fine details in a static image. Also, if an image is moving slowly or at just the wrong speed,
the image can appear to oscillate between sharpness and blurriness.
Because the default anchor point for a layer is the center of an object, odd-sized objects have non-integer anchor points
and appear soft when positioned at integer values. To minimize blurriness and in-and-out of focus result, follow these
guidelines:

• Create graphics with odd or even dimensions, based on the dimensions of the composition. For example, if the
composition is 640x480 pixels, create graphics with even dimensions (such as 100x100 pixels); if the composition is
99x99 pixels, create graphics with odd dimensions (such as 75x53 pixels).
• Set the position information for graphics (including the hold position and final position keyframes) to integers and
not fractional numbers.

Continuously rasterize a layer containing vector graphics
When you import vector graphics, After Effects automatically rasterizes them. However, if you want to scale a layer that
contains vector graphics above 100%, then you need to continuously rasterize the layer to maintain image quality. You
can continuously rasterize vector graphics in layers based on Illustrator, SWF, EPS, and PDF files. Continuously
rasterizing causes After Effects to rasterize the file as needed based on the transformation for each frame. A
continuously rasterized layer generally produces higher-quality results, but it may render more slowly.
Shape layers and text layers are always continuously rasterized.

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When you apply an effect to a continuously rasterized layer, the results may differ from the results of applying the effect
to a layer without continuous rasterization. This difference in results is because the default rendering order for the layer
changes. The default rendering order for a layer without continuous rasterization is masks, followed by effects, and then
transformations; whereas the default rendering order for a continuously rasterized layer is masks, followed by
transformations, and then effects.
Whether or not you continuously rasterize, if you view and render a composition using Best Quality, After Effects antialiases (smooths) the vector graphics.
You cannot open or interact with a continuously rasterized layer in a Layer panel. A result of this limitation is that you
can’t paint directly on a continuously rasterized layer. However, you can copy and paste paint strokes from other layers.

A Original B Enlarged with Continuously Rasterize switch turned off C Enlarged with Continuously Rasterize switch turned on

❖ In the Timeline panel, click the layer’s Continuously Rasterize switch

Transformations switch for precomposition layers.

More Help topics
Select layers
Working with footage items
Timeline panel
Layers (keyboard shortcuts)
Select a color or edit a gradient
Preview modes and Viewer Quality preferences
About vector graphics and raster images
Render order and collapsing transformations

Layer properties

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Layer properties in the Timeline panel
Each layer has properties, many of which you can modify and animate. The basic group of properties that every layer
has is the Transform group, which includes Position and Opacity properties. When you add certain features to a layer—
for example, by adding masks or effects, or by converting the layer to a 3D layer—the layer gains additional properties,
collected in property groups.
All layer properties are temporal—they can change the layer over time. Some layer properties, such as Opacity, have
only a temporal component. Some layer properties, such as Position, are also spatial—they can move the layer or its
pixels across composition space.
You can expand the layer outline to display layer properties and change property values.
Most properties have a stopwatch . Any property with a stopwatch can be animated—that is, changed over time. (See
About animation, keyframes, and expressions.)

Properties in the Effects property group (effect properties) are also layer properties. Many effect properties can also be
modified in the Effect Controls panel.

Show or hide properties in the Timeline panel
• To expand or collapse a property group, click the triangle to the left of the layer name or property group name.
• To expand or collapse a property group and all of its children, Ctrl-click (Windows) or Command-click (Mac OS)
the triangle.
• To expand or collapse all groups for selected layers, press Ctrl+` (accent grave) (Windows) or Command+` (accent
grave) (Mac OS).
• To reveal an effect property in the Timeline panel, double-click the property name in the Effect Controls panel.

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• To hide a property or property group, Alt+Shift-click (Windows) or Option+Shift-click (Mac OS) the name in the
Timeline panel.
• To show only the selected properties or property groups in the Timeline panel, press SS.
The SS shortcut is especially useful for working with paint strokes. Select the paint stroke in the Layer panel, and press
SS to open the property group for that stroke in the Timeline panel.

• To show only a specific property or property group, press its shortcut key or keys. (See Showing properties and
groups in the Timeline panel (keyboard shortcuts).)
• To add a property or property group to the properties shown in the Timeline panel, hold Shift while pressing the
shortcut key for the property or property group.
• To show only properties that have been modified from their default values, press UU, or choose Animation > Reveal
Modified Properties.
• To show only properties that have keyframes or expressions, press U, or choose Animation > Reveal Animating
Properties.
The U and UU commands are especially useful for learning how animation presets, template projects, or other
animated items work, because they isolate the properties that were modified by the designer of those items.
You can also filter layers in the Timeline panel to show only layers with properties that match a search string. See Search
and filter in the Timeline, Project, and Effects & Presets panels.

Select a property or property group in the Timeline panel

• To select a property or property group—including all values, keyframes, and expressions—click the name in the
layer outline in the Timeline panel.

Copy or duplicate a property or property group in the Timeline panel
• To copy properties from one layer or property group to another, select the layer, property, or property group, press
Ctrl+C (Windows) or Command+C (Mac OS), select the target layer, property, or property group, and press Ctrl+V
(Windows) or Command+V (Mac OS).
• To duplicate a property group, select the property group and press Ctrl+D (Windows) or Command+D (Mac OS).

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You can only duplicate some property groups, including shapes, masks, and effects. However, you can’t duplicate
top-level property groups such as Contents, Masks, Effects, and Transforms. If you attempt to duplicate a top-level
property group, the entire layer is duplicated, instead.

Copy a value from a layer property that contains no keyframes
You can copy the current value of a layer property to another layer, even when the original layer contains no keyframes.
1 In the Timeline panel, show the layer property containing the value you want to copy.
2 Click the name of the layer property to select it.
3 Choose Edit > Copy.
4 Select the layer into which you want to paste the value.
5 If the target layer contains keyframes, move the current-time indicator to the time where you want to paste the value.

If the target layer does not contain keyframes, the new value applies to the entire duration of the layer.
6 Choose Edit > Paste.

Set a property value
If multiple layers are selected and you change a property for one layer, then the property is changed for all selected
layers. Sliders, angle controls, and some other property controls are only available in the Effect Controls panel.
To change the units for a property, right-click (Windows) or Control-click (Mac OS) the underlined value, choose Edit
Value, and choose from the Units menu. The available units are different for different property types. You can’t change
the units for some properties.

• Place the pointer over the underlined value, and drag to the left or right.
• Click the underlined value, enter a new value, and then press Enter (Windows) or Return (Mac OS).
Note: You can enter simple arithmetic expressions for property values and other number entries. For example, you can enter
2*3 instead of 6, 4/2 instead of 2, and 2e2 instead of 200. Such entries can be especially useful when incrementing a value
by a specific amount from its original value.

• Right-click (Windows) or Control-click (Mac OS) the underlined value and choose Edit Value.
• Drag the slider left or right.
• Click a point inside the angle control or drag the angle control line.
Note: After you click inside the angle control, you can drag outside it for more precision.

• To increase or decrease the property value by 1 unit, click the underlined value and press the Up Arrow or Down
Arrow key. To increase or decrease by 10 units, hold Shift while pressing the Up Arrow or Down Arrow key. To
increase or decrease by 0.1 units, hold Ctrl (Windows) or Command (Mac OS) while pressing the Up Arrow or
Down Arrow key.
• To reset properties in a property group to their default values, click Reset next to the property group name. To reset
an individual property, right-click (Windows) or Control-click (Mac OS) the property name (not the value) and
choose Reset from the context menu.
If the property contains keyframes, a keyframe is added at the current time with the default value.
Alan Shisko provides a video tutorial on his Motion Graphics 'n Such blog shows how to use label colors and multiple
selections to rapidly change properties for multiple layers simultaneously.
Charles Bordenave (nab) provides a script on the After Effects Scripts website that sets the properties in the Transform
group for selected layers to random values within constraints that you set.

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The LockProperties script, available from the After Effects Scripts website, locks only specified properties so that you
can prevent accidental changes.

Layer anchor points
Transformations, such as rotation and scale, occur around the anchor point (sometimes called transformation point or
transformation center) of the layer. By default, the anchor point for most layer types is at the center of the layer.
Though there are times when you’ll want to animate the anchor point, it’s most common to set the anchor point for a
layer before you begin animating. For example, if you’re animating an image of a person made up of one layer for each
body part, you’ll probably want to move the anchor point of each hand to the wrist area so that the hand rotates around
that point for the whole animation.
The easiest way to pan and scan over a large image is to animate Anchor Point and Scale properties.
Alan Shisko provides a detailed video tutorial on his website, demonstrating how to create a complex 3D environment
from 3D layers, beginning with simple 2D assets. Manipulating layer anchor points is a crucial part of this tutorial.

Note: If you don’t see the anchor point in the Layer panel, select Anchor Point Path from the View menu at the lower-right
area of the Layer panel.

Move a layer anchor point
• Drag the anchor point using the Selection tool in the Layer panel
Note: Layers of some types, such as text layers and shape layers, can’t be opened in the Layer panel.

• To move a layer anchor point 1 pixel, choose Anchor Point Path from the View menu at the lower-right area of the
Layer panel, and press an arrow key. To move 10 pixels, hold Shift as you press an arrow key. Pixel measurements
are at the current magnification in the Layer panel.
• To move a layer anchor point in the Composition panel without moving the layer, select the layer and use the Pan
to drag the anchor point.
Behind (Anchor Point) tool

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Note: Moving an anchor point with the Pan Behind (Anchor Point) tool changes Position and Anchor Point values so that
the layer remains where it was in the composition before you moved the anchor point. To change only the Anchor Point
value, Alt-drag (Windows) or Option-drag (Mac OS) with the Pan Behind (Anchor Point) tool.
Charles Bordenave (nab) provides a script on the After Effects Scripts website that moves the anchor points of selected
layers without moving the layers in the composition frame.

Reset a layer anchor point
• To reset the anchor point to its default location in the layer, double-click the Pan Behind (Anchor Point) tool
button in the Tools panel.
• To reset the anchor point to its default location in the layer, Alt-double-click (Windows) or Option-double-click
(Mac OS) the Pan Behind (Anchor Point) tool button. The layer moves to the center of the composition

Scale or flip a layer
As with other transformations, scaling of a layer occurs around the anchor point of the layer. If you move the anchor
point away from the center of the layer, the layer may move when you flip it. Some layers—such as camera, light, and
audio-only layers—don’t have a Scale property.
You can scale a layer beyond the composition frame.
For information on scaling exponentially, as with a zoom lens, see Use Exponential Scale to change the speed of scaling.
For information on scaling or resizing entire movies rather than a single layer, see Scaling a movie upand Scaling a
movie down.
To flip a layer is to multiply the horizontal or vertical component of its Scale property value by -1. A layer flips around
its anchor point.

• To flip selected layers, choose Layer > Transform > Flip Horizontal or Layer > Transform > Flip Vertical.
• To scale a layer proportionally in the Composition panel, Shift-drag any layer handle.
• To scale a layer freely in the Composition panel, drag a corner layer handle.
• To scale one dimension only in the Composition panel, drag a side layer handle.
• To increase or decrease Scale for a selected layer by 1%, hold down Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS) as you press
+ or – on the numeric keypad.
• To increase or decrease Scale for selected layers by 10%, hold down Alt+Shift (Windows) or Option+Shift (Mac OS)
as you press + or – on the numeric keypad.
• To scale an entire composition, choose File > Scripts > Scale Composition.jsx.
• To scale and center selected layers to fit in the composition frame, choose Layer > Transform > Fit To Comp.
• To scale and center selected layers to fit the width or height of the composition frame, while preserving the aspect
ratio of the layer, choose Layer > Transform > Fit To Comp Width, or Layer > Transform > Fit To Comp Height.
• To scale a layer proportionally in the Timeline panel, select the layer, press S to display the Scale property, click the
Constrain Proportions icon to the left of the Scale values, and enter a new value for the x, y, or z scale.
To activate the Constrain Proportions icon and match the height to the width, Alt-click (Windows) or Option-click
(Mac OS) it.

• To scale to a specific set of pixel dimensions, right-click (Windows) or Control-click (Mac OS) the Scale value in the
Timeline panel, choose Edit Value, and change the units to pixels in the Scale dialog box. Select Include Pixel Aspect
Ratio to see and adjust dimensions in terms of the composition’s pixel aspect ratio.

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Scaling down a raster (non-vector) layer sometimes causes a slight softening or blurring of the image. Scaling up a
raster layer by a large factor can cause the image to appear blocky or pixelated.
Adobe Photoshop provides fine control over resampling methods used for scaling of images. For fine control of
resampling, you can export frames to Photoshop to change the image size and then import the frames back into After
Effects.
Though it's not very well suited for movies, the content-aware scaling feature in Photoshop is very useful for extending
and scaling still images. This feature can be useful when repurposing images for wide-screen formats that were created
for standard-definition formats.
For a list of plug-ins that provide high-quality scaling—including some designed to create high-definition images from
standard-definition sources—go to the Toolfarm website.
For a script that scales multiple compositions simultaneously, go to the AE Enhancers forum.
Lloyd Alvarez provides a script on the After Effects Scripts website that scales selected layers to fit the composition
frame, and provides options for cropping or letterboxing.
Aharon Rabinowitz provides a video tutorial on the Creative COW website that demonstrates the uses of changing and
animating a 3D layer's Scale property, including changing only the z dimension of Scale.

Rotate a 2D layer
As with other transformations, rotation of a layer occurs around the anchor point of the layer.
To reveal the Rotation property value for selected layers in the Timeline panel, press R.
The first part of the Rotation property value is the number of whole rotations; the second part is the fractional rotation
in degrees.
For information on rotating 3D layers, see Rotate or orient a 3D layer.

• To rotate a layer by dragging in the Composition panel, drag the layer using the Rotation tool
rotation to 45° increments, hold down Shift as you drag.

. To constrain

• To rotate selected layers by 1 degree, press plus (+) or minus (-) on the numeric keypad.
• To rotate selected layers by 10 degrees, press Shift+plus (+) or Shift+minus (-) on the numeric keypad.

Adjust audio volume levels
When you use footage containing audio, the default audio level for playback is 0 dB, meaning that the level is unadjusted
in After Effects. Setting a positive decibel level increases volume, and setting a negative decibel level decreases volume.
Note: Double-clicking an Audio Levels keyframe activates the Audio panel.
The VU meter in the Audio panel displays the volume range for the audio as it plays. The red blocks at the top of the
meter represent the volume limit of your system.
For more precision in setting audio levels by dragging sliders, increase the height of the Audio panel.
❖ In the Audio panel, to adjust volume, do one of the following:

• To set the level of the left and right channels together, drag the center slider up or down.
• To set the level of the left channel, drag the left slider up or down, or type a new value in the levels box at the
bottom of the left slider.

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• To set the level of the right channel, drag the right slider up or down, or type a new value in the levels box at the
bottom of the right slider.

Parent and child layers
To synchronize changes to layers by assigning one layer’s transformations to another layer, use parenting. After a layer
is made a parent to another layer, the other layer is called the child layer. When you assign a parent, the transform
properties of the child layer become relative to the parent layer instead of to the composition. For example, if a parent
layer moves 5 pixels to the right of its starting position, then the child layer also moves 5 pixels to the right of its
position. Parenting is similar to grouping; transformations made to the group are relative to the anchor point of the
parent.
Parenting affects all transform properties except Opacity: Position, Scale, Rotation, and (for 3D layers) Orientation.
Note: When parenting layers, helpful text describing alternate parenting behaviors is displayed on the layer bar below the
mouse position and in the Info panel.
A layer can have only one parent, but a layer can be a parent to any number of layers in the same composition.
You can animate child layers independent of their parent layers. You can also parent using null objects, which are
hidden layers.
You cannot animate the act of assigning and removing the parent designation—that is, you cannot designate a layer as
a parent at one point in time and designate it as a normal layer at a different point in time.
When you create a parenting relationship, you can choose whether to have the child take on the transform property
values of the parent or retain its own. If you choose to have the child take on the transform property values of the parent,
the child layer jumps to the parent’s position. If you choose to have the child retain its own transform property values,
then the child stays where it is. In both cases, subsequent changes to the transform property values of the parent are
applied to the child. Similarly, you can choose whether the child jumps when the parenting relationship is removed.
Note: When parenting layers, you can use the Shift key to move the child layer to the location of the parent. This can be
useful when you want to attach a layer to a null, but have the layer move to the location of the parent null (for example,
attaching a 3D text layer to a null layer created from the 3D Camera Tracker).

Note: To show or hide the Parent column in the Timeline panel, choose Columns > Parent from the Timeline panel menu.

• To parent a layer, in the Parent column, drag the pick whip from the layer that is to be the child layer to the layer
that is to be the parent layer.
• To parent a layer, in the Parent column, click the menu of the layer that you want to be the child, and choose a parent
layer name from the menu.

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• To remove a parent from a layer, in the Parent column, click the menu of the layer to remove the parent from, and
choose None.
• To extend the selection to include all child layers of a selected parent layer, right-click (Windows) or Control-click
(Mac OS) the layer in the Composition or Timeline panel, and choose Select Children.
• To make a child layer jump when a parent is assigned or removed, hold down Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS)
as you assign or remove the parent.
• To remove a parent from a layer (that is, set Parent to None), Ctrl-click (Windows) or Command-click (Mac OS) the
parenting pick whip of the child layer in the Timeline panel. Alt+Ctrl-click (Windows) or Option+Command-click
(Mac OS) the parenting pick whip of the child layer to remove the parent and cause the child layer to jump.

Online resources about parent and child layers
Paul Tuersley provides a script on the AE Enhancers forum for duplicating a parent layer and all of its children,
preserving the parenting hierarchy.
Angie Taylor provides a character animation tutorial on her Creative After Effects website that shows how to use
parenting and expressions. Angie provides a more extensive discussion and explanation of animation using parenting,
expressions, and null object layers in a PDF excerpt from her book Creative After Effects 7: Workflow Techniques for
Animation, Visual Effects, and Motion Graphics.
Trish and Chris Meyer provide an introduction to parenting in a PDF excerpt from the “Parenting and Nesting” chapter
of their book After Effects Apprentice: Real-World Skills for the Aspiring Motion Graphics Artist.
Carl Larsen provides a video tutorial on the Creative COW website that demonstrates how to use expressions and
parenting to relate the rotation of a set of wheels to the horizontal movement of a vehicle.
Carl Larsen provides a pair of video tutorials on the Creative COW website in which he explains the basics of parenting
and then uses an expression involving the toWorld method to trace the path of an animated child layer:

• part 1
• part 2

Robert Powers provides a video tutorial on the Slippery Rock NYC website that demonstrates the use of parenting and
the Puppet tools to animate a character.

Null object layers
To assign a parent layer, but keep that layer from being a visible element in your project, use a null object. A null object
is an invisible layer that has all the properties of a visible layer so that it can be a parent to any layer in the composition.
Adjust and animate a null object as you would any other layer. You use the same commands to modify settings for a
null object that you use for a solid-color layer (Layer > Solid Settings).
You can apply Expression Controls effects to null objects and then use the null object as a control layer for effects and
animations in other layers. For example, when working with a camera or light layer, create a null object layer and use
an expression to link the Point Of Interest property of the camera or light to the Position property of the null layer. Then,
you can animate the Point Of Interest property by moving the null object. It is often easier to select and see a null object
than it is to select and see the point of interest.
A composition can contain any number of null objects. A null object is visible only in the Composition and Layer panels
and appears in the Composition panel as a rectangular outline with layer handles. Effects are not visible on null objects.
❖ To create a null object, select the Timeline or Composition panel and choose Layer > New > Null Object.

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Note: The anchor point of a new null object layer appears in the upper-left corner of the layer, and the layer is anchored in
the center of the composition at its anchor point. Change the anchor point as you would for any other layer.
If a null object is visually distracting in your composition frame, consider dragging it out of the frame, onto the
pasteboard.
Andrew Kramer provides a video tutorial on his Video Copilot website that demonstrates the use of a null object to
animate a 3D stroke.
Angie Taylor provides an extensive discussion and explanation of animation using parenting, expressions, and null
object layers in a PDF excerpt from her book Creative After Effects 7: Workflow Techniques for Animation, Visual
Effects, and Motion Graphics.

Guide layers
You can create guide layers from existing layers to use for reference in the Composition panel, to help you position and
edit elements. For example, you can use guide layers for visual reference, for audio timing, for timecode reference, or
for storing comments to yourself.
A guide layer icon

appears next to the name of a guide layer or its source in the Timeline panel.

By default, guide layers aren’t rendered when you create output but can be rendered when desired by changing the
render settings for the composition.
Note: Guide layers in nested compositions can’t be viewed in the containing composition.

• To convert selected layers to guide layers, choose Layer > Guide Layer.
• To render a composition with its visible guide layers, click Render Settings in the Render Queue panel, and choose
Current Settings from the Guide Layers menu in the Render Settings dialog box.
• To render a composition without rendering guide layers, click Render Settings in the Render Queue panel, and
choose All Off from the Guide Layers menu in the Render Settings dialog box.

Use Brainstorm to experiment and explore settings
Brainstorm creates multiple temporary variants of your composition and displays them in a grid. You can save any
number of these variants, apply one to the current composition, or redo the Brainstorm operation using only the
variants that you choose as input.
Brainstorm uses genetic algorithms to mutate and select property values used as input into each Brainstorm operation.
You decide which variants to include as input to each generation and how much mutation (randomness) to use.

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A Original composition (original in center tile when using Brainstorm on single numeric value) B Maximize Tile C Save As New Composition
D Apply To Composition E Use In Next Brainstorm F Randomness control (Spread control when using Brainstorm on single numeric value)
G Back and Forward to previous and next generations H Playback controls

With Brainstorm, you can rapidly accomplish the following:

• Compare the results of multiple values for a single property so that you can find the value that works best.
• Explore the results of randomly modifying any number of properties to achieve a creative result.
Open a template project or apply an animation preset to a layer, select some properties (or entire property groups), and
then use Brainstorm to quickly modify these properties. Starting from such complete material, you can use Brainstorm
to very quickly create your own projects and animations.
You can use Brainstorm on any number of properties and property groups, from one or more layers in the same
composition. For example, you can use Brainstorm to refine the single Stroke Width property for a star on a shape layer;
or you can select the entire Contents property group and use Brainstorm to explore the entire space of properties for
all shapes on the layer.
You can use Brainstorm on any property that has numeric values or options in a pop-up menu in the Timeline panel.
Examples of properties on which you can’t use Brainstorm are Source Text, Mask Path, and the Histogram property for
the Levels effect; however, you can use Brainstorm on the properties of the Levels (Individual Controls) effect.
Brainstorm operates on all selected keyframes. For a property with no keyframes, Brainstorm operates on the global,
constant value.

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If you use Brainstorm on a single one-dimensional property (such as Opacity, but not Position), the Randomness value
that controls the amount of variation (mutation) is replaced by a Spread value. The variants that are presented in the
Brainstorm dialog box are then not random, but represent a range of values around the central value. The original
composition appears in the center tile of the dialog box, and you can only select one variant on which to base the next
Brainstorm operation.
Though you can’t directly use Brainstorm on expressions, you can use Brainstorm on the properties of Expression
Control effects, to which expressions can refer.
1 Set a work area and region of interest for the duration and spatial area of the composition that you want to preview

during the Brainstorm session. (See Work areaand Region of interest (ROI).)
2 Select one or more properties or property groups in the Timeline panel, and click the Brainstorm button

at the

top of the Timeline panel.
The variant compositions all play in the Brainstorm dialog box simultaneously. Controls for each variant are only
visible when the pointer is over it. Use the playback controls at the bottom of the Brainstorm dialog box to play,
pause, or rewind the previews.
3 In the Brainstorm dialog box, do any of the following:

• To get a better look at a variant, click its Maximize Tile
return to the grid view of all variants.

button. Click the Restore Tile Size

• To show or hide the transparency grid, click the Toggle Transparency Grid
Brainstorm dialog box.

button to

button at the bottom of the

• To mark a variant for inclusion in the next Brainstorm operation, click the Include In Next Brainstorm
button for that variant.
• To save a variant as a new composition in the current project, click the Save As New Composition
for that variant.

button

• To increase the randomness or spread for the next generation, adjust the Randomness or Spread value at the
bottom of the Brainstorm dialog box. Make this number small for precision work; make it larger for
experimentation and exploration.
4 (Optional) To create another generation of variants from the variants marked for inclusion in the next Brainstorm

operation, click Brainstorm at the bottom of the Brainstorm dialog box and return to step 2. If you click Brainstorm
without marking any variants for inclusion, the Brainstorm operation is repeated using the same input as the current
generation.
If the Brainstorm operation uses Randomness, the variants marked for input into the next generation are included
unchanged into the next generation, and remain in their positions in the dialog box. If the Brainstorm operation
uses Spread, only one variant is carried into the next generation, and it appears in the center tile.
Repeat this cycle until you have found the variant that you want to save as the current composition.
You can move back or forward a generation by clicking the arrow buttons on either side of the Brainstorm button at
the bottom of the Brainstorm dialog box. If you move back a generation and then perform another Brainstorm
operation, the later generations are lost.
Note: Press Esc to close the Brainstorm dialog box.
Note: If you use the Save As New Composition feature and the current composition contains expressions that refer to itself
using the comp("") format, then the saved compositions’ expressions will refer to the original composition, not each
saved composition. If your expression needs to rely on the settings in its own composition, use the thisComp object instead.

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More Help topics
Effect Controls panel
Layers (keyboard shortcuts)
Modifying layer properties (keyboard shortcuts)
Keyframes and the Graph Editor (keyboard shortcuts)
Showing properties and groups in the Timeline panel (keyboard shortcuts)
Selecting and arranging layers
Show or hide layer controls in the Composition panel
Image size and resolution
Preview video and audio
Columns
Expression Controls effects
Render settings

Blending modes and layer styles
Work with layer blending modes
Blending modes for layers control how each layer blends with or interacts with layers beneath it. Blending modes for
layers in After Effects (formerly referred to as layer modes and sometimes called transfer modes) are identical to
blending modes in Adobe Photoshop.
Most blending modes modify only color values of the source layer, not the alpha channel. The Alpha Add blending
mode affects the alpha channel of the source layer, and the silhouette and stencil blending modes affect the alpha
channels of layers beneath them.
You can’t directly animate blending modes by using keyframes. To change a blending mode at a certain time, split the
layer at that time and apply the new blending mode to the part of the layer that continues. You can also use the
Compound Arithmetic effect, the results of which are similar to the results of blending modes but can change over time.
Each layer has a blending mode, even if that blending mode is the default Normal blending mode.
Note: To blend colors with a gamma value of 1, choose File > Project Settings and select Blend Colors Using 1.0 Gamma.
Deselect this option to blend colors in the working color space for the project. (See Linearize working space and enable linear
blending.)
Blending modes for multiple masks on a single layer are called mask modes.
Some effects include their own blending mode options. For details, see the descriptions of the individual effects.

• To cycle through blending modes for selected layers, hold down the Shift key and press - (hyphen) or = (equal sign)
on the main keyboard.

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Note: These shortcuts provide a convenient way to experiment with the appearance of various blending modes.

• To apply a blending mode to selected layers, choose a blending mode from the menu in the Mode column in the
Timeline panel or from the Layer > Blending Mode menu.
• To show the Modes column in the Timeline panel, choose Columns > Modes from the panel menu, or click the
at the lower-left corner of the Timeline panel.
Expand Or Collapse The Transfer Controls button
Trish and Chris Meyer provide tips and tricks for using blending modes to achieve a filmic look in this PDF document
on the Artbeats website.
Trish and Chris Meyer explain how to use blending modes, layer styles, and the Displacement Map effect to make text
blend in to appear to be part of a surface in the PDF article “Writing on the Wall” on the Artbeats website.

Blending mode reference
All blending modes described in this section are available for blending between layers. Some of these options are
available for paint strokes, layer styles, and effects.
For in-depth information about the concepts and algorithms behind these blending modes as implemented in several
Adobe applications, see section 7.2.4 of version 1.7 of the PDF reference on the Adobe website.
The blending mode menu is subdivided into eight categories based on similarities between the results of the blending
modes. The category names do not appear in the interface; the categories are simply separated by dividing lines in the
menu.
Normal category Normal, Dissolve, Dancing Dissolve. The result color of a pixel is not affected by the color of the

underlying pixel unless Opacity is less than 100% for the source layer. The Dissolve blending modes turn some of the
pixels of the source layer transparent.
Subtractive category Darken, Multiply, Color Burn, Classic Color Burn, Linear Burn, Darker Color. These blending
modes tend to darken colors, some by mixing colors in much the same way as mixing colored pigments in paint.
Additive category Add, Lighten, Screen, Color Dodge, Classic Color Dodge, Linear Dodge, Lighter Color. These

blending modes tend to lighten colors, some by mixing colors in much the same way as mixing projected light.
Complex category Overlay, Soft Light, Hard Light, Linear Light, Vivid Light, Pin Light, Hard Mix. These blending

modes perform different operations on the source and underlying colors depending on whether one of the colors is
lighter than 50% gray.
Difference category Difference, Classic Difference, Exclusion, Subtract, Divide. These blending modes create colors
based on the differences between the values of the source color and the underlying color.
HSL category Hue, Saturation, Color, Luminosity. These blending modes transfer one or more of the components of

the HSL representation of color (hue, saturation, and luminosity) from the underlying color to the result color.
Matte category Stencil Alpha, Stencil Luma, Silhouette Alpha, Silhouette Luma. These blending modes essentially

convert the source layer into a matte for all underlying layers.
The stencil and silhouette blending modes use either the alpha channel or luma values of a layer to affect the alpha
channel of all layers beneath the layer. Using these blending modes differs from using a track matte, which affects only
one layer. Stencil modes cut through all layers, so that you can, for example, show multiple layers through the alpha
channel of the stencil layer. Silhouette modes block out all layers below the layer with the blending mode applied, so
you can cut a hole through several layers at once. To keep the silhouette and stencil blending modes from cutting
through or blocking all layers underneath, precompose the layers that you want to affect and nest them in your
composition.
Chris and Trish Meyer explain stencil blending modes in an article on the ProVideo Coalition website.

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Utility category Alpha Add, Luminescent Premul. These blending modes serve specialized utility functions.

Blending mode descriptions
In the following descriptions, these terms are used:

• The source color is the color of the layer or paint stroke to which the blending mode is applied.
• The underlying color is the color of the composited layers below the source layer or paint stroke in the layer stacking
order in the Timeline panel.
• The result color is the output of the blending operation; the color of the composite.
Note: Some color values in the following descriptions are given in terms of the 0.0-1.0 scale from black to white.
Normal The result color is the source color. This mode ignores the underlying color. Normal is the default mode.
Dissolve The result color for each pixel is either the source color or the underlying color. The probability that the result

color is the source color depends on the opacity of the source. If opacity of the source is 100%, then the result color is
the source color. If opacity of the source is 0%, then the result color is the underlying color. Dissolve and Dancing
Dissolve do not work on 3D layers.
Dancing Dissolve Same as Dissolve, except that the probability function is recalculated for each frame, so the result

varies over time.
Darken Each result color channel value is the lower (darker) of the source color channel value and the corresponding

underlying color channel value.
Multiply For each color channel, multiplies source color channel value with underlying color channel value and divides

by maximum value for 8-bpc, 16-bpc, or 32-bpc pixels, depending on the color depth of the project. The result color is
never brighter than the original. If either input color is black, the result color is black. If either input color is white, the
result color is the other input color. This blending mode simulates drawing with multiple marking pens on paper or
placing multiple gels in front of a light. When blending with a color other than black or white, each layer or paint stroke
with this blending mode results in a darker color.
Color Burn The result color is a darkening of the source color to reflect the underlying layer color by increasing the

contrast. Pure white in the original layer does not change the underlying color.
Classic Color Burn The Color Burn mode from After Effects 5.0 and earlier, renamed Classic Color Burn. Use it to
preserve compatibility with older projects; otherwise, use Color Burn.
Linear Burn The result color is a darkening of the source color to reflect the underlying color. Pure white produces no

change.
Darker Color Each result pixel is the color of darker of the source color value and the corresponding underlying color
value. Darker Color is similar to Darken, but Darker Color does not operate on individual color channels.
Add Each result color channel value is the sum of the corresponding color channel values of the source color and

underlying color. The result color is never darker than either input color.

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Lighten Each result color channel value is the higher (lighter) of the source color channel value and the corresponding
underlying color channel value.
Screen Multiplies the complements of the channel values, and then takes the complement of the result. The result color
is never darker than either input color. Using the Screen mode is similar to projecting multiple photographic slides
simultaneously onto a single screen.
Color Dodge The result color is a lightening of the source color to reflect the underlying layer color by decreasing the
contrast. If the source color is pure black, the result color is the underlying color.
Classic Color Dodge The Color Dodge mode from After Effects 5.0 and earlier, renamed Classic Color Dodge. Use it to
preserve compatibility with older projects; otherwise, use Color Dodge.
Linear Dodge The result color is a lightening of the source color to reflect the underlying color by increasing the
brightness. If the source color is pure black, the result color is the underlying color.
Lighter Color Each result pixel is the color of lighter of the source color value and the corresponding underlying color

value. Lighter Color is similar to Lighten, but Lighter Color does not operate on individual color channels.
Overlay Multiplies or screens the input color channel values, depending on whether or not the underlying color is

lighter than 50% gray. The result preserves highlights and shadows in the underlying layer.
Soft Light Darkens or lightens the color channel values of the underlying layer, depending on the source color. The

result is similar to shining a diffused spotlight on the underlying layer. For each color channel value, if the source color
is lighter than 50% gray, the result color is lighter than the underlying color, as if dodged. If the source color is darker
than 50% gray, the result color is darker than the underlying color, as if burned. A layer with pure black or white
becomes markedly darker or lighter, but does not become pure black or white.
Hard Light Multiplies or screens the input color channel value, depending on the original source color. The result is

similar to shining a harsh spotlight on the layer. For each color channel value, if the underlying color is lighter than 50%
gray, the layer lightens as if it were screened. If the underlying color is darker than 50% gray, the layer darkens as if it
were multiplied. This mode is useful for creating the appearance of shadows on a layer.
Linear Light Burns or dodges the colors by decreasing or increasing the brightness, depending on the underlying color.

If the underlying color is lighter than 50% gray, the layer is lightened because the brightness is increased. If the
underlying color is darker than 50% gray, the layer is darkened because the brightness is decreased.
Vivid Light Burns or dodges the colors by increasing or decreasing the contrast, depending on the underlying color. If
the underlying color is lighter than 50% gray, the layer is lightened because the contrast is decreased. If the underlying
color is darker than 50% gray, the layer is darkened because the contrast is increased.
Pin Light Replaces the colors, depending on the underlying color. If the underlying color is lighter than 50% gray, pixels
darker than the underlying color are replaced, and pixels lighter than the underlying color do not change. If the
underlying color is darker than 50% gray, pixels lighter than the underlying color are replaced, and pixels darker than
the underlying color do not change.
Hard Mix Enhances the contrast of the underlying layer that is visible beneath a mask on the source layer. The mask

size determines the contrasted area; the inverted source layer determines the center of the contrasted area.
Difference For each color channel, subtracts the darker of the input values from the lighter. Painting with white inverts
the backdrop color; painting with black produces no change.

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If you have two layers with an identical visual element that you want to align, place one layer on top of the other and
set the blending mode of the top layer to Difference. Then, you can move one layer or the other until the pixels of the
visual element that you want to line up are all black—meaning that the differences between the pixels are zero and therefore
the elements are stacked exactly on top of one another.
Classic Difference The Difference mode from After Effects 5.0 and earlier, renamed Classic Difference. Use it to

preserve compatibility with older projects; otherwise, use Difference.
Exclusion Creates a result similar to but lower in contrast than the Difference mode. If the source color is white, the

result color is the complement of the underlying color. If the source color is black, the result color is the underlying
color.
Subtract Subtracts the source color from the underlying color. If the source color is black, the result color is the

underlying color. Result color values can be less than 0 in 32-bpc projects.
Divide Divides underlying color by source color. If the source color is white, the result color is the underlying color.
Result color values can be greater than 1.0 in 32-bpc projects.
Hue Result color has luminosity and saturation of the underlying color, and the hue of the source color.
Saturation Result color has luminosity and hue of the underlying color, and the saturation of the source color.
Color Result color has luminosity of the underlying color, and hue and saturation of the source color. This blending

mode preserves the gray levels in the underlying color. This blending mode is useful for coloring grayscale images and
for tinting color images.
Luminosity Result color has hue and saturation of the underlying color, and luminosity of the source color. This mode

is the opposite of the Color mode.
Stencil Alpha Creates a stencil using the alpha channel of the layer.
Stencil Luma Creates a stencil using the luma values of the layer. The lighter pixels of the layer are more opaque than

the darker pixels.
Silhouette Alpha Creates a silhouette using the alpha channel of the layer.
Silhouette Luma Creates a silhouette using the luma values of the layer. Creates transparency in painted areas of the

layer, allowing you to see underlying layers or background. The luminance value of the blend color determines opacity
in the result color. The lighter pixels of the source cause more transparency than the darker pixels. Painting with pure
white creates 0% opacity. Painting with pure black produces no change.
Alpha Add Composites layers normally, but adds complementary alpha channels to create a seamless area of

transparency. Useful for removing visible edges from two alpha channels that are inverted relative to each other or from
the alpha channel edges of two touching layers that are being animated.
Note: Sometimes, when layers are aligned edge-to-edge, seams can appear between the layers. This is especially an issue
with 3D layers that are joined to one another at the edges to build a 3D object. When the edges of a layer are anti-aliased,
there's some partial transparency at the edges. When two areas of 50% transparency overlap, the result is not 100% opacity
but 75% opacity, because the default operation is multiplication. (50% of the light gets through one layer, and then 50% of
the remainder gets through the next layer, so 25% gets through the system.) This is like partial transparency in the real
world. But, in some cases, you don't want this default blending. You want the two 50% opacity areas to combine to make
a seamless, opaque join. You want the alpha values to be added. In these cases, use the Alpha Add blending mode.
Luminescent Premul Prevents clipping of color values that exceed the alpha channel value after compositing by adding
them to the composition. Useful for compositing rendered lens or light effects (such as lens flare) from footage with
premultiplied alpha channels. May also improve results when compositing footage from matting software from other
manufacturers. When applying this mode, you may get the best results by changing interpretation of the premultipliedalpha source footage to straight alpha.

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Layer styles
Photoshop provides a variety of layer styles—such as shadows, glows, and bevels—that change the appearance of a layer.
After Effects can preserve these layer styles when importing Photoshop layers. You can also apply layer styles in After
Effects and animate their properties.
You can copy and paste any layer style within After Effects, including layer styles imported into After Effects in PSD
files. Richard Harrington provides a video tutorial on the Creative COW website that shows how to bring a library of
layer styles from Photoshop into After Effects so that you can use, modify, copy, and paste the custom layer styles in After
Effects.
In addition to the layer styles that add visual elements—like a drop shadow or a color overlay—each layer’s Layer Styles
property group contains a Blending Options property group. You can use the Blending Options settings for powerful
and flexible control over blending operations.
Though layer styles are referred to as effects in Photoshop, they behave more like blending modes in After Effects. Layer
styles follow transformations in the standard render order, whereas effects precede transformations. Another difference
is that each layer style blends directly with the underlying layers in the composition, whereas an effect is rendered on
the layer to which it’s applied, the result of which then interacts with the underlying layers as a whole.
When you import a Photoshop file that includes layers as a composition, you can retain editable layer styles or merge
layer styles into footage. When you import only one layer that includes layer styles, you can choose to ignore the layer
styles or merge layer styles into footage. At any time, you can convert merged layer styles into editable layer styles for
each After Effects layer based on a Photoshop footage item.
After Effects can preserve all layer styles in imported Photoshop files, but you can only add and modify some layer
styles and controls within After Effects.
Note: For details about each layer style and its properties, see Photoshop Help.
Layer styles that you can apply and edit in After Effects
Drop Shadow Adds a shadow that falls behind the layer.
Inner Shadow Adds a shadow that falls inside the contents of the layer, giving the layer a recessed appearance.
Outer Glow Adds a glow that emanates outward from the contents of the layer.
Inner Glow Adds a glow that emanates inward from the contents of the layer.
Bevel And Emboss Adds various combinations of highlights and shadows.

Use the Bevel And Emboss layer style rather than the Bevel Alpha effect if, for example, you want to apply different
blending modes to the highlights and shadows of a bevel.
Satin Applies interior shading that creates a satiny finish.
Color Overlay Fills the contents of the layer with a color.
Gradient Overlay Fills the contents of the layer with a gradient.
Stroke Outlines the contents of the layer.

Add, remove, and convert layer styles
• To convert merged layer styles into editable layer styles, select one or more layers and choose Layer > Layer Styles >
Convert To Editable Styles.
• To add a layer style to selected layers, choose Layer > Layer Styles, and choose a layer style from the menu.
• To remove a layer style, select it in the Timeline panel and press Delete.

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• To remove all layer styles from selected layers, choose Layer > Layer Styles > Remove All.
When a layer style is applied to a vector layer—such as a text layer, a shape layer, or a layer based on an Illustrator
footage item—visual elements that apply to the edges of the contents of the layer apply to the outlines of the vector
objects, such as text characters or shapes. When a layer style is applied to a layer based on a non-vector footage item,
the layer style applies to the edges of the layer’s bounds or masks.
You can apply a layer style to a 3D layer, but a layer with a layer style can’t intersect with other 3D layers or interact with
other 3D layers for casting and receiving shadows. 3D layers on either side of a layer with a layer style can’t intersect
one another or cast shadows on one another.
When you use the Layer > Convert To Editable Text command on a text layer from a Photoshop file, any layer styles on
that layer are also converted to editable layer styles.

Layer style settings
Each layer style has its own collection of properties in the Timeline panel.
Align With Layer Uses the bounding box of the layer to calculate the gradient fill.
Altitude For the Bevel And Emboss layer style, the elevation of the light source above the layer, in degrees.
Choke Shrinks the boundaries of the matte of an Inner Shadow or Inner Glow before blurring.
Distance The offset distance for a Shadow or Satin layer style
Highlight Mode, Shadow Mode Specifies the blending mode of a bevel or emboss highlight or shadow.
Jitter Varies the application of the colors and opacity of a gradient, which reduces banding.
Layer Knocks Out Drop Shadow Controls the visibility of a drop shadow in a semitransparent layer.
Reverse Flips the orientation of a gradient.
Scale Resizes the gradient.
Spread Expands the boundaries of the matte before blurring.
Use Global Light Set this option to On to use the Global Light Angle and Global Light Altitude in the Blending Options

property group instead of the Angle and Altitude settings for each individual layer style. This option is useful if you
have multiple layer styles applied to the same layer and want to animate the position of the light for all of them.

Blending options for layer styles
Each layer style has its own blending mode, which determines how it interacts with underlying layers. The underlying
layer in this context may or may not include the layer to which the layer style is applied. For example, a drop shadow
does not blend with the layer to which it’s applied, because the shadow falls behind the layer; whereas an inner shadow
does blend with the layer to which it’s applied.
Layer styles can be categorized as interior layer styles or exterior layer styles. Interior layer styles affect the opaque pixels
of the layer to which they’re applied. Interior layer styles include Inner Glow, Inner Shadow, Color Overlay, Gradient
Overlay, Satin, and Bevel And Emboss. Exterior layer styles do not blend with the pixels of the layer to which they’re
applied, but only interact with the underlying layers. Exterior layer styles include Outer Glow and Drop Shadow.
If Blend Interior Styles As Group is set to On, interior layer styles use the blending mode of the layer.
If you modify the Opacity property of a layer, the opacity of the contents of the layer and the opacity of the layer styles
are all affected. If, however, you modify the Fill Opacity property in the Blending Options property group, the opacity
of the layer styles is unaffected. For example, if a text layer has the Drop Shadow layer style applied, decreasing the Fill
Opacity to 0 makes the text disappear, but the drop shadow remains visible.

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Use the Blend Ranges From Source option to use the advanced blending options set for the Photoshop file that
determine what blending operations to perform based on the color characteristics of the input layer.

Online resources about layer styles
Dave Scotland provides a video tutorial on the CG Swot website that demonstrates how to create a metallic textured
logo using layer styles in After Effects.

Exclude channels from blending
You can exclude one or more of the color channels of a layer from blending operations.
The Blending Options property group is only included for a layer if the layer has had a layer style added to it. To add a
Blending Options property group without a layer style, add an arbitrary layer style and then immediately delete it; the
Blending Options property group and its containing Layer Styles property group remain.
1 Expand the Blending Options property group for the layer in the Layer Styles property group in the Timeline panel.
2 To exclude a channel from blending, set Red, Green, or Blue to Off in the Advanced Blending property group.

You can animate these properties, so you can exclude a channel from blending at some times but include the channel
at other times.

More Help topics
Mask modes
Split a layer
Color basics
Preparing and importing Photoshop files
Render order and collapsing transformations
3D layer interactions, render order, and collapsed transformations
Layer effects and styles

3D layers
3D layers overview and resources
The basic objects that you manipulate in After Effects are flat, two-dimensional (2D) layers. When you make a layer a
3D layer, the layer itself remains flat, but it gains additional properties: Position (z), Anchor Point (z), Scale (z),
Orientation, X Rotation, Y Rotation, Z Rotation, and Material Options properties. Material Options properties specify
how the layer interacts with light and shadows. Only 3D layers interact with shadows, lights, and cameras.

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Any layer can be a 3D layer, except an audio-only layer. Individual characters within text layers can optionally be 3D
sublayers, each with their own 3D properties. A text layer with Enable Per-character 3D selected behaves just like a
precomposition that consists of a 3D layer for each character. All camera and light layers have 3D properties.
By default, layers are at a depth (z-axis position) of 0. In After Effects, the origin of the coordinate system is at the upperleft corner; x (width) increases from left to right, y (height) increases from top to bottom, and z (depth) increases from
near to far. Some video and 3D applications use a coordinate system that is rotated 180 degrees around the x axis; in
these systems, y increases from bottom to top, and z increases from far to near.
You can transform a 3D layer relative to the coordinate space of the composition, the coordinate space of the layer, or
a custom space by selecting an axis mode.
You can add effects and masks to 3D layers, composite 3D layers with 2D layers, and create and animate camera and
light layers to view or illuminate 3D layers from any angle. When rendering for final output, 3D layers are rendered
from the perspective of the active camera. (See Create a camera layer and change camera settings.)
All effects are 2D, including effects that simulate 3D distortions. For example, viewing a layer with the Bulge effect from
the side does not show a protrusion.
As with all masks, mask coordinates on a 3D layer are in the 2D coordinate space of the layer.
Note: After Effects 7.0 and earlier included a Standard 3D rendering plug-in; this plug-in is not included with After Effects
CS3 or later. In After Effects 6.0 and later, the default plug-in for rendering 3D layers has been the Advanced 3D rendering
plug-in. When you open a project that was created with the Standard 3D rendering plug-in, the project is converted to use
the Advanced 3D rendering plug-in. As third-party plug-ins become available, you can choose them from the Advanced
section of the Composition Settings dialog box.

Convert 3D layers
When you convert a layer to 3D, a depth (z) value is added to its Position, Anchor Point, and Scale properties, and the
layer gains Orientation, Y Rotation, X Rotation, and Material Options properties. The single Rotation property is
renamed Z Rotation.
When you convert a 3D layer back to 2D, the Y Rotation, X Rotation, Orientation, and Material Options properties are
removed, including all values, keyframes, and expressions. (These values cannot be restored by converting the layer
back to a 3D layer.) The Anchor Point, Position, and Scale properties remain, along with their keyframes and
expressions, but their z values are hidden and ignored.

Convert a layer to a 3D layer
❖ Select the 3D Layer switch

for the layer in the Timeline panel, or select the layer and choose Layer > 3D Layer.

Convert a text layer to a 3D layer with per-character 3D properties enabled
❖ Choose Animation > Animate Text > Enable Per-Character 3D, or choose Enable Per-Character 3D from the

Animate menu for the layer in the Timeline panel.

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Convert a 3D layer to a 2D layer
❖ Deselect the 3D Layer switch for the layer in the Timeline panel, or select the layer and choose Layer > 3D Layer.

Show or hide 3D axes and layer controls
3D axes are color-coded arrows: red for x, green for y, and blue for z.

• To show or hide 3D axes, camera and light wireframe icons, layer handles, and the point of interest, choose View >
Show Layer Controls.
If the axis that you want to manipulate is difficult to see, try a different setting in the Select View Layout menu at the
bottom of the Composition panel.

• To show or hide a set of persistent 3D reference axes, click the Grid And Guides Options button
of the Composition panel, and choose 3D Reference Axes.

at the bottom

Chris and Trish Meyer provide a video tutorial on the ProVideo Coalition website that demonstrates the use of the 3D
axis layer controls.

Move a 3D layer
1 Select the 3D layer that you want to move.
2 Do one of the following:

• In the Composition panel, use the Selection tool to drag the arrowhead of the 3D axis layer control
corresponding to the axis along which you want to move the layer. Shift-drag to move the layer more quickly.
• In the Timeline panel, modify the Position property values.
Press P to show Position.

• To move selected layers so that their anchor points are at the center in the current view, choose Layer > Transform
> Center In View or press Ctrl+Home (Windows) or Command+Home (Mac OS).
Chris and Trish Meyer provide a video tutorial on the ProVideo Coalition website that demonstrates the use of the 3D
axis layer controls.

Rotate or orient a 3D layer
You can turn a 3D layer by changing its Orientation or Rotation values. In both cases, the layer turns around its anchor
point. The Orientation and Rotation properties differ in how the layer moves when you animate them.
When you animate the Orientation property of a 3D layer, the layer turns as directly as possible to reach the specified
orientation. When you animate any of the X, Y, or Z Rotation properties, the layer rotates along each individual axis
according to the individual property values. In other words, Orientation values specify an angular destination, whereas
Rotation values specify an angular route. Animate Rotation properties to make a layer turn multiple times.
Animating the Orientation property is often better for natural, smooth motion, whereas animating the Rotation
properties provides more precise control.

Rotate or orient a 3D layer in the Composition panel
1 Select the 3D layer that you want to turn.
2 Select the Rotation tool

, and choose Orientation or Rotation from the Set menu to determine whether the tool
affects Orientation or Rotation properties.

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3 In the Composition panel, do one of the following:

• Drag the arrowhead of the 3D axis layer control corresponding to the axis around which you want to turn the
layer.
• Drag a layer handle. Dragging a corner handle turns the layer around the z axis; dragging a left or right center
handle turns the layer around the y axis; dragging a top or bottom handle turns the layer around the x axis.
• Drag the layer.
Shift-drag to constrain your manipulations to 45-degree increments.

Rotate or orient a 3D layer in the Timeline panel
1 Select the 3D layer that you want to turn.
2 In the Timeline panel, modify the Rotation or Orientation property values.

Press R to show Rotation and Orientation properties.

Online resources about rotating and orienting 3D layers
Donat Van Bellinghen provides some expressions on the AE Enhancers forum for placing and orienting a 3D layer in
the plane defined by three points.
Chris and Trish Meyer provide a video tutorial on the ProVideo Coalition website that demonstrates the use of the 3D
axis layer controls.

Axis modes
Axis modes specify on which set of axes a 3D layer is transformed. Choose a mode in the Tools panel.
Local Axis mode

Aligns the axes to the surface of a 3D layer.

Aligns the axes to the absolute coordinates of the composition. Regardless of the rotations you
perform on a layer, the axes always represent 3D space relative to the 3D world.
World Axis mode

Aligns the axes to the view you have selected. For example, suppose that a layer has been rotated
and the view changed to a custom view; any subsequent transformation made to that layer while in View Axis mode
happens along the axes corresponding to the direction from which you are looking at the layer.
View Axis mode

Differences between the axis modes are only relevant when you have a 3D camera in a composition.
Note: The Camera tools always adjust along the local axes of the view, so the action of the Camera tools is not affected by
the axis modes.
Angie Taylor explains 3D axis modes in this tutorial.

3D layer interactions, render order, and collapsed transformations
The positions of certain kinds of layers in the layer stacking order in the Timeline panel prevent groups of 3D layers
from being processed together to determine intersections and shadows.
A shadow cast by a 3D layer does not affect a 2D layer or any layer that is on the other side of the 2D layer in the layer
stacking order. Similarly, a 3D layer does not intersect with a 2D layer or any layer that is on the other side of the 2D
layer in the layer stacking order. No such restriction exists for lights.

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Just like 2D layers, other types of layers also prevent 3D layers on either side from intersecting or casting shadows on
one another:

• An adjustment layer
• A 3D layer with a layer style applied
• A 3D precomposition layer to which an effect, closed mask (with mask mode other than None), or track matte has
been applied
• A 3D precomposition layer without collapsed transformations
A precomposition with collapsed transformations (Collapse Transformations switch selected) does not interfere with
the interaction of 3D layers on either side—as long as all of the layers in the precomposition are themselves 3D layers.
Collapsing transformations exposes the 3D properties of the layers that compose the precomposition. Essentially,
collapsing transformations in this case allows each 3D layer to be composited into the main composition individually,
rather than creating a single 2D composite for the precomposition layer and compositing that into the main
composition. The tradeoff is that this setting removes your ability to specify certain layer settings for the
precomposition as a whole—such as blending mode, quality, and motion blur.
Shadows cast by continuously rasterized 3D layers (including text layers) are not affected by effects applied to that layer.
If you want the shadow to show the results of the effect, then precompose the layer with the effect.
To ensure that the shadow remains where expected on a 3D layer with a track matte, precompose the 3D layer and the
track matte layer together (but don’t collapse transformations), and then apply the shadow to the precomposition.
Effects on continuously rasterized vector layers with 3D properties are rendered in 2D and then projected onto the 3D
layer. OpenGL rendering does not support this kind of projection, so results may differ when rendering using OpenGL.
This projection does not occur for compositions with collapsed transformations.

More Help topics
Per-character 3D text properties
Importing and using 3D files from other applications
3D layers (keyboard shortcuts)
Cameras, lights, and points of interest
Layer 3D attributes and methods (expression reference)

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Layer switches and columns in the Timeline panel
Show or hide layer controls in the Composition panel
Selecting and arranging layers
Layer properties
Coordinate systems: composition space and layer space
Render order and collapsing transformations
Precompose layers
Continuously rasterize a layer containing vector graphics
Preparing and importing Photoshop files
Effects with a Comp Camera attribute
3D layers

Cameras, lights, and points of interest
Create a camera layer and change camera settings
You can view 3D layers from any angle and distance using camera layers. Just as it’s easier in the real world to move
cameras through and around a scene than it is to move and rotate the scene itself, it’s often easiest to get different views
of a composition by setting up a camera layer and moving it around in a composition.
You can modify and animate camera settings to configure the camera to match the real camera and settings that were
used to record footage with which you’re compositing. You can also use camera settings to add camera-like behaviors—
from depth-of-field blur to pans and dolly shots—to synthetic effects and animations.
Cameras affect only 3D layers and 2D layers with an effect with a Comp Camera attribute. With effects that have a
Comp Camera attribute, you can use the active composition camera or lights to view or light an effect from various
angles to simulate more sophisticated 3D effects. After Effects can interact with Photoshop 3D layers by means of the
Live Photoshop 3D effect, which is a special example of a Comp Camera effect.
Note: After Effects does not support the Live Photoshop 3D effect.
You can choose to view a composition through the active camera or through a named custom camera. The active
camera is the topmost camera in the Timeline panel at the current time for which the Video switch is selected. The
active camera view is the point of view used for creating final output and nesting compositions. If you have not created
a custom camera, then the active camera is the same as the default composition view.
All cameras are listed in the 3D View menu at the bottom of the Composition panel, where you can access them at any
time.
It’s often easiest to adjust a camera when using one of the custom 3D views. You can’t—of course—see the camera to
manipulate it when you’re looking through the camera itself.

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A Point of interest B Frame C Camera

Note: If you import or open an After Effects 5.x project containing a 3D composition that used a default camera, After
Effects adds an AE 5.x Default Camera to the composition.

Create a camera layer
❖ Choose Layer > New > Camera, or press Ctrl+Alt+Shift+C (Windows) or Command+Option+Shift+C (Mac OS).

Note: By default, new layers begin at the beginning of the composition duration. You can instead choose to have new
layers begin at the current time by deselecting the Create Layers At Composition Start Time preference (Edit >
Preferences > General (Windows) or After Effects > Preferences > General (Mac OS)).

Change camera settings
You can change camera settings at any time.
❖ Double-click the camera layer in the Timeline panel, or select the layer and then choose Layer > Camera Settings.

Note: By default, the Preview option in the Camera Settings dialog box is selected. This option shows the changes in the
composition as you make them in the Camera Settings dialog box.

Camera settings
You can change camera settings at any time by double-clicking the layer in the Timeline panel or selecting the layer and
choosing Layer > Camera Settings.
Select Preview in the Camera Settings dialog box to show results in the Composition panel as you modify settings in the
dialog box.
Note: The three things that affect depth of field are focal length, aperture, and focus distance. Shallow (small) depth of field
is a result of long focal length, short focus distance, and a larger aperture (smaller F-stop). A shallower depth of field means
a larger depth-of-field blur result. The opposite of a shallow depth of field is deep focus—meaning a smaller depth-of-field
blur because more is in focus.
Camera properties relating to camera lens blur and shape include Iris Shape, Iris Rotation, Iris Roundness, Iris Aspect
Ratio, Iris Diffraction Fringe, Highlight Gain, Highlight Threshold, and Highlight Saturation.
Type One-Node Camera or Two-Node Camera. A one-node camera orients around itself, whereas a two-node camera

has a point of interest and orients around that point. Making a camera a two-node camera is the same as setting a
camera’s auto-orientation option (Layer > Transform > Auto-Orient) to Orient Towards Point Of Interest. (See AutoOrientation options.)

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Name The name of the camera. By default, Camera 1 is the name of first camera that you create in a composition, and

all subsequent cameras are numbered in ascending order. You should choose distinctive names for multiple cameras to
make it easier to distinguish them.
Preset The type of camera settings you want to use. The presets are named according to focal lengths. Each preset is

meant to represent the behavior of a 35mm camera with a lens of a certain focal length. Therefore, the preset also sets
the Angle Of View, Zoom, Focus Distance, Focal Length, and Aperture values. The default preset is 50mm. You can also
create a custom camera by specifying new values for any of the settings.
Zoom The distance from the lens to the image plane. In other words, a layer that is the Zoom distance away appears at

its full size, a layer that is twice the Zoom distance away appears half as tall and wide, and so on.
Angle Of View The width of the scene captured in the image. The Focal Length, Film Size, and Zoom values determine

the angle of view. A wider angle of view creates the same result as a wide-angle lens.
Depth Of Field Applies custom variables to the Focus Distance, Aperture, F-Stop, and Blur Level settings. Using these
variables, you can manipulate the depth of field to create more realistic camera-focusing effects. (The depth of field is
the distance range within which the image is in focus. Images outside the distance range are blurred.)
Focus Distance The distance from the camera to the plane that is in perfect focus.

Add this expression to the Focus Distance property to lock the focal plane to the camera's point of interest so that the
point of interest is in focus: length(position, pointOfInterest)
Lock To Zoom Makes the Focus Distance value match the Zoom value.

Note: If you change the settings of the Zoom or Focus Distance options in the Timeline panel, the Focus Distance value
becomes unlocked from the Zoom value. If you need to change the values and want the values to remain locked, then use
the Camera Settings dialog box instead of the Timeline panel. Alternatively, you can add an expression to the Focus
Distance property in the Timeline panel: Select the Focus Distance property, and choose Animation > Add Expression; then
drag the expression pick whip to the Zoom property. (See Expression basics.)
Aperture The size of the lens opening. The Aperture setting also affects the depth of field—increasing the aperture
increases the depth of field blur. When you modify Aperture, the values for F-Stop change to match it.

Note: In a real camera, increasing the aperture also allows in more light, which affects exposure. Like most 3D compositing
and animation applications, After Effects ignores this result of the change in aperture values
F-Stop Represents the ratio of the focal length to aperture. Most cameras specify aperture size using the f-stop

measurement; thus, many photographers prefer to set the aperture size in f-stop units. When you modify F-Stop,
Aperture changes to match it.
Blur Level The amount of depth-of-field blur in an image. A setting of 100% creates a natural blur as dictated by the

camera settings. Lower values reduce the blur.
Film Size The size of the exposed area of film, which is directly related to the composition size. When you modify Film
Size, the Zoom value changes to match the perspective of a real camera.
Focal Length The distance from the film plane to the camera lens. In After Effects, the position of the camera
represents the center of the lens. When you modify Focal Length, the Zoom value changes to match the perspective of
a real camera. In addition, the Preset, Angle Of View, and Aperture values change accordingly.
Units The units of measurement in which the camera setting values are expressed.
Measure Film Size The dimensions used to depict the film size.

Note: For best results, work in 32-bpc with Linearize Working Space selected in the project settings.

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Camera Commands
After Effects has camera commands that can be used separately or with the Create Stereo 3D Rig function. To use the
camera commands, select a camera layer, and then choose Layer > Camera.
Link Focus Distance to Point of Interest Creates an expression on the selected camera layer’s Focus Distance property,

setting the property’s value to the distance between the camera and its point of interest.
Link Focus Distance to Layer Creates an expression on the selected camera layer’s Focus Distance property to be the
distance between the camera’s position and another layer. This method allows the focus to follow the other layer
automatically.
Set Focus Distance to Layer Sets the value of the Focus Distance property at the current time to the distance at the

current time between the camera and the selected layer.

Online resources about cameras
For a video tutorial that shows how to create and modify a camera and use the Camera tools, see the Adobe website.
Dale Bradshaw provides a script and sample project for automating the rigging of a camera on the Creative Workflow
Hacks website.
Mark Christiansen provides tips and detailed techniques for working with cameras in the “Virtual Cinematography in
After Effects” chapter of After Effects Studio Techniques on the Peachpit Press website. This chapter includes
information about matching lens distortion, performing camera moves, performing camera projection (camera
mapping), using rack focus, creating boke blur, using grain, and choosing a frame rate to match your story-telling.
Trish and Chris Meyer provide a tutorial for using 3D layers, lights, and cameras in a PDF excerpt from their book After
Effects Apprentice on the Focal Press website.
Richard Harrington provides a video tutorial on the Creative COW website that shows how to use the Camera tools
and camera views in After Effects to create a camera move with 3D layers. (This tutorial is the second in a two-part
series. Part 1 concentrates on working with photographs to isolate and create sky in Photoshop for use in After Effects.)
Andrew Kramer provides a two-part video tutorial on his Video Copilot website that demonstrates basic camera
mapping and camera projection. In this tutorial, he shows how to project an image onto 3D layers using lights and light
transmission properties.

• part 1
• part 2

Create a light and change light settings
A light layer can affect the colors of the 3D layers that it shines on, depending on the light’s settings and the Material
Options properties of the 3D layers. Each light, by default, points to its point of interest.
Lights can be used to illuminate 3D layers and to cast shadows. You can use lights to match lighting conditions of the
scene into which you are compositing or to create more interesting visual results. For example, you can use light layers
to create the appearance of light streaming through a video layer as if it were made of stained glass.
You can animate all of the settings for a light, except for the light type and the Casts Shadows property.

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A Point of interest B Light icon

You can specify which 3D layers a light affects by designating the light as an adjustment layer: place the light in the
Timeline panel above the layers on which you want it to shine. Layers that are above a light adjustment layer in the layer
stacking order in the Timeline panel do not receive the light, regardless of the positions of the layers in the Composition
panel.

Create a light
❖ Choose Layer > New > Light, or press Ctrl+Alt+Shift+L (Windows) or Command+Option+Shift+L (Mac OS).

Note: By default, new layers begin at the beginning of the composition duration. You can instead choose to have new
layers begin at the current time by deselecting the Create Layers At Composition Start Time preference (Edit >
Preferences > General (Windows) or After Effects > Preferences > General (Mac OS)).

Change light settings
❖ Double-click a light layer in the Timeline panel or select the layer and choose Layer > Light Settings.

Select Preview in the Light Settings dialog box to show results in the Composition panel as you modify settings in the
dialog box.

Light settings
Light Type Parallel emits directional, unconstrained light from an infinitely distant source, approximating the light

from a source like the Sun. Spot emits light from a source that is constrained by a cone, like a flashlight or a spotlight
used in stage productions. Point emits unconstrained omnidirectional light, like the rays from a bare light bulb.
Ambient creates light that has no source but rather contributes to the overall brightness of a scene and casts no shadows.

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Note: Because the position in space of an Ambient light does not affect its influence on other layers, an Ambient light does
not have an icon in the Composition panel.
Intensity The brightness of the light. Negative values create nonlight. Nonlight subtracts color from a layer. For

example, if a layer is already lit, creating a directional light with negative values also pointing at that layer darkens an
area on the layer.
Color The color of the light.
Cone Angle The angle of the cone surrounding the source of a light, which determines the width of the beam at a
distance. This control is active only if Spot is selected for Light Type. The cone angle of a Spot light is indicated by the
shape of the light icon in the Composition panel.

Note: In After Effects CS6 or later, a selected spot light's cone can be extended to the point of interest.
Cone Feather The edge softness of a spotlight. This control is active only if Spot is selected for Light Type.
Falloff The type of falloff for a parallel, spot, or point light. Falloff describes how a light’s intensity is lessened over

distance.
For details, tutorials, and resources about light falloff, see this article on the Adobe website.
Falloff types include the following:
None Illumination does not decrease as the distance between the layer and the light increases.
Smooth Indicates a smooth linear falloff starting at the Falloff Start radius and extending the length specified by Falloff

Distance.
Inverse Square Clamped Indicates a physically accurate falloff starting at the Falloff Start radius and decreasing

proportionally to the inverse square of the distance away.
Radius Specifies the radius of falloff from a light. Inside this distance, the light is a constant light. Outside this distance,

the light falls off.
Falloff Distance Specifies the distance a light falls off from a light.
Casts Shadows Specifies whether the light source causes a layer to cast a shadow. The Accepts Shadows material option

must be On for a layer to receive a shadow; this setting is the default. The Casts Shadows material option must be On
for a layer to cast shadows; this setting is not the default.
Press Alt+Shift+C (Windows) or Option+Shift+C (Mac OS) to toggle Casts Shadows for selected layers. Press AA to
show Material Options properties in the Timeline panel.
Shadow Darkness Sets the darkness of the shadow. This control is active only if Cast Shadows is selected.
Shadow Diffusion Sets the softness of a shadow based on its apparent distance from the shadowing layer. Larger values

create softer shadows. This control is active only if Casts Shadows is selected.

Online resources about lights
Eran Stern provides a video tutorial on the Creative COW website that demonstrates the use of lights as adjustment
layers, to precisely control which layers are affected by which lights.
Chris and Trish Meyer provide tips about shadows and lights in 3D in an article on the ProVideo Coalition website.
Trish and Chris Meyer provide a tutorial for using 3D layers, lights, and cameras in a PDF excerpt from their book After
Effects Apprentice on the Focal Press website.
Chris and Trish Meyer provide a tutorial on the Artbeats website that demonstrates how to use lights and 3D layers to
project a video onto other layers, such as onto a wall.

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Adjust a 3D view or move a camera, light, or point of interest
Camera layers and light layers each include a Point Of Interest property, which specifies the point in the composition
at which the camera or light points. By default, the point of interest is at the center of the composition. You can move
the point of interest at any time.
A one-node camera ignores the point of interest. (See Camera settings.)
To make a light ignore its point of interest, select an option other than Orient Towards Point Of Interest in the light’s
Auto-Orientation options. (See Auto-Orientation options.)
Note: As with all properties, you can also modify a camera or light’s properties directly in the Timeline panel.

Move a camera, light, or point of interest with the Selection and Rotation tools
1 Select a camera or light layer.
2 Using the Selection or Rotation tool, do one of the following:

• To move the camera or light and its point of interest, position the pointer over the axis you want to adjust, and
drag.
• To move the camera or light along a single axis without moving the point of interest, Ctrl-drag (Windows) or
Command-drag (Mac OS) the axis.
• To move the camera or light freely without moving the point of interest, drag the camera icon
• To move the point of interest, drag the point of interest icon

or light icon.

.

Move or adjust a camera or working 3D view with the Camera tools
You can adjust the Position and Point Of Interest properties of a camera layer by using the Camera tools in the
Composition panel.
You can also use the Camera tools to adjust a working 3D view, a 3D view that is not associated with a camera layer. You
can think of 3D views as being virtual cameras through which you can view and preview a composition. The working
3D views include the custom views and the fixed orthographic views (Front, Left, Top, Back, Right, or Bottom). The
working 3D views are useful for placing and previewing elements in a 3D scene. If you use a Camera tool to adjust a
working 3D view, no layer property values are affected.
After you’ve modified a 3D view, you can reset it by choosing View > Reset 3D View.
You can’t use the Orbit Camera tool on the fixed orthographic views.
For information on choosing and using 3D views, see Choose a 3D view.
1 In the 3D View menu at the bottom of the Composition panel, choose the camera or 3D view to adjust.
2 Activate a Camera tool.

You can activate a Camera tool by selecting it in the Tools panel or pressing C to cycle through the Camera tools.
tool and use the
The easiest way to switch between the various Camera tools is to select the Unified Camera
buttons on a three-button mouse.
Orbit Camera Rotates the 3D view or camera by moving around the point of interest. (To temporarily activate the

Orbit Camera tool when the Unified Camera Tool is selected, hold the left mouse button.)
Shift-dragging with the Unified Camera tool selected temporarily activates the Orbit Camera tool and constrains
rotation to one axis.
Track XY Camera Adjusts the 3D view or camera horizontally or vertically. (To temporarily activate the Track XY

Camera tool when the Unified Camera Tool is selected, hold the middle mouse button.)

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Track Z Camera Adjusts the 3D view or camera along the line to the point of interest. If you are using an
orthographic view, this tool adjusts the scale of the view. (To temporarily activate the Track Z Camera tool when the
Unified Camera Tool is selected, hold the right mouse button.)

3 Drag in the Composition panel. You can continue a drag operation outside the panel after you’ve begun dragging

within the panel.
After you’ve modified a 3D view, you can reset it by choosing View > Reset 3D View.

Move or adjust a camera or working 3D view to look at layers
You can also move a camera or adjust a 3D view to look at selected layers or all layers. After Effects changes the point
of view and direction of view to include the layers that you have selected.

• To adjust a 3D view or move a camera to look at selected layers, choose View > Look At Selected Layers.
• To adjust a 3D view or move a camera to look at all layers, choose View > Look At All Layers.
For keyboard shortcuts for these commands, see 3D layers (keyboard shortcuts).

Tips and online resources for moving and animating cameras and lights
Before moving a camera, choose a view other than Active Camera. If you use Active Camera view, you are looking
through the camera, which makes it harder to manage.
By default, a camera's wireframe is only visible when the camera is selected. To always show the camera wireframe, set
the view options for the Composition panel (View > View Options). (See Show or hide layer controls in the
Composition panel.)
When working with a camera or light layer, create a null object layer and use an expression to link the Point Of Interest
property of the camera or light to the Position property of the null layer. Then, you can animate the Point Of Interest
property by moving the null object. It is often easier to select and see a null object than it is to select and see the point
of interest.
In After Effects, there is a camera command, “Create Orbit Null.” This parents the selected camera layer to a new null
layer. The new null layer is renamed, based on the camera’s name appended with Orbit Null
Trish and Chris Meyer show you how to use the Create Orbit Null camera command in this video tutorial on Adobe TV.
For a video tutorial that shows how to create and modify a camera and use the Camera tools, see the Adobe website.
Trish and Chris Meyer provide a video tutorial on the ProVideo Coalition website that demonstrates the use of the
Camera tools to adjust cameras and 3D views.
Trish and Chris Meyer provide a tutorial for using 3D layers, lights, and cameras in a PDF excerpt from their book After
Effects Apprentice on the Focal Press website.

Mark Christiansen provides tips and detailed techniques for working with cameras in the “Virtual Cinematography in
After Effects” chapter of After Effects Studio Techniques on the Peachpit Press website. This chapter includes
information about matching lens distortion, performing camera moves, performing camera projection (camera
mapping), using rack focus, creating boke blur, using grain, and choosing a frame rate to match your story-telling.
Richard Harrington provides a video tutorial on the Creative COW website that shows how to use the Camera tools
and camera views in After Effects to create a camera move with 3D layers. (This tutorial is the second in a two-part
series. Part 1 concentrates on working with photographs to isolate and create sky in Photoshop for use in After Effects.)
Rich Young provides a set of expressions on his AE Portal website that use the toWorld method link a camera and light
to a layer with the CC Sphere effect.

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Andrew Devis of Creative Cow has created a 3 tutorial series on Animating a Camera:

• Animating a Camera 1: Camera Difficulties
• Animating a Camera 2: Simple Rig
• Animating a Camera 3: Controllers & Point of View
This video from video2brain demonstrates the command to create a new camera orbit null.

Material Options properties
3D layers have Material Options properties, which determine how a 3D layer interacts with light and shadow.
Casts Shadows Specifies whether a layer casts shadows on other layers. The direction and angle of the shadows are

determined by the direction and angle of the light sources. Set Casts Shadows to Only if you want the layer to be
invisible but still cast a shadow.
Use the Only setting and a nonzero Light Transmission setting to project the colors of an invisible layer onto another
layer. Steve Holmes provides a video tutorial on the Artbeats website in which he demonstrates how to use layers with
Cast Shadows set to Only to cast shadows of specific shapes within a 3D scene.
Light Transmission The percentage of light that shines through the layer, casting the colors of the layer on other layers
as a shadow. 0% specifies that no light passes through the layer, casting a black shadow. 100% specifies that the full
values of the colors of the shadow-casting layer are projected onto the layer accepting the shadow.

Use partial light transmission to create the appearance of light passing through a stained glass window.
Accepts Shadows Specifies whether the layer shows shadows cast on it by other layers. There is an “Only” option in the

Accepts Shadows for when you want to render only a shadow on a layer.
Accepts Lights Specifies whether the color of a layer is affected by light that reaches it. This setting does not affect

shadows.
Ambient Ambient (nondirectional) reflectivity of the layer. 100% specifies the most reflectivity; 0% specifies no

ambient reflectivity.
Diffuse Diffuse (omnidirectional) reflectivity of the layer. Applying diffuse reflectivity to a layer is like draping a dull,
plastic sheet over it. Light that falls on this layer reflects equally in all directions. 100% specifies the most reflectivity;
0% specifies no diffuse reflectivity.
Specular Specular (directional) reflectivity of the layer. Specular light reflects from the layer as if from a mirror. 100%

specifies the most reflectivity; 0% specifies no specular reflectivity.
Shininess Determines the size of the specular highlight. This value is active only if the Specular setting is greater than

zero. 100% specifies a reflection with a small specular highlight. 0% specifies a reflection with a large specular highlight.
Metal The contribution of the layer color to the color of the specular highlight. 100% specifies that the highlight color
is the color of the layer. For example, with a Metal value of 100%, an image of a gold ring reflects golden light. 0%
specifies that the color of the specular highlight is the color of the light source. For example, a layer with a Metal value
of 0% under a white light has a white highlight.

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Specify resolution to use for rendering shadows
The Advanced 3D rendering plug-in is used to render compositions containing intersecting 3D layers. To render
shadows, the plug-in uses shadow maps, which are images rendered from the point of view of each light source.
Normally, shadow resolution is computed automatically based on the composition resolution and the quality settings
of the layers. If normal resolution doesn’t create the quality you want, odr renders too slowly, you can adjust the shadow
map resolution. For example, if shadows are blurry and the Shadow Diffusion material option is set to 0, increase the
shadow map resolution. Or, if shadows render too slowly, decrease the shadow map resolution.
When a shadow-casting layer intersects another layer, sometimes a small gap occurs behind the intersection that is
supposed to be shadowed. To decrease the size of the gap, increase the shadow map resolution.

Stereoscopic 3D
Stereoscopic 3D video can be created with Adobe After Effects CS5, and there are new workflows and tools available
for it in After Effects CS5.5 and later.
For tutorials, details, and resources about stereoscopic 3D in After Effects CS5.5, see this article on the Adobe website.
For an overview of stereoscopic 3D workflow in After Effects, see Understanding Stereoscopic 3D in After Effects.
Mark Christiansen shows compositing stereoscopic 3D footage (using free clip from Art Beats).

Stereoscopic 3D camera rig (CS5.5)
After Effects has a Create Stereo 3D Rig menu command, allowing you to turn a 3D composition into a stereoscopic
3D composition. The Stereo 3D Rig creates all the elements for you, including the 3D Glasses effect.
Make a stereoscopic 3D camera rig by first creating a composition with 3D elements in it. A composition that contains
items such as a 3D collapsed precomposition or 3D elements in the composition itself works well. If you already have
a camera in use, you can select it when creating the stereoscopic 3D camera rig. If no camera is selected, then a new
camera (named Master Cam) is created. Choose Layer > Camera > Create Stereo 3D Rig. The rig only works with twonode cameras.
The rig is produced by creating a master camera or by using the existing selected camera in the composition. There are
left eye [compare Left Eye] and right eye [compare Right Eye] compositions. Each composition has a camera linked to
the master camera, the original composition nested in them, and an output stereo 3D composition [compare Stereo
3D]. The output stereo 3D composition nests both eye compositions and contains a layer called Stereo 3D Controls.
This layer contains a Stereo 3D Controls effect for controlling the rig and a 3D Glasses effect that combines the left and
right eye compositions into a stereo image. (see 3D Glasses effect.)
Note: The Stereo 3D Controls effect is an effect built as part of the Stereo 3D Rig and does not reside in the Effects and
Presets panel.
The Stereo 3D Controls effect has the following settings for Camera Separation and Convergence:
Configuration Center places the left and right camera on either side of the master camera. Hero Left places the left
camera in the same spot as the master camera with the right camera to the right. Conversely, Hero Right places the right
camera at the master camera position with the left camera to the left.
Stereo Scene Depth Controls the interaxial separation between the cameras as a percentage of the composition’s width.
That way, if the composition is resized, the separation amount is constant. This setting starts low at a value of 3% to
keep the effect subtle. Ideally, this value does not need to increase to more than 14%-30% for reasonable 3D footage.
However, it can be bigger depending on the scene content (objects are very close together) and the camera field of view,
for example.

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Note: Altering this value changes how deep the Stereo 3D appears to go into and out of the scene. It can cause eye strain if
pushed too far, however. Altering this value changes how deep the Stereo 3D appears to go into and out of the scene. It can
cause eye strain if pushed too far, however. Altering this value changes how deep the Stereo 3D appears to go into and out
of the scene. It can cause eye strain if pushed too far, however. Altering this value changes how deep the Stereo 3D appears
to go into and out of the scene. It can cause eye strain if pushed too far, however.
Converge Cameras When off, the cameras remain parallel to the master camera but offset to either side. When on, the

position remains offset. However, the Point of Interest of the left and right cameras are joined at the location based upon
the following two properties.
Converge To and Convergence Z Offset Determines the Z distance away from the camera that the screen appears to be
when looking through 3D glasses. Everything farther in Z space appears to be pushed into the screen, and everything
closer appears to pop out of the screen. When working without converge the cameras check box on, and cameras are
parallel, changing the scene convergence has the same effect as changing the Z offset. Use difference mode to set
different elements in the scene to screen space in that case. (see 3D Glasses effect.)

Getting started with stereoscopic 3D
If you are working with stereoscopic 3D, you don’t necessarily need a 3D television. For example, you can use anaglyph
(red-cyan) 3D glasses and view 3D stereoscopic footage right in the Composition panel. However, you can use a 3D
television for doing live editing with a 3D television and active shutter glasses, as well. For that workflow, you’ll need a
few things before getting started:

• A monitor or television that supports 3D stereoscopic viewing.
• Glasses for viewing stereoscopic 3D television.
Note: For this workflow, use active shutter glasses that require an emitter device. Make sure that you are using the glasses
that the television manufacturer recommends.

• Stereoscopic footage or a 3D composition.
Once you have gathered these items, do the following:
1 Connect the 3D TV to your computer with an HDMI cable (DVI is acceptable if HDMI is not available).
2 Create a 3D composition in After Effects. Make sure that the composition size matches the current resolution of

your output monitor.
3 Make a new Composition panel for your Stereo 3D composition. Lock the composition, and then drag it to your 3D

TV monitor.
4 Ensure that the Composition panel is set to 100%.
5 Type Control + \(backslash) twice to set the composition to full screen for the 3D TV. Set the dimensions of the

composition and the 3D TV to be the same.
6 Switch the 3D view in the 3D Glasses effect to one of the following:

• Stereo Pair
• Over Under
• Interlaced
7 Turn on 3D mode for your 3D TV and match the format to what was set in 3D View for the 3D Glasses effect. (Stereo

Pair, and Over Under are supported on most 3D TVs.
8 Put on your 3D glasses, and edit your composition in true stereoscopic 3D.

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Stereoscopic 3D tips
• If you are working with3D stereoscopic footage in the Composition panel and you do not have a 3D television, you
can work with the anaglyph format. Ordinary red and cyan anaglyph 3D glasses work best for this 3D stereoscopic
workflow.
• Increase or decrease Stereo Scene Depth to change how deep the 3D environment appears.
• Turn on Converge Cameras and change the Convergence Z Offset to move different objects behind and in front of
the screen. Objects closer to the camera than the Z offset appears in front of the screen, objects farther away appears
behind it.
• You can make your composition’s depth of field to match your stereoscopic camera’s convergence by doing one of
the following:
• When using “Link Focus Distance to Point of Interest” on the master camera, and converge cameras for the rig,
the depth of field and stereoscopic 3D convergence matches.
• If you want the depth of field to change over time, you can animate the focus distance of the master camera. Then,
set the convergence point to converge from “Camera Position”, and set an expression linking the convergence Z
offset to the master camera’s Focus Distance

More Help topics
Auto-Orientation options
Effects with a Comp Camera attribute
Choose a view layout and share view settings
Auto-Orientation options
Adjustment layers
Choose a 3D view
Choose a view layout and share view settings
3D layers

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Chapter 6: Views and previews

Previewing
Enhanced in After Effects CC 2015 | June 2015

• Uninterrupted preview: You can now make changes to the open project while a preview is playing back in After
Effects.
• Simplified and configurable preview: You can now customize Preview behaviors using the updated Preview panel.
If you're new to After Effects, you will find the default Preview intuitive with real-time playback of cached frames.
For you, the experienced After Effects user, Preview options are configurable to suit your working style.

Preview video and audio
Though it is common to speak of rendering as if this term only applies to final output, the processes of creating previews
to show in the Footage, Layer, and Composition panels are also kinds of rendering.
You can preview all or part of your composition as you work, without rendering to final output. Many of the controls
for previewing are in the Preview panel.

Use preview to play video and audio
After Effects allocates RAM to play video and audio in the Timeline, Layer, or Footage panel at real-time speed. The
number of frames that can be stored for real-time playback depends on the amount of RAM available and the settings
in the Preview panel.
The default preview behavior is configured to produce a preview that best emulates real-time playback. When you press
spacebar (default keyboard shortcut), After Effects starts a preview with audio, and caches frames until the available
RAM is filled.
❖ To start a preview of video and audio, do any of the following:

• Press any of Preview Shortcut keys (Spacebar, Numpad-0, or Shift+Numpad-0). Each shortcut key results in a
different Preview behavior, based on the Preview settings assigned to each of the keys. You can configure the
Preview behavior for each shortcut key by modifying settings in the Preview panel. For more information, see
Configure Preview Behaviors .
• Click the (Play) button in the Preview panel. When you click the Play button, settings assigned for the
Shortcut, currently displayed in the Preview panel, is used.
• Select Composition > Preview > Play. When you select the Play option, settings assigned for the Shortcut,
currently displayed in the Preview panel, is used.

Configure Preview behaviors
You can configure the Preview options to suit your working style. Controls in the Preview panel allow you to configure
preview behaviors for each keyboard shortcut (Spacebar, Numpad 0, and Shift + Numpad 0): audio, looping, caching,
range, and layer controls.

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To configure settings for Preview, do the following:
1 The Preview panel is open by default in most Workspaces within After Effects. However, if the Preview panel is

closed, select Window > Preview to open it.
2 In the Preview panel, you can modify the following settings to configure Preview behavior:
Shortcut Choose a keyboard shorctut to play/stop a preview: Spacebar, Numpad 0, and Shift + Numpad 0. The
Preview behavior depends on the settings specified for the currently selected Shortcut key.
Reset Restore default preview settings for all shortcut keys.

To restore preview settings for all shortcut keys to closely match their behaviors in previous versions (After Effects
CC 2014 and older), hold the Option (Mac OS) or Alt (Windows) key, and click the Reset button.
Loop Specify if you want the Preview to play in a loop.
Mute Audio Mute audio during a Preview.
Preview Favors Specify if you want Preview to favor the Frame Rate or Length. You can use the Preview Favors

option to optimize caching and playback behavior for better Frame Rate performance or unlimited Length of
preview.
When Preview Favors is set to Frame Rate:

• After Effects renders and caches frames until the available RAM is filled, and then plays the cached frames in
real-time.
• During the rendering and caching phase, frames are rendered and cached as fast as possible. Playback of cached
frames begins immediately, but no faster than real-time.
• If the cache fills available RAM before all frames in the range are rendered, only the frames in the cache are
previewed.
• When the caching phase is completed, real-time playback will begin from the time defined by the Play From
control, or simply continue if rendering was faster than real-time.
When Preview Favors is set to Length:

• Playback begins by rendering and caching frames with only a small advance buffer, but no faster than real time.
• The entire range will preview; if the cache fills available RAM before all frames in the range are rendered, the
oldest frames in the cache are discarded.
• Real-time playback only occurs if the frames render faster than real-time, or after the first loop if the entire range
fits in the cache.
• The Length option is best-suited when previewing frames that render faster than real-time, which is often the
case in the Footage panel, or when previewing a range too long to fit all of the frames in the cache.
For both of these options:

• Playback begins immediately, simultaneous with frame rendering and caching.
• Audio plays, if enabled. When playback speed is less than real-time, audio will stutter in order to maintain sync
with video. The audio stutter is more likely to occur if Mute Audio When Preview Is Not Real-Time option in
Preferences (Preferences > Preview) is disabled.
Range Defines the range of frames that are previewed:

• Work Area: Only the frames within the work area.

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• Work Area - Extended by Current Time: Work area is dynamically extended the work area with reference to the
position of the current-time indicator (CTI).
• If the CTI is placed before the work area, the length of the range is from the current time to the work area end
point.
• If the CTI is placed after the work area, the length of the range is from the work area start point to the current
time; unless From Current Time is enabled, in which case the length of the range is from the work area start
point to the last frame of the composition, layer, or footage.
• If the CTI is placed inside the work area, the range is the work area with no extension.
• Entire Duration: All frames of the composition, layer, or footage.
Layer Controls Choose whether to display layer controls for selected layers and other viewer panel overlays during

preview. When preview is stopped, layer controls and overlays return to their previous visibility setting.
Viewer panel overlays include guide lines, safe margins, grids, and 3D reference axes.

• Off shows no layer controls or overlays during preview.
• Use Current Settings shows the viewer's layer controls and overlays during preview.
To choose which layer controls to show for the current viewer, open the View Options dialog (View > View
Options).
To choose which overlays to show for the current viewer, open the Choose Grid and Guide Options menu at the
bottom of the viewer panel.
While a preview is playing back, you can dynamically show or hide layer controls using shortcut keys: Cmd + Shift
+H (Mac OS) or Control + Shift + H (Windows).
Note: Showing or hiding layer controls during a preview does not affect the state of the Layer Controls option in the
Preview panel.
Frame Rate Specify a Frame Rate for the preview. Select Auto if you want the preview and composition frame rates

to be equal.
Skip Select the number of frames you want to skip while previewing to improve playback performance.
Resolution Specify preview resolution. Value specified in the Resolution drop-down overrides resolution setting of

the composition.

Stop a Preview
You can stop a preview using any of the following ways:

• Press any of the preview keyboard shortcuts: Spacebar, Numpad-0, or Shift + Numpad-0.
• Click the Play/Stop button in the Preview panel.
• Choose Composition > Preview > Play Current Preview.
• Press either of the audio preview keyboard shortcuts: Numpad-period (.) or Option/Alt + Numpad-period (.)
• Press the Esc key.
When a preview stops, two scenarios are considered:

• If you stop a preview before all frames in the range have been rendered, whether to start playback of cached frames
before all frames in the range have been rendered. This scenario is only when the preview was started with Preview
Favors set to Frame Rate.

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• Whether the CTI stays at the current time or moves to the playback time (the time at which you stopped the
preview).

Using Preview Shortcut to stop a Preview
Using the preview keyboard shortcuts (Spacebar, Numpad-0, or Shift + Numpad-0) to stop a preview, results in
different stop behaviors:

• Spacebar: CTI moves to the playback time. If frame rendering is interrupted, playback of the cached frames begins.
• Numpad-0: CTI stays at the current time. If frame rendering is interrupted, playback of the cached frames begins.
• Shift + Numpad-0: CTI stays at the current time. If frame rendering is interrupted, playback of the cached frames
begins.
Note: The stop behavior for the preview shortcuts is a result of the shortcut you pressed to stop the preview, not the shortcut
you used to start the preview.

Using the Play/Stop button to stop a Preview
The Play/Stop button in the Preview panel and Composition > Preview > Play Current Preview are linked to the
shortcut currently displayed in the Preview panel. Using these actions to stop a preview will have the same result as
pressing the currently displayed shortcut key.

Default preview settings
The following are the default preview settings for each of the preview Shortcut keys:
Spacebar

Numpad-0

Shift + Numpad-0

•

Loop: on

•

Loop: on

•

Loop: on

•

Audio: on

•

Audio: on

•

Audio: on

•

Preview Favors: Frame Rate

•

Preview Favors: Frame Rate

•

Preview Favors: Frame Rate

•

Range: Work Area Extended by Current
Time

•

Range: Work Area

•

•

Range: Work Area Extended by
CurrentTime

Play From: Start of Range

•

Play From: Current Time

•

•

Play From: Start of Range

Layer Controls: Off

•

•

Layer Controls: Off

Frame Rate: Auto

•

•

Frame Rate: Auto

Skip: 0

•

•

Skip: 1

Resolution: Auto

•

•

Resolution: Auto

Full Screen: disabled

•

Full Screen: disabled

•
•
•
•
•

Layer Controls: Off
Frame Rate: Auto
Skip: 0
Resolution: Auto
Full Screen: disabled

When Spacebar is used to stop a
preview:

•
•

CTI: moves to playback time

When Numpad-0 is used to stop a
preview:

•

CTI: stays at current time

•

Interrupt caching: start playback

Interrupt caching: start playback

When Shift + Numpad-0 is used to
stop a preview:

•

CTI: stays at current time

•

Interrupt caching: start playback

Loop options for previews
Click the Loop Options button in the Preview panel until it shows the desired state:
Loop

Repeatedly plays preview from beginning to end.

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Play Once

Plays preview once.

Preview only audio
When you preview only audio, it plays immediately at real-time speed, unless you’ve applied Audio effects other than
Stereo Mixer, in which case you may have to wait for audio to render before it plays.
Note: If audio must be rendered for a preview, then only the amount of audio specified by the Duration setting in the
Previews preferences is rendered and played for the preview. The default is 30 seconds.
Set the sample rate for audio for the entire project in the Project Settings dialog box (File > Project Settings). CD-quality
sound is 44.1 KHz, 16-bit stereo.
The Audio Hardware and Audio Output Mapping preferences determine the behavior of audio previews. These
preferences do not affect final output. The output module settings determine the quality of audio in final output. For
best-quality audio previews, choose an ASIO device if one is available in the Default Device menu in the Audio
Hardware preferences. Otherwise, choose one of the devices for your system, such as the After Effects WDM Sound
device (Windows) or one of the Built-in devices (Mac OS).

• To preview only audio from the current time, choose Composition > Preview > Audio Preview (Here Forward) or
press the decimal point key (.) on the numeric keypad.
• To preview only audio in the work area, choose Composition > Preview > Audio Preview (Work Area) or press
Alt+decimal point (.) (Windows) or Option+decimal point (.) (Mac OS) on the numeric keypad.

Manually preview (scrub) video and audio
• To manually preview (scrub) video in the Timeline panel or go to a specific frame, drag the current-time indicator.
• To scrub audio in the Timeline panel, Ctrl+Alt-drag (Windows) or Command+Option-drag (Mac OS) the currenttime indicator.
• To scrub audio and video in the Timeline panel, Ctrl-drag (Windows) or Command-drag (Mac OS) the current-time
indicator.
If you stop moving the current-time indicator while keeping the mouse button depressed, a short section of audio loops.
To manually preview (scrub) only the frames that are already rendered and cached into the RAM cache, press Caps
Lock before dragging the current-time indicator. This prevents After Effects from trying to render other frames when
you drag over or past them. This technique is useful when you want to manually preview some frames that you rendered
using preview settings that used an option to skip every other frame.

Audio panel options
During previews, the Audio panel volume unit (VU) meter actively displays audio volume levels. At the top of the VU
meter, signals indicate when the audio is clipping—a distortion that occurs when the audio signal exceeds the maximum
level that the audio device allows.
To view the VU meter and levels controls in more detail, increase the height of the Audio panel.

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Choose Options in the Audio panel menu to specify the following options:
Units Choose whether to display audio levels in decibels or in percentages. 100% equals 0 decibels (0 dB).
Slider Minimum The minimum audio level to display in the Audio panel.

Additional tips and options for previewing
• With all previewing methods—as with rendering to final output—a layer is only visible in rendered previews if its
Video layer switch is selected.
• The following are some of the factors that influence the speed with which previews are rendered:
• layer switches
• Fast Previews settings
• preference settings
• composition settings.
Use the Resolution/Down Sample Factor setting menu which is one of the simplest and most influential of the preview
settings controls. Choose a value other than Full from this menu to see all previews at a lower resolution.

To turn pixel-aspect ratio correction on or off for previews, click the Toggle Pixel Aspect Ratio Correction button at
the bottom of the panel. The quality of the pixel aspect ratio correction is determined by the Zoom Quality preference.
(See Viewer Quality preferences.)

• When possible, preview on the same kind of device that your audience will use to view your final output. For
example, you can preview on an external video monitor.
• If color management is enabled, you can preview a composition, layer, or footage item as it will appear in the output
color space. (See Simulate how colors will appear on a different output device.)

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Note: Select Show Rendering Progress In Info Panel And Flowchart (Edit > Preferences > Display (Windows) or After
Effects > Preferences > Display (Mac OS)) to see additional information in the Info panel or the project Flowchart panel
during rendering, either for previews or for final output.

Move the current-time indicator (CTI)

The most basic way of previewing frames is to manually preview by moving or dragging the current-time indicator
(CTI).
The time ruler visually represents the time dimension of a composition, a layer, or a footage item. In a Layer or Footage
panel, the time ruler appears near the bottom of the panel. For a Composition panel, the time ruler appears in the
corresponding Timeline panel. The time rulers in different panels represent different durations. The time ruler in a
Layer or Footage panel represents the duration of the contents of that panel; the time ruler in the Timeline panel
represents the duration of the entire composition.
On a time ruler, the current-time indicator indicates the frame you are viewing or modifying.

• To go forward or backward one frame, click the Next Frame
or press Page Down or Page Up.

or Previous Frame

button in the Preview panel,

• To go forward or backward ten frames, Shift-click the Next Frame or Previous Frame button, or press Shift+Page
Down or Shift+Page Up.
• To go forward a specific period of time or number of frames, click the current-time display, and then enter the plus
sign (+) followed by the timecode or number of frames to advance. For example, enter +20 to go forward 20 frames
or 1:00 to go forward one second. Precede the value by the minus sign (-) to go backward. For example, enter +-20
to go backward 20 frames or +-1:00 to go backward one second.
• To go to the first or last frame, click the First Frame
or End.

or Last Frame

button in the Preview panel, or press Home

• To go to the first or last frame of the work area, press Shift+Home or Shift+End.

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• To go to a specific frame, click in the time ruler; click the current-time display in the Footage, Layer, Composition,
or Timeline panel; or press Alt+Shift+J (Windows) or Option+Shift+J (Mac OS). You can also drag the current-time
display in the Timeline panel to modify the value.
• Shift-drag the current-time indicator to snap to keyframes, markers, In and Out points, the beginning or end of the
composition, or the beginning or end of the work area.
If you scrub the CTI while a preview is playing, preview will stop. To scrub the CTI without stopping a preview, hold
Option/Alt while scrubbing.

Zoom in or out in time for a composition
• In the Timeline panel, click the Zoom In button
the buttons.

or the Zoom Out button

, or drag the zoom slider between

• On the main keyboard, press the = (equal sign) key to zoom in or press the – (hyphen) key to zoom out in time.
• Drag the Time Navigator Start or Time Navigator End brackets to zoom in or out on a section of the composition
time ruler.
Note: When you click the Time Navigator in the Timeline panel, the Info panel shows the times of the beginning and end
of the Time Navigator duration.

• To zoom out to show the entire composition duration, press Shift+; (semicolon) with the Composition panel or
Timeline panel active. Press Shift+; again to zoom back in to the duration specified by the Time Navigator.
• To zoom out to show the entire composition duration, Shift-double-click the Time Navigator. Shift-double-click it
again to zoom back in to the duration specified by the Time Navigator.
• To zoom in to show individual frames in the time ruler, double-click the Time Navigator. Double-click the Time
Navigator again to zoom out to show the entire composition duration.
For additional ways to zoom and scroll in time using the mouse scroll wheel, see Scroll or zoom with the mouse wheel.
When zoomed in time, press D to center the time graph on the current time.

Choose a viewer to always preview
Designating a viewer as the default panel to preview is especially useful when you have a Composition viewer that
represents your final output and you always want to preview that viewer, even when you’re changing settings in other
panels.
The panel that’s set to always preview appears frontmost for the duration of the preview.

• Click the Always Preview This View
• Click the Primary Viewer

button in the lower-left corner of the panel. OR

button in the lower-left corner of the panel.

Primary Viewer Button
The Primary Viewer button is located next to the Always Preview This View button in the lower left of the
Composition, Layer, and Footage viewer panels.
Primary Viewer functions similarly to Always Preview This View, except that Primary Viewer only defines which
viewer or view is used for audio and external video preview.

• Only one view can be set as Primary Viewer; enabling it for a viewer or view disables it in any other viewer or view
where it had previously been enabled.

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• When Primary Viewer is disabled, the most recently active viewer or view is used for audio and external video
preview.
• When you switch to a different viewer or view, that viewer or view takes control of audio and external video preview.
Note: When multiple views are open, previews use the frontmost composition view for 2D compositions and the Active
Camera view for 3D compositions. To turn off the Active Camera, deselect Previews Favor Active Camera in the Preview
panel menu.

Preview modes and Viewer Quality preferences
After Effects provides several options for previewing that make various tradeoffs between speed and fidelity.

Preview modes and Fast Previews preferences
Each preview mode provides a different balance between quality and speed for playback and for updating of images
during interactions, such as when you drag a layer in the Composition panel or modifying a property value in the
Timeline panel.
Draft 3D and Live Update modes apply to all views of a composition.
Draft 3D Disables lights, shadows, and depth-of-field blur for cameras. To turn Draft 3D mode on or off, click the Draft

3D button

at the top of the Timeline panel.

Live Update Updates images in the Composition or Layer panel during interactions. When Live Update is deselected,
After Effects displays wireframe representations during interactions.

To temporarily toggle Live Update mode, hold Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS) while dragging to move a layer,
modify a property value, or move the current-time indicator.
To prevent After Effects from updating images in the Footage, Layer, and Composition panels, press Caps Lock. When
you make a change that would otherwise appear in a panel, After Effects adds a red bar at the bottom of the panel with
a text reminder that image refresh is disabled. After Effects continues to update panel controls such as motion paths, anchor
points, and mask outlines as you move them. To resume panel updates and display all changes, press Caps Lock again.
Pressing Caps Lock is a good way to prevent views from being refreshed for each frame during rendering for final output.
Note: When you are using OpenGL to render previews and are previewing on a video monitor, the preview shown on the
video monitor doesn’t update as you interact with elements of your composition until you have released the mouse at the
end of an interaction. (See Preview on an external video monitor.)

Fast Previews
The Fast Previews options range from higher quality but slower performance (Off), to lower quality but higher
performance (Wireframe).
Off (Final Quality) Fast Previews is off. Use this mode when previewing the final quality of your composition.
Adaptive Resolution Attempts to downsample footage while dragging a layer or scrubbing a property value. For the
ray-traced 3D compositions, Adaptive Resolution will reduce the ray-tracing quality based on the current adaptive
resolution:

• At 1/2, the ray-tracing quality value is cut in half.
• at 1/4, it will be reduced to at most 4.
• at 1/8 or 1/16, it will be reduced to at most 2.

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You can change the adaptive resolution limit in Edit > Preferences > Previews (Windows) or Premiere Pro > Preferences
> Previews (Mac OS).
Draft Available in Ray-traced 3D compositions only. This option reduces the ray-tracing quality (number of rays fired

by the ray tracer) to 1.
Fast Draft When laying out a complex scene, or if you are working in a ray-traced 3D composition, you can use Fast
Draft mode for previewing. In ray-traced 3D compositions, Fast draft mode supports for beveled, extruded, and curved
3D layers. When previewing, the scene is downsampled to speed up the loading of textures to the GPU. In Fast Draft
mode, each frame of video is still read in to the renderer as needed. The downsample factor is set at 1/4 resolution, and
effects and track mattes are on.
Wireframe Useful for setting up and previewing complex compositions.

• In Draft, Fast Draft, and Wireframe modes, the Current Renderer menu button's lightning bolt appears orange. In
Adaptive Resolution, it appears orange when the composition is downsampled. In these modes, the name of the
mode appears in the upper-right corner of the Composition view.
• If adjusting a property or scrubbing through the Timeline takes a long time in Off, Adaptive Resolution, or Draft
modes, the scene will temporarily switch to show wireframes. The frame will finish rendering when you stop
moving the mouse.
• If you are in a ray-traced 3D composition in Draft mode, and then switch to it to a Classic 3D composition, the fast
preview mode automatically switches to Adaptive Resolution.
• If you want to update more than one active view when scrubbing while holding down the Ctrl (Windows) or
Command (Mac OS) key, enable the "Share View Options" option in the Select View Layout popup menu.
• Press the Current Renderer menu button in the upper right corner of the Composition panel to quickly open the
current renderer settings in the Composition Settings dialog box. This method is applicable to a 3D layer, camera,
or light in the composition.
Changing the Fast Previews mode to match your workflow is important, especially when working with ray-traced 3D
compositions.

Keyboard shortcuts for Fast Previews
Quality name

Shortcut

Off (Final Quality)

Ctrl+Alt+1 (Windows) / Cmd+Option+1 (Mac OS)

Adaptive Resolution

Ctrl+Alt+2 (Windows) / Cmd+Option+2 (Mac OS)

Draft

Ctrl+Alt+3 (Windows) / Cmd+Option+3 (Mac OS)

Fast Draft

Ctrl+Alt+4 (Windows) / Cmd+Option+4 (Mac OS)

Wireframe

Ctrl+Alt+5 (Windows) / Cmd+Option+5 (Mac OS)

Video Tutorial for Fast Previews

Viewer Quality preferences
In the Previews preferences category, you can choose the quality and speed of color management and zoom operations
used in previews.
From the Zoom Quality or Color Management Quality menu, choose one of the following:

• Faster
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• More Accurate Except Cached Preview
• More Accurate
The Zoom Quality preference affects the quality of scaling performed for pixel aspect ratio correction in the
Composition and Layer panels.
Note: The More Accurate Except Cached Preview option uses the more accurate operations for manual previews and
standard previews, but uses the faster operations for previews.
Note: When the Show Channel menu is set to an option that shows straight colors ( RGB Straight, Alpha Overlay, or Alpha
Boundary), the Viewer Quality preference is ignored, and the preview is created as if the Viewer Quality settings were
Faster.

Region of interest (ROI)
The region of interest (ROI) is the area of the composition, layer, or footage item that is rendered for previews. Create
a smaller region of interest to use less processing power and memory when previewing, thereby improving interaction
speed and increasing preview duration.
By default, changing the region of interest does not affect file output. You can change the size of your composition and
select what portion is rendered by cropping to the region of interest.

Note: When the region of interest is selected, the Info panel displays the horizontal and vertical distances of the top (T), left
(L), bottom (B), and right (R) edges of the region from the top-left corner of the composition.

• To draw a region of interest, click the Region Of Interest button
at the bottom of the Composition, Layer, or
Footage panel, and then drag to select a viewable area of the panel.
To start over with the marquee tool, hold down Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS) and click the Region Of Interest
button.

• To switch between using the region of interest and using the full composition, layer, or footage frame, click the
Region Of Interest button.
• To move or resize the region of interest, drag its edges or handles. Shift-drag a corner handle to resize while
preserving aspect ratio.
• To crop the composition to the region of interest, choose Composition > Crop Comp To Region Of Interest.
• To crop the output to the region of interest, choose Use Region Of Interest in the Crop section of the Output Module
Settings dialog box. (See Output module settings.)
To create the equivalent of a region of interest for a single layer, you can draw a temporary mask around the part of the
layer that you are working with. The area outside of the mask will not be rendered. This can make working with a small
portion of a large layer much faster. Be careful, though, since not rendering the pixels outside of the mask can change the
composition’s appearance significantly. (See Creating masks.)

Work area
The work area is the part of the duration of a composition that is rendered for previews or final output. In the Timeline
panel, the work area appears in a lighter shade of gray.

• To set the work area start time or end time to the current time, press B (begin) or N (end), respectively.
• To set the work area, move the start and end work area markers in the time ruler.

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• To move the work area, drag the center of the work area bar left or right.
• To expand the work area to the size of the composition, double-click the center of the work area bar.
• To show the duration of the work and the times of its beginning and end in the Info panel, click the work area bar.

Snapshots
When you want to compare one view to another in a Composition, Layer, or Footage panel, take a snapshot. For
example, you may want to compare two frames at different times in a movie.
Snapshots taken in one kind of panel can be displayed in another kind. For example, you can take a snapshot of a Layer
panel and display the snapshot in a Composition or Footage panel. Displaying a snapshot does not replace the content
of the panel. If the snapshot has a different size or aspect ratio than the panel in which you display it, the snapshot is
resized to fit the current view.
Snapshots are for reference only and do not become part of the layer, composition, or rendered movie.
A sound is generated when you take a snapshot.

• To take a snapshot, click the Take Snapshot button
Shift+F7, or Shift+F8.

at the bottom of the panel or press Shift+F5, Shift+F6,

• To view the most recent snapshot taken with the Take Snapshot button or Shift+F5, click and hold the Show
Snapshot button at the bottom of the panel.
• To view a specific snapshot, press and hold F5, F6, F7, or F8.
• To purge a snapshot, hold down Ctrl+Shift (Windows) or Command+Shift (Mac OS) and press F5, F6, F7, or F8.
• To free all memory used to store snapshots, choose Edit > Purge > Snapshot.

Preview on an external video monitor
You can preview the contents of your Layer, Footage, or Composition panel on an external video monitor. Previewing
on a video monitor requires additional hardware, such as a video capture card or a FireWire port.
With the After Effects CC June 2014 release, previews can be displayed on a second monitor connected to your video
display card, such as, via DVI, DisplayPort, or HDMI. If you are using a video capture card to connect an external video
monitor, install the appropriate drivers and connect the monitor to view previews. If you are using a FireWire port, first
connect a digital camcorder or similar device to the port; then connect the video monitor to the device. For more
information on setting up FireWire previews, see the documentation for your digital camcorder, VCR, or other device.
1 Choose Edit > Preferences > Video Preview (Windows) or After Effects > Preferences > Video Preview (Mac OS).
2 To enable video output to an external device, choose from the following options:

• Adobe DV: This is the FireWire option.
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• Adobe Monitor x: These are your attached computer monitors that can receive video preview data through the
graphics card.
• Third-party video hardware: These entries differ depending on what third-party hardware you have connected.
AJA Kona 3G, Blackmagic Playback and Matrox Player are typical examples.
3 Choose Disable video output when in the Background option to prevent video frames from being sent to the

external monitor when After Effects is not the foreground application.
4 Choose Video preview during render queue output option to send video frames to the external monitor when After

Effects is rendering frames in the render queue.
The video preview sent to an external monitor using Mercury Transmit is color-managed (treating the external video
preview monitor as an HDTV Rec. 709 device). For more information, see the Video preview with Mercury
Transmitarticle.
Note: The Wireframe preview mode does not preview at all to the the video preview monitor. (See Preview modes and
Viewer Quality preferencesand Choose a working color space and enable color management.)

More Help topics
Previews (keyboard shortcuts)
Memory & Multiprocessing preferences
Layer switches and columns in the Timeline panel
Time navigation (keyboard shortcuts)
Workspaces, panels, and viewers
Preferences
Render with OpenGL
Basics of rendering and exporting

Modifying and using views
Choose a view layout and share view settings
The Composition panel can show one, two, or four views at a time. By default, viewer options (such as grids and rulers)
affect only the currently active view.

• To choose a view layout, choose an option from the Select View Layout menu at the bottom of the Composition
panel.
• To scroll through view layouts, place the pointer over the Select View Layout menu and roll the mouse wheel.
• To apply view settings to all views in the current layout, choose Share View Options from the Select View Layout
menu. Hold Ctrl (Windows) or Command (Mac OS) to temporarily reverse this behavior.
To activate a view without affecting the selection of layers in a composition, use the middle mouse button to click within
the view’s pane in the Composition panel.

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Choose a 3D view
You can view your 3D layers from several angles, using orthographic views, custom views that employ perspective, or
camera views.
The working 3D views include the custom views and the fixed orthographic views (Front, Left, Top, Back, Right, or
Bottom). The orthographic views show layer positions in the composition but do not show perspective. The working
3D views are not associated with a camera layer. The working 3D views are useful for placing and previewing elements
in a 3D scene. 3D layers appear in working 3D views; 2D layers do not appear in working 3D views.
Note: The Composition panel displays a label within each view (such as Top or Right) to indicate which view is associated
with which camera perspective. To hide these labels, choose Show 3D Labels from the Composition panel menu.
You can adjust the point of view and direction of view for the custom views with the Camera tools, or you can look at
selected layers or all layers. (See Adjust a 3D view or move a camera, light, or point of interest.)

• Choose a view from the 3D View menu at the bottom of the Composition panel.
• Choose View > Switch 3D View, and choose a view from the menu.
• Choose View > Switch To Last 3D View.
• To switch to the previous 3D view, press Esc.
• To choose one of the 3D views with keyboard shortcuts, press F10, F11, or F12.
To change which 3D view is assigned to a keyboard shortcut, switch to a view and then press Shift and the keyboard
shortcut. For example, to make F12 the shortcut for Top view, switch to Top view and then press Shift+F12. You can
also use the View > Assign Shortcut To menu command for this purpose.

Show or hide layer controls in the Composition panel
You can assign different options to each view in the Composition panel, so that you can see any combination of camera
and light wireframes, layer handles, mask and shape paths, effect control points, and motion path controls.

• To choose which layer controls to show in a view, choose View > View Options, or press Ctrl+Alt+U (Windows) or
Command+Option+U (Mac OS).
• To show or hide layer controls in a view, choose View > Show Layer Controls, or press Ctrl+Shift+H (Windows) or
Command+Shift+H (Mac OS). This command also shows or hides the 3D reference axes.
• To show or hide mask paths and shape paths in a view, click the Toggle Mask And Shape Path Visibility button
the bottom of the Composition panel.

at

Zoom an image for preview
Note: For information on scaling a layer, not just zooming in or out of the preview image, see Scale or flip a layer.
The Magnification Ratio control in the lower-left corner of a Composition, Layer, or Footage panel shows and controls
the current magnification. By default, the magnification is set to fit the current size of the panel. When you change
magnification, you change the appearance of the preview in the panel that you are previewing, not the actual resolution
and pixels of the composition.
The quality of zooming for previews can be set using the Zoom Quality preference. (See Viewer Quality preferences.)
Note: After Effects renders vector objects before zooming (scaling for preview), so some vector objects may appear jagged
when you zoom in on them. This apparent pixelation for zooms does not affect scaling of layers or rendering to final output.

• To zoom in to or out from the center of the active view, press the period (.) key or the comma (,) key. Each keypress
additionally increases or decreases the magnification.
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• To zoom in to or out from the center of the view using the mouse scroll wheel, place the pointer over the panel and
move the scroll wheel.
• To zoom in on or out from a specific point using the mouse scroll wheel, place the pointer over the panel and hold
Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS) as you move the scroll wheel.
• To zoom in on a specific point using the Zoom tool
, click the area in the panel you want to magnify. Each click
additionally magnifies the image, centering the display on the point you click. You can also drag the tool to magnify
a specific area.
• To zoom out from a specific point using the Zoom tool, Alt-click (Windows) or Option-click (Mac OS) the point
that you want to be the center of the zoomed-out view. Each click additionally decreases the magnification of the
image, centering the display on the point you click.
• To zoom the active view to 100%, double-click the Zoom tool button in the Tools panel.
• To zoom to fit or to zoom to a preset magnification, choose a zoom level from the Magnification Ratio menu. To
change the magnification of all views in a Composition panel, hold Ctrl (Windows) or Command (Mac OS) while
choosing a zoom level from the menu. Choose Fit to make the image fit the Composition panel; choose Fit Up To
100% to limit the zoom level to 100%.
To pan around in the Composition, Layer, or Footage panel while zoomed in, drag with the Hand tool, which you can
activate by holding down the spacebar, the H key, or the middle mouse button. Hold Shift, too, to pan faster.
For additional ways to zoom and scroll using the mouse scroll wheel, see Scroll or zoom with the mouse wheel.

Resolution
In the context of printing and other media with fixed linear dimensions, resolution refers to linear pixel density: the
number of pixels or dots in a certain span, expressed in such terms as ppi (pixels per inch) and dpi (dots per inch).
In video, film, and computer graphics contexts, the linear measurements of the images are variable, so it doesn’t make
sense to refer to the number of pixels per inch or any other linear measure. Consider, for example, that the same
640x480 movie can be shown on the tiny screen of a mobile device, the monitor of a desktop computer, and a huge
motion billboard. The number of pixels per inch is different for each of these presentation devices, even though the
number of pixels may be the same.
In this context, the term resolution refers to a relative quantity: a ratio of the number of pixels that are rendered to the
number of pixels in a source image. For each view, there are two such ratios—one for the horizontal dimension and one
for the vertical dimension.
Each composition has its own Resolution setting, which affects the image quality of the composition when it’s rendered
for previews and final output. Rendering time and memory for each frame are roughly proportional to the number of
pixels being rendered.
When you render a composition for final output, you can use the current Resolution settings for the composition or set
a resolution value in the Render Settings dialog box that overrides the composition settings. (See Render settings.)
You can choose from the following Resolution settings in the Composition Settings (Composition > Composition
Settings) dialog box or from the Resolution/Down Sample Factor menu at the bottom of the Composition panel:
Auto (available only for previews) Adapts the resolution of the view in the Composition panel to render only the pixels
necessary to preview the composition at the current zoom level. For example, if the view is zoomed out to 25%, then
the resolution automatically adapts to a value of 1/4—shown as (Quarter)—as if you had manually chosen Quarter. If
a panel contains multiple views, the resolution adapts to the view with the highest zoom level. This setting gives the best
image quality while also avoiding rendering pixels unnecessary for the current zoom level.

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Note: The Auto setting is ignored for compositions for which the Advanced composition setting Preserve Resolution When
Nested is selected.
Full Renders each pixel in a composition. This setting gives the best image quality, but takes the longest to render.
Half Renders one-quarter of the pixels contained in the full-resolution image—half the columns and half the rows.
Third Renders one-ninth of the pixels contained in the full-resolution image.
Quarter Renders one-sixteenth of the pixels contained in the full-resolution image.
Custom Renders the image at the horizontal and vertical resolutions that you specify.

Note: The resolution (down-sample factor) of a Layer viewer is tied to the resolution of the Composition viewer for the
composition in which the layer is contained.

View a color channel or alpha channel
You can view red, green, blue, and alpha channels—together or separately—in a Footage, Layer, or Composition panel
at the bottom of the panel and choosing from the menu. When you view a
by clicking the Show Channel button
single color channel, the image appears as a grayscale image, with the color value of each pixel mapped to a scale from
black (0 value for the color) to white (maximum value for the color).
To see color values displayed in the channel’s own color instead of white, choose Colorize from the Show Channel menu.
When you preview the alpha channel, the image appears as a grayscale image, with the transparency value of each
pixel mapped to a scale from black (completely transparent) to white (completely opaque).
Note: When you choose RGB Straight, which shows straight RGB values before they are matted (premultiplied) with the
alpha channel, pixels with complete transparency are undefined and therefore may contain unexpected colors.
You can view other channel values, such as saturation and hue, by applying the Channel Combiner effect and choosing
Lightness from the To menu.
To switch between showing the alpha channel and showing all RGB channels, Alt-click (Windows) or Option-click (Mac
OS) the Show Channel button.
Alpha Boundary and Alpha Overlay view modes are only available in the Layer panel, and they are intended for use
with the Roto Brush effect. For information on these modes, see Layer panel view options .

Adjust exposure for previews
You can adjust the exposure (in f-stop units) for previews with the Adjust Exposure control, which is located to the right
of the Reset Exposure button at the bottom of a Composition, Layer, or Footage panel. Each viewer can have its own
Adjust Exposure setting.
When the Adjust Exposure control is set to a value other than zero, the Reset Exposure button is orange

.

The Adjust Exposure control doesn’t affect final output, only how video appears during previews. To make tonal
adjustments to a layer that appear in final output, use the Exposure effect.
The Adjust Exposure control is useful for finding the black point or white point in an image. For example, drag the value
control to the right (positive values) until the entire image is white except for one area; that area is the darkest area in
the image.

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To check the quality of a composite, drag the Adjust Exposure control far to the left and far to the right and look for
places where the composited elements differ too much in color or luminance. This technique—sometimes called gamma
slamming—is useful for ensuring that a composite will look good and be convincing in contexts other than the one in which
you’re working. For example, a composite that is adequate in a dark scene may be less convincing when the scene is colorcorrected to brighten the scene.

• To adjust exposure for a viewer, drag the Adjust Exposure control to the left or right, or click the control and enter
a value in the box.
• To reset exposure, click the Reset Exposure button. To return to the most recent nonzero setting, click the button
again.

Safe zones, grids, guides, and rulers
In the Footage, Layer, and Composition panels, you can display safe zone margins, grids, rulers, and guide lines to align
and arrange visual elements. After Effects preserves guides when importing Photoshop files saved with guides.
Safe-zone margins, grids, and guides are not rendered, either for RAM previews or for final output.
The size of proportional grids increases or decreases when the composition size changes; the size of standard grid
squares remains the same regardless of composition size.

• To change settings for safe-zone margins, grids, and guides, choose Edit > Preferences > Grids & Guides (Windows)
or After Effects > Preferences > Grids & Guides (Mac OS).
• To show or hide safe zones, grids, guides, or rulers, click the Grid And Guides Options button
appropriate item, or use a menu command or keyboard shortcut in the View menu.

and choose the

• To toggle between showing and hiding the safe zones, Alt-click (Windows) or Option-click (Mac OS) the Grid And
Guide Options button.
• To make layer edges and mask edges snap to grids or guides, choose View > Snap To Grid or View > Snap To Guides.
• To create a guide line, drag from either ruler.
• To delete a guide line, drag it to a ruler using the Selection tool.
• To delete all guide lines, choose View > Clear Guides.
• To move a guide line, drag it using the Selection tool.
• To lock or unlock guides, choose View > Lock Guides. Locking a guide prevents it from being accidentally moved.
• To set the zero point (origin) for the rulers, drag the crosshair from the intersection of the two rulers (in the upperleft corner) into the image area. Reset the zero point by double-clicking the intersection of the rulers. The position
of the pointer measured from the new zero point is shown in the Info panel as X' and Y' coordinates.

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About title-safe and action-safe zones
Television sets enlarge a video image and allow some portion of its outer edges to be cut off by the edge of the screen.
This kind of cropping is known as overscan. The amount of overscan is not consistent between television sets, so you
should keep important parts of a video image within certain margins, in areas known as safe zones. Safe-zone margins
represent the percentage of image dimensions not included in the safe zone. You should always design from one edge
of the frame to the other, because computer monitors and some television sets may show the entire frame.
The conventional action-safe zone is 90% of the width and height of the frame, which corresponds to a margin of 5%
on each side. Keep important visual elements within this zone.
The conventional title-safe zone is 80% of the width and height of the frame, which corresponds to a margin of 10% on
each side. Keep text that you intend for the audience to read within this zone.
Compositions with a frame aspect ratio equal to or near 16:9 have two additional center-cut safe-zone indicators. The
center-cut indicators show which parts of a 16:9 composition may be cut off when the image is shown on a 4:3 display.
Such cropping is a concern when creating images for high-definition displays that may also be shown on standarddefinition television sets. By default, the center-cut action-safe margin is 32.5% (16.25% on each side), and the centercut title-safe margin is 40% (20% on each side).
Note: The center-cut safe-zone margins are only shown if the frame aspect ratio for the composition is equal to or near 16:9.

A Grid B Center-cut title-safe zone C Center-cut action-safe zone D Title-safe zone E Action-safe zone

Aharon Rabinowitz provides a video tutorial in the Multimedia 101 series on the Creative COW website that explains
safe zones.

Additional resources for viewing and previewing
When you want to view certain crucial frames in a composition—such as when showing them to a client for interim
approval—you may want to create a contact sheet. Jeff Almasol provides a script that creates a contact sheet that consists
of a grid of specific individual frames from a composition. You specify which frames to show by setting layer markers.
For more information, go to Jeff Almasol's redefinery website.

More Help topics
Viewers
3D layers
Cameras, lights, and points ofinterest
Views (keyboard shortcuts)

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About alpha channels and mattes
Alpha channel interpretation: premultiplied or straight

Video preview with Mercury Transmit
Video preview using Mercury Transmit-based system
In the June 2014 release of After Effects CC, the video preview system for external monitors has been replaced with the
Mercury Transmit-based system.

What is Mercury Transmit?
Mercury Transmit is a software interface used by Adobe digital applications to send video frames to external video
device. Video device manufacturers such as AJA, BlackMagic Design, Bluefish444, and Matrox provide plug-ins that
route the video frames from Mercury Transmit to their hardware.
Video preview using Mercury Transmit sends the contents of the Composition, Layer, or Footage panel viewer to an
external monitor. The external monitor can be one of the following:

• A video monitor connected through third-party video hardware such as AJA, Blackmagic, or Matrox I/O devices
• A DV device connected over FireWire
• A computer monitor connected to your video display card via such as HDMI,DVI, VGA, or DisplayPort
The setting of the Resolution menu in the Composition panel determines the resolution for the external video preview.
Note: As with the earlier video preview system, overlays such as user interface controls, guides, warning banners and other
items drawn by OpenGL are not sent to the external monitor. This also means that Fast Draft and Wireframe preview
modes do not send image data to the external monitor.

Video preview preferences
The video preview preferences are located under Preferences > Video Preview. The following settings are available:

• Enable Mercury Transmit: Toggle video preview with Mercury Transmit. Use the '/' on the numeric keypad to
toggle this option. On a Mac computer without a numeric keypad, use Control+Shift+/ on the main keyboard.
• Video Device: You can check the box next to any option that appears here to enable video output to the specified
device.
• Adobe DV: Use this option for DV devices connected via FireWire.
• Adobe Monitor x: Lists the attached computer monitors that can receive video preview data through the
graphics card.
• Third-party video hardware: A list of third-party hardware that you have connected is displayed. AJA Kona 3G,
Blackmagic Playback, or Matrox Player are some examples of third-party video hardware. Click Setup to view
the options available for each one.
• Disable video output when in the Background: Choose this option to prevent video frames from being sent to the
external monitor when After Effects is not the foreground application.
• Video preview during render queue output: Choose this option to send video frames to the external monitor when
After Effects is rendering frames in the render queue.

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If you are previewing an image that does not exactly match the preview monitor's pixel dimensions, the third-party I/O
device will scale the image. The manner of scaling differs between devices and is in some cases controllable through
the Setup options for the device. The setting of the Resolution menu in the Composition panel determines the
resolution for the external video preview.
If you experience slow RAM preview frame rates when Mercury Transmit is enabled, try one or more of the following:

•Reduce the resolution in the Composition or Preview panel
• Reduce the RAM preview frame rate in the Preview panel
• Reduce the project color depth to 16-bpc or 8-bpc
• Disable color management (set the project’s working space to None).
Also see Tim Kurkoski's blog about the new Mercury Transmit feature.

More Help topics
Preview on an external video monitor

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Chapter 7: Animation and Keyframes

Face Tracking
Face Tracking Overview
Face Tracking lets you accurately detect and track human faces. Simple mask tracking lets you quickly apply effects only
to a face, such as selective color correction or blurring a person’s face, and more.
However, with Face Tracking, you can track specific parts of the face such as pupils, mouth, and nose, allowing you to
isolate and work on these facial features with greater detail. For example, change colors of the eyes or exaggerate mouth
movements without frame-by-frame adjustments.
After Effects also lets you measure facial features. Tracking of facial measurements tells you details such as how open
the mouth or an eye is. With each data point isolated, you could greatly refine content. Furthermore, you can also export
detailed tracking data to Adobe Character Animator for performance-based character animation.
The face tracker works largely automatically, but you can obtain better results by starting the analysis on a frame
showing a front, upright view of the face. Adequate lighting on the face can improve the accuracy of face detection.
In the Tracker panel, there are two face-tracking options:

• Face Tracking (Outline Only): Use this option if all you want to track is the outline of the face.
• Face Tracking (Detailed Features): Use this option if you want to detect eye (including eyebrow and pupil), nose,
and mouth locations, and optionally, extract measurements of various features. This option is required if you want
to use the tracking data in Character Animator.
If you are using the Detailed Features option, a Face Track Points effect is applied to the layer. The effect contains
several 2D effect control points with keyframes, each of which is attached to detected facial features (for example,
the corners of the eyes and mouth, locations of pupils, the tip of the nose).

Tracking outline of a face
1 In After Effects, select File > Import > File. Browse to the location of the footage, and add it to the Project.

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2 Drag the footage from the Project panel into a Composition to add a layer.

3 Position the current time indicator (CTI) to a frame showing a front, upright view of the face you want to track.

Face detection is improved if the initial frame to track has a face looking forward and is oriented upright.

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4 Draw a closed mask loosely around the face, enclosing the eyes and mouth. The mask defines the search region to

locate facial features. If multiple masks are selected, the topmost mask is used.

5 With the Mask selected, select Window > Trackerto open the Tracker panel. Set the tracking Method to Face

Tracking (Outline Only).

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6 In the Tracker panel, track forward or backward one frame at a time to ensure that tracking is functioning correctly,

and then, click the

button to begin analyzing all frames.

7 Once the analysis is complete, face tracking data is made available within the composition.

Tracking detailed features and extracting facial measurements
1 In After Effects, select File > Import > File. Browse to the location of the footage, and add it to the Project.

2 Drag the footage from the Project panel into a Composition to add a layer.

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3 Position the Current Time Indicator to a frame showing a front, upright view of the face you want to track.

Face detection is improved if the initial frame to track has a face looking forward and is oriented upright.

4 Draw a closed mask loosely around the face, enclosing the eyes and mouth. The mask defines the search region to

locate facial features. If multiple masks are selected, the topmost mask is used.

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5 With the Mask selected, select Window > Trackerto open the Tracker panel. Set the tracking Method to Face

Tracking (Detailed Features).

6 In the Tracker panel, track forward or backward one frame at a time to ensure that tracking is functioning correctly,

and then, click the

button to begin analyzing all frames.

7 After the analysis is complete, the tracking data is made available within a new Effect called Face Track Points. You

can choose to access face tracking data within the composition or the Effects (Window > Effect Controls) panel.

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8 Move the current-time indicator to a frame showing a neutral expression on the face (the rest pose). Face

measurements on other frames are relative to the rest pose frame. In the Tracker panel, click Set Rest Pose.
9 In the Tracker Panel, click Extract & Copy Face Measurements. A Face Measurements effect is added to the layer,

and keyframes are created based on calculations made from the Face Track Points keyframe data. The Face
Measurements keyframe data is copied to the system clipboard for use in Character Animator.
Note: The keyframes for Face Measurements are generated based on the Face Track Points keyframe data, relative to
the Rest Pose (refer to Step 8).

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Face tracking data reference

Face Track Points
Left Eye Tracking data for the position of the left eye. Face tracker records x and y coordinates for the following points
on the left eye:

• Left Eyebrow Inner
• Left Eyebrow Middle
• Left Eyebrow Outer
• Left Eye Inner
• Left Eye Pupil
• Left Eye Outer
Right Eye Tracking data for the position of the right eye. Face tracker records x and y coordinates for the following
points on the right eye:

• Right Eyebrow Inner
• Right Eyebrow Middle
• Right Eyebrow Outer

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• Right Eye Inner
• Right Eye Pupil
• Right Eye Outer
Nose Tracking data for the position of the Nose. Face tracker records x and y coordinates for the following points on

the nose:

• Nose Bridge
• Nose Tip
• Right Nostril
• Left Nostril
Mouth Tracking data for the position of the Mouth. Face tracker records x and y coordinates for the following points
on the mouth:

• Mouth Left
• Mouth Right
• Mouth Top
• Mouth Bottom
Cheeks and Chin Tracking data for the position of Cheeks and Chin. Face tracker records x and y coordinates for the

following points:

• Left Cheek Top
• Left Cheek Middle
• Right Cheek Top
• Right Cheek Middle
• Chin

Face Measurements
If you have used the Detailed Features option, you can extract even more information in the form of parametric
measurements of facial features, known as Face Measurements. All measurements shown for the face you tracked are
relative to the Rest Pose frame.
Face Offset Indicates the position of the face, offsetting to 0% at Rest Pose frame. The following data points are made
available indicating offset values on x, y, and z axes:

• Offset X
• Offset Y
• Offset Z
Face Orientation Indicates three-dimensional orientations of the face. Orientation is measured using the following

data points, indicative of x, y, and z axes:

• Orientation X
• Orientation Y
• Orientation Z
Left Eye Indicates various points of measurement for the left eye, and includes the following data points:

• Left Eyebrow Distance

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• Left Eyelid Openness
• Left Eye Gaze X
• Left Eye Gaze Y
Right Eye Indicates various points of measurement for the right eye, and includes the following data points:

• Right Eyebrow Distance
• Right Eyelid Openness
• Right Eye Gaze X
• Right Eye Gaze Y
Mouth Indicates various points of measurement for the mouth, and includes the following data points:

• Mouth Offset X
• Mouth Offset Y
• Mouth Scale Width
• Mouth Scale Height

Animation basics
About animation, keyframes, and expressions
Animation is change over time. You animate a layer or an effect on a layer by making one or more of its properties
change over time. For example, you can animate the Opacity property of a layer from 0% at time zero to 100% at time
1 second to make the layer fade in. Any property with a stopwatch button to the left of its name in the Timeline panel
or Effect Controls panel can be animated.

A Active stopwatch B Inactive stopwatch

You animate layer properties using keyframes, expressions, or both.
Many animation presets include keyframes and expressions so that you can simply apply the animation preset to the
layer to achieve a complex animated result.
You work with keyframes and expressions in After Effects in one of two modes: layer bar mode or Graph Editor mode.
Layer bar mode is the default, which shows layers as duration bars, with keyframes and expressions aligned vertically
with their properties in the Timeline panel. Graph Editor mode does not show layer bars, and shows keyframes and
expression results in value graphs or speed graphs. (See The Graph Editor.)

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Keyframes
Keyframes are used to set parameters for motion, effects, audio, and many other properties, usually changing them over
time. A keyframe marks the point in time where you specify a value for a layer property, such as spatial position, opacity,
or audio volume. Values between keyframes are interpolated. When you use keyframes to create a change over time,
you typically use at least two keyframes—one for the state at the beginning of the change, and one for the new state at
the end of the change. (See Set or add keyframes.)
When the stopwatch is active for a specific property, After Effects automatically sets or changes a keyframe for the
property at the current time whenever you change the property value. When the stopwatch is inactive for a property,
the property has no keyframes. If you change the value for a layer property while the stopwatch is inactive, that value
remains the same for the duration of the layer.
Note: When Auto-keyframe mode is on, the stopwatch is activated automatically for a property when it’s modified. (See
Auto-keyframe mode.)
If you deactivate the stopwatch, all keyframes for that layer property are deleted, and the constant value for the property
becomes the value at the current time. Don’t deactivate the stopwatch unless you’re sure that you want to permanently
delete all of the keyframes for that property.
Change the keyframe icons in layer bar mode to numbers by choosing Use Keyframe Indices in the Timeline panel
menu.

Note: When a layer property that contains keyframes is collapsed, gray dots (summary keyframe indicators) for the
property group show that there are keyframes contained within it.
Some tools, such as Motion Sketch and the Puppet tools, automatically set keyframes for you to match motion that you
sketch.

Expressions
Expressions use a scripting language based on JavaScript to specify the values of a property and to relate properties to
one another. You can create simple expressions by connecting properties with the pick whip. (See About expressions.)

Online animation resources
See the video tutorial, "Animating Transform Properties With Keyframes," by Jeff Sengstack and Infinite Skills.
Aharon Rabinowitz provides some video tutorials that introduce animation as part of the Multimedia 101 series,
including “How Does Computer Animation Work?” and “What is interpolation?”
Shaun Freeman's website provides links to information about the theory and practice of animation, especially character
animation.
For a step-by-step tutorial that demonstrates the animation of individual layers from a Photoshop (PSD) file, see the
“Animating Layers in After Effects“ chapter of the After Effects Classroom in a Book on the Peachpit Press website.

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The Graph Editor
The Graph Editor represents property values using a two-dimensional graph, with composition time represented
horizontally (from left to right). In layer bar mode, on the other hand, the time graph represents only the horizontal
time element, without showing a graphical, vertical representation of changing values.
To toggle between layer bar mode and Graph Editor mode, click the Graph Editor button
press Shift+F3.

in the Timeline panel or

Two types of graphs are available in the Graph Editor: value graphs, which show property values; and speed graphs,
which show rates of change of property values. For temporal properties, such as Opacity, the Graph Editor defaults to
the value graph. For spatial properties, such as Position, the Graph Editor defaults to the speed graph. For information
on viewing and editing keyframe values, see View or edit a keyframe value.
In the Graph Editor, each property is represented by its own curve. You can view and work on one property at a time,
or you can view multiple properties simultaneously. When more than one property is visible in the Graph Editor, each
property’s curve has the same color as the property’s value in the layer outline.
When you drag a keyframe in the Graph editor with the Snap button selected, the keyframe snaps to keyframe
values, keyframe times, the current time, In and Out points, markers, the beginning and end of the work area, and the
beginning and end of the composition. When the keyframe snaps to one of these items, an orange line appears in the
Graph Editor to indicate the object you’re snapping to. Hold Ctrl (Windows) or Command (Mac OS) after you’ve begun
dragging to temporarily toggle snapping behavior.
Keyframes in Graph Editor mode may have direction handles attached to one or both sides. Direction handles are used
to control Bezier interpolation.
You can use the Separate Dimensions
button at the bottom of the Graph Editor to separate the components of a
Position property into individual properties—X Position, Y Position, and (for 3D layers) Z Position—so that you can
modify or animate each independently. (See Separate dimensions of Position to animate components individually.)

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Online resources about the Graph Editor
Antony Bolante provides information, tips, illustrations about using the Graph Editor in an article on the Peachpit Press
website.

Specify which properties are shown in the Graph Editor
❖ Click the Show Properties button

at the bottom of the Graph Editor, and select from the following options:

Show Selected Properties Displays selected properties in the Graph Editor.
Show Animated Properties Displays animated properties of selected layers in the Graph Editor.
Show Graph Editor Set Displays properties that have the Graph Editor switch

selected. This switch is next to
the stopwatch, to the left of the property name, when the stopwatch is active—that is, when the property has
keyframes or expressions.
Note: Aharon Rabinowitz provides tips for using this control and showing the audio waveform for a deselected layer on
the Creative COW website.

Graph options in the Graph Editor
Click the Graph Type And Options button

at the bottom of the Graph Editor to select from the following options:

Auto-Select Graph Type Automatically selects the appropriate graph type for a property: speed graphs for spatial

properties (such as Position), and value graphs for other properties.
Edit Value Graph Displays the value graph for all properties.
Edit Speed Graph Displays the speed graph for all properties.
Show Reference Graph Displays the unselected graph type in the background for viewing only. (The gray numbers to

the right of the Graph Editor indicate the values for the reference graph.)
Show Audio Waveforms Displays the audio waveform for any layer that has at least one property in the Graph Editor.
Show Layer In/Out Points Displays In and Out points of all layers that have a property in the Graph Editor. In and Out

points appear as curly braces.
Show Layer Markers Displays layer markers in the Graph Editor, if they exist, for any layer that has at least one property
in the Graph Editor. Layer markers appear as small triangles.
Show Graph Tool Tips Toggles the graph tool tips on and off.
Show Expression Editor Shows or hides the expression editor field.
Allow Keyframes Between Frames Allows placement of keyframes between frames for fine-tuning animation.

Pan and zoom in the Graph Editor
• To pan vertically or horizontally, drag with the Hand tool
To activate the Hand tool momentarily when using another tool, press and hold the spacebar or the middle mouse
button.

• To pan vertically, roll the mouse scroll wheel.
• To pan horizontally, press the Shift key as you roll the mouse scroll wheel.
• To zoom in, click with the Zoom tool.
• To zoom out, Alt-click (Windows) or Option-click (Mac OS) with the Zoom tool.

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• To zoom using the mouse scroll wheel, press Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS) while scrolling to zoom
horizontally. Press Ctrl (Windows) or Command (Mac OS) to zoom vertically.
• To zoom horizontally, Alt-drag (Windows) or Option-drag (Mac OS) to the left with the Zoom tool to zoom out or
to the right to zoom in.
• To zoom vertically, Alt-drag (Windows) or Option-drag (Mac OS) up with the Zoom tool to zoom in or down to
zoom out.
Note: You cannot pan or zoom vertically when Auto Zoom Height

is selected.

Auto Zoom Height and Fit
Auto Zoom Height

Toggles Auto Zoom Height mode, which automatically scales the height of the graph so that it fits the height of the
Graph Editor. The horizontal zoom must still be adjusted manually.
Fit Selection

Adjusts the value (vertical) and time (horizontal) scale of the graph to fit the selected keyframes in the Graph Editor.
Fit All

Adjusts the value (vertical) and time (horizontal) scale of the graph to fit all of the graphs in the Graph Editor.

More Help topics
Keyframe interpolation
Expression basics
Animation presets overview and resources
Keyframes and the Graph Editor (keyboard shortcuts)
Showing properties and groups in the Timeline panel (keyboard shortcuts)
About the speed graph

Setting, selecting, and deleting keyframes
What are keyframes?
Keyframes are used to set parameters for motion, effects, audio, and many other properties, usually changing them over
time. A keyframe marks the point in time where you specify a value for a layer property, such as spatial position, opacity,
or audio volume. Values between keyframes are interpolated. When you use keyframes to create a change over time,
you typically use at least two keyframes—one for the state at the beginning of the change, and one for the new state at
the end of the change.
When the stopwatch is active for a specific property, After Effects automatically sets or changes a keyframe for the
property at the current time whenever you change the property value. When the stopwatch is inactive for a property,
the property has no keyframes. If you change the value for a layer property while the stopwatch is inactive, that value
remains the same for the duration of the layer.

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Set or add keyframes
When the stopwatch is active for a specific property, After Effects automatically adds or changes a keyframe for the
property at the current time whenever you change the property value.
To activate the stopwatch and enable keyframing, do one of the following

• Click the Stopwatch icon next to the property name to activate it. After Effects creates a keyframe at the current
time for that property value.
• Choose Animation > Add [x] Keyframe, where [x] is the name of the property you are animating.

Add a keyframe without changing a value
❖ Do one of the following:

• Click the keyframe navigator button

for the layer property.

• Choose Animation > Add [x] Keyframe, where [x] is the name of the property you are animating.
• Click a segment of the layer property’s graph in the Graph Editor with the Pen tool

.

Auto-keyframe mode
The Auto-keyframe button is a switch located at the top of the Timeline panel, to the right of the composition
switches. Click the Auto-keyframe button to turn Auto-keyframe mode on or off.
When Auto-keyframe mode is on, modifying a property automatically activates its stopwatch and adds a keyframe at
the current time.
Note: Auto-keyframe mode doesn’t automatically activate the stopwatch for properties that aren’t interpolated, such as
menus, checkboxes, and the Source Text property.
Auto-keyframe mode is off by default. When Auto-keyframe mode is off, modifying properties and animating with
keyframes behave as in previous versions of After Effects.

Move the current-time indicator (CTI) to a keyframe
After you set the initial keyframe for a property, After Effects displays the keyframe navigator. You can use the keyframe
navigator to move from keyframe to keyframe or to set or remove keyframes. When the keyframe navigator box is filled
, the current-time indicator lies precisely at a keyframe for that layer property. When
with a yellow diamond
the keyframe navigator box is not filled
, the current-time indicator lies between keyframes.
To detach the keyframe navigator from the A/V Features column to function as its own column, choose Column > Keys
from the Timeline panel menu.

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A Keyframe at current time B No keyframe at current time C No keyframes for layer property

• To move to the next or previous keyframe, click a keyframe navigator arrow.
• To snap to a keyframe or marker, Shift-drag the current-time indicator.
• To move to the next or previous visible item in the time ruler (keyframe, marker, or work area end), press K or J.
For instructions for moving the current-time indicator to other elements and times, see Move the current-time
indicator (CTI).

Select keyframes
In layer bar mode, selected keyframes are yellow. Unselected keyframes are gray.
In Graph Editor mode, the appearance of a keyframe icon depends on whether the keyframe is selected, unselected, or
semi-selected (another keyframe in the same property is selected). Selected keyframes are solid yellow. Unselected
keyframes retain the color of their corresponding graph. Semi-selected keyframes are represented by a hollow yellow
box.

• To select a keyframe, click the keyframe icon.
• To select multiple keyframes, Shift-click the keyframes or drag a marquee (selection box) around the keyframes. If
a keyframe is selected, Shift-clicking it deselects it; Shift-dragging to draw a marquee around selected keyframes
deselects them.
Note: To toggle viewing of the free-transform bounding box in the Graph Editor, click the Show Transform Box button
the bottom of the Graph Editor.

at

• To select all keyframes for a layer property, Alt-click (Windows) or Option-click (Mac OS) a segment between two
keyframes in the Graph Editor, or click the layer property name in the layer outline.
• To select all keyframes for a property that have the same value, right-click (Windows) or Control-click (Mac OS) a
keyframe, and choose Select Equal Keyframes.
• To select all keyframes that follow or precede a selected keyframe, right-click (Windows) or Control-click (Mac OS)
a keyframe, and choose Select Previous Keyframes or Select Following Keyframes.
Note: The Select Previous/Following Keyframes commands aren’t available if more than one keyframe is selected.

Keyframe menu commands
When you select one or more keyframes, the keyframe menu

becomes available at the bottom of the Graph Editor.

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To open the keyframe menu, right-click (Windows) or Control-click (Mac OS) a keyframe.
[Value] Displays the value of the selected keyframe. If more than one keyframe is selected, the Display Value command

is available, which displays the value of the highlighted keyframe in the selection.
Edit Value Opens a dialog box in which you can edit the value of the keyframe.
Select Equal Keyframes Selects all keyframes in a property that have the same value.
Select Previous Keyframes Selects all keyframes preceding the currently selected keyframe.
Select Following Keyframes Selects all keyframes following the currently selected keyframe.
Toggle Hold Keyframe Holds the property value at the value of the current keyframe until the next keyframe is reached.
Keyframe Interpolation Opens the Keyframe Interpolation dialog box.
Rove Across Time Toggles Rove Across Time for spatial properties.
Keyframe Velocity Opens the Keyframe Velocity dialog box.
Keyframe Assistant Opens a submenu with the following options:
Convert Audio To Keyframes Analyzes amplitude within the composition work area and creates keyframes to represent

the audio.
Convert Expression To Keyframes Analyzes the current expression and creates keyframes to represent the property

values it describes.
Easy Ease Automatically adjusts the influence into and out of a keyframe to smooth out sudden changes.
Easy Ease In Automatically adjusts the influence into a keyframe.
Easy Ease Out Automatically adjusts the influence out of a keyframe.
Exponential Scale Converts the rate of change in scale from linear to exponential.
RPF Camera Import Imports RPF camera data from third-party 3D modeling applications.
Sequence Layers Opens the Sequence Layers assistant.
Time-Reverse Keyframes Reverses selected keyframes in time.

Delete or disable keyframes
• To delete any number of keyframes, select them, and then press the Delete key.
• To delete one keyframe in the Graph Editor, Ctrl-click (Windows) or Command-click (Mac OS) a keyframe with
the Selection tool.
• To delete all keyframes for one layer property, click the stopwatch button
property to deactivate it.

to the left of the name of the layer

When you click the stopwatch button to deactivate it, keyframes for that property are permanently removed and the
value of that property becomes the value at the current time. You cannot restore deleted keyframes by clicking the
stopwatch button again. Deleting all keyframes does not delete or disable expressions.

• To temporarily disable keyframes for a property, add an expression that sets the property to a constant value. For
example, you can add this very simple expression to the Opacity property to set it to 100%: 100.
Click the Enable Expression button to toggle the expression on and off, which toggles the keyframes off and on as a side
effect.

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If you accidentally delete keyframes, choose Edit > Undo.
Jeff Almasol provides a script on his redefinery website that automatically removes keyframes based on specified
criteria—for example, all keyframes in the work area, all odd-numbered keyframes.

More Help topics
About animation, keyframes, and expressions
The Graph Editor
Move the current-time indicator (CTI)
Keyframes and the Graph Editor (keyboard shortcuts)
Showing properties and groups in the Timeline panel (keyboard shortcuts)
The Graph Editor
Keyframe interpolation
Expression basics

Editing, moving, and copying keyframes
View or edit a keyframe value
Before you change a keyframe, make sure that the current-time indicator is positioned at an existing keyframe. If you
change a property value when the current-time indicator is not at an existing keyframe, After Effects adds a new
keyframe. However, if you double-click a keyframe to modify it, the current-time indicator location is not relevant, nor
is it relevant when you change the interpolation method of a keyframe.

• Move the current-time indicator to the time of the keyframe. The value of the property appears next to the property
name, where you can edit it.
• Right-click (Windows) or Control-click (Mac OS) the keyframe. The keyframe value appears at the top of the
context menu that appears. Choose Edit Value to edit the value, if desired.
• Place the pointer over a keyframe in layer bar mode to see the time and value of the keyframe.
• Place the pointer over a keyframe in Graph Editor mode to see the layer name, property name, time, and value of
the keyframe. Place the pointer over a segment between keyframes to see the corresponding information at any time.
• Click a keyframe in layer bar mode to show the keyframe’s time and interpolation method in the Info panel.
• Click a keyframe or segment between keyframes in Graph Editor mode to show a property’s minimum and
maximum values and the speed at the current time in the Info panel.
• Alt-click (Windows) or Option-click (Mac OS) two keyframes in layer bar mode to display the duration between
them in the Info panel.
Jeff Almasol provides a script on his redefinery website that creates new layer markers (either on the selected layer or
on a new null layer) with comments that provide information about keyframes at the same times.

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Copy and paste keyframes
You can copy keyframes from only one layer at a time. When you paste keyframes into another layer, they appear in the
corresponding property in the destination layer. The earliest keyframe appears at the current time, and the other
keyframes follow in relative order. The keyframes remain selected after pasting, so you can immediately move them in
the destination layer.
You can copy keyframes between layers for the same property (such as Position) or between different properties that
use the same type of data (such as between Position and Anchor Point).
Note: When copying and pasting between the same properties, you can copy from more than one property to more than
one property at a time. However, when copying and pasting to different properties, you can copy only from one property to
one property at a time.
1 In the Timeline panel, display the layer property containing the keyframes you want to copy.
2 Select one or more keyframes.
3 Choose Edit > Copy.
4 In the Timeline panel containing the destination layer, move the current-time indicator to the point in time where

you want the keyframes to appear.
5 Do one of the following:

• To paste to the same property of the copied keyframes, select the destination layer.
• To paste to a different property, select the destination property.
6 Choose Edit > Paste.

Edit keyframe values using a spreadsheet or text editor
You can copy and paste keyframe data as tab-delimited text for use in a spreadsheet program (such as Microsoft Excel)
or other text-editing program. You can use a spreadsheet program to perform numerical analysis on keyframe data or
create or edit keyframe values.
You can copy and paste most properties, including the Transform properties (such as Position and Opacity), Material
Options properties, and motion trackers.
You can use the motion tracking tools to track the motion of an object in a layer, and then paste the tracker data into a
spreadsheet to perform numerical analysis on the data.
Some utility applications, such as Imagineer Systems mocha for After Effects (mocha-AE), copy keyframe data to the
clipboard so that you can paste it into the appropriate layer in After Effects.
You can copy keyframes from only one layer at a time as tab-delimited text.
1 In the Timeline panel, select keyframes for one or more properties on the same layer. To select all keyframes for a

property, click the name of the property.
2 Move the current-time indicator to the first selected keyframe.

Place a composition marker at the time of the first selected keyframe so that you will know where to paste the
modified keyframes in the last step. (See Layer markers and composition markers .)
3 With the keyframes selected, choose Edit > Copy.

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4 Paste keyframe data into the spreadsheet. Assuming that the first column in the spreadsheet is labeled A and the first

row is labeled 1, you should paste into cell A1. Frame numbers appear in column B. Property values appear in
columns C, D, and E, depending on the dimensions of the property. (Position in a 3D layer has values in all three
columns; Opacity has only a value in column C.)
5 Edit the numerical information for the keyframes. Do not change any text other than frame numbers and property

values.
6 Select the cells that contain your data. The upper-left cell in your selection should be A1. The bottom row of your

selection should be the row that contains the text End of Keyframe Data.
7 Copy the data from the spreadsheet.
8 In After Effects, move the current-time indicator to the time at which you want to paste the new keyframe data. This

time is usually the time of the first keyframe that you selected and copied at the beginning of this procedure.
9 Choose Edit > Paste.

Move keyframes in time
You can move keyframes in time, either individually or as a group.
Jeff Almasol provides a versatile script on his redefinery website that creates a panel with controls for moving various
combinations of items in time—layer In point, layer Out point, layer source frames, keyframes, and markers.

Move keyframes to another time
With multiple keyframes selected, you can copy or delete them simultaneously or move the keyframes together without
changing their positions relative to each other.
1 Select one or more keyframes.
2 Drag any of the selected keyframe icons to the desired time. If you selected multiple keyframes, then all of the

selected keyframes maintain their relative distance from the keyframe that you drag.
You can also move selected keyframes in time (one frame earlier or later) by pressing the Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac
OS) key with the left arrow or right arrow key.

Move a keyframe to a specific time
1 Move the current-time indicator to the desired time.
2 Do one of the following:

• In layer bar mode, hold down Shift after you begin to drag a keyframe icon to the current-time indicator.
• In Graph Editor mode, drag a keyframe to the current-time indicator.
When you drag over the current-time indicator, the keyframe snaps to the current-time indicator.

Expand or contract a group of keyframes in layer bar mode
1 Select at least three keyframes.
2 Hold down Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS) and drag the first or last selected keyframe to the desired time.

Move a layer duration bar but not its keyframes
1 Place a composition marker at the time at which the first keyframe appears. (See Composition markers.)

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2 In the layer outline, click the name of one or more layer properties containing the keyframes you want to keep at the

same times.
3 Choose Edit > Cut.
4 Move or stretch the layer duration bar to its new In and Out points.
5 Move the current-time indicator to the composition marker at the time at which the first keyframe appeared before

you cut the keyframes.
6 Choose Edit > Paste.

Change multiple keyframe values at once
You can change the values of multiple keyframes on multiple layers at one time; however, all keyframes you select must
belong to the same layer property. The way the selected values change depends on the method you use to make the
change:

• If you change a value numerically, all selected keyframes use the new value exactly. In other words, you make an
absolute change. For example, if you select several Position keyframes on a motion path and numerically specify a
Position value for one of them, all selected keyframes change to the same position value.
• If you change a value by dragging the underlined value, all selected keyframes change by the same amount. In other
words, you make a relative change. For example, if you select several Position keyframes on a motion path and drag
the underlined value for one of them, all selected keyframe values change by the same amount.
• If you change a value graphically in the Composition or Layer panel, all selected keyframes change using the
difference between the old and new values, not the values themselves. In other words, you make a relative change.
For example, if you select several Position keyframes on a motion path and then drag one of them 10 pixels to the
left, they all move 10 pixels to the left of their original positions.
You can also change the value of several layers at once in layer bar mode by parenting them.
Mathias Möhl provides the KeyTweak script (available on the After Effects Extension page), with which you can modify
many keyframes on a property simultaneously. With KeyTweak, you can modify a few keyframes manually, and the
script modifies the remaining keyframes in between accordingly. KeyTweak is especially useful for Mask Path
keyframes in a rotoscoping workflow. (See Rotoscoping introduction and resources.)

Move or change keyframes in the Graph Editor
A value graph in the Graph Editor displays the values for each keyframe and the interpolated values between keyframes.
When the value graph of a layer property is level, the value of the property is unchanged between keyframes. When the
value graph goes up or down, the value of a layer property increases or decreases between keyframes.

A Keyframe. B A level value graph indicates unchanging values. C A rising graph indicates increasing values. D A falling graph indicates
decreasing values.

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You can change layer property values by moving the points (keyframes) on the value graph up or down. For example,
you can increase the value of a Rotation keyframe by dragging the keyframe marker on the Rotation property’s value
graph higher up on the graph.
Note: Values for the Anchor Point, Mask Path, effect control points, 3D Orientation, and Position properties are spatial, so
they use speed graphs by default instead of value graphs.

Modify a single keyframe in the Graph Editor
1 In the Timeline panel, show a temporal property for a layer.
2 If necessary, click the Graph Editor button or press Shift+F3 to enter Graph Editor mode.
3 If necessary, add a keyframe at the point in time you want the change to occur.
4 Drag the keyframe up or down to set a new value for the layer property.

Modify multiple keyframes in the Graph Editor
You can edit and move multiple keyframes simultaneously using the Graph Editor. When you select multiple keyframes
with the Show Transform Box button selected, a free-transform bounding box surrounds the selected keyframes, and
an anchor point appears in the center of the bounding box to mark the center point for the transformation. You can
move the selected keyframes in time or value by dragging the bounding box or its handles. You can also change the
position of the anchor point.
Adjusting a free-transform bounding box in a value graph moves the selected keyframes in time and value. Adjusting
a free-transform bounding box in a speed graph moves the selected keyframes in time only.

1 Switch to the Graph Editor view and display the keyframes you want to adjust.
2 Using the Selection tool, do one of the following:

• To select keyframes, Shift-click the keyframes or drag to draw a marquee around the keyframes.
• To select all keyframes for a property, Alt-click (Windows) or Option-click (Mac OS) a segment between two
keyframes.
3 Do any of the following:

• To move keyframes in time or value, place the pointer inside the bounding box and drag. Shift-drag to constrain
the move horizontally or vertically.
• To move keyframes in time or value by scaling the bounding box, place the pointer on a bounding box handle.
, drag the bounding box to a new size. Shift-drag
When the pointer changes to a straight, double-sided arrow
to constrain the ratio of width to height. Ctrl-drag (Windows) or Command-drag (Mac OS) to scale around the
anchor point of the bounding box. When dragging a corner handle, Alt-drag (Windows) or Option-drag (Mac
OS) to move only that handle.
Scale by negative amounts to reverse the keyframes in time.

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To taper keyframe values vertically, Ctrl+Alt-drag (Windows) or Command+Option-drag (Mac OS). Tapering
keyframe values allows you to reduce or expand the amplitude of a repeated animation.
To move one side of the bounding box up or down, Ctrl+Alt+Shift-drag (Windows) or Command+Option+Shiftdrag (Mac OS).
To move the anchor point of the bounding box, place the Selection tool over the anchor point until the tool changes
, and then drag.
to the Move Anchor Point tool

More Help topics
Keyframe menu commands
Layer properties in the Timeline panel
About animation, keyframes, and expressions
Keyframes and the Graph Editor (keyboard shortcuts)
Showing properties and groups in the Timeline panel (keyboard shortcuts)
Select keyframes
The Graph Editor
Parent and child layers

Assorted animation tools
Motion paths
When you animate spatial properties—including Position, Anchor Point, and effect control point properties—the
motion is shown as a motion path. A motion path appears as a sequence of dots, where each dot marks the position of
the layer at each frame. A box in the path marks the position of a keyframe.
Motion paths are simply an alternative visual, spatial way of viewing and working with spatial properties and their
keyframes, in addition to the ways that you work with properties in the Timeline panel. You can modify a motion path
by changing an existing keyframe or adding a new keyframe. You can modify the shape of a motion path by changing
the spatial interpolation methods for its keyframes. (See About spatial and temporal keyframe interpolation.)
The density of dots between the boxes in a motion path indicates the relative speed of the layer or effect control point.
Dots close together indicate a lower speed; dots farther apart indicate a greater speed.
Note: Right-click (Windows) or Command-click (Mac OS) a keyframe to open its context menu.
Using the Pen tool or Selection tool to edit keyframes for a spatial property in the Composition or Layer panel is like
modifying a Bezier path for a mask or for a shape on a shape layer. (See About paths.)
A motion path is less complex and generally easier to modify when you use fewer keyframes to describe the path. You
can use the Smoother to remove extraneous keyframes from a motion path.

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Show motion path controls
Position motion paths appear in the Composition panel. Anchor Point and effect control point motion paths appear in
the Layer panel.

• To show motion path controls in the Composition panel, choose View > View Options, and select Effect Controls,
Keyframes, Motion Paths, and Motion Handles. To see a Position motion path in the Composition panel, the
Position property must be selected.
• To show motion path controls in the Layer panel, choose the property or effect from the View menu at the bottom
of the Layer panel.
• To specify how many keyframes to show for a motion path, choose Edit > Preferences > Display (Windows) or After
Effects > Preferences > Display (Mac OS), and select an option in the Motion Path section.
• To specify the size of Bezier direction handles for motion paths, choose Edit > Preferences > General (Windows) or
After Effects > Preferences > General (Mac OS), and edit the Path Point Size value.

Move motion path keyframes
1 In the Timeline panel, select the layer for which to modify the motion path.
2 If you cannot see the keyframe you want to modify in the Composition panel or Layer panel, move the current-time

indicator to the keyframe.
3 In the Composition panel or Layer panel, use the Selection tool to drag a keyframe or its handles.

Note: The current-time indicator does not need to be located on a keyframe before you drag it.

You can move multiple keyframes at one time by selecting them in the Timeline panel before you drag them in the
Composition panel or Layer panel. To move the entire motion path, select all keyframes by clicking the property
name in the Timeline panel before dragging a keyframe in the Composition panel.

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Add a keyframe to a motion path using the Pen tool
1 Display the motion path that you want to modify in the Composition panel or Layer panel.
2 Select the Pen tool

or Add Vertex tool

from the Tools panel.

3 In the Composition panel, place the Pen tool over the motion path where you want to add the new keyframe and

click to add the keyframe.
A new keyframe appears at the frame you clicked, on the motion path and in the Timeline panel. To move the
keyframe, use the Selection tool.
Note: Though the results are different, the techniques for manipulating motion-path curves with the Pen tool work in
much the same way as the techniques used to create and modify other Bezier paths, such as mask and shape paths.

Sketch a motion path with Motion Sketch
You can draw a path for the motion of a selected layer using Motion Sketch, which records the position of the layer and
the speed at which you draw. As you draw, a Position keyframe is generated at each frame.
Motion Sketch does not affect keyframes that you have set for other properties. For example, if you set Rotation
keyframes for an image of a ball, you can use Motion Sketch to generate Position keyframes, so that the ball appears to
roll along the path you created.
John Dickinson provides a demonstration of Motion Sketch in a video tutorial on his Motionworks website.
1 In the Composition or Timeline panel, select the layer for which you want to sketch a motion path.
2 In the Timeline panel, set the work-area markers to the duration in which you want to sketch motion.
3 If you want to hear the audio in your composition as you sketch, make sure that the Mute Audio button is not

selected in the Preview panel.
4 Choose Window > Motion Sketch.
5 Select the appropriate Motion Sketch options:
Show Wireframe Displays a wireframe view of the layer as you sketch the motion path.
Show Background Displays the static contents of the frame at which you started sketching in the Composition panel

while you sketch. This option is useful if you want to sketch motion relative to other images in your composition.

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Smoothing Eliminates unnecessary keyframes from the motion path. This setting has the same result as using the

Tolerance setting with the Smoother. Higher values produce smoother curves, but too high a value may not preserve
the shape of the curve that you draw.
Note: You can smooth a motion path after it has been created by using the smooth expression or the Smoother.
Capture Speed At The ratio of the speed of the recorded motion to the speed of playback. If Capture Speed At is
100%, the motion is played back at the speed at which it was recorded. If Capture Speed At is greater than 100%, the
motion plays back slower than it was recorded.

6 Click Start Capture and then drag in the Composition panel to create the motion path. Release the mouse button to

stop capturing.
Note: After Effects automatically ends capturing when the capture time reaches the end of the work area (which, by
default, is the composition duration).

Create a motion path from a mask, shape, or paint path
You can create a motion path from any of several types of paths:

• A Mask Path property
• A shape Path property on a shape layer
• A Path property for a paint stroke
• A path copied from Illustrator or Photoshop
You can paste any of these paths into the Position or Anchor Point property for a layer, or into the position property of
an effect control point. The pasted keyframes are set to rove in time, except for the first and last ones, to create a constant
velocity along the path.
By default, the duration of the pasted motion path is 2 seconds. You can adjust the duration by dragging the first or last
keyframe in the Timeline panel.
1 Copy a path to the clipboard:

• Select a Path property in the Timeline panel, and choose Edit > Copy.
• Select a path in Illustrator or Photoshop, and choose Edit > Copy.
2 In the Timeline panel, select the property into which to paste the path.
3 Place the current-time indicator at the time for the first keyframe of the motion path.
4 Choose Edit > Paste.

Andrew Devis shows how to use paths from Illustrator as motion paths in After Effects in this video on the Creative
COW website.

Motion blur
When you view one frame of motion-picture film or video containing a moving object, the image is often blurred,
because a frame represents a sample of time (in film, a frame is 1/24 of a second long). In that time, a moving object
occupies more than one position as it travels across the frame, so it doesn’t appear as a sharp, still object. The faster the
object moves, the more it is blurred. The camera shutter angle and shutter phase also affect the appearance of the blur,
determining how long the shutter stays open and when the shutter opens relative to the beginning of the frame.

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In contrast, in a single frame of a computer-generated animation, you may not be able to tell which objects are moving
because all moving objects may appear as sharp and clear as nonmoving objects. Without motion blur, layer animation
produces a strobe-like effect of distinct steps instead of an appearance of continuous change. Adding motion blur to
layers that you animate in After Effects makes motion appear smoother and more natural.
You enable motion blur for each layer individually, and you also determine whether the motion blur is rendered for
at the top of the Timeline panel to enable
previews and final output. Use the Enable Motion Blur composition switch
or disable motion blur rendering for previews. Modify the render settings in the Render Queue panel to enable or
disable motion blur rendering for final output. If the Switches Affect Nested Comps preference in the General
preferences category is enabled, then nested compositions obey the setting for the compositions in which they’re
contained. (See About precomposing and nesting.)
Motion blur slows rendering, so you may want to disable the composition switch while working, and only enable it
when you need to see the finished result.
To enable motion blur for a layer, do one of the following:

• Click the Motion Blur

layer switch for the layer in the Timeline panel.

• Select the layer and choose Layer > Switches > Motion Blur.
The number of samples that After Effects uses to calculate motion blur adapts for each layer, depending on the motion
of that layer. This adaptivity provides high-quality motion blur without unnecessarily sampling the motion of a slowmoving layer as frequently as the motion of a fast-moving layer. High sampling rates decrease rendering performance.
When motion blur is enabled for a composition and the Timeline panel is zoomed in so that you can see individual
frames, a light gray region around the current-time indicator indicates the shutter phase and shutter angle. The width
of the column shows the shutter angle, and the offset of the column shows the shutter phase. This visual indication
shows how individual frames are sampled to calculate motion blur within this composition.
You can use motion blur when you animate a layer—for example, moving a layer of text across the screen. You cannot
add motion blur to motion that already exists within a layer by means of the Motion Blur layer switch and Enable
Motion Blur composition switch.
If you want to smooth live-action video to which you assigned a frame rate much lower or higher than the original, use
frame blending, not motion blur.

Motion blur settings in the Advanced tab of Composition Settings
Samples Per Frame The minimum number of samples. This minimum is the number of samples used for frames for

which After Effects is not able to determine an adaptive sampling rate based on layer motion. This sample rate is used
for 3D layers and shape layers.
Adaptive Sample Limit The maximum number of samples.
Shutter Angle The shutter angle is measured in degrees, simulating the exposure allowed by a rotating shutter. The

shutter angle uses the footage frame rate to determine the simulated exposure, which affects the amount of motion blur.
For example, entering 90° (25% of 360°) for 24-fps footage creates an effective exposure of 1/96 of a second (25% of 1/24
of a second). Entering 1° applies almost no motion blur, and entering 720° applies a large amount of blur.
Shutter Phase The shutter phase is also measured in degrees. It defines an offset that determines when the shutter

opens relative to the beginning of a frame. Adjusting this value can help if an object with motion blur applied appears
to lag behind the position of the object without motion blur applied.
A Shutter Phase value that is -1/2 of the Shutter Angle value is best for a layer that is composited on top of another using
motion tracking data. (For example, Shutter Phase = -90, Shutter Angle = 180.) This setting combination causes a blur
that is centered on the original object.

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Apply motion blur to a mask
Motion blur creates a blur based on the movement of a mask in the composition. You can apply motion blur to
individual masks. Within each composition, the Enable Motion Blur composition switch must be selected for any layer
or any mask within a layer to exhibit motion blur.
1 Select one or more masks.
2 Choose Layer > Masks > Motion Blur, and choose one of the following options:
Same As Layer The mask will have motion blur only if the Motion Blur switch is selected for the layer.
On The mask will have motion blur regardless of the setting of the Motion Blur switch for the layer.
Off The mask will not have motion blur.

Additional resources about motion blur
Mark Christiansen explains some of the concepts surrounding motion blur, shutter speed, and shutter angle on the
ProVideo Coalition website.
Trish and Chris Meyer provide instructions on the ProVideo Coalition website for shooting footage and using motion
blur to smooth motion.
Andrew Kramer provides a video tutorial on his Video Copilot website in which he demonstrates the advantages of
using 32-bpc color with motion blur. (See Color depth and high dynamic range color.)
The ReelSmart Motion Blur effect from RE:Vision Effects analyzes motion from frame to frame within a layer and uses
this information to add motion blur to motion within the layer. For information, see the RE:Vision Effects website.
To achieve a result similar to the result of ReelSmart Motion Blur, apply the Timewarp effect, set Speed to 100, enable
motion blur within the effect, and use the manual shutter control features to adjust the motion blur.

Smooth motion and velocity by removing extra keyframes
Smooth motion paths, value curves, and velocity curves to eliminate bumpiness or excess keyframes using the
Smoother, which adds keyframes or removes unnecessary keyframes.
You can also use the smooth expression method for this purpose, without removing keyframes. (See Property attributes
and methods (expression reference).)
Although you can smooth a curve for any property, the Smoother is most useful when applied to curves that have been
automatically generated by Motion Sketch, where you may have excess keyframes. Applying the Smoother to keyframes
that have been set manually may result in unexpected changes to the curve.
Note: To avoid the need to use the Smoother on a path generated by Motion Sketch, set the Smoothing option in the Motion
Sketch panel before sketching the motion path.
When you apply the Smoother to properties that change spatially (such as Position), you can smooth only the spatial
curve (the curve defined by the motion). When you apply the Smoother to properties that change only in time (such
as Opacity), you can smooth only the value and velocity curves (the curve defined by the value or the velocity).
In addition to adding keyframes or eliminating unnecessary keyframes, the Smoother also applies Bezier interpolation
at each keyframe when smoothing the temporal curve. (See Keyframe interpolation methods.)
1 In the Timeline panel, either select all the keyframes for a property to smooth the entire curve, or select at least three

keyframes to smooth only a portion of a curve.

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2 Choose Window > Smoother. In the Apply To menu, the Smoother automatically selects Spatial Path or Temporal

Graph, depending on the type of property for which you selected keyframes in step 1.
3 Set a value for Tolerance. The units of Tolerance match the units of the property you are smoothing. New keyframe

values will vary no more than the specified value from the original curve. Higher values produce smoother curves,
but too high a value may not preserve the original shape of the curve.
4 Click Apply and preview the results.
5 If necessary, choose Edit > Undo Smoother to reset the keyframes, adjust the value for Tolerance, and then reapply

the Smoother.

Add randomness to a property with the Wiggler
You can add randomness to any property as it varies over time by using the Wiggler.
You can also use the wiggle expression method for this purpose. In most cases, it is easier to use the expression than to
use the Wiggler. (See Property attributes and methods (expression reference).)
Depending on the property and the options you specify, the Wiggler adds a certain number of deviations to a property
by adding keyframes and randomizing interpolations coming into or out of existing keyframes. You need at least two
keyframes to use the Wiggler.
Using the Wiggler, you can more closely simulate natural movement within specified limits. For example, add
randomness to an animated butterfly to produce fluttering. Add it to brightness or opacity to simulate the flicker of an
old projector.
1 Select a range of keyframes for the property.
2 Choose Window > Wiggler.
3 For Apply To, select the type of curve you want the Wiggler to change. If you selected keyframes for a property that

varies spatially, you can select Spatial Path to add deviations to the motion, or Temporal Graph to add deviations to
the velocity. If you selected keyframes for a property that does not vary spatially, you can select only Temporal
Graph.
4 Select a Noise Type option to specify the type of deviation due to randomly distributed pixel values (noise):
Smooth Noise Produces deviations that occur more gradually, without sudden changes.
Jagged Noise Produces sudden changes.

5 Select the dimensions of the property you want to affect:
X, Y, or Z Adds deviations to only one dimension of the selected property. Choose the dimension from the menu.
All Independently Independently adds a different set of deviations to each dimension.
All The Same Adds the same set of deviations to all dimensions.

6 Set Frequency to specify how many deviations (keyframes) per second After Effects adds to the selected keyframes.

A low value produces only occasional deviations, while a high value produces more erratic results. A value less than
1 creates keyframes at intervals of less than one per second. For example, a value of 0.5 creates one keyframe every
2 seconds.
7 Set Magnitude to specify the maximum size of the deviations. After Effects sets the specified magnitude to the units

of the selected property, so a value for one property may produce very different results in another property.
8 Click Apply and preview the results.
9 If necessary, choose Edit > Undo Wiggler to reset the keyframes, adjust the values for Frequency and Magnitude,

and then reapply the Wiggler.

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Convert audio to keyframes
The Convert Audio To Keyframes keyframe assistant analyzes audio amplitude within the work area and creates
keyframes for audio amplitude.
❖ With the composition active in the Composition panel or Timeline panel, choose Animation > Keyframe Assistant

> Convert Audio To Keyframes.
This keyframe assistant creates an Audio Amplitude layer representing all audio sources in the composition, with three
Expression Controls effects with Slider properties that contain the keyframes: Left Channel, Right Channel, and Both
Channels.
To make use of the keyframes created by this keyframe assistant, link the changes in audio amplitude to other layer
properties. For example, use an expression to link the audio keyframes to the Scale property of a layer to make the layer
grow and shrink as the amplitude increases and decreases.

Online resources for converting audio to keyframes
Aharon Rabinowitz provides a video tutorial on the Creative COW website that shows how to link the audio amplitude
keyframes to other properties—in this case the properties of the Wave Warp effect, to synchronize animation with
sound.
John Dickinson provides a video tutorial on his Motionworks website that shows how to use the Convert Audio To
Keyframes keyframe assistant to animate the opacity of a layer and one of the properties of the Grid effect to the beat
of the music in a soundtrack.
Nathan Gambles provides an expression on the Video Copilot website that ducks (reduces the volume of) audio on one
layer when the volume of audio on another layer increases. This technique is useful, for example, for automatically
decreasing the volume of a soundtrack when dialog occurs. This expression for the Stereo Mixer effect depends on the
Convert Audio To Keyframes keyframe assistant having been applied to the other audio layer.
Lloyd Alvarez provides a script on his After Effects Scripts website that adds markers, splits a layer, or adds a new text
layer with incrementing numbers based on audio intensity.
Andrew Devis provides a pair of video tutorials on the Creative COW website that show in detail how to use the linear
expression method along with the Convert Audio To Keyframes command.

More Help topics
Layer properties in the Timeline panel
About animation, keyframes, and expressions
Modify a Bezier mask path or shape path
Work area
About animation, keyframes, and expressions
Copy a path from Illustrator, Photoshop, or Fireworks
About paths
Frame blending
Render settings
Effects overview and resources

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Select keyframes
Expression basics

Tracking and stabilizing motion
Motion tracking overview and resources
With motion tracking, you can track the movement of an object and then apply the tracking data for that movement to
another object—such as another layer or an effect control point—to create compositions in which images and effects
follow the motion. You can also stabilize motion, in which case the tracking data is used to animate the tracked layer to
compensate for movement of an object in that layer. You can link properties to tracking data using expressions, which
opens up a wide variety of uses.
After Effects tracks motion by matching image data from a selected area in a frame to image data in each succeeding
frame. You can apply the same tracking data to different layers or effects. You can also track multiple objects in the same
layer.
Note: In After Effects, you can track camera motion and place 3D objects in 2D footage much more easily using the 3D
camera tracker. For more information, see Tracking 3D camera movement.
Note: You can stabilize shaky footage a lot easier using the Warp Stabilizer. For more information, see Stabilize motion
with the Warp Stabilizer effect .

Uses for motion tracking and stabilization
Motion tracking has many uses. Here are some examples:

• Combining elements filmed separately, such as adding video to the side of a moving city bus or a star to the end of
a sweeping wand.
• Animating a still image to match the motion of action footage, such as making a cartoon bumblebee sit on a swaying
flower.
• Animating effects to follow a moving element, such as making a moving ball glow.
• Linking the position of a tracked object to other properties, such as making stereo audio pan from left to right as a
car races across the screen.
• Stabilizing footage to hold a moving object stationary in the frame to examine how a moving object changes over
time, which can be useful in scientific imaging work.
• Stabilizing footage to remove the jostling (camera shake) of a handheld camera.
Depending on the encoder you use, it is possible to decrease the size of your final output file by stabilizing motion
footage. Random motion, such as from the jostling of a handheld camera, can make it difficult for many compression
algorithms to compress your video.

Motion tracking user interface and terminology overview
You set up, initiate, and apply motion tracking with the Tracker panel.
As with all properties, you can modify, animate, manage, and link tracking properties in the Timeline panel.

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You specify areas to track by setting track points in the Layer panel. Each track point contains a feature region, a search
region, and an attach point. A set of track points is a tracker.

A Search region B Feature region C Attach point

Feature region The feature region defines the element in the layer to be tracked. The feature region should surround a
distinct visual element, preferably one object in the real world. After Effects must be able to clearly identify the tracked
feature throughout the duration of the track, despite changes in light, background, and angle.
Search region The search region defines the area that After Effects will search to locate the tracked feature. The tracked
feature needs to be distinct only within the search region, not within the entire frame. Confining the search to a small
search region saves search time and makes the search process easier, but runs the risk of the tracked feature leaving the
search region entirely between frames.
Attach point The attach point designates the place of attachment for the target —the layer or effect control point to
synchronize with the moving feature in the tracked layer.

Note: When you begin tracking, After Effects sets the quality of the motion source layer to Best and the resolution to Full
in the Composition and Layer panels, which makes the tracked feature easier to find and enables subpixel processing and
positioning.
After Effects uses one track point to track position, two track points to track scale and rotation, and four points to
perform tracking using corner pinning.

Online resources for motion tracking and stabilization
Curtis Sponsler provides detailed instructions and explanations for tracking and stabilizing motion in a PDF excerpt
from his book The Focal Easy Guide to After Effects.
Chris and Trish Meyer provide a video tutorial on the ProVideo Coalition website that demonstrates and explains the
basics of motion tracking.
This video from the After Effects CS5: Learn By Video series shows how to combine motion tracking and the Clone
Stamp tool to remove an object from a scene.
Angie Taylor provides a tutorial on the Digital Arts website that shows how to use tracking data and the Clone Stamp
tool to apply copies of an object in a scene while matching a camera move.

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Michele Yamazaki provides a tutorial on the Toolfarm website that shows how to use motion tracking to obscure a logo
in motion footage.
Sean Kennedy provides a set of detailed tutorials on the SimplyCG website that demonstrate advanced motion tracking
techniques:

• Basic 2D tracking
• Planar tracking
• Motion tracking and compositing computer-generated elements into a scene
• Screen tracking and replacement
Sean Kennedy provides a free script, TrackerViz, that makes tracking motion and applying tracking data to masks
easier. You can get TrackerViz and a series of detailed instructions on the SimplyCG website.
Eran Stern provides a video tutorial on the Artbeats website that demonstrates the use of 3D tracking software that
solves for camera movement so that additional elements can be composited into the scene and appear to honor the
same camera movement. This video tutorial uses Pixel Farm PFHoe, but the techniques can be applied to almost any
matchmoving software.
This post on the AE Enhancers forum describes and links to an animation preset from Donat van Bellinghen for scaling
a set of Corner Pin effect points.
This post on the AE Enhancers forum describes and links to a script from Paul Tuersley that takes a stabilized layer,
precomposes it, and then adds expressions that counter the stabilization.
This post on the AE Enhancers forum describes and links to a script from Paul Tuersley that can make a difficult
tracking job easier by averaging multiple sets of tracking data.
Jeff Almasol provides a script on his redefinery website that creates a null layer with an expression that sets the Position
property to be the average of the values of motion tracking track points for the selected layer.
Jörgen Persson provides a script on the After Effects Scripts website with which you can import tracking data from
Apple Shake into After Effects.
Mathias Möhl provides useful scripts for motion tracking—including MochaImport, KeyTweak, and Tracker2Mask—
on his website. Mathias also provides video tutorials explaining the use of the scripts.

Resources for mocha for After Effects (mocha AE)
After Effects includes Imagineer Systems mocha for After Effects (mocha-AE), a stand-alone planar tracking
application that can export tracking data for use in compositions in After Effects. For many tracking tasks, mocha-AE
provides superior results with greater convenience than do the native After Effects tracking features. For more
information, see the mocha-AE documentation, which is available from the Help menu in the mocha-AE application.
To launch mocha AE from within After Effects, do one the following:

• Animation > Track in mocha AE
• Edit > Paste mocha mask
Note: The free trial version of Adobe After Effects software does not include some features that depend upon software
licensed from parties other than Adobe. For example, mocha for After Effects, some effect plug-ins are available only with
the full version of Adobe After Effects software. (See Setup and installation.)
Todd Kopriva provides a basic introduction to using mocha-AE for motion tracking in "Overview of the mocha-AE
interface and workflow" on the video2brain website.

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The Imagineer website provides several video tutorials and other resources for learning to use mocha-AE with After
Effects.
Adobe TV has a mocha-AE channel, which includes several video tutorials about using mocha planar tracking and
rotoscoping utilities.
Chris and Trish Meyer provide a video tutorial that introduces mocha for After Effects on the Lynda.com website.
Chris and Trish Meyer provide tips about mocha-AE and mocha shape, including tips about variable-width feather, in
an article on the ProVideo Coalition website.
David Torno provides extensive video tutorials that show how to use mocha-AE as part of a workflow to replace one
face with another in a movie. Todd Kopriva provides links and details on his After Effects Region of Interest blog.
Mathias Möhl provides the MochaImport script and a set of related tutorials on his website. MochaImport automates
common parts of the workflow of using mocha-AE with After Effects.
Jeff Foster provides a tutorial on the ProVideo Coalition website that demonstrates the use of mocha for After Effects
to replace a sign on the side of a moving truck in a shaky video clip.
Note: After Effects also includes the mocha shape for After Effects (mocha shape AE) plug-in, which converts paths from
mocha-AE into mattes in After Effects. (See Resources for Imagineer mocha shape for After Effects.)
Note: The free trial version of Adobe After Effects software does not include some features that depend upon software
licensed from parties other than Adobe. For example, mocha for After Effects, some effect plug-ins are available only with
the full version of Adobe After Effects software. (See Setup and installation.)

Motion tracking workflow
The implicit first step of any workflow is to determine the result that you want to achieve before you begin. What type
of motion will you track, and what will you apply the tracking data to?
As with many workflows in the real world, you may have to repeat some of these steps. You can track a layer as many
times as desired and apply any combination of tracking results.
Set up the shot
For motion tracking to go smoothly, you must have a good feature to track, preferably a distinctive object or region.
For best results, prepare the object or region that you are tracking before you begin shooting. Because After Effects
compares image data from one frame to the next to produce an accurate track, attaching high-contrast markers to the
object or region lets After Effects more easily follow the motion from frame to frame. Lightweight, brightly colored balls
(such as ping-pong balls) placed on the feature work well, in part because their appearance is the same from all angles.
The number of markers that you use corresponds to the number of points you are tracking. For example, if you’re
tracking four points using the Perspective Corner Pinning option, you’ll track four features, to correspond to the four
corners of the layer to attach. The more markers you add to your subject before shooting, the more features you’ll have
for tracking—but the more items you may have to remove later from the image with the Clone Stamp tool. You don’t
need to add a marker for each feature if a distinctive object or region is already at the appropriate location.
If you’re tracking a large object or the set itself—such as for matchmoving—you can get good results by using a grid of
uniformly spaced triangles of a uniform size as tracking markers.
Add the appropriate number of track points
When you choose a mode from the Track Type menu in the Tracker panel, After Effects places the appropriate number
of track points in the Layer panel for that mode. You can add more track points to track additional features with one
tracker.

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Select features to track, and place feature regions
Before you begin tracking, view the entire duration of the shot to determine the best features to track. What is clearly
identifiable in the first frame may later blend into the background because the angle, lighting, or surrounding elements
have changed. A tracked feature may disappear off the edge of the frame or be obscured by another element at some
point in the scene. Though After Effects can extrapolate the motion of a feature, your chances for successful tracking
are highest if you step through the entire shot to select the best candidates for tracking.
A good tracked feature has these characteristics:

• Visible for the entire shot
• A contrasting color from the surrounding area in the search region
• A distinct shape within the search region
• A consistent shape and color throughout the shot
Set the attach point offset
The attach point is where the target layer or effect control point will be placed. The default attach point position is in
the center of the feature region. You can move the attach point to offset the position of the target relative to the position
of the tracked feature by dragging the attach point in the Layer panel before tracking.
For example, to animate a cloud above a person’s head, position the feature region on the head and move the attach
point above the head. If you left the attach point centered in the feature region, the cloud would be attached to that point
and would obscure the head.

Adjust the feature region, search region, and tracking options
Place each feature region control tightly around its tracked feature, completely enclosing the tracked feature, but
including as little of the surrounding image as possible.

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The size and position of the search region depend on the movement of the feature you want to track. The search region
must accommodate the movement of the tracked feature, but only the frame-to-frame movement, not its movement
throughout the shot. As After Effects locates the tracked feature in a frame, both the feature region and search region
move to the new location. Therefore, if the frame-to-frame movement of the tracked feature is gradual, then the search
region needs to be only slightly larger than the feature region. If the feature changes position and direction quickly, then
the search region needs to be big enough to encompass the largest position and direction change in any pair of frames.
You can also set tracking options that determine such things as which color channels are compared to find a match to
the feature region.
Analyze
You perform the actual motion tracking step by clicking one of the Analyze buttons in the Tracker panel. When tracking
a tricky set of features, you may want to analyze a frame at a time.
Repeat as necessary
Because of the changing nature of an image in motion, automatic tracking is rarely perfect. In moving footage, the shape
of a feature changes, along with the lighting and surrounding objects. Even with careful preparation, a feature generally
changes during a shot and at some point no longer matches the original feature. If the change is too great, After Effects
may not be able to track the feature, and the track point will wander or drift.
When the analysis begins to fail, return to the frame where tracking was still accurate and repeat steps 5 and 6: adjust
and analyze.
Apply tracking data
If you’re using any Track Type setting other than Raw, you apply tracking data by clicking Apply, after making sure that
the correct target is shown for Motion Target. You apply tracking data from a Raw tracking operation by copying
keyframes from the trackers to other properties or by linking properties with expressions.
You can also adjust the Attach Point or Attach Point Offset property after tracking in the Timeline panel, which can be
useful when applying the same tracking data to multiple targets that you want to distribute around the tracked feature.

Note: If the layer that you’re attaching has motion blur enabled, make sure that the Shutter Phase value is set to -1/2 times
the Shutter Angle value. This combination of settings centers the motion blur on the attach point. Otherwise, the attached
object may appear to lead or lag the object that it’s attached to.
You can apply the tracking data to a null object layer and parent the layer that you want to animate to the null object
layer.

Track or stabilize motion with the point tracker
Tracking motion and stabilizing motion are essentially the same process, only with a different target and result. Use
Track Motion to track motion and apply the results to a different layer or effect control point. Use Stabilize Motion to
track motion and apply the results to the tracked layer to compensate for that motion (for example, to remove camera
shake).
To stabilize a layer, After Effects tracks the motion of a feature in the layer that should be stationary in the frame, and
then uses the tracking data to set keyframes to perform the opposite motion. You can stabilize to remove any
combination of changes in position, rotation, and scale, while leaving desired motion unaffected. For example, if the
camera is panning, deselect Position but select Scale and Rotation as the properties to stabilize.

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When you select Rotation or Scale in the Tracker panel, you set two track points in the Layer panel. A line connects the
attach points; an arrow points from the first attach point (the base) to the second. If possible, place the feature regions
on opposite sides of the same object, or at least on objects that are the same distance from the camera. The farther apart
the regions, the more accurate the calculations and the better the result.
After Effects calculates rotation by measuring the change of angle of the line between the attach points. When you apply
the tracking data to the target, After Effects creates keyframes for the Rotation property.
After Effects calculates scale by comparing the distance between attach points on each frame with the distance between
the attach points on the start frame. When you apply the tracking data to the target, After Effects creates keyframes for
the Scale property.
When you track motion using either parallel or perspective corner pinning, After Effects applies keyframes for the
Corner Pin effect to the layer to scale and skew the target layer as necessary to fit the four-sided area defined by the
feature regions. The feature regions should lie in a single plane in the real world—for example, on the side of a bus, on
the same wall, or on the floor. The attach points should also all lie in a single plane, but not necessarily the same plane
as the feature regions.
Note: For parallel corner pinning only: To change which point is inactive, Alt-click (Windows) or Option-click (Mac OS)
the feature region of the point to make inactive. (One point must remain inactive to keep the lines parallel.)
1 Select the layer to track in the Timeline panel.
2 Do one of the following:

• Click Track Motion in the Tracker panel (or choose Animation > Track Motion), click Edit Target, and choose
the target to apply the tracking data to.
• Click Stabilize Motion in the Tracker panel (or choose Animation > Stabilize Motion). The target layer is the
tracked (source) layer.
3 Select Position, Rotation, and/or Scale to specify what kinds of keyframes to generate for the target.
4 Move the current-time indicator to the frame from which to begin tracking.
5 Using the Selection tool, adjust the feature region, search region, and attach point for each track point.
6 In the Tracker panel, click either the Analyze Forward or Analyze Backward button to begin tracking.

If the tracking ceases to be accurate, click the Stop button
track, and resume analysis.

, correct the problem as described in Correct a motion

7 When you are satisfied with the position of the feature region and attach point throughout the track, click the Apply

button to apply the motion to the specified target.
After Effects creates keyframes for the target layer.
When tracking position and applying this position data to a target, you can choose to apply only the x (horizontal)
or y (vertical) component of motion. For example, you can apply the tracking data to the x axis to make a speech
bubble (the motion target) remain at the top of the frame even when the actor (the motion source) moves
downward.

• X And Y (default) allows motion along both axes.
• X Only restricts the motion target to horizontal movement.
• Y Only restricts the motion target to vertical movement.
To bypass the Motion Tracker Apply Options dialog box and use the previous setting, hold Alt (Windows) or Option
(Mac OS) as you click Apply.

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Note: You can change the order of steps 1-3 by first selecting the property to which to apply the tracking data (Scale,
Position, or Rotation) and then choosing Animation > Track This Property. After Effects prompts you to choose the layer
to use as a motion source.
When you stabilize a layer, the compensating motion may itself cause the layer to move too far in one direction,
exposing the background in the composition or moving action out of the action-safe zone. You can correct this with a
small change in scale for the layer. Find the frame where the problem is most severe, and then increase or decrease the
scale of the layer until the problem is resolved. This technique adjusts the scale for the duration of the layer; you can
also animate scale to correct this problem by zooming in and out at different times.

Motion tracking controls
You set up, initiate, and apply motion tracking with the Tracker panel.
Motion Source The layer that contains the motion to track.

Note: Layers are available in the Motion Source menu if they have source footage items that can contain motion or if they
are composition layers. You can precompose a layer to make it available in the Motion Source menu.
Current Track The active tracker. You can modify settings for a tracker at any time by selecting the tracker from this

menu.
Track Type The tracking mode to use. The motion tracking itself is the same for each of these modes; they differ in the

number of track points and how the tracking data is applied to the target:

• Stabilize tracks position, rotation, and/or scale to compensate for movement in the tracked (source) layer. When
tracking position, this mode creates one track point and generates Anchor Point keyframes for the source layer.
When tracking rotation, this mode creates two track points and produces Rotation keyframes for the source layer.
When tracking scale, this mode creates two track points and produces Scale keyframes for the source layer.
• Transform tracks position, rotation, and/or scale to apply to another layer. When tracking position, this mode
creates one track point on the tracked layer and sets Position keyframes for the target. When tracking rotation, this
mode creates two track points on the tracked layer and sets Rotation keyframes for the target. When tracking scale,
this mode creates two track points and produces Scale keyframes for the target.
• Parallel Corner Pin tracks skew and rotation, but not perspective; parallel lines remain parallel, and relative
distances are preserved. This mode uses three track points in the Layer panel—and calculates the position of the
fourth—and sets keyframes for four corner points in a Corner Pin effect property group, which is added to the
target. The four attach points mark the placement of the four corner points.
• Perspective Corner Pin tracks skew, rotation, and perspective changes in the tracked layer. This mode uses four track
points in the Layer panel and sets keyframes for four corner points in a Corner Pin effect property group, which is
added to the target. The four attach points mark the placement of the four corner points. This option is useful for
attaching an image to an opening door or the side of a bus that’s turning a corner.
• Raw tracks position only. Use Raw to generate tracking data that you won’t apply using the Apply button. For
example, you can copy and paste the keyframes for the Attach Point property to the Position property for a paint
stroke; or, you can link effect properties for the Stereo Mixer effect to the x coordinate of the Attach Point property
using expressions. Tracking data is stored on the tracked layer. The Edit Target button and the Apply button are not
available with this tracking option. You can add track points to a tracker by choosing New Track Point from the
Tracker panel menu.
Motion Target The layer or effect control point that the tracking data is applied to. After Effects adds properties and

keyframes to the target to move or stabilize it. Change the target by clicking Edit Target. No target is associated with a
tracker if Raw is selected for Track Type.

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Analyze buttons Begins the frame-to-frame analysis of the track point in the source footage:

• Analyze 1 Frame Backward
• Analyze Backward
duration.
• Analyze Forward

: Analyze the current frame by moving back to the previous frame.

: Analyze from the current-time indicator backward to the beginning of the trimmed layer
: Analyze from the current-time indicator to the end of the trimmed layer duration.

• Analyze 1 Frame Forward

: Analyze the current frame by advancing to the next frame.

Note: While analysis is in progress, the Analyze Backward and Analyze Forward buttons change to a Stop button, with
which you can stop analysis when the track drifts or otherwise fails.
Reset Restores the feature region, search region, and attach point to their default positions and deletes the tracking data
from the currently selected track. Tracker control settings and keyframes already applied to the target layer remain
unchanged.
Apply Sends the tracking data (in the form of keyframes) to the target layer or effect control point.

Motion tracking options
These settings apply to a tracker, a group of track points that is generated in one tracking session. You can modify these
settings by clicking Options in the Tracker panel.
Track Name The name for a tracker. You can also rename a tracker by selecting it in the Timeline panel and pressing
Enter on the main keyboard (Windows) or Return (Mac OS).
Tracker Plug-in The plug-in used to perform motion tracking for this tracker. By default, this option displays Built-in,

the only tracking plug-in included with After Effects.
Channel The components of the image data to use for comparison when searching for a match for the feature region.

Select RGB if the tracked feature is a distinct color. Select Luminance if the tracked feature has a different brightness
than the surrounding image (such as a burning candle carried through a room). Select Saturation if the tracked feature
has a high concentration of color, surrounded by variations of the same color (such as a bright red scarf against a brick
wall).
Process Before Match Temporarily blurs or sharpens an image to improve tracking. Blur reduces noise in the footage.

Usually a value of 2 to 3 pixels is enough to produce better tracks in grainy or noisy footage. Enhance exaggerates or
refines the edges of an image and makes them easier to track.
Note: After Effects blurs or enhances the layer only for tracking. This blurring does not affect the motion source layer.
Track Fields Temporarily doubles the frame rate of the composition and interpolates each field to a full frame to track

motion in both fields of interlaced video.
Subpixel Positioning When selected, keyframes are generated to a precision of a fraction of a pixel. When deselected,

the tracker rounds off values to the nearest pixel for generated keyframes.
Adapt Feature On Every Frame Causes After Effects to adapt the tracked feature for each frame. The image data that is

searched for within the search region is the image data that was within the feature region in the previous frame, rather
than the image data that was in the feature region at the beginning of analysis.
If Confidence Is Below Specifies the action to perform when the Confidence property value is below the percentage

value that you specify.
Note: To determine an acceptable confidence threshold, track the motion and then examine the Confidence values for the
track point in the Timeline panel for problematic frames. Specify a confidence value that is slightly larger than the largest
confidence value for the problematic frames.

• Select Continue Tracking to ignore the Confidence value. This behavior is the default behavior.

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• Select Stop Tracking to stop the motion tracking.
• Select Extrapolate Motion to estimate the position of the feature region. Attach-point keyframes aren’t created for
low-confidence frames, and attach-point keyframes for the low-confidence frames from previous tracks are deleted.
• Select Adapt Feature to use the original tracked feature until the confidence level falls below the specified threshold.
At that point, After Effects adapts the tracked feature to be the contents of the feature region in the frame preceding
the one that has low confidence and continues tracking. This option isn’t available if Adapt Feature On Every Frame
is selected in the Motion Tracker Options dialog box; enabling feature adaptiveness causes After Effects to adapt the
feature region with every frame regardless of the confidence level.
Options Opens the Tracker Plug-in Options dialog box, which includes options for the AE Original Built-in Tracker.

This command is only available if you choose to use the older After Effects tracker plug-in.
Note: To show or hide motion paths in the Layer panel, select or deselect the Display Motion Paths option in the panel menu
of the Tracker panel. (The panel menu is the menu that you access by clicking the icon in the upper-right corner of a panel.)
You can also use commands in this menu to add a new track point, reveal the current track in the Timeline panel, and
toggle whether the feature region magnification is enabled.

Motion tracking properties in the Timeline panel
Each time you click Track Motion or Stabilize Motion in the Tracker panel (or choose Animation > Track Motion or
Animation > Stabilize Motion), a new tracker is created for the layer in the Timeline panel. Each tracker contains track
points, which are property groups that store the tracking data after tracking has been performed. Trackers are grouped
in the Motion Trackers property group for each layer in the Timeline panel.
To show a tracker in the Timeline panel, select the tracker from the Current Track menu in the Tracker panel and press
SS.
You can rename trackers and track points and modify and animate their property values in the Timeline panel just as
you do for other layer properties and property groups. You must click Apply in the Tracker panel to apply the property
changes to the target.
Feature Center Position of the center of the feature region.
Feature Size Width and height of the feature region.
Search Offset Position of the center of the search region relative to the center of the feature region.
Search Size Width and height of the search region.
Confidence Property through which After Effects reports the amount of certainty regarding the match made for each

frame. In general, Confidence is not a property that you modify.
Attach Point Position assigned to the target layer or effect control point.
Attach Point Offset Position of the attach point relative to the center of the feature region.

Adjust the track point
When you set up motion tracking, it’s often necessary to refine your track point by adjusting the feature region, search
region, and attach point. You can resize or move these items independently or in groups by dragging using the Selection
tool. To help you define the area to be tracked, the image area within the feature region is magnified to 400% while you
move the region.

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A Search region B Feature region C Keyframe marker D Attach point E Moves search region F Moves both regions G Moves entire track point
H Moves attach point I Moves entire track point J Resizes region

• To turn on or off feature region magnification, choose Magnify Feature When Dragging from the Tracker panel
menu.
• To move the feature region, search region, and attach point together, drag inside the track point area (avoiding the
region edges and the attach point), or press the Up, Down, Left, or Right Arrow key. Hold Shift while pressing an
arrow key to move by an increment 10 times as large.
• To move only the feature and search regions together, drag the edge of the feature region, or Alt-drag (Windows) or
Option-drag (Mac OS) with the Selection tool inside the feature or search region. You can also hold Alt (Windows)
or Option (Mac OS) while pressing the Up, Down, Left, or Right Arrow key. Hold Alt+Shift (Windows) or
Option+Shift (Mac OS) while pressing an arrow key to move by an increment 10 times as large.
• To move only the search region, drag the edge of the search region.
Offset the search region center from the feature region center in the direction in which the tracked feature is traveling.

• To move only the attach point, drag the attach point.
• To resize the feature or search region, drag a corner handle.
• To make all of the sides of the region match the length of the longest side, and to resize the region relative to the
original center point of the region, Shift-drag a corner handle.
• To make all of the sides of the region match the length of the longest side, and to resize the region relative to a
particular corner handle, Ctrl+Shift-drag (Windows) or Command+Shift-drag (Mac OS) the opposite corner
handle.
To restrict the movement of the track point to the x (horizontal) or y (vertical) axis during tracking, resize the height or
width of the search region to match the height or width of the feature region.

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Apply tracking data to a new target
After you’ve tracked a motion source layer, you can apply the tracking data stored on that layer to any number of other
target layers and effect control points. For example, you can apply the track to the position of a light bulb and to the
effect control point of the Lens Flare effect.
1 In the Tracker panel, choose the tracked layer from the Motion Source menu.
2 Choose the track that contains the tracking data you want from the Current Track menu.
3 Click Edit Target, and choose the target.
4 In the Tracker panel, click the Apply button.

Correct a motion track
As an image moves in a shot, the lighting, surrounding objects, and angle of the object can all change, making the once
distinct feature no longer identifiable at the subpixel level. Also, if the search region is too small, the tracked feature may
leave its bounds from one frame to the next.
Learning to choose a trackable feature takes time. Even with careful planning and practice, the feature region can drift
away from the desired feature. Re-adjusting the feature and search regions, changing the tracking settings, and trying
again is a standard part of automatic tracking. It’s not necessary to get a single good track in one try. You may need to
track the shot in sections, redefining the feature region in places where the feature changes and the region drifts. You
may even need to choose a different feature to track, one with movement that closely matches that of the feature to
track, and use the attach point offset to place the target.
After you’ve tracked motion, each track point has a motion path in the Layer panel that shows the position of the center
of the feature region. You can fine-tune the keyframes of the motion path in the Layer panel as you would any other
motion path. Modifying the motion path is most useful when you want to manually change the motion tracking data
before applying it to a target. In some cases, it may be easier to manually modify the motion path created by the motion
tracker than to get a perfect track.

A Moving the feature and search regions B Keyframe marker

Correct drifting by adjusting the feature and search regions
1 Move the current-time indicator to the last well-tracked frame.
2 Alt-drag (Windows) or Option-drag (Mac OS) the feature and search regions only (not the attach point) to the

correct location.

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3 If you are correcting the track for one frame, go to step 4. If you are correcting the track for several contiguous

frames, adjust the feature region and search region if necessary, and click Analyze. Watch the tracking to make sure
that it is accurate. If the tracking is not accurate, then click the button again to stop tracking, adjust the feature
region, and begin again.
4 When you are satisfied with the track, click Apply to apply the keyframes to the target layer or effect control point.

Correct drifting by modifying tracking settings
1 Move the current-time indicator to the last well-tracked frame.
2 In the Tracker panel, click Options.
3 Change settings in the Motion Tracker dialog box as appropriate. (See Motion tracking options.)
4 In the Tracker panel, click the Analyze Forward or the Analyze Backward button.
5 Watch the tracking to make sure that it is accurate. If the tracking is not accurate, then click the button again to stop

tracking, adjust the settings, and begin again.
6 When you are satisfied with the track, click Apply to apply the keyframes to the target layer or effect control point.

Stabilize motion with the Warp Stabilizer effect
You can stabilize motion with the Warp Stabilizer effect. It removes jitter caused by camera movement, making it
possible to transform shaky, handheld footage into steady, smooth shots. See Tracking and stabilizing motion for more
information about using the point tracker for stabilizing motion.
For video tutorials, details, and resources about the Warp Stabilizer effect, see this article on the Adobe website.
In After Effects CC the effect is named Warp Stabilizer VFX.

Stabilize with the Warp Stabilizer effect
To stabilize motion using the Warp Stabilizer effect, do the following:
1 Select the layer you want to stabilize.
2 Do one of the following:

In After Effects CC

• Choose Effect > Distort > Warp Stabilizer VFX.
• Go to the Effects & Presets panel > Distort and apply the Warp Stabilizer VFX to the layer.
• Right-click the footage item in the Timeline panel and choose Warp Stabilizer VFX.
In After Effects CS6:

• Choose Animation > Warp Stabilizer.
• In the Tracker panel, click the Warp Stabilizer button.
• Right-click the footage item in the Timeline panel and choose Warp Stabilizer.
After the effect is added to the layer, analysis of the footage begins immediately in the background. As analysis
begins, the first of two banners displays in the Composition panel indicating that analysis is occurring. When
analysis is complete, the second banner displays a message that stabilization is occurring.
You are free to work with the footage or elsewhere in the project while these steps are occurring.

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Warp Stabilizer VFX / Warp Stabilizer settings
Analyze
There is no need to press this button when you first apply Warp Stabilizer, it is pressed for you automatically. The
Analyze button remains dimmed until some change takes place. For example, if you adjust a layer’s In or Out points, or
there is an upstream change to the layer source. Click the button to reanalyze the footage.
Note: Analysis does not take into account any masks or effects that are applied directly to the same layer. Pre-compose and
place them in the upstream composition if you want them to be analyzed.
Cancel
Cancels an analysis in progress. During analysis, status information appears next to the Cancel button.
Stabilization
Stabilization settings allow for adjusting the stabilization process.
Result Controls the intended result for the footage (Smooth or No Motion).

• Smooth motion (default): Retains the original camera movement but makes it smoother. When selected,
Smoothness is enabled to control how smooth the camera movement becomes.
• No Motion: Attempts to remove all camera motion from the shot. When selected, the Crop Less <-> Smooth More
function is disabled in the Advanced section. This setting is used for footage where at least a portion of the main
subject remains within the frame for the entire range being analyzed.
Smoothness Chooses how much the camera’s original motion is stabilized. Lower values are closer to the camera’s

original motion while higher values are smoother. Values above 100 require more cropping of the image. Enabled when
the Result is set to Smooth Motion.
Method Specifies the most complex operation the Warp Stabilizer performs on the footage to stabilize it:

• Position Tracking is based on position data only and is the most basic way footage can be stabilized.
• Position, Scale And Rotation Stabilization is based upon position, scale, and rotation data. If there are not enough
areas to track, Warp Stabilizer chooses the previous type (Position).
• Perspective: Uses a type of stabilization in which the entire frame is effectively corner-pinned. If there are not
enough areas to track, Warp Stabilizer chooses the previous type (Position, Scale, Rotation).
• Subspace Warp (default): Attempts to warp various parts of the frame differently to stabilize the entire frame. If
there are not enough areas to track, Warp Stabilizer choose the previous type (Perspective).
The method in use on any given frame can change across the course of the clip based on the tracking accuracy.
note: In some cases, Subspace Warp can introduce unwanted warping, and Perspective can introduce unwanted
keystoning. You can prevent anomalies by choosing a simpler method.
Preserve Scale (After Effects CC) When enabled, prevents the Warp Stabilizer from trying to adjust forward and

backward camera movements with scale adjustments.
Borders
Borders settings adjust how borders (the moving edges) are treated for footage that is stabilized.

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Framing Controls how the edges appear in a stabilizing result. Framing can be set to one of the following:

• Stabilize Only: Displays the entire frame, including the moving edges. Stabilize Only shows how much work is
being done to stabilize the image. Using Stabilize Only allows you to crop the footage using other methods. When
selected, the Auto-scale section and Crop Less <-> Smooth More property are disabled.
• Stabilize, Crop: Crops the moving edges without scaling. Stabilize, Crop is identical to using Stabilize, Crop, Autoscale, and setting Maximum Scale to 100%. With this option enabled, the Auto-scale section is disabled, but the Crop
Less <-> Smooth More property is enabled.
• Stabilize, Crop, Auto-scale (default): Crops the moving edges and scales up the image to refill the frame. The
automatic scaling is controlled by various properties in the Auto-scale section.
• Stabilize, Synthesize Edges: Fills in the blank space created by the moving edges with content from frames earlier
and later in time (controlled by Synthesizes Input Range in the Advanced section). With this option, the Auto-scale
section and Crop Less <-> Smooth More are disabled.

Note: It is possible for artifacts to appear when there is movement at the edge of the frame not related to camera movement.
Auto-scale Displays the current auto-scale amount, and allows you to set limits on the amount of auto-scaling. Enable
Auto-scale by setting framing to Stabilize, Crop, Auto-scale.

• Maximum Scale: Limits the maximum amount a clip is scaled up for stabilization.
• Action-Safe Margin: When non-zero, specifies a border around the edge of the image that you don’t expect to be
visible. Thus, auto-scale does not try to fill it.

Additional Scale Scales up the clip with the same result as scaling using the Scale property under Transform, but avoids
an extra resampling of the image.

Advanced
Detailed Analysis When set to on, makes the next Analysis phase do extra work to find elements to track. The resulting

data (stored in the project as part of the effect) is much larger and slower with this option enabled.
Rolling Shutter Ripple The stabilizer automatically removes the rippling associated with stabilized rolling shutter

footage. Automatic Reduction is the default. Use Enhanced Reduction if the footage contains larger ripples. To use
either method, set the Method to Subspace Warp or Perspective.
Crop Less <-> Smooth More When cropping, controls the trade-off between smoothness and scaling of the cropping

rectangle as it moves over the stabilized image. Lower values are smooth, however, more of the image is viewed. At
100%, the result is the same as the Stabilize Only option with manual cropping.
Synthesis Input Range (seconds) Used by Stabilize, Synthesize Edges framing, controls how far backward and forward
in time the synthesis process goes to fill in any missing pixels.

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Synthesis Edge Feather Selects the amount of feather for the synthesized pieces. It is enabled only when using the
Stabilize, Synthesize Edges framing. Use the feather control to smooth over edges where the synthesized pixels join up
with the original frame.
Synthesis Edge Cropping Trims off the edges of each frame before it is used to combine with other frames when using
the Stabilize, Synthesize Edges framing option. Use the cropping controls to crop off bad edges that are common in
analog video capture, or low quality optics. By default, all edges are set to zero pixels.
Hide Warning Banner Use when you don’t want to reanalyze footage even though there is a warning banner indicating

that it must be reanalyzed.
The following settings are only available in After Effects CC
Objective Determines the aim for the effect: for stabilizing, for temporary stabilization to perform visual effects work,

or to composite a layer into a shaky scene. Choose an objective:

• Stabilize - Default option for normal stabilization
• Reversible Stabilization and Reverse Stabilization - Use these options to apply an effect to a region. Use two instances
of the Warp Stabilizer VFX effect, one with Reversible Stabilization to steady a shaky object, and a duplicate instance
with Reverse Stabilization to insert the shake back in, so that any effects you apply after Reversible Stabilization
appear within the original scene.
• Apply Motion to Target and Apply Motion to Target over Original - Use these options to composite a layer into a
shaky scene to apply the stabilized motion onto a different layer.
Target Layer Choose a layer to which the stabilized motion is applied using the Apply Motion to Target or Apply

Motion to Target over Original options.
Show Track Points Determines if track points are displayed.
Track Point Size Determines the size of the displayed track points
Auto-delete Points Across Time When you delete track points in a composition panel, corresponding track points on

the same object, are deleted at other times on the layer. You do not need to manually delete the track points frame-byframe.

Warp Stabilizer workflow tips
1 Apply the Warp Stabilizer VFX/ Warp Stabilizer.
2 While Warp Stabilizer is analyzing your footage, you can adjust settings or work on a different part of your project.
3 Choose Stabilization > Result > No Motion if you want to completely remove all camera motion. Choose

Stabilization > Result > Smooth Motion if you want to include some of the original camera movement in the shot.
4 If the result is good, you’re done with stabilization. If not, do one or more of the following:

• If the footage is too warped, or distorted, switch the Method to Position, Scale, Rotation.
• If there are occasional rippled distortions, and footage was shot with a rolling shutter camera, set Advanced >
Rolling Shutter Ripple to Enhanced Reduction.
• Try checking Advanced > Detailed Analysis.
5 If the result is too cropped, reduce either Smoothness or Crop Less <-> Smooth More. Crop Less <-> Smooth More

is much more responsive, as it doesn’t require a restabilize phase.
6 If you want to get a feel for how much work the stabilizer is actually doing, set the Framing to Stabilize Only.

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When Framing is set to one of the cropping options and the cropping gets extreme, a red banner appears saying, “To
avoid extreme cropping set Framing to Stabilize Only or adjust other parameters”. In this situation, you can either set
Framing to Stabilize Only, or Stabilize, Synthesize Edges. Other options include reducing the value of Crop Less <->
Smooth More, or reducing Smoothness. Or, if you are satisfied with the results, enable the Hide Warning Banner
option.

More Help topics
Expression basics
Work area
Scale or flip a layer
Motion paths
Tracking 3D Camera Movement | CC, CS6

Speed
Controlling speed between keyframes
When you animate a property in the Graph Editor, you can view and adjust the rate of change (speed) of the property
in the speed graph. You can also adjust speed for spatial properties in the motion path in the Composition or Layer
panel.
In the Composition or Layer panel, the spacing between dots in a motion path indicates speed. Each dot represents a
frame, based on the frame rate of the composition. Even spacing indicates a constant speed, and wider spacing indicates
a higher speed. Keyframes using Hold interpolation display no dots because there is no intermediate transition between
keyframe values; the layer simply appears at the position specified by the next keyframe. (See Motion paths.)

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A Dots are close together, indicating lower speed (top); speed is constant (bottom). B Dots are far apart, indicating greater speed (top); speed is
constant (bottom). C Inconsistent spacing of dots indicates changing speed (top); speed decreases and then increases (bottom).

For information about keyframe interpolation, see Keyframe interpolation.
The following factors affect the speed at which a property value changes:

• The time difference between keyframes in the Timeline panel. The shorter the time interval between keyframes, the
more quickly the layer has to change to reach the next keyframe value. If the interval is longer, the layer changes
more slowly, because it must make the change over a longer period of time. You can adjust the rate of change by
moving keyframes forward or backward along the timeline.
• The difference between the values of adjacent keyframes. A large difference between keyframe values, such as the
difference between 75% and 20% opacity, creates a faster rate of change than a smaller difference, such as the
difference between 30% and 20% opacity. You can adjust the rate of change by increasing or decreasing the value of
a layer property at a keyframe.
• The interpolation type applied for a keyframe. For example, it is difficult to make a value change smoothly through
a keyframe when the keyframe is set to Linear interpolation, but you can switch to Bezier interpolation at any time,
which provides a smooth change through a keyframe. If you use Bezier interpolation, you can adjust the rate of
change even more precisely using direction handles.

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Control speed between keyframes without using the speed graph
• In the Composition or Layer panel, adjust the spatial distance between two keyframes on the motion path. Increase
speed by moving one keyframe position farther away from the other, or decrease speed by moving one keyframe
position closer to the other.

• In layer bar mode or in the Graph Editor, adjust the time difference between two keyframes. Decrease speed by
moving one keyframe farther away from the other, or increase speed by moving one keyframe closer to the other.

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• Apply the Easy Ease keyframe assistant, which automatically adjusts the speed of change as motion advances toward
and retreats from a keyframe.

About the speed graph
You can fine-tune changes over time using the speed graph in the Graph Editor. The speed graph provides information
about and control of the value and rate of change for all spatial and temporal values at any frame in a composition.
In the speed graph, changes in the graph height indicate changes in speed. Level values indicate constant speed; higher
values indicate increased speed.
To view the speed graph, choose Edit Speed Graph from the Choose Graph Type menu

.

A Value at the current-time indicator B Speed graph C Direction handle (controls speed)

By adjusting the rise and fall of the speed graph, you can control how quickly or slowly a value changes from keyframe
to keyframe. You can control the values approaching and leaving a keyframe together, or you can control each value
separately. The incoming handle increases the speed or velocity when you drag it up, and decreases the speed or velocity
when you drag it down. The outgoing handle influences the next keyframe in the same way. You can also control the
influence on speed by dragging the handles left or right.

A Incoming direction handle B Speed control C Outgoing direction handle

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Note: If you want a handle to have influence over more than one keyframe, use roving keyframes.

Control speed with the speed graph
1 In the Timeline panel, expand the outline for the keyframe you want to adjust.
2 Click the Graph Editor button and select Edit Speed Graph from the Graph Type And Options menu

.

3 Using the Selection tool, click the keyframe you want to adjust.
4 (Optional) Do one of the following:

• To split the incoming and outgoing direction handles, Alt-drag (Windows) or Option-drag (Mac OS) a direction
handle.
• To join the direction handles, Alt-drag (Windows) or Option-drag (Mac OS) a split direction handle up or down
until it meets the other handle.
5 Do any of the following:

• Drag a keyframe with joined direction handles up to accelerate or down to decelerate entering and leaving the
keyframe.
• Drag a split direction handle up to accelerate or down to decelerate the speed entering or leaving a keyframe.
• To increase the influence of the keyframe, drag the direction handle away from the center of the keyframe. To
decrease the influence, drag the direction handle toward the center of the keyframe.
Note: When you drag a direction handle beyond the top or bottom of the Graph Editor with Auto Zoom Graph Height
on, After Effects calculates a new minimum or maximum value based on how far you dragged outside the graph,
and it redraws the graph so that all the values you specify for that layer property are visible in the graph by default.

Create a bounce or peak
Use direction handles to simulate the type of acceleration seen in a bouncing ball. When you create this type of result,
the speed graph appears to rise quickly and peak.
1 In the Timeline panel, expand the outline for the keyframe you want to adjust.
2 Click the Graph Editor button and display the speed graph for the property.
3 Make sure the interpolation method for the keyframe you want to peak is set to Continuous Bezier or Bezier.
4 Drag the desired keyframe (with joined direction handles) up until it is near the top of the graph.
5 Drag the direction handles on either side of the keyframe toward the center of the keyframe.

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Start or stop change gradually
Direction handles can create gradual starts and stops, such as a boat slowing to a stop and then starting again. When
you use this technique, the speed graph resembles a smooth U shape.
1 In the Timeline panel, expand the outline for the keyframe you want to adjust.
2 Click the Graph Editor button and display the speed graph for the property.
3 Make sure the interpolation method for the keyframe you want to adjust is set to Continuous Bezier or Bezier.
4 At the desired keyframe, drag the direction handle down until it is near the bottom of the graph.
5 Drag the direction handles on either side of the keyframe away from the center of the keyframe.

Adjust influence of a direction handle on an adjacent keyframe
Along with controlling the level of acceleration and deceleration, you can also extend the influence of a keyframe
outward or inward in relation to an adjacent keyframe. Influence determines how quickly the speed graph reaches the
value you set at the keyframe, giving you an additional degree of control over the shape of the graph. The direction
handle increases the influence of a keyframe value in relation to the neighboring keyframe when you drag it toward the
neighboring keyframe, and it decreases the influence on the neighboring keyframe when you drag it toward the center
of its own keyframe.
1 In the Timeline panel, expand the outline for the keyframe you want to adjust.
2 Click the Graph Editor button and display the speed graph for the property.
3 Using the Selection tool, click a keyframe and drag the direction handle left or right.

Change speed numerically
You may want to specify speed more precisely than you can by dragging keyframes in the speed graph. In such cases,
specify speed numerically in the Keyframe Velocity dialog box.
The options and units in the dialog box vary depending on the layer property you are editing and may also vary for
plug-ins.
1 Display the speed graph for the keyframe you want to adjust.
2 Select the keyframe you want to edit, and then choose Animation > Keyframe Velocity.
3 Enter values for Speed for Incoming and Outgoing Velocity.
4 Enter a value for Influence to specify the amount of influence toward the previous keyframe (for incoming

interpolation) or the next keyframe (for outgoing interpolation).

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5 To create a smooth transition by maintaining equal incoming and outgoing velocities, select Continuous.

Note: By default, the proportions of the current Scale or Mask Feather values are preserved as you edit the values. If you
don’t want to preserve proportions, click the link icon next to the property values in the Timeline panel to remove the icon.

Automatically ease speed
Although you can manually adjust the speed of a keyframe by dragging direction handles, using Easy Ease automates
the work.
After you apply Easy Ease, each keyframe has a speed of 0 with an influence of 33.33% on either side. When you ease
the speed of an object, for example, the object slows down as it approaches a keyframe, and gradually accelerates as it
leaves. You can ease speed when coming into or out of a keyframe, or both.
1 In the Graph Editor or in layer bar mode, select a range of keyframes.
2 Do one of the following:

•

Choose Animation > Keyframe Assistant > Easy Ease (to ease speed coming both into and out of selected
keyframes), Easy Ease In (to ease speed coming into selected keyframes), or Easy Ease Out (to ease speed coming
out of selected keyframes).

• Click the Easy Ease

, Easy Ease In

, or Easy Ease Out

button located at the bottom of the Graph Editor.

Smooth motion with roving keyframes
Using roving keyframes, you can easily create smooth movement across several keyframes at once. Roving keyframes
are keyframes that are not linked to a specific time; their speed and timing are determined by adjacent keyframes.
When you change the position of a keyframe adjacent to a roving keyframe in a motion path, the timing of the roving
keyframe may change.
Roving keyframes are available only for spatial layer properties, such as Position, Anchor Point, and effect control
points. In addition, a keyframe can rove only if it is not the first or last keyframe in a layer, because a roving keyframe
must interpolate its speed from the previous and next keyframes.

1 In layer bar mode or in the Graph Editor, set up the keyframes for the motion you want to smooth.
2 Determine the beginning and ending keyframes for the range you want to smooth.
3 Do one of the following:

• For every keyframe in the range (except the beginning and ending keyframes), select Rove Across Time in the
keyframe menu .

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• Select the keyframes you want to rove and choose Animation > Keyframe Interpolation. Then choose Rove
Across Time from the Roving menu.
The intermediate keyframes adjust their positions on the timeline to smooth the speed curve between the beginning
and ending keyframes.

Revert to a nonroving keyframe
• Select the roving keyframe option from the keyframe menu, or drag the roving keyframe left or right.
• Select the keyframes you want to change, and choose Animation > Keyframe Interpolation. Then choose Lock To
Time from the Roving menu.

Use Exponential Scale to change the speed of scaling
You can simulate a realistic acceleration of a zoom lens when working with 2D layers by using Exponential Scale, which
converts linear scaling of a layer to exponential scaling. Exponential Scale is useful for creating a cosmic zoom, for
example. Zooming optically with a lens is not linear—the rate of change of scaling increases as you zoom in.
1 In layer bar mode or in the Graph Editor, hold down the Shift key and select starting and ending keyframes for the

scale property.
2 Choose Animation > Keyframe Assistant > Exponential Scale.

Note: Exponential Scale replaces any existing keyframes between the selected starting and ending keyframes.

More Help topics
The Graph Editor
About animation, keyframes, and expressions
Modify Bezier direction handles in the Graph Editor

Animating with Puppet tools
Puppet tools overview and resources
Use the Puppet tools to quickly add natural motion to raster images and vector graphics, including still images, shapes,
and text characters.
Note: Though the Puppet tools work within an effect (the Puppet effect), you don’t apply the effect using the Effect menu or
the Effects & Presets panel. Use the Puppet tools in the Tools panel to directly apply and work with the effect in the Layer
panel or Composition panel.
The Puppet effect works by deforming part of an image according to the positions of pins that you place and move.
These pins define what parts of the image should move, what parts should remain rigid, and what parts should be in
front when parts overlap.
Each Puppet tool is used to place and modify a specific type of pin:
Puppet Pin tool

Use this tool to place and move Deform pins.

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Puppet Overlap tool

Use this tool to place Overlap pins, which indicate which parts of an image should appear in front of others when
distortion causes parts of the image to overlap one another.
Puppet Starch tool

Use this tool to place Starch pins, which stiffen parts of the image so that they are distorted less.

When you place the first pin, the area within an outline is automatically divided into a mesh of triangles. An outline is
only visible when the Puppet effect has been applied and a Puppet tool pointer is over the area that the outline defines.
(See How the Puppet effect creates outlines.) Each part of the mesh is also associated with the pixels of the image, so
the pixels move with the mesh.
Note: To show the mesh, select Show in the Tools panel.
When you move one or more Deform pins, the mesh changes shape to accommodate this movement, while keeping the
overall mesh as rigid as possible. The result is that a movement in one part of the image causes natural, life-like
movement in other parts of the image.
For example, if you place Deform pins in a person’s feet and hands and then move one of the hands to make it wave, the
motion in the attached arm is large, but the motion in the waist is small, just as in the real world.
If a single animated Deform pin is selected, its Position keyframes are visible in the Composition panel and Layer panel
as a motion path. You can work with these motion paths as you work with other motion paths, including setting
keyframes to rove across time. (See Smooth motion with roving keyframes.)
You can have multiple meshes on one layer. Having multiple meshes on one layer is useful for deforming several parts
of an image individually—such as text characters—as well as for deforming multiple instances of the same part of an
image, each with a different deformation.
The original, undistorted mesh is calculated at the current frame at the time at which you apply the effect. The mesh
does not change to accommodate motion in a layer based on motion footage, nor does the mesh update if you replace
a layer’s source footage item.
Note: Don’t animate the position or scale of a continuously rasterized layer with layer transformations if you are also
animating the layer with the Puppet tools. The render order for continuously rasterized layers—such as shape layers and
text layers—is different from the render order for raster layers. You can precompose the shape layer and use the Puppet tools
on the precomposition layer, or you can use the Puppet tools to transform the shapes within the layer. (See Render order
and collapsing transformationsand Continuously rasterize a layer containing vector graphics.)
The motion created by the Puppet tools is sampled by motion blur if motion blur is enabled for the layer and the
composition, though the number of samples used is half of the value specified by the Samples Per Frame value. (See
Motion blur.)
You can use expressions to link the positions of Deform pins to motion tracking data, audio amplitude keyframes, or
any other properties.

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Online resources for the Puppet tools
Trish and Chris Meyer give tips for using the Puppet tools on the ProVideo Coalition website.
Aharon Rabinowitz provides a tutorial on the Creative COW website that shows a creative way to use the Puppet tools
with a particle generator to simulate airflow over a car.
Eran Stern provides a video tutorial on the Creative COW website that shows how to duplicate an object using the
Puppet Pin tool.
Robert Powers provides a video tutorial on the Slippery Rock NYC website that demonstrates the use of parenting and
the Puppet tools to animate a character.
Dave Scotland provides a video tutorial on the CG Swot website that demonstrates how to create a looping character
animation using the Puppet tools.
Kert Gartner provides a video tutorial on the VFX Haiku website that shows how to add organic motion to images using
the wiggle expression method on Puppet pins.
Daniel Gies provides a detailed series of video tutorials in which he demonstrates the use of inverse kinematics and the
Puppet tools to rig and animate a character.

Manually animate an image with the Puppet tools
The stopwatch switch is automatically set for the Position property of a Deform pin as soon as the pin is created.
Therefore, a keyframe is set or modified each time that you change the position of a Deform pin. This auto-keyframing
is unlike most properties in After Effects, for which you must explicitly set the stopwatch switch by adding a keyframe
or an expression to animate each property. The auto-animation of Deform pins makes it convenient to add them and
animate them in the Composition panel or Layer panel, without manipulating the properties in the Timeline panel.
1 Select the layer that contains the image to animate.
2 Using the Puppet Pin tool

, do one of the following in the Composition panel or the Layer panel:

• Click any nontransparent pixel of a raster layer to apply the Puppet effect and create a mesh for the outline created
by auto-tracing the alpha channel of a layer.
• Click within a closed path on a vector layer to apply the Puppet effect and create a mesh for the outline defined
by that path.
• Click within a closed, unlocked mask to apply the Puppet effect and create a mesh for the outline defined by the
mask path.
• Click outside all closed paths on a vector layer to apply the Puppet effect without creating a mesh. Outlines are
created for paths on the layer, though an outline is only visible when a Puppet tool pointer is over the area that
the outline defines. Place the pointer over the area enclosed by a path to see the outline in which a mesh will be
created if you click that point. (See How the Puppet effect creates outlines.) Click within an outline to create a
mesh.
A Deform pin is placed where you clicked to create the mesh.
Note: If an image is too complex for the Puppet effect to generate a mesh with the current Triangle value, a “Mesh
Generation Failed” message appears in the Info panel. Increase the Triangle value in the Tools panel and try again.
3 Click in one or more places within the outline to add more Deform pins.

Use as few pins as possible to achieve your desired result. The natural deformation provided by the Puppet effect
can be lost if you over-constrain the image. Just add pins to the parts of the figure that you know that you want to
control. For example, when animating a person waving, add a pin to each foot to hold them to the ground, and add
a pin to the waving hand.

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4 Go to another time in the composition, and move the position of one or more of the Deform pins by dragging them

in the Composition or Layer panel with the Puppet Pin tool. Repeat this step until you have completed your
animation.
You can modify the motion paths of the Deform pins using the same techniques that you use to modify any other
motion paths.
Note: After Effects no longer draws the tinted fill for the original layer region when hovering using the Puppet Pin tool.

Record animation by sketching motion with the Puppet Pin tool
You can sketch the motion path of one or more Deform pins in real time—or at a speed that you specify—much as you
can sketch the motion path of a layer using Motion Sketch.
If your composition contains audio, you can sketch motion in time with the audio.
Before you begin recording motion, you may want to configure settings for recording. To open the Puppet Record
Options dialog box, click Record Options in the Tools panel.
Speed The ratio of the speed of the recorded motion to speed of playback. If Speed is 100%, the motion is played back
at the speed at which it was recorded. If Speed is greater than 100%, the motion plays back slower than it was recorded.
Smoothing Set this value higher to remove more extraneous keyframes from the motion path as it’s drawn. Creating

fewer keyframes makes motion smoother.
Use Draft Deformation The distorted outline that is shown during recording does not take Starch pins into account.

This option can improve performance for a complex mesh.
Note: This procedure assumes that you have already placed Deform pins in the object to animate. For information on
placing Deform pins, see Manually animate an image with the Puppet tools.
1 Select one or more Deform pins.
2 Go to the time at which to begin recording motion.
3 In the Composition panel or Layer panel, hold the Ctrl (Windows) or Command (Mac OS) key to activate the

Puppet Sketch tool. Ctrl-drag (Windows) or Command-drag (Mac OS) the pins to animate.
Recording of motion begins when you click to begin the drag. Recording ends when you release the mouse button.
The color of the outline for the mesh for which motion is being sketched is the same as the color of the pin (yellow).
Reference outlines, for other meshes on the same layer, match the label color of the layer.
The current-time indicator returns to the time at which recording began, so that you can repeat the recording
operation with more Deform pins or redo the recording operation with the same pins.
You can modify the motion paths of the Deform pins using the same techniques that you use to modify any other
motion paths. The motion path for a pin is shown only if it is the only pin selected.
Try creating several duplicate meshes and sketching motion for each mesh. When you have multiple meshes in the same
instance of the Puppet effect, you can sketch motion for one mesh while seeing the reference outlines of the others,
allowing you to follow their movements, either roughly or precisely.

How the Puppet effect creates outlines
When a Puppet mesh is created, its boundaries are determined by an outline, which can be defined by any of the
following types of closed paths:

• An unlocked mask path

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• A shape path on a shape layer
• A text character’s outline
If a layer has no unlocked masks, shapes, or text characters on it when you apply the Puppet effect, it uses Auto-trace
to create paths from the alpha channel. These paths are only used by the Puppet effect in the determination of outlines
and do not appear as masks on the layer. If the layer is a raster layer with no alpha channel, the result is a single
rectangular path around the bounds of the layer. For a complex image, or to configure Auto-trace settings, use Autotrace before using the Puppet tools. (See Create a mask from channel values with Auto-trace.)
A text character that consists of multiple disjoint closed paths (such as the letter i) is treated as multiple separate paths.
The stroke of a shape or text character is not used in the determination of outlines; only the path is used. To encompass
a stroke within a mesh created from such items, increase the Expansion value. The default value of 3 pixels for
Expansion encompasses a stroke that extends 3 pixels or less from its path.
Apply paint strokes to a layer using the Brush tool with the Paint On Transparent option. Painting with this option
selected creates a raster layer with only the paint strokes, defined by an alpha channel. You can then use the Puppet tools
to animate the paint strokes. Do not use a mask on the layer.
If multiple masks, shapes, or characters overlap on the same layer, an outline is created from the union of the
overlapping shapes, overlapping characters, or overlapping masks. If a mask overlaps a text character or shape, outlines
are created for the entire character or shape, for the portion of the character or shape that is inside the mask, and for
the mask itself.
To distort multiple disjoint characters or shapes as one object, surround the individual objects with a mask (with mask
mode set to None), and use the mask path as the outline with which to create the mesh. You can delete the mask after
you have created the mesh.
If the Puppet effect has already been applied to a layer, outlines appear with a yellow highlight as you move a Puppet
tool pointer over them. You can choose the outline in which to place an initial pin to create a mesh. A mesh is created
each time that you click within an outline with a Puppet tool.
If the Puppet effect has not already been applied to a layer, outlines for that layer have not yet been calculated. When
you click, the Puppet effect calculates outlines and determines whether you have clicked within an outline. If so, it
creates a mesh defined by the outline in which you clicked. Otherwise, you can move the pointer around in the layer to
select the outline in which to place a pin and create a mesh. Moving the pointer around in the layer is useful for seeing
the outlines of various objects and choosing which outlines to use to create a mesh.

Work with Puppet pins and the distortion mesh
• To show the mesh for the Puppet effect, select Show in the options section of the Tools panel.
• To select or move a pin, click or drag it with the Move tool . To activate the Move tool, place the pointer on a pin
while either the Selection tool or the corresponding Puppet tool is active.

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• To select multiple pins, Shift-click them, or use the marquee-selection tool to drag a marquee-selection box
around them. To activate the marquee-selection tool, place the pointer for a Puppet tool outside all meshes and
outlines or hold the Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS) key.
• To select all pins of one kind (Deform, Starch, or Overlap), select one pin of that kind and press Ctrl+A (Windows)
or Command+A (Mac OS).
• To delete selected pins, press the Delete key. If the pin has multiple keyframes, and only the keyframe at the current
time is selected, pressing Delete deletes only that keyframe; pressing Delete again deletes the pin.
• To reset Deform pins to their original locations at the current time, click Reset for the Puppet effect in the Timeline
panel or Effect Controls panel. To remove all pins and meshes from an instance of the Puppet effect, click Reset
again.
Sometimes, you want to animate an image from an initial position, through an intermediate position, and back to the
initial position. Rather than manually dragging the pins back to their initial positions at the end of the animation, place
the current-time indicator at the end time and click Reset. Only the keyframes at the current time are reset.

• To increase or decrease the number of triangles used in a mesh, modify the Triangle value in the options section of
the Tools panel or in the Timeline panel. Modifying the Triangle value sets the value for a selected mesh or, if no
mesh is selected, sets the value for meshes created later.
A higher number of triangles gives smoother results but takes longer to render. Small objects, like text characters,
usually distort well with only 50 triangles, whereas a large figure may require 500. The number of triangles used may
not match the Triangle value exactly; this value is a target only.

• To expand the mesh beyond the original outline, increase the Expansion property in the options section of the Tools
panel or in the Timeline panel. Modifying the Expansion property sets the value for a selected mesh or, if no mesh
is selected, sets the value for meshes created later. Expanding the mesh is useful for encompassing a stroke.
• To duplicate an object using Puppet Pin tool, click within the original outline. Clicking within the original outline
creates a new mesh, with its own copy of the pixels from within the original outline. You can also duplicate a Mesh
group in the Timeline panel to achieve the same result, which is sometimes easier than clicking within the original
outline without clicking the mesh to create a pin.

Puppet Overlap controls
When you are distorting one part of an image, you may want to control which parts of the image appear in front of
other parts. For example, you may want to keep an arm in front of the face as you make the arm wave. Use the Puppet
Overlap tool to apply Overlap pins to the parts of an object for which you want to control apparent depth.
You apply Puppet Overlap pins to the original outline, not to the deformed image.

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Each Overlap pin has the following properties:
In Front The apparent proximity to the viewer. The influence of Overlap pins is cumulative, meaning that the In Front

values are added together for places on the mesh where extents overlap. You can use negative In Front values to cancel
out the influence of another Overlap pin at a specific location.
An area of the mesh that is not influenced by Overlap pins has an implicit In Front value of 0. The default value for a
new Overlap pin is 50.
When animating the In Front value, you should usually use Hold keyframes. You do not usually want to interpolate
gradually from an element being in front to an element being in back.
Extent How far from the Overlap pin its influence extends. The influence ends abruptly; it does not decrease gradually

with distance from the pin. Extent is indicated visually by a fill in the affected parts of the mesh. The fill is dark if In
Front is negative; the fill is light if In Front is positive.

Puppet Starch controls
When you are distorting one part of an image, you may want to prevent other parts from being distorted. For example,
you may want to preserve the rigidity of an arm as you move a hand to make it wave. Use the Puppet Starch tool to apply
Starch pins to the part of an object that you want to keep rigid.
You apply Puppet Starch pins to the original outline, not to the deformed image.

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Each Starch pin has the following properties:
Amount The strength of the stiffening agent. The influence of Starch pins is cumulative, meaning that the Amount
values are added together for places on the mesh where extents overlap. You can use negative Amount values to cancel
out the influence of another Starch pin at a specific location.

If you notice image tearing near a Deform pin, use a Starch pin with a very small Amount value (less than 0.1) near
the Deform pin. Small Amount values are good for maintaining image integrity without introducing much rigidity.
Extent How far from the Starch pin its influence extends. The influence ends abruptly; it does not decrease gradually

with distance from the pin. Extent is indicated visually by a pale fill in the affected parts of the mesh.
In addition to animating still images, you can use the Puppet effect on a layer with motion footage as its source. For
example, you could distort the contents of the entire composition frame to match the motion of an object within the
frame. In this case, consider creating a mesh for the entire layer, using the layer boundaries as the outline, and using the
Puppet Starch tool around the edges to prevent the edges of the layer from distorting.

More Help topics
Motion paths
Expression basics

Tracking 3D camera movement
3D camera tracker effect
The 3D camera tracker effect analyzes video sequences to extract camera motion and 3D scene data. The 3D camera
motion allows you to correctly composite 3D elements over your 2D footage.
Like the Warp Stabilizer, the 3D camera tracker effect performs analysis using a background process. Feel free to adjust
settings or work on a different part of your project while analysis is taking place.
For details about using the 3D camera tracker effect, see this video tutorial by Angie Taylor from Learn by Video.

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Analyzing footage and extracting camera motion
1 With a footage layer selected, do one of the following:
1 Choose Animation > Track Camera, or choose Track Camera from the layer context menu.
2 Choose Effect > Perspective > 3D Camera Tracker.
3 In the Tracker panel, click the Track Camera button. The 3D Camera Tracker effect is applied. The analysis and

solving phases occur in the background, with status appearing as a banner on the footage and next to the Cancel
button.
4 Adjust the settings, as needed.

The 3D solved track points appears as small colored x's. You can use these track points to place content into the scene.
You can select more than one layer at a time for camera tracking using the 3D camera tracker effect.

Attaching content into a scene containing a solved camera
1 With the effect selected, select the track point or multiple track points (defining a best-fit plane) to use as the attach

point.
1 Hover between three neighboring unselected track points that can define a plane, a semitransparent triangle

appears between the points. A red target appears, showing the orientation of the plane in 3D space.
2 Draw a marquee-selection box around multiple track points to select them.
3 Right-click above the selection or target, and then choose the type of content to create. The following types can be

created:

• Text
• Solid
• Null layer for the center of the target
• Text, solid, or null layer for each selected point
• "Shadow catcher" layer (a solid that accepts shadows only) for the created content by using the Create Shadow
Catcher command in the context menu.
Note: A shadow catcher layer also creates a light if one does not exist.
If creating multiple layers, each one has a unique numbered name. If creating multiple text layers, In and Out points
are trimmed to match the point durations.

Moving the target to attach content to different location
To move the target so that you can attach content to a different location, do the following:
1 When above the center of the target, the "move" cursor appears for repositioning the target.
2 Drag the center of the target to desired location.

Once at the intended location, you can attach content by using the commands in the context menu.
If the size of the targets is too small or too large to see, you can resize them to help visualize the planes. The target size
also controls the default size of text and solid layers created using the context menu commands.

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Resizing a target
To resize a target, do one of the following:

• Adjust the Target Size property.
• Press Alt-click (Windows) or Option-click (Mac OS) as you drag from the center of the target. When above the
center of the target, a cursor with horizontal arrows allows you to resize the target.

Selecting and deselecting track points
To select track points, do one of the following:

• Click a track point.
• Click between three adjacent track points.
• Draw a marquee-selection box around multiple points.
• Shift-click or draw a Shift-marquee selection box around the track points to add multiple track points to the current
selection.
To deselect track points, do one of the following:

• Alt-click (Windows) or Option-click (Mac OS) selected track points.
• Click away from a track point.
Moving objects can confuse the 3D camera tracker effect. It can interpret points for stationary objects close to the
camera as moving due to parallax. To help solve the camera, delete bad or unwanted points.

Deleting unwanted track points
To delete unwanted track points, do the following:
1 Select the track points.
2 Press Delete or choose Delete Selected Points from the context menu.

After deleting unwanted track points, the camera is resolved. You can delete additional points while resolving takes
place in the background. Deleting 3D points deletes the corresponding 2D points, as well.

Creating a "shadow catcher" layer
You can quickly create a "shadow catcher" layer, used to create realistic shadows for the effect. A shadow catcher layer
is white solid the same size as the footage, but set to accept shadows only.
To create a shadow catcher layer, use the Create Shadow Catcher, Camera and Light commands in the context menu.
If necessary, adjust the position and scale of the shadow catcher layer so the cast shadow appears as desired. This
command also creates a shadow-casting light (a light that is switched on, and casts shadows) if one does not exist in the
composition.

Effects controls for the 3D camera tracker
The effect has the following controls and settings:
Analyze/Cancel Starts or stops the background analysis of the footage. During analysis, status appears as a banner on

the footage and next to the Cancel button.
Shot Type Specifies whether the footage was captured with a fixed horizontal angle of view, variable zoom, or a specific
horizontal angle of view. Changing this setting requires a resolve.

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Horizontal Angle of View Specifies the horizontal angle of view the solver uses. Enabled only when Shot Type is set to

Specify Angle of View.
Show Track Points Identifies detected features as 3D points with perspective hinting (3D Solved) or 2D points captured
by the feature track (2D Source).
Render Track Points Controls if the track points are rendered as part of the effect.

Note: When the effect is selected, track points are always shown, even if Render Track Points is not selected. When enabled,
the points are displayed into the image allowing them to be seen during preview.
Track Point Size Changes the displayed size of the track points.
Create Camera Creates the 3D camera. A camera is automatically added when you create a text, solid, or null layer from
the context menu.
Advanced controls Advanced controls for the 3D camera tracker effect:

• Solve Method: Provides hints about the scene to help in solving the camera. Solve the camera by trying the
following:
• Auto Detect: Automatically detects the scene type.
• Typical: Specifies the scene as that which are not purely rotational, or mostly flat.
• Mostly Flat Scene: Specifies the scene as mostly flat, or planar.
• Tripod Pan: Specifies the scene as purely rotational.
• Method Used: When Solve Method is set to Auto Detect, this displays the actual solve method used.
• Average Error: Displays the average distance (in pixels) between the original 2D source points and a reprojection
of the 3D solved points onto the 2D plane of the source footage. If a track/solve was perfect, this error would be 0
and there would be no visible difference if you toggled between 2D Source and 3D Solved track points. You can use
this value to tell if deleting points, changing the solve method, or making other changes is lowering this value, and
thus improving the track.
• Detailed Analysis: When checked, makes the next analysis phase do extra work to find elements to track. The
resulting data (stored in the project as part of the effect) is much larger and slower with this option enabled.
• Auto-delete Points Across Time: With the new Auto-delete Track Points Across Time option, when you delete track
points in the Composition panel, corresponding track points (i.e., track points on the same feature/object) are
deleted at other times on the layer. You don’t need to delete the track points frame by frame to improve the quality
of the track. For example, you can delete track points on a person running through the scene, whose motion should
not be considered for the determination of how the camera was moving in the shot.
• Hide Warning Banner: Use when you don't want to reanalyze footage even though there is a warning banner
indicating that it be reanalyzed.

Ground plane and origin in 3D Camera Tracker effect
In After Effects CC, you can define a ground plane (reference plane) and origin, for example, the (0,0,0) point of the
coordinate system within the 3D Camera Tracker effect.
1 Analyze the scene using the 3D Camera Tracker effect
2 Select a set of tracking points. This action causes the bullseye target to appear, showing the plane defined by the

selected tracking points.
3 Optionally drag the target by its center to reposition it along the plane, and place the center is where you want the

origin to be.

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4 Right-click (Windows) or Control-click (Mac OS) the target and choose Set Ground Plane And Origin.

This action does not have any visible result, but the reference plane and origin of the coordinate system are saved for
this scene. Any items that you create from within this instance of the 3D Camera Tracker effect are created using this
plane and origin.
Note: If you choose Set Ground Plane And Origin again, a warning tells you that objects already created using a different
ground plane and origin are not to be updated using the new ground plane and origin.

Auto-delete Points Across Time
In the Advanced section of the effect properties, there is a new option: Auto-delete Points Across Time.
If this option is on, when you delete track points in the Composition panel, corresponding track points (for example,
track points on the same feature or object) are deleted at other times on the layer, so it isn't necessary to delete the track
points frame by frame to improve the quality of the track. For example, you can delete track points on a person running
through the scene, whose motion should not be considered for the determination of how the camera was moving in the
shot. This method works for both 2D Source and 3D Solved track points.
You can delete selected track points with the Delete key or by context-clicking and choosing Delete Selected Points.
Note: Even with the new Auto-delete Points Across Time feature, you can instead or additionally define an alpha channel
for the layer to prevent the 3D Camera Tracker effect from considering a specific part of the image for determining a
camera.

Exporting 3D Camera Tracker data to 3D applications
You can export 3D Camera Tracker data to 3D applications like MAXON CINEMA 4D.
Do the following:
1 Download plug-ins for exporting camera tracking data. For example, from Maxon.net
2 Install the plug-ins to the plug-ins folder.
3 Choose File > Export > (plug-in manufacturer]. For Cinema4D, choose Cinema 4D Exporter.
4 Name the file and click Save.
5 Open the file in the 3D application.

For more information about exporting camera tracker data, and how to import rendered objects back in to After
Effects, see this video tutorial by Chris and Trish Meyer.

Time-stretching and time-remapping
Time-stretching, time-remapping, and the Timewarp effect are all useful for creating slow motion, fast motion, freeze
frame, or other retiming results.
For information on the Timewarp effect, see Timewarp effect .
Andrew Kramer provides a video tutorial on his Video Copilot website that demonstrates time-stretching, timeremapping, and frame blending.

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Time-stretch a layer
Speeding up or slowing down an entire layer by the same factor throughout is known as time-stretching. When you
time-stretch a layer, the audio and the original frames in the footage (and all keyframes that belong to the layer) are
redistributed along the new duration. Use this command only when you want the layer and all layer keyframes to
change to the new duration.

If you time-stretch a layer so that the resulting frame rate is very different from the original frame rate, the quality of
motion within the layer may suffer. For best results when time-remapping a layer, use the Timewarp effect.

Time-stretch a layer from a specific time
1 In the Timeline or Composition panel, select the layer.
2 Choose Layer > Time > Time Stretch.
3 Type a new duration for the layer, or type a Stretch Factor.
4 To specify the point in time from which the layer will be time-stretched, click one of the Hold In Place options, and

then click OK.
Layer In-point Holds the starting time of the layer at its current value and time-stretches the layer by moving its Out

point.
Current Frame Holds the layer at the position of the current-time indicator (also the frame displayed in the

Composition panel), and time-stretches the layer by moving the In and Out points.
Layer Out-point Holds the ending time of the layer at its current value and time-stretches the layer by moving its In

point.

Time-stretch a layer to a specific time
1 In the Timeline panel, move the current-time indicator to the frame where you want the layer to begin or end.
2 Display the In and Out columns by choosing Columns > In and Columns > Out from the Timeline panel menu.
3 Do one of the following:

• To stretch the In point to the current time, press Ctrl (Windows) or Command (Mac OS) as you click the In time
for the layer in the In column.
• To stretch the Out point to the current time, press Ctrl (Windows) or Command (Mac OS) as you click the Out
time for the layer in the Out column.

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Time-stretch a layer but not its keyframes
When you time-stretch a layer, the positions of its keyframes stretch with it by default. You can circumvent this behavior
by cutting and pasting keyframes.
1 Make a note of the time at which the first keyframe appears. (Placing a composition marker is a good way to mark

the time.)
2 In the Timeline panel, click the name of one or more layer properties containing the keyframes you want to keep at

the same times.
3 Choose Edit > Cut.
4 Move or stretch the layer to its new In and Out points.
5 Move the current-time indicator to the time at which the first keyframe appeared before you cut the keyframes.
6 Choose Edit > Paste.

Reverse the playback direction of a layer
When you reverse the direction at which a layer plays back, all keyframes for all properties on the selected layer also
reverse order. The layer itself maintains its original In and Out points relative to the composition.
Note: For best results, precompose the layer and then reverse the layer inside the precomposition. For more information on
this process, see About precomposing and nesting.
1 In a Timeline panel, select the layer you want to reverse.
2 Choose Layer > Time > Time-Reverse Layer, or press Ctrl+Alt+R (Windows) or Command+Option+R (Mac OS).

Reverse keyframes without reversing layer playback
You can select and reverse keyframes across multiple layers and properties, but each set of keyframes for a property is
reversed only within its original time range and not that of any other selected property. Markers in the Timeline panel
are not reversed, so you may need to move markers after reversing keyframes.
1 In the Timeline panel, select a range of keyframes you want to reverse.
2 Choose Animation > Keyframe Assistant > Time-Reverse Keyframes.

Time-remapping

Time-remapping overview
You can expand, compress, play backward, or freeze a portion of the duration of a layer using a process known as timeremapping. For example, if you are using footage of a person walking, you can play footage of the person moving
forward, and then play a few frames backward to make the person retreat, and then play forward again to have the
person resume walking. Time-remapping is good for combinations of slow motion, fast motion, and reverse motion.
The Timewarp effect provides similar features with more control over some aspects of frame blending, but with
additional limitations as a result of being applied as an effect.

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When you apply time-remapping to a layer containing audio and video, the audio and video remain synchronized. You
can remap audio files to gradually decrease or increase the pitch, play audio backward, or create a warbled or scratchy
sound. Still-image layers cannot be time-remapped.
You can remap time in either the Layer panel or the Graph Editor. Remapping video in one panel displays the results
in both. Each provides a different view of the layer duration:

• The Layer panel provides a visual reference of the frames you change, as well as the frame number. The panel
displays the current-time indicator and a remap-time marker, which you move to select the frame you want to play
at the current time.

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• The Graph Editor provides a view of the changes you specify over time by marking your changes with keyframes
and a graph like the one displayed for other layer properties.

When remapping time in the Graph Editor, use the values represented in the Time Remap graph to determine and
control which frame of the movie plays at which point in time. Each Time Remap keyframe has a time value associated
with it that corresponds to a specific frame in the layer; this value is represented vertically on the Time Remap value
graph. When you enable time remapping for a layer, After Effects adds a Time Remap keyframe at the start and end
points of the layer. These initial Time Remap keyframes have vertical time values equal to their horizontal position on
the timeline.
By setting additional Time Remap keyframes, you can create complex motion results. Each time you add a Time Remap
keyframe, you create another point at which you can change the speed or direction of playback. As you move the
keyframe up or down in the value graph, you adjust which frame of the video is set to play at the current time. After
Effects then interpolates intermediate frames and plays the footage forward or backward from that point to the next
Time Remap keyframe. In the value graph, reading from left to right, an upward angle indicates forward playback, while
a downward angle indicates reverse playback. The amount of the upward or downward angle corresponds to the speed
of playback.
Similarly, the value that appears next to the Time Remap property name indicates which frame plays at the current time.
As you drag a value graph marker up or down, this value changes accordingly and a Time Remap keyframe is set, if
necessary. You can click this value and type a new one, or drag the value to adjust it.
The original duration of the source footage may no longer be valid when remapping time, because parts of the layer no
longer play at the original rate. If necessary, set a new duration for the layer before you remap time.

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As with other layer properties, you can view the values of the Time Remap graph as either a value graph or a speed
graph.
If you remap time and the resulting frame rate is very different from the original, the quality of motion within the layer
may suffer. Apply frame blending to improve time remapping for slow motion or fast motion.
Note: Use the information shown in the Info panel to guide you as you work with time-remapping. The ratio given in the
units of seconds/sec indicates the current speed of playback—the number of seconds of the original layer being played for
each second after time-remapping.

Time-remap a layer
You can time-remap all or part of a layer to create many different results, such as freeze-frame or slow-motion results.
(See Time-remapping.)

Freeze the current frame for the duration of the layer
1 In a Composition or Timeline panel, select the layer.
2 Place the current-time indicator on the frame that you want to freeze.
3 Choose Layer > Time > Freeze Frame.

Time-remapping is enabled, and a Hold keyframe is placed at the position of the current-time indicator to freeze the
frame.If you previously enabled time-remapping on the layer, any keyframes you created are deleted when you apply
the Freeze Frame command.

Freeze the first frame without changing the speed
1 In a Composition or Timeline panel, select the layer that you want to remap.
2 Choose Layer > Time > Enable Time Remapping.

This command adds two Time Remap keyframes by default, one at the beginning of the layer and one at the end.
3 Move the current-time indicator to where you want the movie to begin.
4 Click the Time Remap property name to select the start and end keyframes.
5 Drag the first keyframe to the current-time indicator, which moves the start and end keyframes. (If you are working

in the Graph Editor, drag the bounding box—not the keyframe or a handle—so that both keyframes move.)

Freeze a frame in the middle of the duration of a layer
1 In a Composition or Timeline panel, select the layer that you want to remap.
2 Choose Layer > Time > Enable Time Remapping.

This command adds two Time Remap keyframes by default, one at the beginning of the layer and one at the end.
3 Move the current-time indicator to the frame that you want to freeze, and set a Time Remap keyframe at the current

time by clicking the keyframe navigator diamond for the Time Remap property.
4 Select the last two Time Remap keyframes (the second and third keyframes) and drag them to the right.
5 Press F2 to deselect the keyframes, and then click the second (middle) keyframe to select it.
6 Press Ctrl+C (Windows) or Command+C (Mac OS) to copy the keyframe.
7 Press Ctrl+V (Windows) or Command+V (Mac OS) to paste the keyframe at the current time. You should not have

moved the current-time indicator since step 3.

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8 (Optional) To extend the layer so that its duration is increased to accommodate the time added by the freeze-frame

operation, press the K key twice to move the current-time indicator to the last Time Remap keyframe, and press
Alt+] (Windows) or Option+] (Mac OS).
The portion of the layer between the first and second keyframes plays at an unaltered rate (the same as for the nontime-remapped layer), as does the portion of the layer between the third and fourth keyframes. The second and third
keyframes are identical, so a single frozen frame plays during the time between those two keyframes.

Remap time using the Graph Editor
To switch between Graph Editor mode and layer bar mode, press Shift+F3.
1 In a Composition or Timeline panel, select the layer you want to remap.
2 Choose Layer > Time > Enable Time Remapping.
3 In the Timeline panel, click the name of the Time Remap property to select it.
4 Move the current-time indicator to the time at which to add a keyframe, and click the keyframe button

in the

keyframe navigator to add a keyframe.
5 In the Graph Editor, drag the keyframe marker up or down, watching the Time Remap value as you drag. To snap

to other keyframes, Shift-drag.

• To slow the layer down, drag the keyframe down. (If the layer is playing in reverse, drag up.)
• To speed the layer up, drag the keyframe up. (If the layer is playing in reverse, drag down.)
• To play frames backward, drag the keyframe down to a value below the previous keyframe value.
• To play frames forward, drag the keyframe up to a value above the previous keyframe value.
• To freeze the previous keyframe, drag the current keyframe marker to a value equal to the previous keyframe
value so that the graph line is flat. Another method is to select the keyframe and choose Animation > Toggle Hold
Keyframe, and then add another keyframe where you want the motion to start again.
Before you move a time-remap keyframe, it’s a good idea to select all subsequent time-remap keyframes in the layer
first. This selection will preserve the timing of the rest of the layer when you remap time for the current keyframe.

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Remap time in a Layer panel
1 Open the Layer panel for the layer you want to remap.
2 Choose Layer > Time > Enable Time Remapping. A second time ruler appears in the Layer panel above the default

time ruler and the navigator bar.
3 On the lower time ruler, move the current-time indicator to the first frame where you want the change to occur.
4 On the upper time ruler, the remap-time marker indicates the frame currently mapped to the time indicated on the

lower time ruler. To display a different frame at the time indicated on the lower time ruler, move the remap-time
marker accordingly.

5 Move the current-time indicator on the lower time ruler to the last frame where you want change to occur.
6 Move the remap-time marker on the upper time ruler to the frame you want to display at the time indicated on the

lower time ruler:

• To move the preceding portion of the layer forward, set the remap-time marker to a later time than the currenttime indicator.
• To move the preceding portion of the layer backward, set the remap-time marker to an earlier time than the
current-time indicator.
• To freeze a frame, set the remap-time marker to the frame you want frozen. Then, move the current-time
indicator (lower ruler) to the last point in time where the frame will appear frozen and move the remap-time
marker again to the frame you want frozen.

Time-remap audio pitch
The speed graph of the Time Remap property directly relates to the pitch of an audio file. By making subtle changes to
the speed graph, you can create a variety of interesting effects. To avoid screeching audio, you may want to keep the
Speed value below 200%. When the speed is too high, use the Levels controls, located under the Audio property, to
control the volume.
You may hear clicks at the beginning and end of an audio (or an audio and video) layer after setting new In and Out
points in the Time Remap graph. Use the Levels controls to remove these clicks.

Change the pitch of an audio layer
1 In a Composition or Timeline panel, select the layer you want to remap.
2 Choose Layer > Time > Enable Time Remapping.
3 Click the Graph Editor button in the Timeline panel to display the Graph Editor, if necessary.
4 Click the Choose Graph Type And Options button at the bottom of the Graph Editor and choose Edit Speed Graph.

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5 Move the current-time indicator to the frame where you want change to begin, and then click the Add A Keyframe

button.
6 On the speed graph below the keyframe, drag a marker, watching the Speed value as you drag.

• To lower the pitch, drag the speed graph marker down.
• To increase the pitch, drag the speed graph marker up.

Remove clicks from new In and Out points
1 If necessary, choose panel > Audio.
2 In the Timeline panel, select the audio (or audio and video) layer to which you applied time-remapping.
3 Expand the layer outline to display the Audio property and then the Audio Levels property.
4 Move the current-time indicator to the new In point and choose Animation > Add Audio Levels Keyframe.
5 In the Audio panel, change the decibel value to 0.0.
6 Press the Page Up key on your keyboard to move the current-time indicator to the previous frame.
7 In the Audio panel, change the decibel level to -96.0.
8 Move the current time to the new Out point and set the decibel level to 0.
9 Press the Page Down key to move the current-time indicator to the next frame.
10 In the Audio panel, change the decibel level to -96.0.

You can change the decibel Slider Minimum value in the Audio Options dialog box, which is available from the
Audio panel menu.

Online resources for time-remapping
Aharon Rabinowitz provides a tutorial on the Creative COW website that shows how to use time-remapping to do lipsynching. This same basic concept can be used for many kinds of character animation.
Robert Powers provides a video tutorial on the Slippery Rock NYC website that demonstrates how to use timeremapping to animate a character to synchronize mouth movement with audio (lip synch).
Charles Bordenave (nab) provides a script on the After Effects Scripts website that automatically modulates timeremapping on a layer according to audio amplitude.
Sam Morris provides a tutorial that introduces time-remapping on his website.
Andrew Kramer provides a video tutorial on his Video Copilot website that demonstrates time-stretching, timeremapping, and frame blending.

Frame blending
When you time-stretch or time-remap a layer to a slower frame rate or to a rate lower than the frame rate of its
composition, movement can appear jerky. This jerky appearance results because the layer now has fewer frames per
second than the composition. Likewise, the same jerky appearance can occur when you time-stretch or time-remap a
layer to a frame rate that is faster than the frame rate of its composition. To create smoother motion when you slow
down or speed up a layer, use frame blending. Don’t apply frame blending unless the video of a layer has been retimed—that is, the video is playing at a different frame rate than the frame rate of the source video.
After Effects provides two types of frame blending: Frame Mix and Pixel Motion. Frame Mix takes less time to render,
but Pixel Motion provides much better results, especially for footage that has been drastically slowed down.

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The Quality setting you select also affects frame blending. When the layer is set to Best quality, frame blending results
in smoother motion but may take longer to render than when set to Draft quality.
Note: When working with a frame-blended layer in Draft mode, After Effects always uses Frame Mix interpolation to
increase rendering speed.
You can also enable frame blending for all compositions when you render a movie.
Use frame blending to enhance the quality of time-altered motion in a layer that contains live-action footage—video,
for example. You can apply frame blending to a sequence of still images, but not to a single still image. If you are
animating a layer—for example, moving a text layer across the screen—use motion blur.
Note: You can't apply frame blending to a precomposition layer (a layer that uses a nested composition as its source footage
item). You can, however, apply frame blending to the layers within the nested composition if those layers themselves are
based on motion footage items, such as video or image sequences.
1 Select the layer in the Timeline panel.
2 Do one of the following:

• Choose Layer > Frame Blending > Frame Mix.
• Choose Layer > Frame Blending > Pixel Motion.
A check mark by the appropriate Frame Blending command (Frame Mix or Pixel Motion) indicates that it is applied to
the selected layer. Also, the Frame Blending switch appears in the Switches column for the layer in the Timeline
panel. Remove frame blending either by clicking the Frame Blending switch or by choosing the appropriate Frame
Blending command again.
Regardless of the state of the layer switches, if frame blending is off for the composition, it is off for all layers in the
composition. You set frame blending for the composition by choosing Enable Frame Blending from the Timeline panel
at the top of the Timeline panel.
menu, or clicking the Enable Frame Blending button
Motion blur can make it harder for Pixel Motion to find discrete objects in each frame, which makes the calculation of
motion vectors less reliable. For better results when using Pixel Motion to create slow motion, use footage with less
motion blur.

More Help topics
About animation, keyframes, and expressions
The Graph Editor
Preview video and audio
Layer image quality and subpixel positioning

Keyframe interpolation
About spatial and temporal keyframe interpolation
Interpolation is the process of filling in the unknown data between two known values. You set keyframes to specify a
property’s values at certain key times. After Effects interpolates values for the property for all times between keyframes.

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Because interpolation generates the property values between keyframes, interpolation is sometimes called tweening.
Interpolation between keyframes can be used to animate movement, effects, audio levels, image adjustments,
transparency, color changes, and many other visual and audio elements.
After you create keyframes and motion paths to change values over time, you may want to make more precise
adjustments to the way that change occurs. After Effects provides several interpolation methods that affect how the inbetween values are calculated.
Temporal interpolation is the interpolation of values in time; spatial interpolation is the interpolation of values in space.
Some properties—such as Opacity—have only a temporal component. Other properties—such as Position—also have
spatial components.

Temporal interpolation and the value graph
Using the value graph in the Graph Editor, you can make precise adjustments to the temporal property keyframes
you’ve created for your animation. The value graph displays x values as red, y values as green, and z values (3D only) as
blue. The value graph provides complete information about the value of keyframes at any point in time in a composition
and allows you to control it. In addition, the Info panel displays the temporal interpolation method of a selected
keyframe.

Spatial interpolation and the motion path
When you apply or change spatial interpolation for a property such as Position, you adjust the motion path in the
Composition panel. The different keyframes on the motion path provide information about the type of interpolation
at any point in time. The Info panel displays the spatial interpolation method of a selected keyframe.
When you create spatial changes in a layer, After Effects uses Auto Bezier as the default spatial interpolation.
To change the default to linear interpolation, choose Edit > Preferences > General (Windows) or After Effects >
Preferences > General (Mac OS), and select Default Spatial Interpolation To Linear. Changing the preference setting
does not affect keyframes that already exist or new keyframes on properties for which keyframes already exist.

A Linear B Auto Bezier C Continuous Bezier D Bezier E Hold

In some cases, the Auto Bezier spatial interpolation for Position keyframes can cause undesired back-and-forth
(boomerang) motion between two keyframes with equal values. In such a case, you can change the earlier keyframe to
use Hold interpolation or change both keyframes to use Linear interpolation.

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Online resources about keyframe interpolation
Aharon Rabinowitz provides some video tutorials—including “How Does Computer Animation Work?” and “What is
interpolation?”—that introduce animation as part of the Multimedia 101 series.
Aharon Rabinowitz provides a pair of video tutorials on the Creative COW website that describe the issue and solution
for the boomerang motion problem that arises from unintentionally having Auto Bezier spatial interpolation set for
keyframes of equal value:

• Part 1
• Part 2
Antony Bolante provides information and illustrations about keyframe interpolation in an article on the Peachpit Press
website.

Keyframe interpolation methods
In layer bar mode, the appearance of a keyframe icon depends on the interpolation method you choose for the interval
between keyframes. When half of the icon is dark gray , the dark half indicates that no keyframe is adjacent to that
side, or that its interpolation is overridden by the Hold interpolation applied to the preceding keyframe.
By default, a keyframe uses one interpolation method, but you can apply two methods: the incoming method applies
to the property value as the current time approaches a keyframe, and the outgoing method applies to the property value
as the current time leaves a keyframe. When you set different incoming and outgoing interpolation methods, the
keyframe icon in layer bar mode changes accordingly. It displays the left half of the incoming interpolation icon and
the right half of the outgoing interpolation icon.
To toggle between keyframe icons and keyframe numbers, select Use Keyframe Icons or Use Keyframe Indices from the
Timeline panel menu.

A Linear B Linear in, Hold out C Auto Bezier D Continuous Bezier or Bezier E Linear in, Bezier out

All interpolation methods used by After Effects are based on the Bezier interpolation method, which provides direction
handles so that you can control the transitions between keyframes. Interpolation methods that don’t use direction
handles are constrained versions of Bezier interpolation and are convenient for certain tasks.
To learn more about how different interpolation methods affect temporal properties, experiment by setting up at least
three keyframes with different values for a temporal layer property—such as Opacity—and change the interpolation
methods as you view the value graph in Graph Editor mode in the Timeline panel.
To learn more about how different interpolation methods affect a motion path, experiment by setting up three
keyframes for a spatial property—such as Position—with different values on a motion path, and change the
interpolation methods as you preview the motion in the Composition panel.
Note: To change interpolation methods, right-click a keyframe, select Keyframe Interpolation from the menu that appears,
and then select an option from the Temporal Interpolation menu.
To clarify the examples in the following descriptions of interpolation methods, the result of each method is described
as if you had applied it to all of the keyframes for a layer property. In practice, you can apply any available interpolation
method to any keyframe.

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No interpolation
No interpolation is the state in which a layer property has no keyframes—when the stopwatch is turned off and the Ibeam icon appears in the Timeline panel under the current-time indicator. In this state, when you set the value of a
layer property, it maintains that value for the duration of the layer, unless overridden by an expression. By default, no
interpolation is applied to a layer property. If any keyframes are present for a layer property, some type of interpolation
is in use.

Linear interpolation
Linear interpolation creates a uniform rate of change between keyframes, which can add a mechanical look to
animations. After Effects interpolates the values between two adjacent keyframes as directly as possible without
accounting for the values of other keyframes.
If you apply Linear interpolation to all keyframes of a temporal layer property, change begins instantly at the first
keyframe and continues to the next keyframe at a constant speed. At the second keyframe, the rate of change switches
immediately to the rate between it and the third keyframe. When the layer reaches the final keyframe value, change
stops instantly. In the value graph, the segment connecting two keyframes with Linear interpolation appears as a
straight line.

Bezier interpolation
Bezier interpolation provides the most precise control because you manually adjust the shape of the value graph or
motion path segments on either side of the keyframe. Unlike Auto Bezier or Continuous Bezier, the two direction
handles on a Bezier keyframe operate independently in both the value graph and motion path.
If you apply Bezier interpolation to all keyframes of a layer property, After Effects creates a smooth transition between
keyframes. The initial position of the direction handles is calculated using the same method used in Auto Bezier
interpolation. After Effects maintains existing direction handle positions as you change a Bezier keyframe value.
Unlike other interpolation methods, Bezier interpolation lets you create any combination of curves and straight lines
along the motion path. Because the two Bezier direction handles operate independently, a curving motion path can
suddenly turn into a sharp corner at a Bezier keyframe. Bezier spatial interpolation is ideal for drawing a motion path
that follows a complex shape, such as a map route or the outline of a logo.
Existing direction handle positions persist as you move a motion-path keyframe. The temporal interpolation applied
at each keyframe controls the speed of motion along the path.

Auto Bezier interpolation
Auto Bezier interpolation creates a smooth rate of change through a keyframe. You may use Auto Bezier spatial
interpolation to create the path of a car turning on a curving road.
As you change an Auto Bezier keyframe value, the positions of Auto Bezier direction handles change automatically
to maintain a smooth transition between keyframes. The automatic adjustments change the shape of the value graph
or motion path segments on either side of the keyframe. If the previous and next keyframes also use Auto Bezier
interpolation, the shape of the segments on the far side of the previous or next keyframes also changes. If you adjust an
Auto Bezier direction handle manually, you convert it to a Continuous Bezier keyframe .
Auto Bezier is the default spatial interpolation.

Continuous Bezier interpolation
Like Auto Bezier interpolation, Continuous Bezier interpolation creates a smooth rate of change through a keyframe.
However, you set the positions of Continuous Bezier direction handles manually. Adjustments you make change the
shape of the value graph or motion path segments on either side of the keyframe.

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If you apply Continuous Bezier interpolation to all keyframes of a property, After Effects adjusts the values at each
keyframe to create smooth transitions. After Effects maintains these smooth transitions as you move a Continuous
Bezier keyframe on either the motion path or the value graph.

Hold interpolation
Hold interpolation is available only as a temporal interpolation method. Use it to change the value of a layer property
over time, but without a gradual transition. This method is useful for strobe effects, or when you want layers to appear
or disappear suddenly.
If you apply Hold temporal interpolation to all keyframes of a layer property, the value of the first keyframe holds steady
until the next keyframe, when the values change immediately. In the value graph, the graph segment following a Hold
keyframe appears as a horizontal straight line.
Even though Hold interpolation is available only as a temporal interpolation method, the keyframes on the motion path
are visible, but they are not connected by layer-position dots. For example, if you animate the Position property of a
layer using Hold interpolation, the layer holds at the position value of the previous keyframe until the current-time
indicator reaches the next keyframe, at which point the layer disappears from the old position and appears at the new
position.
You can easily freeze the current frame for the duration of the layer using the Freeze Frame command. To freeze a
frame, position the current time indicator at the frame you want to freeze. Make sure that the layer is selected and then
choose Layer > Time > Freeze Frame. Time-remapping is enabled, and a Hold keyframe is placed at the position of the
current time indicator to freeze the frame.
Note: If you previously enabled time-remapping on the layer, any keyframes you created are deleted when you apply the
Freeze Frame command.
You can use Hold interpolation only for outgoing temporal interpolation (for the frames following a keyframe). If you
create a keyframe following a Hold keyframe, the new keyframe uses incoming Hold interpolation.
To apply or remove Hold interpolation as outgoing interpolation for a keyframe, select the keyframe in the Timeline
panel, and choose Animation > Toggle Hold Keyframe.

Apply and change keyframe interpolation methods
You can apply and change the interpolation method for any keyframe. You can apply changes using the Keyframe
Interpolation dialog box, or you can apply them directly to a keyframe in layer bar mode, in a motion path, or in the
Graph Editor. You can also change the default interpolation After Effects uses for spatial properties.
For information on using Easy Ease controls to automatically ease speed between keyframes, see Controlling speed
between keyframes.

Change interpolation method with the Keyframe Interpolation dialog box
The Keyframe Interpolation dialog box provides options for setting temporal and spatial interpolation and—for spatial
properties only—roving settings.
1 In layer bar mode or in the Graph Editor, select the keyframes you want to change.
2 Choose Animation > Keyframe Interpolation.
3 For Temporal Interpolation, choose one of the following options:
Current Settings Preserves the interpolation values already applied to the selected keyframes. Choose this option

when multiple or manually adjusted keyframes are selected and you do not want to change the existing settings.

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Linear, Bezier, Continuous Bezier, Auto Bezier, and Hold Apply a temporal interpolation method using default

values.
4 If you selected keyframes of a spatial layer property, choose one of the following options for Spatial Interpolation:
Current Settings Preserves the interpolation settings already applied to the selected keyframes.
Linear, Bezier, Continuous Bezier, and Auto Bezier Apply a spatial interpolation method using default values.

5 If you selected keyframes of a spatial layer property, use the Roving menu to choose how a keyframe determines its

position in time, and then click OK:
Current Settings Preserves the currently applied method of positioning the selected keyframes in time.
Rove Across Time Smooths the rate of change through the selected keyframes by automatically varying their
position in time, based on the positions of the keyframes immediately before and after the selection.
Lock To Time keeps the selected keyframes at their current position in time. They stay in place unless you move

them manually.
For more information on smoothing the rate of change through selected keyframes, see Smooth motion with roving
keyframes.

Change interpolation method with the Selection tool in layer bar mode
❖ Using the Selection tool, do one of the following:

• If the keyframe uses Linear interpolation, Ctrl-click (Windows) or Command-click (Mac OS) the keyframe to
change it to Auto Bezier .
• If the keyframe uses Bezier, Continuous Bezier, or Auto Bezier interpolation, Ctrl-click (Windows) or
Command-click (Mac OS) the keyframe to change it to Linear.

Change interpolation method in the Graph Editor
• Click the keyframe with the Convert Vertex tool

to toggle between linear and Auto Bezier interpolation.

• Select one or more keyframes, and then click the Hold, Linear, or Auto Bezier button at the bottom of the screen to
change the interpolation method.

A Convert selected keyframes to Hold B Convert seleced keyframes to Linear C Convert selected keyframes to Auto Bezier

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Modify Bezier direction handles in the Graph Editor
In the Graph Editor, keyframes that use Bezier interpolation have direction handles attached to them. You can retract,
extend, or rotate the direction handles to fine-tune the Bezier interpolation curve in a value graph. You can retract or
extend the direction handles to fine-tune the curve in a speed graph.
By default, when you retract or extend a direction handle, the opposite handle on the keyframe moves with it. Splitting
direction handles makes the two direction handles attached to a keyframe behave independently.

• To retract or extend direction handles, drag the direction handle toward or away from the center of its keyframe with
the Selection tool.
• To split direction handles, Alt-drag (Windows) or Option-drag (Mac OS) a keyframe with the Selection tool. You
can also Alt-drag (Windows) or Option-drag (Mac OS) outside a keyframe to draw new handles, whether or not
handles already exist.
• To manipulate the direction handles of two neighboring keyframes simultaneously, drag the value graph segment
between the keyframes.

More Help topics
Controlling speed between keyframes
The Graph Editor
Keyframes and the Graph Editor (keyboard shortcuts)
Showing properties and groups in the Timeline panel (keyboard shortcuts)
About animation, keyframes, and expressions
Select keyframes

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Chapter 8: Color

Creative Cloud Libraries
About Creative Cloud Libraries
Creative Cloud Libraries makes your assets available to you anywhere. Create images, colors, text styles, color looks,
and more in Photoshop, Illustrator, and mobile apps like Adobe Shape CC or Adobe Hue CC, and then easily access
them across other desktop and mobile apps for a seamless creative workflow.
To learn more, see Creative Cloud Libraries.

Using Creative Cloud Libraries
In After Effects, Creative Cloud Libraries are available from within the Libraries panel. The Libraries panel is open in
the default workspace, Standard, and also the All Panels workspace. It is docked on the right-hand side of these
workspaces.
To open the Libraries panel, select either:

• File > Import > From Libraries OR
• Window > Libraries
You can use the creative assets in After Effects in many different ways:

• You can drag graphics assets from the Libraries panel to the Project panel to import them into your project.
• Vector assets in your library that were created with mobile apps like Shape CC can be imported into After Effects
and converted into shape layers for high-quality vector animations.
• Text layer graphics added to your library from Photoshop can be imported into After Effects and converted to
editable text layers with live layer styles.
Note: Asset types other than graphics that are in your library cannot be directly applied, but they can be viewed and
managed in the Libraries panel. You can also use the Eyedropper tool in After Effects to pick from your library colors,
similar to the Adobe Color Themes panel.

Location of Library assets
Library assets imported into After Effects are copied to your user folder at the following locations:

• Mac OS X: Users//Documents/Adobe/After Effects CC 2015/User Libraries/
• Windows: C:\Users\\Documents\Adobe\After Effects CC 2015\User Libraries\

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Accessing Creative Cloud Libraries
You can access libraries in the following ways:
Across projects Whatever you save in the Libraries panel becomes available for use across After Effects projects that
you are working on.
Across computers Libraries are synced to Creative Cloud. Your Library becomes available on any computer that you

are signed into using your Creative Cloud with your Adobe ID.
Across apps Whatever you save in the Libraries panel becomes automatically available across desktop and mobile apps

that support Creative Cloud Libraries.
For example, you can access Libraries from desktop apps such as Adobe Premiere Pro CC or Photoshop CC, and mobile
apps such as Adobe Hue and Premiere Clip.

Add a Creative Cloud library
You can create any number of libraries to organize your assets. The libraries that you create are displayed in the Libraries
panel in After Effects.
To create a library, do the following:
1 Click the drop-down in the Libraries panel, and select Create New Library.
2 Type a name for the library, and click Create.

Use assets in a library

Graphic Assets
Graphics assets can be imported into your After Effects project, like any other asset you would import from your local
disks. To import graphics assets into your project, do either of the following:

• Right-click on a graphic asset and choose Import.
OR

• Select a graphic asset in the Libraries panel, and drag it to the Project panel.
Vector graphics in your library that were created with Illustrator or Shape can be imported into After Effects. After
adding them to a composition, these graphics can then be converted into shape layers for high-quality vector
animations.
Photoshop text layer graphics added to your library can be imported into After Effects, and can be converted to editable
text layers with live layer styles.
Changing the Drag Import Multiple Items As setting in Preferences > Import affects how PSD and AI assets are
imported from a library.

Looks
Looks are color lookup tables (LUT) that can be added to your library using Adobe Hue CC or Adobe Premiere Pro CC
2015, and can then be applied to a layer in After Effects. Looks are an easy way to enhance your project by modifying
the image's color or to apply color grading, usually done using another application like SpeedGrade.
Looks from the Libraries panel are read using the Apply Color LUT effect, the same as LUT files from other sources.

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To apply a look from the Libraries panel, do any of the following:

• Select a layer in the composition, right-click on a look in the Libraries panel, and choose Apply Look.
• Drag a look from the Libraries panel onto a layer in the Composition, Layer, Effect Controls, or Timeline panels.
• Drag a look from the Libraries panel onto the title row of an existing Apply Color LUT effect on a layer in the
Timeline or Effect Controls panels. After Effects will add the Apply Color LUT effect to the target layer and apply
the look. If the Apply Color LUT effect is already present on a layer, applying a look from the Libraries panel reuses
the existing instance of the effect. You can use this approach to tryout different looks on the same layer.

Add assets from Adobe Stock
Adobe Stock is a service that sells millions of high-quality, royalty-free photos, illustrations, and graphics.
You can start a search of Adobe Stock assets from within After Effects:
1 Select Window > Library to open the Library panel in After Effects.
2 Click the Search Adobe Stock button at the bottom of the Libraries panel.
3 In the page that is displayed, search the Stock library for the asset you want to use.

Once you locate an asset that you want to use, you can purchase a license immediately and add the asset to your Library,
which will then appear in the Libraries panel within After Effects. Or, you can add an unlicensed preview
(watermarked) version of the asset to your Library.
If you add a preview version of an asset to your Library, you can license it later. To license the asset, click/right-click it,
and from the context menu select "License this image".
Note: If you use a preview (watermarked) image in After Effects and license it later, the unlicensed preview version in your
Libraries panel is replaced with a licensed version with no watermark. However, you’ll have to manually replace the
preview version of any clip that was already used in a compositon.

Share libraries with Creative Cloud users
You can share your libraries with other Creative Cloud users to view, edit, or use the contents of a shared library.
If a Creative Cloud subscriber has shared a library with you, you can further share it with other Creative Cloud users.
Share a library
1 In the Libraries panel, click the pop-up menu on the panel tab, and choose Collaborate.
2 In the browser page that appears, provide an e-mail address and optional message for the person that you would like

to share the library with.
Join a shared library
1 Launch the Adobe Creative Cloud for Desktop app, and log in with your Adobe ID credentials.
2 If a library has been shared with you, you see a notification in the Home panel.
3 Click the Accept button available for each library collaboration invitation.

Color basics

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Color depth and high dynamic range color
Color depth (or bit depth) is the number of bits per channel (bpc) used to represent the color of a pixel. The more bits
for each RGB channel (red, green, and blue), the more colors each pixel can represent.
In After Effects, you can work in 8-bpc, 16-bpc, or 32-bpc color.
In addition to color bit depth, a separate characteristic of the numbers used to represent pixel values is whether the
numbers are integers or floating-point numbers. Floating-point numbers can represent a much larger range of numbers
with the same number of bits. In After Effects, 32-bpc pixel values are floating-point values.
8-bpc pixels can have values for each color channel from 0 (black) to 255 (pure, saturated color). 16-bpc pixels can have
values for each color channel from 0 (black) to 32,768 (pure, saturated color). If all three color channels have the
maximum, pure-color value, the result is white. 32-bpc pixels can have values under 0.0 and values over 1.0 (pure,
saturated color), so 32-bpc color in After Effects is also high dynamic range (HDR) color. HDR values can be much
brighter than white.

Setting the color depth and modifying color display settings
The color depth setting for a project determines the bit depth for color values throughout a project.
To set the color depth for a project, do one of the following:

• Alt-click (Windows) or Option-click (Mac OS) the Project Settings button in the Project panel.
• Choose File > Project Settings or click the Project Settings button in the Project panel, and choose a color depth from
the Depth menu.
You can specify a color depth for each render item, which overrides the project color depth when rendering for final
output. You can also specify the color depth to use for each output item in the output module settings. (See Render
settingsand Output modules and output module settings.)
To change the format in which color values are shown in the Info panel and in some effect controls, choose an option
such as Percent or Web from the Info panel menu. Choosing Auto Color Display automatically switches between 8 bpc,
16 bpc, and 32 bpc, depending on the color depth of the project.
Though many effects can work with all color depths, some effects work only with lower color depths. You can set the
Effects & Presets panel to only show effects that work with your current project color depth. (See Effects and Presets
panel.)

Comparative advantages of each color depth
The dynamic range (ratio between dark and bright regions) in the physical world far exceeds the range of human vision
and of images that are printed on paper or displayed on a monitor. Low dynamic range 8-bpc and 16-bpc color values
can represent RGB levels only from black to white, which is only a small segment of the dynamic range in the real world.
High dynamic range (HDR), 32-bpc floating-point color values can represent brightness levels much greater than
white, including objects as bright as a flame or the Sun.

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Set the project color depth to 32 bpc to work with HDR footage or to work with over-range values—values above 1.0
(white) that aren’t supported in 8- or 16-bpc mode. Over-range values preserve the intensity of highlights, which is as
useful for synthetic effects such as lights, blurs, and glows as it is for working with HDR footage. The headroom
provided by working in 32 bpc prevents many kinds of data loss during operations such as color correction and color
profile conversion.
Even if you’re using 8-bpc footage and are creating movies in 8-bpc formats, you can obtain better results by having the
project color depth set to 16 bpc or 32 bpc. Working in a higher bit depth provides higher precision for calculations and
greatly reduces quantization artifacts, such as banding in gradients.
Note: Merely increasing the color depth within a project won’t eliminate gradients if the output format has a low bit depth.
To mitigate banding, After Effects introduces dithering of colors when the colors are converted to 8-bpc colors, including
when rendering and exporting to an 8-bpc format. This dithering is not introduced for previews. To force dithering for
previews, apply an 8-bpc effect that does nothing—such as the Arithmetic effect with the default values—to an adjustment
layer.
Because 16-bpc frames use half the memory of 32-bpc frames, rendering previews in a 16-bpc project is faster, and
previews can be longer than in a 32-bpc project. 8-bpc frames use even less memory, but the tradeoff between quality
and performance can be obvious in some images at a project color depth of 8 bpc.

Special considerations for working with high dynamic range color
You can use the HDR Compander effect to compress the dynamic range of a layer with an HDR footage item as its
source. In this way, you can use tools that don’t support HDR color, such as 8-bpc and 16-bit effects. When you’re done,
use the HDR Compander to undo the dynamic range compression. The HDR Highlight Compression effect lets you
compress the highlight values in an HDR image so that they fall within the value range of a low dynamic range image.
Because we can see only a subset of the luminance values in a real-world scene in an HDR image on a monitor, it is
sometimes necessary to adjust the exposure—the amount of light captured in an image—when working with an HDR
image. Adjusting the exposure of an HDR image is like adjusting the exposure when photographing a scene in the real
world, allowing you to bring detail out of very dark areas or very bright areas. You can use the Exposure effect to change
the color values of a layer for final output, or you can just adjust the exposure in a specific viewer for preview purposes.
Note: Because some operations—including glows, blurs, and some blending modes—behave differently in 32-bpc mode as
compared with 8-bpc or 16-bpc mode, your composition may look significantly different when you switch between high
dynamic range and low dynamic range project settings.

Additional resources about high dynamic range color
Chris Meyer explains what floating-point, 32-bpc, HDR color is good for in a video overview on the Lynda.com
website.

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Kert Gartner provides some visual examples and a brief explanation on his VFX Haiku website that demonstrate the
benefits of working with 32-bpc color.
Andrew Kramer provides a video tutorial on his Video Copilot website in which he demonstrates the advantages of
using 32-bpc color with motion blur.
On his fnord website, Brendan Bolles explains how to use the Color Profile Converter effect and film color profiles to
adjust colors and perform tone mapping to make an HDR image appear as if it were shot on motion picture film.

Select a color or edit a gradient
In many contexts, you can click an eyedropper button
to activate the eyedropper tool, or you can click a color
swatch to open a color picker. If you use the Adobe Color Picker, you can also activate the eyedropper from the Adobe
Color Picker dialog box.
If you click a gradient swatch (Linear Gradient or Fill Gradient) for a stroke or fill in a shape layer, the Adobe Color
Picker opens as the Gradient Editor, with additional controls for editing gradients included at the top of the dialog box.
You can also click Edit Gradient in the Timeline panel to open the Gradient Editor.
Andrew Devis shows how to modify gradient fills and strokes for shape layers, plus other options, in a video on the
Creative COW website.
Note: The sampleImage expression method is another way to sample color values. Use this method to use color values of
specific pixels as input into an expression. (See Layer General attributes and methods (expression reference).)

A Opacity Stop B Color Stop C Opacity midpoint D Eyedropper E New color rectangle F Original color rectangle

Choose a color picker
• To choose the system color, choose Edit > Preferences > General (Windows) or AfterEffects > Preferences > General
(Mac OS) and check the Use System Color Picker box.

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• To use the Adobe Color Picker, keep the Use System Color Picker box unchecked and select Window > Extensions
> Adobe Color Themes.
Jeff Almasol provides the PickerSwitcher script on his redefinery website, which toggles the Use System Color Picker
setting. Use this script when you prefer to use the Adobe Color Picker for certain tasks, but the operating system color
picker for others, and want a quick way to change this setting.

Select a color with the eyedropper tool
1 Click the eyedropper button, and move the pointer to the pixel that you want to sample. The color swatch next to

the eyedropper button dynamically changes to the color under the eyedropper.
2 Do one of the following:

• To select the color of a single pixel, click the pixel.
• To sample the color average of a 5-pixel-by-5-pixel area, Ctrl-click (Windows) or Command-click (Mac OS) the
area.
Note: When sampling from within the composition frame of the Composition panel, the eyedropper by default ignores
the composition background color and samples only straight color channels. To sample color channels premultiplied with
the composition background color, press Shift as you click with the eyedropper. Shift-clicking with the eyedropper
samples colors as they appear in the composition frame in the Composition panel.
Press the Escape key to deactivate the eyedropper.

Select a color with the Adobe Color Picker
In the Adobe Color Picker, you can choose colors using one of the color models, or use the color slider and the color
field to choose your color.
The following color models are available:

• HSB
• RGB
• Lab
• CMYK
• Hex
Use the color slider to pick a color:

• Drag the triangles along the color slider, or click inside the color slider to adjust the colors displayed in the color
spectrum.
• Click or drag inside the large square color spectrum to select a color. A circular marker indicates the location of the
color in the color spectrum.
1 Click Windows > Extensions > Adobe Color Themes to display the Adobe Color Picker.
2 (Optional) To prevent panels from updating with the results of your color selection until you accept the color by

clicking OK, deselect Preview in the Color Picker dialog box. The Preview option is not available in all contexts.
Note: Selecting Preview is convenient for seeing the results of your color selections before you commit them, but it can
also decrease performance, as new images are rendered for the preview in the Composition panel or Layer panel.
3 Enter the component values in the text boxes. Select the component you want to use to display the color spectrum:

HSB

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For HSB, specify hue (H) as an angle, from 0° to 360°, that corresponds to a location on the color wheel. Specify
saturation (S) and brightness (B) as percentages (0–100).
H Displays all hues in the color slider. Selecting a hue in the color slider displays the saturation and brightness range

of the selected hue in the color spectrum, with the saturation increasing from left to right and brightness increasing
from bottom to top.
S Displays all hues in the color spectrum with their maximum brightness at the top of the color spectrum,

decreasing to their minimum at the bottom. The color slider displays the color that’s selected in the color spectrum
with its maximum saturation at the top of the slider and its minimum saturation at the bottom.
B Displays all hues in the color spectrum with their maximum saturation at the top of the color spectrum,

decreasing to their minimum saturation at the bottom. The color slider displays the color that’s selected in the color
spectrum with its maximum brightness at the top of the slider and its minimum brightness at the bottom.
RGB
For RGB, specify component values. You can set colors to under-range and over-range values (outside the range 0.0–
1.0) in an HDR project.
R Displays the red color component in the color slider with its maximum brightness at the top of the slider and its

minimum brightness at the bottom. When the color slider is set to minimum brightness, the color spectrum displays
colors created by the green and blue color components. Using the color slider to increase the red brightness mixes
more red into the colors displayed in the color spectrum.
G Displays the green color component in the color slider with its maximum brightness at the top of the slider and
its minimum brightness at the bottom. When the color slider is set to minimum brightness, the color spectrum
displays colors created by the red and blue color components. Using the color slider to increase the green brightness
mixes more green into the colors displayed in the color spectrum.
B Displays the blue color component in the color slider with its maximum brightness at the top of the slider and its
minimum brightness at the bottom. When the color slider is set to minimum brightness, the color spectrum displays
colors created by the green and red color components. Using the color slider to increase the blue brightness mixes
more blue into the colors displayed in the color spectrum.

CMYK
Specify each component value as a percentage of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black in the text field to get a specific
color.
Lab
L Denotes the luminance of a color (from 0 to 100)
a The extent of red or green in a color (from -128 to +127)
b The extent of blue or yellow in a color (from -128 to +127)

Hex
Enter values in hexadecimal form. Numbers can range from #000000 to #ffffff. For example, #000000 represents
black, and #ffffff represents white.

Edit a gradient
A gradient is defined by color stops and opacity stops. Each stop has a location along the gradient and a value for color
or opacity. The values between stops are interpolated. By default, the interpolation is linear, but you can drag the opacity
midpoint or color midpoint between two stops to alter the interpolation.

• To add a color stop or opacity stop, click below or above the gradient bar in the Gradient Editor dialog box.

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• To remove a stop, drag it away from the gradient bar, or select the stop and click Delete.
• To edit the value of a stop, select it and adjust the Opacity value or use the Adobe Color Picker controls beneath the
gradient editor controls.
• To choose a gradient type, click the Linear Gradient or Radial Gradient button in the upper-left corner of the
Gradient Editor dialog box.
Note: Use the Style property to choose a gradient type for the Gradient Overlay layer style.

Learn tutorial

You can create and save color themes, explore and search existing themes, and browse your saved color themes using
your Adobe Creative Cloud profile. See this tutorial to learn to use Adobe Color in After Effects.

Color correction, color grading, and color adjustment
When you assemble a composition, you often need to adjust or correct the colors of one or more of the layers. Such
adjustments can be for any of several reasons. Some examples:

• You need to make it seem as if multiple footage items were shot under the same conditions so that they can be
composited or edited together.
• You need to adjust the colors of a shot so that it seems to have been shot at night instead of day.
• You need to adjust the exposure of an image to recover detail from the over-exposed highlights.
• You need to enhance one color in a shot because you will be compositing a graphic element over it with that color.
• You need to restrict colors to a particular range, such as the broadcast-safe range.

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The terms color correction and color grading are often used interchangeably, though the term color grading is sometimes
used to refer distinctly to color adjustments made for creative purposes rather to correct problems with color. The term
color correction is used in the broad, general sense in After Effects.
After Effects includes many built-in effects for color correction, including the Curves effect, the Levels effect, and other
effects in the Color Correction effects category. You can also use the Apply Color LUT effect to apply the color
mappings in a color lookup table for color correction purposes. (See Color Correction effectsand Apply Color LUT
effect.)
The Camera Raw plug-in can be used to correct and adjust still images in JPEG, TIFF, and various camera raw formats.
The Synthetic Aperture Color Finesse plug-in included with After Effects includes excellent color-correction tools.
After Effects CC and CS6 include Synthetic Aperture Color Finesse 3. (See Resources for Synthetic Aperture Color
Finesse.)

Additional resources for color correction and adjustment
This article on the Adobe website collects several video tutorials and other resources for color correction and color
grading in After Effects and Premiere Pro.
John Dickinson provides visual aids on his Motionworks website that illustrate how to use the Curves and Levels effects
for color adjustments:

• Curves effect diagram on Motionworks website
• Levels effect diagram on Motionworks website
This video from After Effects: Learn By Video series shows how to combine motion tracking and rotoscoping to isolate
and selectively color-correct an actor's face.
The Rebel CC animation preset is a simple, telecine-style color-correction tool for coloring or grading a movie. This
animation preset uses expressions to control the Levels (Individual Controls) effect. To learn more and download the
animation preset, see Stu Maschwitz's ProLost blog.
Stu Maschwitz provides a post on his ProLost blog that discusses color correcting for skin tones, with links to some
resources about test setups that show various skin tones on a vectorscope.
Mark Christiansen provides tips and detailed techniques for color correction, color adjustment, and color matching in
the “Color Correction in Adobe After Effects” chapter of After Effects Studio Techniques on the Peachpit Press website.
Rich Young collects tutorials and presets for bleach bypass, cross-process, and other looks in an article on the ProVideo
Coalition website.

Using histograms to adjust color
A histogram is a representation of the number of pixels at each luminance value in an image. A histogram that has
nonzero values for each luminance value indicates an image that takes advantage of the full tonal range. A histogram
that doesn’t use the full tonal range corresponds to a dull image that lacks contrast.
A common color-correction task is adjusting an image to spread out the pixel values more evenly from left to right on
the histogram, instead of having them bunched up at one end or the other. Applying the Levels effect and adjusting its
Input White and Input Black properties in the histogram is an easy and effective way to accomplish this task for many
images.

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Resources for Synthetic Aperture Color Finesse
The Synthetic Aperture Color Finesse plug-in included with After Effects includes excellent color-correction tools.
Synthetic Aperture provides tutorials and additional information about using Color Finesse on their website.
Color Finesse installs its documentation in the plug-in’s subfolder in the Plug-ins folder. After Effects CC and CS6
include Synthetic Aperture Color Finesse 3. (See Plug-ins.)

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Color models and color spaces
A color model is a way of describing color using numbers so that computers can operate on them. The color model used
within After Effects is the RGB color model, in which each color is described in terms of amounts of red, green, and
blue light added together to make the color. Other color models include CMYK, HSB, YUV, and XYZ.
A color space is a variant of a color model. A color space is distinguished by a gamut (range of colors), a set of primary
colors (primaries), a white point, and a tone response. For example, within the RGB color model are several color spaces,
including—in decreasing order of gamut size—ProPhoto RGB, Adobe RGB, sRGB IEC61966-2.1, and Apple RGB.
Although each of these color spaces defines color using the same three axes (R, G, and B), their gamuts and tone
response curves are different.
Though many devices use red, green, and blue components to record or express color, the components have different
characteristics—for example, blue for one camera is not exactly the same as blue for another camera. Each device that
records or expresses color has its own color space. When an image moves from one device to another, image colors may
look different because each device interprets the RGB values in its own color space.
Color management uses color profiles to convert colors from one color space to another, so colors look the same from
one device to another.

Gamma and tone response
The tone response for a color space is the relationship of light intensity to the signal that creates or records (perceives)
the light.
The human visual system does not respond linearly to light. In other words, our perception of how bright a light is does
not double when twice as many photons hit our eyes in a given time. Similarly, the display elements of a CRT monitor
do not emit light that is twice as bright when a voltage twice as great is applied. The relationship of light intensity to
signal intensity for a display device is expressed by a power function. The exponent of this power function is called
gamma. In general, the relationship of light intensity to signal intensity for an input device is the inverse of the
relationship for an output device, though the gamma values may differ for input and output devices to accommodate
the difference between scene lighting and lighting of the viewing environment.
Note: Moving the midtone slider (such as the Gamma control for the Levels effect) in a color-correction histogram has the
same result as modifying gamma, changing the tone response curve without moving the white point. Modifying the curve
in the Curves effect also modifies tone response, but not necessarily with a gamma curve.
Charles Poynton provides an excellent set of resources on his website regarding gamma and other color technology.

Linear tone response: when gamma equals 1
Raising any number to the power of 1 gives the original number as a result. A gamma of 1.0 is used to express the
behavior of light in the natural world, outside the context of our nonlinear perceptual systems. A system with gamma
of 1.0 is sometimes said to operate in linear light, whereas a system encoded with a gamma other than 1.0 to match the
human visual system is said to be perceptual.
If you have enabled color management (by specifying a working color space), you can perform all color operations in
linear light by linearizing the working color space. A linearized color space uses the same primaries and white point as
the nonlinear version; the tone response curve is just made into a straight line.
Many compositing operations, such as combining colors with blending modes, benefit from being performed in a linear
color space. For the most natural and realistic blending of colors, work in a linear color space. If you have not enabled
color management, you can still perform blending operations using a gamma of 1.0. (See Linearize working space and
enable linear blending.)

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System gamma, device gamma, and the difference between scene and viewing environment
The gamma value for an entire system—from capture, through production, to display in the viewing environment—is
the product of the gamma values used for each of the phases in the system. This product is not always 1.0, as it would
be if the operations performed for encoding exactly matched (inverted) the operations performed for decoding. One
reason for a system gamma other than 1.0 is that a difference often exists between the lighting conditions in which a
scene is captured and the lighting conditions in which it is viewed. (Consider that you usually watch a movie in a dim
environment, but the scenes aren’t normally shot in a dim environment.)
For example, the device gamma for an HD camera is approximately 1/1.9, and the device gamma for an HD display is
approximately 2.2. Multiplying these values gives a system gamma of approximately 1.15, which is appropriate for the
somewhat dim television viewing conditions of a typical living room. The system gamma for motion picture
production is much higher (approximately 1.5–2.5) to accommodate the darker viewing environment of a movie
theater. The gamma for the film negative is approximately 1/1.7, and the gamma for the projection film is approximately
3–4.
Color profiles are said to be scene-referred if their tone-response curves are based on the conditions in the typical scene.
Color profiles are said to be output-referred if their tone-response curves are based on the conditions in the typical
viewing environment.
By default when you use color management, After Effects automatically adjusts the contrast of images when converting
between scene-referred color profiles and output-referred color profiles. This automatic conversion (image state
adjustment) is based on the gamma values specified in the HDTV video standard.

• To disable this automatic color transformation, deselect Compensate For Scene-referred Profiles in the Project
Settings dialog box (File > Project Settings).
The Compensate For Scene-referred Profiles feature also exists in Adobe Photoshop CS4 and later, but this feature does
not exist in other applications. To match the colors in other applications—including After Effects CS3 and earlier—
disable this automatic conversion. When you open a project created in After Effects CS3 or earlier, the Compensate For
Scene-referred Profiles option is deselected.
Each instance of the Color Profile Converter effect can also be set to either compensate for scene-referred profiles, not
compensate for scene-referred profiles, or use the setting indicated by the project’s Compensate For Scene-referred
Profiles option. (See Color Profile Converter effect .)
For additional information about the compensation for scene-referred profiles, see this blog post by Todd Kopriva and
Peter Constable on the Adobe website.
Trish and Chris Meyer provide an article on the ProVideo Coalition website that adds some practical information
regarding scene-referred and display-referred color profiles.

QuickTime and gamma in non-color-managed projects
After Effects 7.0 and earlier used QuickTime codecs to decode several kinds of media, and the gamma adjustments
performed by QuickTime on Windows were different from the gamma adjustments performed on Mac OS. The gamma
adjustments performed by After Effects CS3 and later differ from the gamma adjustments performed by these
QuickTime codecs. Gamma adjustments performed by After Effects CS3 and later on Windows are the same as gamma
adjustments performed by After Effects CS3 and later on Mac OS. Also, by not using QuickTime codecs, After Effects
preserves over-range values in 32-bpc projects.
Select Match Legacy After Effects QuickTime Gamma Adjustments in the Project Settings dialog box to accomplish
any of the following:

• Avoid color shifts when working with projects created in After Effects 7.0 or earlier
• Match the colors in a project created in After Effects 7.0 or earlier

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• Ensure that colors in the Composition panel match colors in QuickTime player
The Match Legacy After Effects QuickTime Gamma Adjustments option is selected by default for projects created in
After Effects 7.0 or earlier. You should create new projects without this option selected.

More Help topics
Adjust exposure for previews
Exposure effect
Broadcast-safe colors
Color management

Color management
The After Effects color management video provides an introduction to color management explaining how it works and
how to use it.

Color management and color profiles

Overview of color management
Color information is communicated using numbers. Because different devices use different methods to record and
display color, the same numbers can be interpreted differently and appear to us as different colors. A color management
system keeps track of all of these different ways of interpreting color and translates between them so that images can
look the same regardless of the device used to display them.
In general, a color profile is a description of a device-specific color space in terms of the transformations required to
convert its color information to a device-independent color space.
In the specific case of working within After Effects, ICC color profiles are used to convert to and from the working color
space in the following general workflow:
1 An input color profile is used to convert each footage item from its color space into the working color space. A

footage item may contain an embedded input color profile, or you can assign the input color profile in the Interpret
Footage dialog box or interpretation rules file. (See Interpret a footage item by assigning an input color profile.)
2 After Effects performs all of its color operations in the working color space. You assign a working color space

(project working space) in the Project Settings dialog box. (See Choose a working color space and enable color
management.)
3 Colors are converted from the working color space to the color space of your computer monitor through the

monitor profile. This conversion ensures that your composition will look identical on two different monitors, if the
monitors have been properly profiled. This conversion does not change the data within the composition. You can
choose whether to convert colors for your monitor using the View > Use Display Color Management menu
command. (See Enable or disable display color management.)
4 Optionally, After Effects uses a simulation profile to show you on your computer monitor how the composition will

look in its final output form on a different device. You control output simulation for each view through the View >
Simulate Output menu. (See Simulate how colors will appear on a different output device.)

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5 An output color profile for each output module is used to convert the rendered composition from the working color

space to the color space of the output medium. You choose an output color profile in the Output Module Settings
dialog box. (See Assign an output color profile.)
By default when you use color management, After Effects automatically adjusts colors to compensate for the differences
in gamma between scene-referred color profiles and output-referred color profiles. (See Gamma and tone response.)
Note: An alternative approach to color management is to manually apply color transformations using color lookup tables
(LUTs). (See Apply Color LUT effect.)

Benefits of color management
Color management provides many benefits, including the following:

• The colors in imported images appear as the creators of the images intended.
• You have more control over how colors are blended within your project, for everything from motion blur to antialiasing.
• The movies that you create will look as you intend when viewed on devices other than your computer monitor.
If you don’t enable color management for your project, then the colors in your composition are dependent on the color
characteristics of your monitor: the colors that you see are the colors that your monitor displays based on RGB numbers
in your footage items. Because different color spaces use the same RGB numbers to represent different colors, the colors
that you see and composite may not be the colors that the creator of the footage intended. In fact, the colors may be
very far from the intended colors.
By setting a working color space for the project (which enables color management), you do two things:

• You define a common color space for compositing and other color operations.
• You control the appearance of colors in your composition.
If a footage item has an embedded color profile (for example, the footage item is a Photoshop PSD file), then the colors
intended by the person who created the image can be accurately reproduced in your composition. The color profile
contains the information that determines how to convert the RGB numbers in the image file into a device-independent
color space; the color profile of the monitor can then be used to determine which RGB numbers in the color space of
your monitor represent the colors intended for the footage item. This automatic conversion becomes even more
important as you import footage items with many different color profiles, from many different sources.
The color conversion process takes no effort on your part. The colors simply appear on your monitor just like they
appeared when the image was created. Your monitor may have a limited gamut compared to the color space that you
choose for the working space, and colors can be clipped when displayed on the monitor. However, you still have the full
range of color data in your project, and the colors are not clipped internally.
When you are ready to output your composition, you can use color management to transform your colors into the space
appropriate for your output media. At this stage, you are preserving the appearance of colors as you intend them to look.

Color profiles
The file format for color profiles is standardized by the ICC (International Color Consortium), and the files that contain
them usually end with the .icc filename extension. After Effects comes with a large number of color profiles for color
spaces for common (and some not so common) input and output types.
After Effects loads color profiles from multiple locations, including the following:

• Mac OS: Library/ColorSync/Profiles
• Mac OS: Library/Application Support/Adobe/Color/Profiles

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• Windows: WINDOWS\system32\spool\drivers\color
• Windows: Program Files\Common Files\Adobe\Color\Profiles
You can create a custom ICC profile using Adobe Photoshop. In Photoshop, choose Edit > Color Settings. The RGB and
CMYK menus in the Working Spaces area of the Photoshop Color Settings dialog box include options for saving and
loading ICC profiles and defining custom profiles.
All color profiles used in a project are saved in the project, so you do not need to manually transfer color profiles from
one system to another to open the project on another system.
Note: The NTSC (1953) color profile corresponds to obsolete television equipment and should not be used. For standarddefinition NTSC television, use one of the SDTV NTSC color profiles.
When you choose a profile—for input, output, or simulation—the motion-picture film profiles do not appear unless
your footage is Cineon footage or you select Show All Available profiles. If your footage is Cineon footage, only the
motion-picture film profiles appear, unless you select Show All Available Profiles.

Color management tips
Be sure to read the helpful text in the Interpret Footage, Project Settings, and Output Module Settings dialog boxes.
This text helps you to understand the color conversions that will be done as you interpret footage, composite, and
output rendered movies.
Make sure that your work environment provides a consistent light level and color temperature. For example, the color
characteristics of sunlight change throughout the day, which can alter the way colors appear on your screen, so keep
shades closed or work in a windowless room.

Online resources about color management
Trish and Chris Meyer provide an overview of color management in an article on the Artbeats website.
Johan Steen provides a detailed article on his website that explains color management in After Effects. The article also
describes how to calibrate and profile a monitor, how to use color management in Photoshop, and how to work in a
linear color space.
For information on color profiles, see the International Color Consortium website.

Calibrate and profile your monitor
When you calibrate your monitor, the profiling utility lets you save a color profile that describes the color behavior of
the monitor. This profile contains information about what colors can be reproduced on the monitor and how the color
values in an image must be converted so that colors are displayed accurately. After Effects and your operating system
can use this information to ensure that the colors that you see on your monitor look like the colors in the output movies
that you create.
Note: Monitor performance changes and declines over time; recalibrate and profile your monitor every month or so. If you
find it difficult or impossible to calibrate your monitor to a standard, it may be too old and faded.
1 Make sure that your monitor has been turned on for at least half an hour, giving it sufficient time to warm up and

produce more consistent output.
2 Make sure that your monitor is displaying millions of colors (24 bits per pixel) or higher.
3 If you do not have profiling software that uses a hardware measuring device, remove colorful background patterns

on your monitor desktop and set your desktop to display neutral grays. Busy patterns or bright colors surrounding
a document interfere with accurate color perception.

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4 Do one of the following to calibrate and profile your monitor:

• For best results, use third-party software and measuring devices. In general, using a measuring device such as a
colorimeter along with software can create more accurate profiles because an instrument can measure the colors
displayed on a monitor far more accurately than the human eye can.
Most profiling software automatically assigns the new profile as the default monitor profile. For instructions on
how to manually assign the monitor profile, see the documentation for your operating system.

• In Mac OS, use the Calibrate utility, located in the System Preferences > Displays > Color tab.

Choose a working color space and enable color management
You turn color management on for a project by choosing a working color space (Working Space) for the project in the
Project Settings dialog box. You control color management for each footage item with the Interpret Footage dialog box
or interpretation rules file. You control color management for each output item in the Output Module Settings dialog
box.
If Working Space is set to None in the Project Settings dialog box, color management is off for the project.
Choosing a working color space is an essential step in managing color in a project. Colors of footage items are converted
into the working color space as a common color space for compositing.
For best results, when working with 8-bpc color, match the working color space to the output color space. If you are
rendering to more than one output color space, you should set the project color depth to 16 bpc or 32 bpc, at least for
rendering for final output. The working color space should match the output color space that has the largest gamut. For
example, if you plan to output to Adobe RGB and sRGB, then use Adobe RGB as your working color space, because
Adobe RGB has a larger gamut and can therefore represent more saturated colors. To preserve over-range values, work
in 32-bpc color for its high dynamic range.
Suggestions for working color space choices:

• SDTV NTSC or SDTV PAL is a good choice if you’re making a movie for standard-definition broadcast television,
including standard-definition DVD.
• HDTV (Rec. 709) is a good choice if you’re making a movie for high-definition television. This color space uses the
same primaries as sRGB, but it has a larger gamut, so it makes a good working space for many kinds of work.
• ProPhoto RGB with a linear tone response curve (gamma of 1.0) is a good choice for digital cinema work.
• sRGB IEC61966-2.1 is a good choice if you’re making a movie for the Web, especially cartoons.
The color spaces available in After Effects vary based on the color profiles installed on your computer. (See Color
profiles.)
1 Choose File > Project Settings.
2 Choose a working color space from the Working Space menu.

Color management and Mercury Transmit
In earlier versions of After Effects, previews sent to an external video monitor were not color managed. The color values
sent to the video monitor are from the working color space for the project. To preview video colors, you have to choose
a value for Working Space in the Project Settings dialog box that matches the color space of the preview device.
Similarly, colors in a composition sent to Adobe Premiere Pro using Dynamic Link are in the working color space of
the After Effects project.
In the June 2014 release of After Effects CC, video previews sent to an external monitor using Mercury Transmit is color
managed. See the Preview on an external video monitorsection for details.

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To manage colors in a dynamically linked composition or for video previews, create a new composition and nest your
composition within it; then apply the Color Profile Converter effect to the nested composition, with Input Profile set to
Project Working Space. For video previews, then set Output Profile to match the color space of the video preview device.
(See Color Profile Converter effect .)

Color management and Dynamic Link
When color management is enabled for an After Effects project, compositions viewed over Dynamic Link are
transformed using the Rec. 709 color profile. This prevents color or gamma shifts in the appearance of these
compositions in Premiere Pro and Adobe Media Encoder.
Dynamic Link always assumes that all incoming frames are in Rec. 709. In After Effects CC June 2014 release and
earlier, compositions in a color managed project were sent to Dynamic Link in the project's working color space; they
were not adjusted for Dynamic Link's assumption of Rec. 709. This mismatch resulted in a noticeable color or gamma
shift when the project's working color space was significantly different from Rec. 709 or when Linearize Working Space
(under File > Project Settings) was enabled.
In the latest release of After Effects CC, a color transformation is applied to the composition as a last step before the
images are passed to Dynamic Link for use in Premiere Pro or Adobe Media Encoder. This corrects the composition
image to the color space used by Dynamic Link, similar to how the View > Enable Display Color Management option
in After Effects corrects the image for your monitor.

Linearize working space and enable linear blending
If you have enabled color management (by specifying a working color space), you can perform all color operations in
linear light by linearizing the working color space. A linearized color space uses the same primaries and white point as
the nonlinear version; the tone response curve for the linearized color space is just a straight line. (See Gamma and tone
response.)
If you have not enabled color management, you can still perform blending operations using a gamma of 1.0.
By performing operations in a linear color space, you can prevent certain edge and halo artifacts, such as the fringing
that appears when high-contrast, saturated colors are blended together. Many color operations benefit from working in
a linear color space, including those operations involved in image resampling, blending between layers with blending
modes, motion blur, and anti-aliasing.
If you want to use a linearized working color space, do so when you set up the project, instead of switching later.
Otherwise, colors chosen in the color picker will change when you switch to a linear working color space, because
colors inside After Effects are interpreted to be in the working color space.
Note: A linearized working color space works best with higher color depths—16 bpc and 32 bpc—and is not recommended
for 8-bpc color.
❖ Choose File > Project Settings, and do one of the following:

• To linearize the working color space, choose Linearize Working Space.
• To blend colors in a linear color space, choose Blend Colors Using 1.0 Gamma. This option affects only blending
between layers. The result is that opacity fades, motion blur, and other features that rely on blending modes are
affected.

Additional resources about linear color spaces and linear blending
Stu Maschwitz’s ProLost blog has several posts that are useful for learning about how, when, and why to work in a linear
color space versus a non-linear color space. In this post, Stu summarizes the reasons and techniques for working in a
linear color space and using linear blending.

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On the ProVideo Coalition website, Mark Christiansen provides some examples of the results of enabling linear
blending, as well as explaining a little more what linear blending means.

Interpret a footage item by assigning an input color profile
You control color management for each footage item using the Interpret Footage dialog box.
The input color profile determines what calculations are performed when converting the colors of a footage item into
the working color space for the project. If a working space has not been set—that is, if color management is not on for
the project—then you cannot assign an input color profile.
In some cases, files that you import have ICC profiles embedded in them. When you import these files, you can be
confident that the colors that you see are as the producer of the footage originally intended. After Effects can read and
write embedded color profiles for Photoshop (PSD), TIFF, PNG, and JPEG files.
If a footage item does not have an embedded color profile, you can assign an input color profile using the Interpret
Footage dialog box or by adding or modifying a rule in the interpretation rules file (interpretation rules.txt). After
Effects interprets the footage item as if the source footage was created using this color profile, so be certain to assign a
profile that matches (or at least approximates) that used to create the source footage.
Note: If a source footage item was created by an application that doesn’t use color management—such as a movie rendered
from a 3D application—the input color profile is essentially the monitor profile of the system on which the image was
designed and created.
1 Select a footage item in the Project panel.
2 Choose File > Interpret Footage > Main.
3 In the Color Management tab of the Interpret Footage dialog box, choose a value from the Assign Profile menu.

If you don’t see the profile that you want in the Assign Profile menu, select Show All Available Profiles.
4 Read the information in the Description area of the dialog box to confirm that the conversion is the one that you

want, and click OK.
Non-RGB footage items (such as CMYK, Y'CbCr, and camera raw images) cannot be assigned an input profile. Their
native color space is displayed in the Interpret Footage dialog box. Conversion of non-RGB color values to RGB color
values is handled automatically for each format.
If you don’t assign an input color profile, and After Effects doesn’t have a rule in the interpretation rules file with which
to make an interpretation, the colors of the footage item are assumed to be in the working color space of the project.
When color management is enabled, the input color profile for a footage item is shown in the information area at the
top of the Project panel.
The Interpret As Linear Light option determines whether the assigned input color profile is interpreted as being linear
(gamma equals 1.0). This option also works when color management is turned off for the project. (See Gamma and
tone response.)
You can prevent the conversion of colors into the working color space for a single footage item by selecting Preserve
RGB in the Color Management tab of the Interpret Footage dialog box. This option preserves RGB numbers; color
appearance is not preserved. Turning off color management for a specific footage item is useful when the footage item
is not intended for visual display, but is instead intended for use as a control layer—for example, a displacement map.

Assign an output color profile
You control color management for each output item using the Output Module Settings dialog box.

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Note: When you export to SWF format, you use the Export menu, not the Render Queue panel, so the output module
settings are not available for this output type. If color management is enabled for the project, After Effects automatically
converts colors from the working color space of the project to the sRGB IEC61966-2.1 color space when exporting to SWF.
The output color profile for a render item determines what calculations are performed when converting the colors of a
rendered composition from the working color space of the project to the color space for the output medium. If a project
working space has not been set—that is, if color management is not on for the project—then you cannot assign an
output color profile.
For example, after creating a movie in an HDTV (Rec. 709) working color space for output to film, you likely want to
output to a log-encoded Cineon/DPX color space using a film output color profile. If, on the other hand, you’re creating
a movie for high-definition television, you should choose an HDTV (Rec. 709) output profile.
The output color profile for a render item is part of an output module and is displayed in the output module group in
the Render Queue panel. You can assign multiple output modules to one render item, each with its own output color
profile, allowing you to create output movies for various media from one rendered movie.
The Convert To Linear Light option determines whether the colors are output to a linear color profile (gamma equals
1.0). It is seldom a good idea to output to linear light for 8-bpc or 16-bpc color, so the default setting for Convert To
Linear Light is On For 32 bpc. (See Gamma and tone response.)
Some file formats—such as Photoshop (PSD), PNG, TIFF, and JPEG—allow for the embedding of a color profile. If you
embed a color profile in an output file, then you can be more certain that programs that use the file will correctly
interpret its color information.
After Effects chooses a rendering intent based on the output color profile that you choose. For most output types, the
rendering intent is relative colorimetric (with black point compensation); for output to film negative, the rendering
intent is absolute colorimetric.
You can prevent the conversion of colors from the working color space for a single output item by selecting Preserve
RGB in the Color Management tab of the Output Module Settings dialog box. This option preserves RGB numbers;
color appearance is not preserved. Turning off color management for a specific footage item is useful when the footage
item is not intended for visual display, but is instead intended for use as a control layer—for example, a displacement
map.
1 Click the underlined text next to the Output Module heading for the render item in the Render Queue panel.
2 In the Color Management tab of the Output Module Settings dialog box, choose a value from the Output Profile

menu:
sRGB IEC61966-2.1 For display in web browsers and other web-based environments.
SDTV NTSC or SDTV PAL For display on standard-definition television. If the codec that you are using does not

adjust luma levels, choose a 16-235 profile to compress luma levels.
Kodak 5218/7218 Printing Density For film-out corresponding to the scene capture of Kodak 5218 camera negative

film.
If you don’t see the profile that you want in the Output Profile menu, select Show All Available Profiles. This option
shows the motion-picture film color profiles.
3 Read the information in the Description area of the dialog box to confirm that the conversion is the one that you

want, and click OK.

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Enable or disable display color management
When color management is on, the default behavior is for RGB pixel values to be converted to the color space of your
computer monitor from the working color space for the project. Color appearance is preserved; RGB numbers are not
preserved. This behavior is adequate for most uses, but you sometimes need to see how the colors are actually going to
look when viewed through a system that does not use color management. For example, you may need to see how the
colors will appear when viewed in a web browser.
When display color management is off, the RGB color values are sent directly to your monitor, without any conversion
through the monitor profile. RGB numbers are preserved; color appearance is not preserved.
When display color management is on for a viewer, a yellow plus sign appears in the Show Channel And Color
button at the bottom of the viewer.
Management Settings
For each viewer (Composition, Layer, or Footage panel), you can choose whether to manage display colors, which
involves the conversion of colors from the working color space to the color space of the monitor.
1 Activate a Composition, Layer, or Footage panel.
2 Do one of the following to toggle between enabling and disabling display color management:

• Click the Show Channel And Color Management Settings
Display Color Management.

button at the bottom of the viewer, and choose Use

• Choose View > Use Display Color Management.
• Press Shift+/ (on the numeric keypad).
Output simulation settings (including No Output Simulation) are remembered.

Simulate how colors will appear on a different output device
Often, you need to preview how a movie will appear on a device other than your computer monitor. One purpose of
color management is to ensure that colors look the same on every device, but color management in After Effects can’t
overcome scenarios like the following:

• An output device for which you’re creating your movie has a smaller gamut than the working color space of your
project, so the device is unable to represent some colors.
• The colors in your movie are displayed by a device or software that does not use color management to convert colors.
For example, when you are creating a movie using a computer monitor and a high-definition video monitor, you may
need to see how the movie will look when transferred to a specific film stock and projected under standard theater
viewing conditions.
In such situations, you’ll want to preview how colors will appear when they’re displayed on a device other than your
computer monitor. Output simulation requires display color management.
During output simulation, colors are converted from the working color space for the project to the color space of the
monitor through the following flow:
1. Colors are converted from working color space for the project to output color space. Colors are converted from the

working color space to the color space of the output type using the output color profile (the same profile that will be
used for rendering to final output).
2. Colors are converted from output color space to color space of simulated playback device. If Preserve RGB is not
selected, colors are converted from the output color space to the color space of the presentation medium using the
simulation profile. This setting presumes that the simulated device also performs color management and will convert
colors for display. Color appearance is preserved; RGB numbers are not preserved.

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If Preserve RGB is selected, the color values are not converted in this step. Instead, the numeric RGB color values are
preserved and are re-interpreted to be in the color space of the simulated device. One use of this simulation is to see
how a movie will look when played back on a device other than the one for which it was intended or a device that does
not perform color management.
Note: Use Preserve RGB when simulating the combination of a capture film stock and a print film stock.
3. Colors are converted from color space of simulated playback device to color space of your monitor. Colors are

converted from the presentation device color space to the color space of your computer monitor using the monitor
profile.
When you create an output simulation preset, you can choose a profile to use for each of these steps.
Even if you’re using a preset output simulation, you can choose the Custom option in the View > Simulate Output menu
after selecting the preset to see a representation of which color conversions and reinterpretations are occurring for that
simulation type.
Output simulation applies only to a specific viewer (Composition, Layer, or Footage panel) and works only for
previews. Color conversions for output simulation are performed when values are sent to the display. Actual color
numbers in the project are not changed.
As with all color space conversions, simulating output decreases performance somewhat, so you may not want to
simulate output when performing tasks that require real-time interaction.
Note: Merely applying the correct profiles can’t compensate for different color gamuts for different devices. For example,
common LCD monitors for personal computers do not have the gamut necessary to fully simulate HDTV output.
You can press Shift+/ (on the numeric keypad) to turn display color management on or off. Turning display color
management off also turns off output simulation. Simulation settings (including No Output Simulation) are
remembered when display color management is off.

Simulate output for previews
1 Activate a Composition, Layer, or Footage panel.
2 Choose View > Simulate Output, and choose an output type to simulate.

Note: Output simulation relies on display color management, which is on by default. If display color management is off,
choose View > Use Display Color Management.
No Output Simulation Display color management is on, but no conversion is performed to simulate an output type.
Legacy Macintosh RGB (Gamma 1.8) Show how colors will appear when displayed by a non–color managed

application on a Macintosh computer with a gamma of 1.8—the value used by Mac OS before Mac OS X 10.6. This
option is not available if Linearize Working Space is selected.
Internet Standard RGB (sRGB) Show how colors will appear when displayed by a non–color managed application
with a gamma of 2.2. This option is not available if Linearize Working Space is selected.
Kodak 5218 To Kodak 2383 Show how colors will appear when output to the Kodak 5218 negative film stock and
then projected from Kodak 2383 positive film stock in a theater environment.

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Note: The DPX Theater Preview and DPX Standard Camera profiles provided by After Effects 7.0 for use with the Proof
Colors command have been replaced by the Kodak 2383 and Kodak 5218 profiles used with the Simulate Output
command.
Custom If you don’t see an entry for the output type that you want to simulate, you can create your own output

simulation preset by choosing Custom. You can specify a profile to use for each of the conversion or reinterpretation
steps.

• To preview how a movie will look if you output the movie to a device and view it on that device, use the same
value for Output Profile and Simulation Profile.
• To preview how a movie will look if you output the movie to one device and then view it on another, colormanaged device, use different values for Output Profile and Simulation Profile, and deselect Preserve RGB.
• To preview how a movie will look if you output the movie to one device and view it on another device, use
different values for Output Profile and Simulation Profile, and select Preserve RGB.
You can choose an output simulation preset for each view. Custom output simulation settings are shared between all
views.
To toggle between no output simulation and the most recently used output simulation, click the Show Channel And
Color Management Settings
button at the bottom of the viewer and choose Simulate Output.

Simulate an output type in a movie rendered for final output
Color management for output simulation is only for previews, but you can render a movie with a look that simulates a
particular output type. For example, you can render a movie for HDTV that simulates a film appearance, which is
especially useful for creating dailies when doing film work.
1 Choose Layer > New > Adjustment Layer to create a new adjustment layer at the top of your composition.
2 Choose Effect > Utility > Color Profile Converter to apply the Color Profile Converter to the adjustment layer.
3 Choose Edit > Duplicate to duplicate the effect.
4 In the Effect Controls panel, set the following options for the first instance of the effect:
Input Profile Project Working Space
Output Profile The type of output to simulate; for example, a film printing density profile, such as Kodak 5218/7218
Printing Density
Intent Absolute Colorimetric

5 In the Effect Controls panel, set the following options for the second instance of the effect:
Input Profile The type of playback to simulate; for example, a theater preview profile
Output Profile The color space of the output medium; for example HDTV (Rec. 709)
Intent Relative Colorimetric

To enable and disable this type of output simulation, you can turn the adjustment layer on and off by selecting and
deselecting its Video switch in the Timeline panel.

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Broadcast-safe colors
Analog video signal amplitude is expressed in IRE units (or volts in PAL video). Values between 7.5 and 100 IRE units
are considered broadcast-safe; colors in this range do not cause undesired artifacts such as audio noise and color
smearing. (In practice, some spikes over 100 IRE are legal, but for simplicity 100 IRE is considered the legal maximum
here.) This range of 7.5-100 IRE is equivalent to a range from black to white of 64-940 in 10-bpc values for Y' in Y'CbCr,
which corresponds to 16-235 in 8-bpc values. Therefore, many common video devices and software systems interpret
16 as black and 235 as white, instead of 0 and 255. These numbers don’t directly correspond to RGB values.
If you notice that colors of imported footage look wrong—blacks don’t look black enough, and whites don’t look white
enough—make sure that you’ve assigned the correct input color profile. The common video color profiles included
with After Effects include variants that account for these limited ranges, such as the HDTV (Rec. 709) 16-235 color
profile, which interprets 16 as black and 235 as white.
Note: Some video cards and encoders assume that output is in the range 0-255, so limiting colors in your composition and
rendered movie may be redundant and lead to an undesired compression of the color range. If colors of your output movie
look dull, try assigning an output color profile that uses the full range of colors.
If colors look washed out, apply the Levels effect and look at the histogram to see if the lowest and highest color values
are at or near 16 and 235. If so, then this footage should be interpreted using one of the 16-235 input color profiles.
You can use the Broadcast Colors effect to reduce luminance or saturation to a safe level, but the best way to limit output
colors to the broadcast-safe range is to create your composition to not use colors out of this range. (See Broadcast Colors
effect.)
Keep in mind the following guidelines:

• Avoid pure black and pure white values.
• Avoid using highly saturated colors.
• Render a test movie and play it on a video monitor to ensure that colors are represented accurately.
Rather than using the Broadcast Colors effect to reduce the luminance or saturation of colors, you can use this effect
with the Key Out Unsafe or Key Out Safe option. Apply the effect to an adjustment layer at the top of the layer stack to
show which parts of the image are outside the broadcast-safe range.
The Color Finesse plug-in included with After Effects includes excellent tools that can help you keep your colors within
the broadcast-safe range. For more information, see the Color Finesse documentation in the folder containing the
Color Finesse plug-in. (See Color correction, color grading, and color adjustment.)
Note: After Effects 7.0 had an Expand ITU-R 601 Luma Levels option in the Interpret Footage dialog box. When opened
in After Effects CS3 or later, footage items in projects created with this option are assigned a corresponding profile.
Trish and Chris Meyer provide details about broadcast-safe colors in an article on the ProVideo Coalition website.

More Help topics
Interpret footage items
Output modules and output module settings
Color models and color spaces
Color depth and high dynamic range color
Blending modes and layer styles

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Interpret footage items
Output modules and output module settings
Render and export a movie using the render queue
Viewers
Previewing

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Chapter 9: Drawing, painting, and paths

Paint tools: Brush, Clone Stamp, and Eraser
Paint tools and paint strokes
The Brush tool
, Clone Stamp tool
, and Eraser tool
are all paint tools. You use each in the Layer panel to
apply paint strokes to a layer. Each paint tool applies brush marks that modify the color or transparency of an area of a
layer without modifying the layer source.
Each paint stroke has its own duration bar, Stroke Options properties, and Transform properties, which you can see
and modify in the Timeline panel. Each paint stroke is, by default, named for the tool that created it, with a number that
indicates the order in which it was drawn.
At any time after you draw a paint stroke, you can modify and animate each of its properties using the same techniques
that you use to modify the properties and duration of a layer. You can copy paint stroke path properties to and from
properties for mask paths, shape layer paths, and motion paths. For even more power and flexibility, you can link these
properties using expressions. (See Creating shapes and masks and Add, edit, and remove expressions.)
Note: To specify settings for a paint stroke before you apply it, use the Paint and Brushes panels. To change and animate
properties for a paint stroke after you’ve applied it, work with properties of the stroke in the Timeline panel.
Individual brush marks are distributed along each paint stroke—though the marks may appear to merge together to
form a continuous stroke with the default settings. Brush settings for each brush in the Brushes panel determine the
shape, spacing, and other properties of brush marks; you can also modify these Stroke Options properties for each
stroke in the Timeline panel.
In After Effects, paint strokes are vector objects, which means that they can be scaled up without loss of quality. Paint
strokes in some applications, such as Photoshop, are raster objects. (See About vector graphics and raster images.)
Groups of paint strokes appear in the Timeline panel as instances of the Paint effect. Each instance of the Paint effect
has a Paint On Transparent option. If you select this option, the layer source image and all effects that precede this
instance of the Paint effect in the effect stacking order are ignored; the paint strokes are applied on a transparent layer.
For some painting, drawing, cloning, and retouching tasks, you may want to take advantage of the sophisticated paint
tools provided by Adobe Photoshop. See Working with Photoshop and After Effects.
Note: The Roto Brush tool shares some features with the paint tools, and you can work with Roto Brush strokes in many of
the same ways as paint strokes. For information about the Roto Brush tool and Roto Brush strokes, see Roto Brush strokes,
spans, and base frames .
Chris and Trish Meyer give tips for using After Effects paint tools, including the Clone Stamp tool, in an article on the
ProVideo Coalition website.

Common operations for paint tools and strokes
• To show paint strokes on selected layers in the Timeline panel, press PP.

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• To select paint strokes in the Layer panel, use the Selection tool to click a paint stroke or drag a box around portions
of multiple paint strokes.
To momentarily activate the Selection tool, press and hold V.

• To show only selected paint strokes in the Timeline panel, select paint strokes and press SS.
• To rename a paint stroke, select the paint stroke in the Timeline panel and press Enter on the main keyboard
(Windows) or Return (Mac OS); or right-click (Windows) or Control-click (Mac OS) the name and choose Rename.
• To reorder paint strokes within an instance of the Paint effect, drag a Paint stroke to a new location in the stacking
order in the Timeline panel.
• To reorder an instance of the Paint effect to interleave it with other effects, drag the effect to a new location in the
stacking order in the Timeline panel.
• To target a specific instance of the Paint effect for the addition of new paint strokes, choose from the View menu at
the bottom of the Layer panel.
• To hide a paint stroke from view (and from rendered output), deselect the Video switch

for the paint stroke.

• To open or close the Paint panel and Brushes panel when a paint tool is selected, click the Toggle The Paint Panels
.
button

Common paint tool settings in the Paint panel
To use the Paint panel, first select a paint tool from the Tools panel.
Opacity For Brush and Clone strokes, the maximum amount of paint applied. For Eraser strokes, the maximum
amount of paint and layer color removed.
Flow For Brush and Clone strokes, how quickly paint is applied. For Eraser strokes, how quickly paint and layer color
are removed.
Mode How pixels in the underlying image are blended with the pixels painted on by the Brush or Clone stroke. (See

Blending mode reference.)
Channels Which channels of the layer the Brush stroke or Clone stroke affect. When you choose Alpha, the stroke only

affects opacity, so swatches are grayscale. Painting the alpha channel with pure black has the same result as using the
Eraser tool.
Duration The duration of the paint stroke. Constant applies the stroke from the current frame to the end of the
duration of the layer. Single Frame applies the stroke to the current frame only. Custom applies the stroke to the
specified number of frames, beginning with the current frame. Write On applies the stroke from the current frame to
the end of the duration of the layer and animates the End property of the stroke to match the motion with which the
stroke was drawn..

When you have a paint tool active, you can press 1 or 2 (on the main keyboard) to move the current-time indicator
forward or backward the number of frames specified by the Duration setting in the Paint panel.

Brushes and the Brushes panel
To use the Brushes panel, first select a paint tool from the Tools panel.

Choose a brush gallery display mode
❖ Choose a display mode from the Brushes panel menu: Text Only, Small Thumbnail, Large Thumbnail, Small List,

or Large List.

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Create and manage preset brushes
• To create a new preset brush, specify the desired settings in the Brushes panel, and then choose New Brush from the
Brushes panel menu or click the Save Current Settings As New Brush button .
• To rename a preset brush, select the brush and choose Rename Brush from the panel menu.
• To delete a preset brush, choose Delete Brush from the panel menu or click the Delete Brush button

.

• To restore the default set of preset brushes, choose Reset Brush Tips from the Brushes panel menu. To retain the
custom brushes you created, click Append when the dialog box prompts you to replace current brushes with the
default brushes.
Note: Preset brushes are saved in the preferences file, so they persist between projects.

Brush properties
Ctrl-drag (Windows) or Command-drag (Mac OS) the brush in the Layer panel to adjust Diameter; release the key and
continue to drag to adjust Hardness.
Diameter Controls the size of the brush.

Angle The angle by which the long axis of an elliptical brush is rotated from horizontal.

note: Brush angles can be expressed in both positive and negative values. For example, a brush with a 45º angle is equivalent
to a brush with a -135º angle.

Roundness The ratio between the short and long axes of a brush. A value of 100% indicates a circular brush, a value of
0% indicates a linear brush, and intermediate values indicate elliptical brushes.

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Hardness Controls the transition of a brush stroke from 100% opaque at the center to 100% transparent at the edges.

Even with high Hardness settings, only the center is fully opaque.

Spacing The distance between the brush marks in a stroke, measured as a percentage of the brush diameter. When this

option is deselected, the speed at which you drag to create the stroke determines the spacing.

Brush Dynamics These settings determine how the features of a pressure-sensitive digitizing tablet—such as a Wacom
pen tablet—control and affect brush marks. For each brush, you can choose Pen Pressure, Pen Tilt, or Stylus Wheel for
Size, Angle, Roundness, Opacity, and Flow to indicate what features of the pen tablet you would like to use to control
brush marks. For example, you can vary the thickness of brush marks by setting Size to Pen Pressure and pressing more
firmly when drawing some portions of the stroke. If Size is not set to Off, Minimum Size specifies the size of the
thinnest brush mark.

Paint with the Brush tool
Use the Brush tool to paint on a layer in the Layer panel with the current foreground color.
Note: To specify settings for a paint stroke before you apply it, use the Paint and Brushes panels. To change and animate
properties for a paint stroke after you’ve applied it, work with the properties of the stroke in the Timeline panel.

Select a color for the Brush tool
Do any of the following with the Brush tool active:

• To select a foreground color with the Color Picker, click the Set Foreground Color button

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• To select a foreground color from anywhere on the screen with the eyedropper, select the eyedropper
in the
Paint panel and then click to sample the color under the pointer. Ctrl-click (Windows) or Command-click (Mac OS)
to sample the average color of a 3-pixel by 3-pixel square.
You can quickly activate the eyedropper for use within the Layer panel by pressing Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS)
when the pointer is in the Layer panel.

• To switch the foreground color with the background color, press X or click the Switch Foreground And Background
Colors button .
• To reset the foreground color and background color to black and white, press D.
Note: To change or animate the color of a brush stroke after painting, use the Color property in the Stroke Options group
in the Timeline panel.

Paint with the Brush tool
1 Select the Brush tool

.

2 Choose settings and a brush in the Paint panel and Brushes panel.
3 In the Layer panel, drag with the Brush tool to paint on the layer.

Each time you release the mouse button, you stop drawing a stroke. When you drag again, you create a new stroke.
Shift-drag to resume drawing the previous stroke.

Paint on individual frames with the Brush tool
You can paint on individual frames over a series of frames to create an animation or to obscure unwanted details in your
footage.
If your output will be interlaced, double the frame rate of your composition before painting on individual frames. (See
Frame rate.)
1 Select the Brush tool.
2 In the Paint panel, choose Custom from the Duration menu, and specify the duration in frames. To paint on each

frame, set the Duration value to 1. Set other options in the Paint panel and Brushes panel as desired.
3 In the Layer panel, drag with the Brush tool to paint on the layer.

Each time you release the mouse button, you stop drawing a stroke. When you drag again, you create a new stroke.
Shift-drag to resume drawing the previous stroke.
4 Press 2 on the main keyboard to advance the number of frames specified by the Custom duration setting, and then

repeat the previous step.
Note: To move back the Custom number of frames, press 1 on the main keyboard.
If you use a pen tablet, map the keyboard shortcuts to the buttons on your pen to work more efficiently. See the
documentation for your pen tablet for instructions.

Clone Stamp tool
You can use the Clone Stamp tool to copy pixel values from one place and time and apply them at another place and
time. For example, you can use the Clone Stamp tool to remove wires by copying from a clear patch of sky, or you can
create a herd of cows from one cow in the source footage and offset the copies in time.

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The Clone Stamp tool samples the pixels from a source layer and applies the sampled pixel values to a target layer; the
target layer can be the same layer or a different layer in the same composition. If the source layer and target layer are
the same, the Clone Stamp tool samples paint strokes and effects in the source layer, in addition to the layer source
image.
This video from the After Effects: Learn By Video series shows how to combine motion tracking and the Clone Stamp
tool to remove an object from a scene.
Angie Taylor provides a tutorial on the Digital Arts website that shows how to use tracking data and the Clone Stamp
tool to apply copies of an object in a scene while matching a camera move.
Eran Stern provides a video tutorial on the Creative COW website that shows how to use the Clone Stamp tool to create
copies of an object and offset them from one another in space and time.

Use the Clone Stamp tool
As with all paint tools, you use the Clone Stamp tool in the Layer panel.
If the source layer and target layer are different layers, open each layer in a different viewer. Press Ctrl+Alt+Shift+N
(Windows) or Command+Option+Shift+N (Mac OS) to split and lock the current viewer.
You can identify what result a stroke will have before you make it by using the clone source overlay, a semi-transparent
image of the source layer.

A Clone source overlay B Current stroke point C Current sample point

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Note: To specify settings for a paint stroke before you apply it, use the Paint and Brushes panels. To change and animate
properties for a paint stroke after you’ve applied it, work with the properties of the stroke in the Timeline panel.
Select Aligned in the Paint panel to make the position of the sample point (Clone Position) change for subsequent
strokes to match the movement of the Clone Stamp tool in the target Layer panel. In other words, with the Aligned
option selected, you can use multiple strokes to paint on one copy of the sampled pixels. In contrast, deselecting the
Aligned option causes the sample point to stay the same between strokes, meaning that you begin painting on pixels
from the original sample point each time you drag again to create a new clone stroke.
For example, select Aligned to use multiple clone strokes to copy one whole cow—which would be difficult to do in one
continuous stroke—and deselect Aligned to copy one flower into dozens of places in the target layer to make a field of
flowers, using one clone stroke per copy.
Select Lock Source Time to clone a single source frame (at composition time Source Time); deselect Lock Source Time
to clone subsequent frames, with a time offset (Source Time Shift) between the source frame and the target frame. The
clone source time automatically loops back to the starting sample point when the current sampling point goes beyond
the end of the duration of the source layer. This looping is especially helpful when you have a lot of frames to repair in
the target layer but only a few good frames in the source layer.
1 Open a composition that contains both the source layer and the target layer.
2 Open the source layer in a Layer panel and move the current-time indicator to the frame from which to begin

sampling.
Note: You can manually manipulate the time and coordinates from which sampling begins by modifying the Offset,
Source Time Shift, Source Position, or Source Time values in the Paint panel. You can reset them to zero with the Reset
button.
3 Alt-click (Windows) or Option-click (Mac OS) with the Clone Stamp tool on the source layer in the Layer panel to

set the sampling point.
4 Open the target layer in a Layer panel and move the current-time indicator to the frame at which to begin painting

the clone stroke.
5 Drag in the target layer to paint on cloned pixel values from the source layer. To help you identify what the Clone

Stamp tool is sampling as you apply clone strokes, a crosshair identifies the point being sampled.
Each time you release the mouse button, you stop drawing a stroke. When you drag again, you create a new stroke.
Shift-drag to resume drawing the previous stroke.
Click the Difference Mode button
next to the Clone Source Overlay option in the Paint panel or modify the
opacity of the overlay to help you better line up elements and see the results of your clone strokes. To temporarily
show the clone source overlay, press Alt+Shift (Windows) or Option+Shift (Mac OS). Alt+Shift-drag (Windows) or
Option+Shift-drag (Mac OS) to change the position of the source layer.
Each clone stroke includes properties in the Timeline panel that are unique to the Clone Stamp tool and correspond to
settings made in the Paint panel before the clone stroke is created:
Clone Source The sampled layer.
Clone Position The (x, y) location of the sample point within the source layer.
Clone Time The composition time at which the source layer is sampled. This property appears only when Lock Source
Time is selected.
Clone Time Shift The time offset between the sampled frame and the target frame. This property appears only when
Lock Source Time is not selected.

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After clone strokes have been created, their properties in the Timeline panel can be modified and animated. For
example, you can clone a bird flying across the screen by cloning it in one frame, tracking the motion of the bird, and
then linking the Clone Position property to the Attach Point property of tracker with an expression.
You can set a blending mode for clone strokes, just as for other paint strokes. For example, consider using the Darken
blending mode to remove light-colored scratches, and using the Lighten blending mode to remove dark-colored
blemishes and dust.

Work with clone presets
Use clone presets to save and reuse clone source settings: Source Layer, Aligned, Lock Source Time, Source Time Shift,
Offset, and Source Position values. Clone presets are saved in the preferences file, so they can be reused in other
projects. To work with clone presets, first select the Clone Stamp tool.

• To select a clone preset, press 3, 4, 5, 6, or 7 on the main keyboard, or click a Clone Preset button
panel.

in the Paint

• To modify a clone preset, select it and adjust the Clone Options settings as desired.
• To copy the settings from one clone preset to another, select the clone preset from which to copy, and Alt-click
(Windows) or Option-click (Mac OS) the Clone Preset button for the clone preset to which you want to paste the
settings.

Eraser tool
If you use the Eraser tool in Layer Source & Paint or Paint Only mode, it creates Eraser strokes that can be modified
and animated. In contrast, using the Eraser tool in Last Stroke Only mode only affects the last paint stroke drawn and
does not create an Eraser stroke.
To temporarily use the Eraser tool in Last Stroke Only mode, Ctrl+Shift-drag (Windows) or Command+Shift-drag
(Mac OS).
1 Select the Eraser tool from the Tools panel.
2 Choose settings in the Paint panel.
3 Select a brush in the Brushes panel, and set brush options.
4 Drag through the area you want to erase in the Layer panel.

Each time you release the mouse button, you stop drawing a stroke. When you drag again, you create a new stroke.
Shift-drag to resume drawing the previous stroke.
Note: If you use a pen tablet, pressing the eraser side of the pen to the tablet temporarily activates the Eraser tool.

Animate and edit paint strokes
You animate a paint stroke by setting keyframes or expressions for its properties. After Effects animates paint stroke
properties—even the Path property of a paint stroke—by interpolating values for all frames between keyframes.
By modifying and animating the Start and End properties of a paint stroke, you can control how much of a stroke is
shown at any time. For example, by automatically animating the End property from 0% to 100% with the Write On
setting, you can make a paint stroke appear to be drawn on over time.
As with all properties, you can link paint stroke properties to other properties using expressions. For example, you can
make a paint stroke follow a moving element in your footage by tracking the moving element and then linking the
Position property of the paint stroke to the Attach Point property of the tracker.

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Rotoscoping is a special case of painting or drawing on individual frames in which some item in the frame is being
traced. Often, rotoscoping refers to drawing animated masks rather than paint strokes. (See Rotoscoping introduction
and resources.)
Scott Squires provides a pair of movies on his Effects Corner website that show how to rotoscope, both painting and
masking:

• Rotoscoping - Part 1
• Rotoscoping - Part 2
Eran Stern provides a video tutorial on the Creative COW website that shows how to animate a set of paint strokes to
interpolate between several hand-drawn pictures so that each morphs into the next.

Animate a paint stroke by sketching with Write On
If you choose Write On from the Duration menu in the Paint panel, the End property is automatically animated to
match the motion that you used to draw the stroke.
Note: After Effects also includes a Write-on effect. (See Write-on effect.)
1 Select a paint tool in the Tools panel.
2 In the Paint panel, choose Write On from the Duration menu.
3 Drag in the Layer panel to apply a paint stroke to the layer.

As you paint, your movements are recorded in real time and determine the rate at which the resulting stroke is
drawn to the screen for output. Recording begins when you click within the layer in Layer panel. When you release
the mouse button, the current time returns to the time at which you started painting; this behavior is so that you can
record more paint strokes for animated playback starting from the same time.
You can animate the Trim Paths operation on a shape path to accomplish a similar result as animating a paint stroke
with Write On. (See Alter shapes with path operations.)

Animate a paint stroke path
1 Select a paint tool in the Tools panel.
2 In the Paint panel, choose Single Frame, Constant, or Custom from the Duration menu.
3 In the Layer panel, drag to create a paint stroke.
4 Using the Selection tool, select the paint stroke.

To momentarily activate the Selection tool, press and hold V.
5 Press SS to show the selected paint stroke in the Timeline panel.
6 Click the triangle next to the paint stroke name to expand its list of properties.
7 Click the stopwatch for the Path property to create an initial Path keyframe.
8 Drag the current-time indicator to another time.
9 While the stroke is still selected, drag in the Layer panel using a paint tool to create a paint stroke. A second Path

keyframe appears in the Timeline panel.
By creating a stroke while a stroke is selected, you replace the selected stroke, which is sometimes referred to as
stroke targeting.

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If you are not satisfied with the way that the path is interpolated, consider creating your path as a mask, using Smart
Mask Interpolation to fine-tune the interpolation, and then copying the Mask Path property keyframes to the paint
stroke Path property. (See Animate a mask path with Smart Mask Interpolation.)

More Help topics
Blending mode reference
Layer properties in the Timeline panel
Paint tools (keyboard shortcuts)
Select a color or edit a gradient
Blending mode reference
Viewers
Add, edit, and remove expressions
Managing and animating shape paths and masks

Overview of shape layers, paths, and vector graphics
About vector graphics and raster images
Vector graphics are made up of lines and curves defined by mathematical objects called vectors, which describe an
image according to its geometric characteristics. Examples of vector graphics elements within After Effects include
mask paths, shapes on shape layers, and text on text layers.
Raster images (sometimes called bitmap images) use a rectangular grid of picture elements (pixels) to represent images.
Each pixel is assigned a specific location and color value. Video footage, image sequences transferred from film, and
many other types of images imported into After Effects are raster images.
Vector graphics maintain crisp edges and lose no detail when resized, because they are resolution-independent. This
resolution-independence makes vector graphics a good choice for visual elements, such as logos, that will be used at
various sizes.

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Raster images each consist of a fixed number of pixels, and are therefore resolution-dependent. Raster images can lose
detail and appear jagged (pixelated) if they are scaled up.

Some images are created as vector graphics in another application but are converted to pixels (rasterized) when they are
imported into After Effects. If a layer is continuously rasterized, After Effects reconverts the vector graphics to pixels
when the layer is resized, preserving sharp edges. Vector graphics from SWF, PDF, EPS, and Illustrator files can be
continuously rasterized.
Aharon Rabinowitz’s “What are Raster and Vector Graphics?” video tutorial—part of the Multimedia 101 series on the
Creative COW website—provides a general introduction to raster images and vector graphics.

About paths
Several features of After Effects—including masks, shapes, paint strokes, and motion paths—rely on the concept of a
path. Tools and techniques for creating and editing these various kinds of paths overlap, but each kind of path has its
own unique aspects.
A path consists of segments and vertices. Segments are the lines or curves that connect vertices. Vertices define where
each segment of a path starts and ends. Some Adobe applications use the terms anchor point and path point to refer to
a vertex.
You change the shape of a path by dragging its vertices, the direction handles at the end of the direction lines (or tangents)
of each vertex, or the path segment itself.
As a path exits a vertex, the angle and length of the outgoing direction line for that vertex determine the path. As the
path approaches the next vertex, the path is less influenced by the outgoing direction line of the previous vertex and
more influenced by the incoming direction line of the next vertex.

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A Selected vertex B Selected vertex C Unselected vertex D Curved path segment E Direction line (tangent) F Direction handle

Paths can have two kinds of vertices: corner points and smooth points. At a smooth point, path segments are connected
as a smooth curve; the incoming and outgoing direction lines are on the same line. At a corner point, a path abruptly
changes direction; the incoming and outgoing direction lines are on different lines. You can draw a path using any
combination of corner and smooth points. If you draw the wrong kind of point, you can change it later.

A Four corner points B Four smooth points C Combination of corner and smooth points

When you move a direction line for a smooth point, the curves on both sides of the point adjust simultaneously. By
contrast, when you move a direction line on a corner point, only the curve on the same side of the point as the direction
line is adjusted.

A path can either be open or closed. An open path has a beginning point that is not the same as its end point; for
example, a straight line is an open path. A closed path is continuous and has no beginning or end; for example, a circle
is a closed path.
You can draw paths in common geometric shapes—including polygons, ellipses, and stars—with the shape tools, or you
can use the Pen tool to draw an arbitrary path. Paths drawn with the Pen tool are either manual Bezier paths or
RotoBezier paths. The main difference between RotoBezier and manual Bezier paths is that direction lines are
calculated automatically for RotoBezier paths, making them easier and faster to draw.
When you use the shape tools (Rectangle, Rounded Rectangle, Ellipse, Polygon, or Star) to draw a shape path on a shape
layer, you can create one of two kinds of paths: a parametric shape path or a Bezier shape path. (See About shapes and
shape layers.)

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You can link mask paths, paint stroke paths, and Bezier shape paths using expressions. You can also copy and paste
between mask paths, paint stroke paths, Bezier shape paths, motion paths, and paths from Adobe Illustrator,
Photoshop, and Adobe Fireworks. (See Creating shapes and masks .)
For shape paths, you can use the Merge Paths path operation (similar to the Pathfinder effects in Adobe Illustrator) to
combine multiple paths into one path. (See Merge Paths options.)
When you want text or an effect to follow a path, the path must be a mask path.
A path itself has no visual appearance in rendered output; it is essentially a collection of information about how to place
or modify other visual elements. To make a path visible, you apply a stroke to it. In the case of a mask path, you can
apply the Stroke effect. In the case of a path for a shape layer object, the default is for a path to be created with a stroke
property group (attribute) after the path property group in the Timeline panel.
A color or gradient applied to the area inside the area bounded by a path is a fill.
Note: To specify the size of Bezier direction handles and vertices for masks and shapes, choose Edit > Preferences > General
(Windows) or After Effects > Preferences > General (Mac OS), and edit the Path Point Size value.

About shapes and shape layers
Shape layers contain vector graphics objects called shapes. By default, a shape consists of a path, a stroke, and a fill. (See
About pathsand Strokes and fills for shapes.)
You create shape layers by drawing in the Composition panel with the shape tools or the Pen tool. (See Creating shapes
and masks .)
Shape paths have two varieties: parametric shape paths and Bezier shape paths. Parametric shape paths are defined
numerically, by properties that you can modify and animate after drawing, in the Timeline panel. Bezier shape paths
are defined by a collection of vertices (path points) and segments that you can modify in the Composition panel. You
work with Bezier shape paths in the same way that you work with mask paths. All mask paths are Bezier paths.
You can modify a shape path by applying path operations, such as Wiggle Paths and Pucker & Bloat. You apply a stroke
to a path or fill the area defined by a path with color by applying paint operations. (See Shape attributes, paint
operations, and path operations for shape layers .)
Shape paths, paint operations, and path operations for shapes are collectively called shape attributes. You add shape
attributes using the Add menu in the Tools panel or in the Timeline panel. Each shape attribute is represented as a
property group in the Timeline panel, with properties that you can animate, just as you do with any other layer property.
(See About animation, keyframes, and expressions.)
The color bit depth of a shape layer is the same as the project as a whole: 8, 16, or 32 bpc. (See Color depth and high
dynamic range color.)
Shape layers are not based on footage items. Layers that are not based on footage items are sometimes called synthetic
layers. Text layers are also synthetic layers and are also composed of vector graphics objects, so many of the rules and
guidelines that apply to text layers also apply to shape layers. For example, you can’t open a shape layer in a Layer panel,
just as you can’t open a text layer in a Layer panel.
You can save your favorite shapes as animation presets. (See Save an animation preset.)

Online resources for shape layers
For a video tutorial creating shape layers from vector layers, visit the learn tutorials page.

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Trish and Chris Meyer provide an introduction to shape layers in a PDF excerpt from the “Shape Layers” chapter of
their book Creating Motion Graphics with After Effects (5th Edition). Trish and Chris Meyer also provide a video
introduction to shape layers on the ProVideo Coalition website and tips about shape layers on the ProVideo Coalition
website.
You can download additional animation presets that take advantage of per-character 3D text animation from the After
Effects Exchange on the Adobe website.
Chris Zwar provides an animation preset on his website that creates a target cross-hair using a single shape layer, with
a wide variety of custom properties that make controlling and modifying the cross-hair animation easy and obvious.

Groups and render order for shapes and shape attributes
Though the default is for a shape to consist of a single path, a single stroke, and a single fill—arranged from top to
bottom in the Timeline panel—much of the power and flexibility of shape layers arises from your ability to add and
reorder shape attributes and create more complex compound shapes.
You can group shapes or shape attributes that are at the same grouping level within a single shape layer.
A group is a collection of shape attributes: paths, fills, strokes, path operations, and other groups. Each group has its
own blending mode and its own set of transform properties. By assembling shapes into groups, you can work with
multiple shapes simultaneously—such as scaling all shapes in the group by the same amount or applying the same
stroke to each shape. You can even place individual shapes or individual shape attributes within their own groups to
isolate transformations. For example, you can scale a path without scaling its stroke by grouping the path by itself.
When you add a shape attribute using the Add menu in the Tools panel or Timeline panel, the attribute is added within
the group that is selected. You can drag groups and attributes to reorder them in the Timeline panel. By reordering and
grouping shapes and shape attributes, you can affect their rendering order with respect to other shapes and shape
attributes.

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A Two shapes in a group B Two paths in a compound shape C Circle path with Wiggle Paths applied D One stroke applied to all paths above it
E Star path in a group by itself F One fill applied to all paths above it G One path with two strokes

Render order for shapes within a shape layer
The rules for rendering a shape layer are similar to the rules for rendering a composition that contains nested
compositions:

• Within a group, the shape at the bottom of the Timeline panel stacking order is rendered first.
• All path operations within a group are performed before paint operations. This means, for example, that the stroke
follows the distortions in the path made by the Wiggle Paths path operation. Path operations within a group are
performed from top to bottom. (See Alter shapes with path operations.)
• Paint operations within a group are performed from the bottom to the top in the Timeline panel stacking order. This
means, for example, that a stroke is rendered on top of (in front of) a stroke that appears after it in the Timeline
panel. To override this default behavior for a specific fill or stroke, choose Above Previous In Same Group for the
Composite property of the fill or stroke in the Timeline panel. (See Strokes and fills for shapes.)
Path operations and paint operations apply to all paths above them in the same group.

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Transform properties for shape groups and shape paths
Each group has its own Transform property group. This Transform property group is represented in the Timeline panel
with a property group named Transform: [group name] and in the Composition panel as a dashed box with handles.
You can group a path by itself and transform only the path using its new Transform property group.
Introducing an additional Transform property group for a single path is useful, for example, for creating complex
motion—such as spinning about one anchor point while also revolving along an orbit. The transformations of a group
affect all shapes within the group; this behavior is the same as the behavior of layer parenting. (See Parent and child
layers.)
Each shape path also has intrinsic properties that affect the position and shape of the path. For parametric shape paths,
these properties (such as Position and Size) are parameters visible in the Timeline panel. For Bezier shape paths, these
properties are defined for each vertex but are contained within the Path property. When you modify a Bezier path using
the free-transform bounding box, you modify these intrinsic properties for the vertices that constitute that path. (See
About shapes and shape layers.)

Group shapes or shape attributes
❖ Select one or more shapes or shape attributes, and do one of the following:

• Choose Layer > Group Shapes.
• Press Ctrl+G (Windows) or Command+G (Mac OS).
When you group shapes, the anchor point for the group is placed in the center of the bounding box for the group.

Ungroup shapes or shape attributes
❖ Select a single group, and do one of the following:

• Choose Layer > Ungroup Shapes.
• Press Ctrl+Shift+G (Windows) or Command+Shift+G (Mac OS).

Create an empty shape group
❖ Choose Group (Empty) from the Add menu in the Tools panel or in the Timeline panel.

More Help topics
Continuously rasterize a layer containing vector graphics
Best practices for creating text and vector graphics for video
About text layers
About masks
Creating shapes and masks
Add, edit, and remove expressions

Creating shapes and masks

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Creating masks
You can create one or more masks for each layer in a composition using any of the following methods:

• Draw a path using the shape tools or Pen tool. Drawing a mask path is similar to drawing a shape path. (See Create
a shape or mask by dragging with shape toolsand Create a Bezier shape or mask using the Pen tool.)
• Specify the dimensions of the mask path numerically in the Mask Shape dialog box. (See Create a rectangular or
elliptical mask numerically.)
• Convert a shape path to a mask path by copying the shape’s path to the Mask Path property.
• Convert a motion path to a mask path. (See Create a mask or shape from a motion path.)
• Trace color or alpha channel values to create a mask using the Auto-trace command. (See Create a mask from
channel values with Auto-trace.)
• Paste a path copied from another layer or from Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, or Fireworks. (See Copy a path from
Illustrator, Photoshop, or Fireworks.)
• Convert a text layer to one or more editable masks on a solid-color layer by using the Create Masks From Text
command. (See Create shapes or masks from text characters.)
When you create masks on a layer, the mask names appear in the Timeline panel outline in the order in which you create
the masks. To organize and keep track of your masks, rename them.
To rename a mask, select it and press Enter (Windows) or Return (Mac OS), or right-click (Windows) or Control-click
(Mac OS) the mask name and choose Rename.
When creating additional masks for one layer in the Layer panel, make sure that the Target menu in the Layer panel is
set to None; otherwise, you replace the targeted mask instead of creating a new mask. You can also lock a mask to
prevent changes to it.

A View menu B Target menu

When creating or editing masks, look in the Info panel for information such as the mask name and the number of
vertices in the mask.
To create a mask that you can move independently of the primary layer that it is masking, do the following:
1Create the mask on a separate white solid layer, and use that solid layer as a track matte for the primary layer.
2 Use parenting to make the solid layer a child of the primary layer, so that the mask moves with the primary layer as

if it were applied directly. Because the solid layer is a child layer, it can also be animated independently of its parent.
3 You can use motion tracking to make the solid layer (and therefore the mask) follow moving objects in the primary

layer. (See Convert a layer into a track matteand Parent and child layers.)

Create a rectangular or elliptical mask numerically
1 Select a layer in the Composition panel, or display a layer in the Layer panel.
2 Choose Layer > Mask > New Mask. A new mask appears in the Composition or Layer panel with its handles at the

outer edges of the frame.

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3 Choose Layer > Mask > Mask Shape.
4 Select Reset To, choose Rectangle or Ellipse from the Shape menu, and specify the size and location of the bounding

box for the mask.

Create a mask from channel values with Auto-trace
1 You can convert the alpha, red, green, blue, or luminance channel of a layer to one or more masks by using the Auto-

trace command.
2 Auto-trace creates as many Bezier masks as necessary to outline the specified channel values in the layer.
3 It also creates masks with the smallest number of vertices possible while conforming to the settings that you choose.
4 You can modify a mask created with Auto-trace as you would any other mask, and you can link its path to other path

types, such as shape paths on a shape layer, using expressions.
When you apply Auto-trace, affected layers are automatically set to Best Quality to ensure accurate results.
To reduce the number of masks created by Auto-trace, apply a keying effect to the layer to isolate your subject before
applying Auto-trace.
1 In the Timeline panel, do one of the following:

• To create mask keyframes at a single frame, drag the current-time indicator to the desired frame.
• To create mask keyframes across a range of frames, set a work area that spans that range.
2 Select one or more layers.
3 Choose Layer > Auto-trace.
4 Select one of the following:
Current Frame Creates mask keyframes at only the current frame.
Work Area Creates mask keyframes for frames within the work area.

5 Set any of the following options:
Invert Inverts the input layer before searching for edges.
Blur Blurs the original image before generating the tracing result. Select this option to reduce small artifacts and to
smooth jagged edges in the tracing result. Deselect this option to closely trace details in a high-contrast image.
Specify the radius, in pixels, of the area used for the blurring operation. Larger values result in more blur.
Tolerance How far, in pixels, the traced path is allowed to deviate from the contours of the channel.
Threshold Specifies, as a percentage, the value that a pixel’s channel must have for that pixel to be considered part
of an edge. Pixels with channel values over the threshold are mapped to white and are opaque; pixels with values
under the threshold are mapped to black and are transparent.
Minimum Area Specifies the smallest feature in the original image that will be traced. For example, a value of 4

removes features smaller than 2 pixels wide by 2 pixels high from the tracing result.
Corner Roundness Specifies the roundness of the mask curve at vertices. Enter a higher value for smoother curves.
Apply To New Layer Applies the mask to a new solid the same size as the selected layer. This control is automatically

selected for layers that have Collapse Transformations enabled—it creates a new layer the same size as the
composition that contains the layer.
Preview Select to preview the mask results and the results of the various options of the Auto-trace command.

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Creating shapes and shape layers
You create a shape layer by drawing in the Composition panel with a shape tool or the Pen tool. You can then add shape
attributes to existing shapes or create new shapes within that shape layer. By default, if you draw in the Composition
panel when a shape layer is selected, you create a new shape within that shape layer, above the selected shapes or group
of shapes. If you draw in the Composition panel using a shape tool or Pen tool when an image layer other than a shape
layer is selected, you create a mask.
Press F2 to deselect all layers before drawing in the Composition panel to create a new shape layer.
You can create shapes and shape layers using any of the following methods:

• Draw a path using the shape tools or Pen tool. Drawing a mask path is similar to drawing a shape path. (See Create
a shape or mask by dragging with shape toolsand Create a Bezier shape or mask using the Pen tool.)
• Convert a text layer to shapes on a shape layer by using the Create Shapes From Text command. (See Create shapes
or masks from text characters.)
• Convert a mask path to a shape path.
• Convert a motion path to a shape path. (See Create a mask or shape from a motion path.)
• Paste a path copied from another layer or from Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, or Fireworks. (See Copy a path from
Illustrator, Photoshop, or Fireworks.)
• Create a new, empty shape layer by choosing Layer > New > Shape Layer.
In most cases, a new shape has a fill and a stroke that correspond to the Fill and Stroke settings in the Tools panel at the
time that the shape is drawn. You can use the same controls in the Tools panel to change these attributes for a selected
shape after it has been drawn. Shapes created from text are created with fills and strokes that match the fills and strokes
of the original text.
Note: To draw a mask on a shape layer, click the Tool Creates Mask
button in the Tools panel with a shape tool or Pen
tool active. For more information about creating masks, see Creating masks.
Aharon Rabinowitz provides a video tutorial on the Creative COW website that shows how to combine multiple paths
into a single compound shape using the Merge Paths path operation.

Vector Art Footage-to-Shape Conversion | CC, CS6
In previous versions of After Effects you could import an Illustrator (.ai), EPS (.eps), or PDF (.pdf) file, however you
could not modify the file. Now you can create a shape layer from a vector art footage layer, and then modify it.
With the ability to bevel and extrude objects in After Effects, you can extrude the artwork (for example, extruded logos),
as well. See Extruding text and shape layers .
To convert a vector art footage layer to shape layer:
❖ Choose Layer > Create Shapes from Vector Layer. A matching shape layer will appear above the footage layer, and

the footage layer will be muted.
The following issues are known:

• Not all features of Illustrator files are currently preserved. Examples include: opacity, images, and gradients.
• Converted shapes ignore PAR overrides specified in the Interpret Footage dialog box.
• Gradients and unsupported types may show as 50% gray shapes.
• Files with thousands of paths may import very slowly without feedback.

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• The menu command works on a single selected layer at a time.
• If you import an Illustrator file as a composition (i.e., several layers), you cannot convert all of those layers in one
pass. However, you can import the file as footage, and then use the command to convert the single footage layer
to shapes.
In this video by Todd Kopriva and video2brain, see how to quickly convert vector graphics from Illustrator to shape
layers and animate the paths in After Effects CS6. This process is much simpler than previous versions of After Effects.

Create a shape or mask by dragging with shape tools
The shape tools are the Rectangle

, Rounded Rectangle

, Ellipse

, Polygon

, and Star

tools.

To activate and cycle through the shape tools, press Q.
A polygon is a star without an Inner Radius or Inner Roundness property, so the name of the shape created for a
polygon or a star is the same: polystar.
You can create a mask by dragging with a shape tool on a selected layer in the Composition panel or Layer panel. You
can create a shape by dragging with a shape tool on a selected shape layer in the Composition panel. If you drag with a
shape tool in the Composition panel with no layer selected, you create a shape on a new shape layer.
Note: To draw a mask on a shape layer, click the Tool Creates Mask

button in the Tools panel with a shape tool active.

When you create a shape by dragging with a shape tool in the Composition panel, you create a parametric shape path.
To instead create a Bezier shape path, press the Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS) key before you click to begin
dragging. You can release the key before you complete the drag operation. All mask paths are Bezier paths. (See About
shapes and shape layers.)
Dragging starts when you click in the Composition panel or Layer panel to begin drawing, and ends when you release
the mouse button. Pressing modifier keys at different times during a single dragging operation achieves different
results:

• To reposition a shape or mask as you are drawing, hold the spacebar or the middle mouse button while dragging.
• To scale a circle, ellipse, square, rounded square, rectangle, or rounded rectangle around its center while drawing,
hold the Ctrl (Windows) or Command (Mac OS) key after you begin dragging. Don’t release the key until you have
released the mouse button to finish drawing.
• To cancel the drawing operation, press Esc.
Note: Each shape tool retains the settings of the most recent drawing operation with that tool. For example, if you draw a
star and modify the number of points to be 10, then the next star that you draw will also have 10 points. To reset settings
for a tool and create a shape with the default settings, double-click the tool in the Tools panel. (See Create a shape or mask
the size of the layer.)

Draw rectangles, rounded rectangles, squares, and rounded squares
1 Select the Rectangle tool

or the Rounded Rectangle tool

, and do one of the following:

• To draw a rectangle or rounded rectangle, drag diagonally.
• To draw a square or rounded square, Shift-drag diagonally.
2 (Optional) If drawing a rounded rectangle or rounded square, do the following before releasing the mouse button:

• To increase or decrease the corner roundness, press the Up Arrow key or the Down Arrow key, or roll the mouse
wheel forward or backward.
• To set corner roundness to the minimum or maximum, press the Left Arrow key or the Right Arrow key.
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3 Release the mouse button to finish drawing. If drawing a square or rounded square, release the Shift key after

releasing the mouse button.
Note: Squares are created to be square according to the pixel aspect ratio of the composition. If the pixel aspect ratio of the
composition is not 1, then squares only appear square in the Composition panel if the Toggle Pixel Aspect Ratio button is
selected at the bottom of the Composition panel.

Draw ellipses and circles
1 Select the Ellipse tool

, and do one of the following:

• To draw an ellipse, drag diagonally.
• To draw a circle, Shift-drag diagonally.
2 Release the mouse button to finish drawing. If drawing a circle, release the Shift key after releasing the mouse button.

Note: Circles are created to be circular according to the pixel aspect ratio of the composition. If the pixel aspect ratio of the
composition is not 1, then circles only appear circular in the Composition panel if the Toggle Pixel Aspect Ratio button is
selected at the bottom of the Composition panel.

Draw polygons and stars
1 Select the Polygon tool

or the Star tool

, and do one of the following:

• Drag to scale and rotate the polygon or star as you draw it.
• Shift-drag to scale the polygon or star as you draw it, preventing rotation.
2 (Optional) Do the following before releasing the mouse button:

• To add or remove points, press the Up Arrow key or the Down Arrow key, or roll the mouse wheel forward or
backward.
• To increase or decrease the outer roundness, press the Left Arrow key or the Right Arrow key.
• To keep the inner radius of a star constant as you move the mouse to increase the outer radius, hold the Ctrl
(Windows) or Command (Mac OS) key.
• To increase or decrease the inner roundness of a star, press the Page Up key or the Page Down key.
3 Release the mouse button to finish drawing. If Shift-dragging to prevent rotation, release the Shift key after releasing

the mouse button.

Create a Bezier shape or mask using the Pen tool
You can create a Bezier mask using the Pen tool on a selected layer in the Composition panel or Layer panel. You can
create a shape with a Bezier path using the Pen tool on a selected shape layer in the Composition panel. If you draw
with the Pen tool in the Composition panel with no layer selected, you create a shape on a new shape layer.
Creating a RotoBezier path is similar to creating a manual Bezier path. The primary difference is that direction lines
for vertices and curvature for path segments are automatically calculated.

Create a manual Bezier path using the Pen tool
1 With the Pen tool selected and the RotoBezier option deselected in the Tools panel, click in the Composition panel

where you want to place the first vertex.
2 Click where you want to place the next vertex. To create a curved segment, drag the direction line handle to create

the curve that you want.

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To reposition a vertex after you’ve clicked to place it but before you’ve released the mouse button, hold the spacebar
while dragging.
The last vertex that you add appears as a solid square, indicating that it is selected. Previously added vertices become
hollow, and deselected, as you add more vertices.
3 Repeat step 2 until you are ready to complete the path.
4 Complete the path by doing one of the following:

• To close the path, place the pointer over the first vertex and, when a closed circle icon appears next to the pointer
, click the vertex.
Note: You can also close a path by double-clicking the last vertex or choosing Layer > Mask And Shape Path > Closed.

• To leave the path open, activate a different tool, or press F2 to deselect the path.

Draw straight manual Bezier path segments with the Pen tool
The simplest path that you can draw with the Pen tool is a straight line, made by clicking with the Pen tool to create two
vertices. By continuing to click, you create a path made of straight line segments connected by corner points.

1 Place the Pen tool where you want the straight segment to begin, and click to place a vertex. (Do not drag.)
2 Click again where you want the segment to end. (Shift-click to constrain the angle between segments at the corner

point to a whole multiple of 45°.)
3 Continue clicking to set vertices for additional straight segments.

Draw curved manual Bezier path segments with the Pen tool
You create a curved path segment by dragging direction lines. The length and direction of the direction lines determine
the shape of the curve.
Shift-drag to constrain the angle of the direction lines to whole multiples of 45°. Alt-drag (Windows) or Option-drag
(Mac OS) to modify only the outgoing direction line.
1 Place the Pen tool where you want the curve to begin, and hold the mouse button down.

A vertex appears, and the Pen tool pointer changes to an arrowhead.
2 Drag to modify the length and direction of both direction lines for a vertex, and then release the mouse button.

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A Placing the Pen tool B Starting to drag (mouse button pressed) C Dragging to extend direction lines

3 Place the Pen tool where you want the curved segment to end, and do one of the following:

• To create a C-shaped curve, drag in the direction opposite from the direction that you dragged the previous
direction line, and then release the mouse button.

A Starting to drag B Dragging away from previous direction line, creating a C curve C Result after releasing mouse button

• To create an S-shaped curve, drag in the same direction as the previous direction line, and then release the mouse
button.

A Starting to drag B Dragging in same direction as previous direction line, creating an S curve C Result after releasing mouse button

4 Continue dragging the Pen tool from different locations to create a series of smooth curves.

Create a shape or mask the size of the layer
1 Select the destination for the new mask or shape:

• To create a shape on an existing shape layer, select the shape layer.
• To create a shape on a new shape layer with the dimensions of the composition, deselect all layers by pressing F2.
• To create a mask, select a layer in the Timeline panel, Layer panel, or Composition panel. To create a mask on a
in the Tools panel with a shape tool active.
shape layer, select Tool Creates Mask
• To replace a mask path, select the mask in the Timeline panel, Layer panel, or Composition panel.
• To replace a shape path, select the shape path (not the group) in the Composition panel or Timeline panel.
2 In the Tools panel, double-click the Rectangle

, Rounded Rectangle

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, Polygon

, or Star

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Create shapes or masks from text characters
The Create Shapes From Text command extracts the outlines for each character, creates shapes from the outlines, and
puts the shapes on a new shape layer. You can then use these shapes as you would any other shapes.
The Create Masks From Text command extracts the outlines for each character, creates masks from the outlines, and
puts the masks on a new solid-color layer. You can then use these masks as you would any other masks.
Some font families, such as Webdings, include characters that are graphical images, rather than text. Converting text
from these font families can be a good way to get started with simple graphical elements in shape layers.

Create shapes from text
1 Select the text to convert to shapes:

• To create shapes for all characters in a text layer, select the text layer in the Timeline panel or Composition panel.
• To create shapes for specific characters, select the characters in the Composition panel.
2 Do one of the following:

• Choose Layer > Create Shapes From Text.
• Right-click (Windows) or Control-click (Mac OS) the layer or text and choose Create Shapes From Text from the
context menu.
The Video switch

for the text layer is turned off.

The new shape layer is created at the top of the layer stacking order. The new layer contains one shape group for each
selected character, plus fill and stroke properties that match the fills and strokes of the text.
For characters that consist of compound paths—such as i and e—multiple paths are created and combined with the
Merge Paths path operation.
Effects, masks, layer styles, and keyframes and expressions for properties in the Transform property group of the text
layer are copied to the new shape layer or solid-color layer.

Create masks from text
1 Select the text to convert to masks:

• To create masks for all characters in a text layer, select the text layer in the Timeline panel or Composition panel.
• To create masks for specific characters, select the characters in the Composition panel.
2 Do one of the following:

• Choose Layer > Create Masks From Text.
• Right-click (Windows) or Control-click (Mac OS) the layer or text and choose Create Masks From Text from the
context menu.
The Video switch

for the text layer is turned off.

The new solid-color layer is created at the top of the layer stacking order.
For characters that consist of compound paths—such as i and e—multiple masks are created and combined with the
Subtract mask mode.

Copy a path from Illustrator, Photoshop, or Fireworks
You can copy a path from Illustrator, Photoshop, or Fireworks and paste it into After Effects as a mask path or shape
path.

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To make the data copied from Illustrator compatible with After Effects, the AICB option must be selected in the Files
& Clipboard section of the Adobe Illustrator Preferences dialog box.
For a path imported from Photoshop to be scaled correctly, the Photoshop document must have a resolution of 72 dpi.
72 dpi is the Resolution setting of documents created in Photoshop using a Film & Video preset.
note: You can also use a copied Illustrator, Photoshop, or Fireworks path as an After Effects motion path. See Create a
motion path from a mask, shape, or paint path for more information.

1 In Illustrator, Photoshop, or Fireworks, select an entire path, and then choose Edit > Copy.
2 In After Effects, do one of the following to define a target for the paste operation:

• To create a new mask, select a layer.
• To replace an existing mask path or shape path, select its Path property.
Note: To paste a path as a shape path, you must select the Path property of an existing shape in a shape layer. This
selection tells After Effects what the target of the paste operation is; if the target isn’t specified in this way, After Effects
assumes that the target is the entire layer and therefore draws a new mask. If there is no Path property—perhaps because
the shape layer is empty—then you can draw a placeholder path with the Pen tool and then paste the path from
Illustrator into the placeholder path.
3 Choose Edit > Paste.

If you paste multiple paths into a shape path, the first path goes into the shape path, and the remaining paths are
pasted into new mask paths. This behavior is because the paths other than the first one don’t have a clearly defined
target, so they are added to the entire layer as masks.
To paste multiple paths into multiple shape paths simultaneously, first create and select multiple placeholder shape
paths in After Effects. Trish and Chris Meyer provide details of this technique, plus related tips and tricks on the
ProVideo Coalition website.
Andrew Devis shows how to use paths from Illustrator as motion paths in After Effects in this video on the Creative
COW website.

Create a mask or shape from a motion path
You can copy position keyframes, anchor point keyframes, or an effect control point’s position keyframes and paste
those keyframes into a selected mask path or shape path. When you create mask paths or shape paths from motion
paths, make sure that you copy keyframes from a single Position property only—do not copy the keyframes of any other
property.
Draw a motion path with Motion Sketch and then paste the path into a mask path or shape path.

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Note: When copying between a mask path to a motion path, keep in mind that the mask path’s values are expressed in the
coordinate system of the layer (layer space), whereas the motion path’s values are expressed in the coordinate system of the
composition (composition space). This difference may cause the pasted path to be offset, requiring you to reposition the path
after pasting it. (See Coordinate systems: composition space and layer space.)

Create a mask path from a motion path
1 In the Timeline panel, click the name of the Position property or Anchor Point property from which you want to

copy the motion path. (This selects all keyframes. To select only some of the keyframes of a motion path, Shift-click
them.)
2 Choose Edit > Copy.
3 To create a new mask, select the layer on which to create the mask, and choose Layer > Mask > New Mask.
4 In the Timeline panel, click the name of the Mask Path property for the mask into which to paste the keyframes from

the motion path.
5 Choose Edit > Paste.

Create a shape path from a motion path
1 In the Timeline panel, click the name of the Position property or Anchor Point property from which you want to

copy the motion path. (This selects all keyframes. To select only some of the keyframes of a motion path, Shift-click
them.)
2 Choose Edit > Copy.
3 To create a new shape layer, press F2 to deselect all layers, then click in the Composition panel with the Pen tool to

create a single-point Bezier path.
4 Press SS to reveal the Path property for the shape. Click the name of the Path property into which to paste the

keyframes from the motion path.
5 Choose Edit > Paste.

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Duplicate a shape group while transforming
When a shape group is selected in group selection mode, you can duplicate the group while moving, rotating, or scaling
it in the Composition panel.

• Hold the Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS) key as you drag to transform a group.
The pointer changes to a duplication pointer (
transform box.

or

) as you hold the key and place the pointer near the group

Creating Contrasting Color for Mask Path
When the Use Contrasting Color For Mask Path preference (under Preferences > Appearance) is enabled, After Effects
analyzes the colors near the point where you start drawing a mask. After Effects then chooses a label color that is
different from the colors in that region. It also avoids the color of the last mask drawn.

More Help topics
About masks
About shapes and shape layers
Keying overview and tips
Work area
Shape layers (keyboard shortcuts)
Keyboard shortcuts
About text layers
Preparing and importing Illustrator files
Drawing
Motion paths
Select a shape group in group selection mode

Managing and animating shape paths and masks
You animate mask paths and shape paths in much the same way that you animate other properties: set keyframes for
the Mask Path or Path property, set paths at each keyframe, and After Effects will interpolate between these specified
values.

Rotoscoping introduction and resources
Rotoscoping (or just roto in casual usage) is the drawing or painting on frames of a movie, using visual elements in the
movie as a reference. A common kind of rotoscoping is tracing a path around an object in a movie and using that path
as a mask to separate the object from its background. This allows you to work with the object and the background
separately, so you can do things like apply different effects to the object than to its background or replace the
background.

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Note: After Effects includes the Roto Brush and Refine Edge tools, which can be used to accomplish many of the same tasks
as conventional rotoscoping, but in far less time. For information about using the Roto Brush tool, see Roto Brush, Refine
Edge, and Refine Matte effects | CC.
If a background or foreground object is a consistent, distinct color, you can use color keying instead of rotoscoping to
remove the background or object. If the footage was shot with color keying in mind, color keying is much easier than
rotoscoping. (See Keying introduction and workflow.)
Rotoscoping in After Effects is mostly a matter of drawing masks, animating the mask path, and then using these masks
to define a matte. Many additional tasks and techniques make this job easier, such as using motion tracking on the
object before you begin drawing masks, and then using the motion tracking data to make a mask or matte automatically
follow the object.

Rotoscoping tips
• Immediately after beginning to draw a mask, press Alt+Shift+M (Windows) or Option+Shift+M (Mac OS) to turn
on keyframing for that mask and set a keyframe. This way, you won’t edit a mask frame-by-frame for several minutes
(or longer) and then realize that you lost all of your work on previous frames because you forgot to click the
stopwatch to make the mask path animated.
• Draw your masks on a white solid layer with its Video (eyeball) switch off, above the (locked) footage layer. This way,
you run no risk of accidentally moving the footage layer when you manipulate the mask, and you can also much
more easily apply tracking data to the mask. (You apply the tracking data to the invisible solid layer that holds the
mask.) This also means that you don't lose your cached preview frames each time you manipulate the mask. (See
Toggle visibility or influence of a layer or property group and Lock or unlock a layer.)
• Turn on the Preserve Constant Vertex Count preference. (See Designate the first vertex for a Bezier path.)
• When possible, transform (rotate, scale, move) the whole mask or a subset of the mask vertices instead of moving
the vertices individually. This is both for efficiency and to avoid the chatter that comes from inconsistent movement
across frames. (See Move vertices in free-transform mode.)
• Manual motion tracking is less time-consuming than manual rotoscoping. The more effort you spend getting good
tracking data for various parts of your scene and object, the less time you'll spend drawing and fine-tuning masks.
(See Tracking and stabilizing motion .)
• In After Effects CC and CS6, use the Variable-width mask feathering | CC, CS6feature for more control when
feathering objects.

Online resources about rotoscoping
This video from the After Effects CS5: Learn By Video series shows how to combine motion tracking and rotoscoping
to isolate and selectively color-correct an actor's face.
Scott Squires provides a pair of movies on his Effects Corner website that show how to rotoscope, both painting and
masking:

• Rotoscoping - Part 1
• Rotoscoping - Part 2
Chris and Trish Meyer provide some tips on animating masks, including using Smart Mask Interpolation, on the
ProVideo Coalition website.
Alejandro Pérez provides a script on the AE Enhancers forum with which you can use tracking data to position
individual mask vertices.

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Mathias Möhl provides the KeyTweak script on his website, with which you can modify many keyframes on a property
simultaneously. With KeyTweak, you can modify a few keyframes manually, and the script modifies the remaining
keyframes in between accordingly. KeyTweak is especially useful for Mask Path keyframes in a rotoscoping workflow.
Rich Young provides several resources for rotoscoping on his After Effects Portal website.

View mask paths and shapes
• To view mask paths for selected layers in the Timeline panel, press M.
• To view selected masks or shapes in the Timeline panel, press SS (press the S key twice).
• To view mask and shape paths in the Composition panel, click the Toggle Mask And Shape Path Visibility button
at the bottom of the Composition panel.
• To view mask paths in the Layer panel, choose Masks from the Layer panel View menu.
• To hide a mask path while showing others, lock the mask by selecting its Lock switch
then choose Layer > Mask > Hide Locked Masks.

in the Timeline panel, and

• To isolate selected masks and hide others, choose Layer > Mask > Lock Other Masks, and then choose Layer > Mask
Hide Locked Masks.

Select shape paths, shapes, and shape groups
You can select shape layers and their components at any of four levels of selection, referred to as selection modes:

Layer selection mode The entire shape layer is selected. Transformations apply to the transform properties for the
layer, in the Transform property group that is at the same level as the Contents property group.
Group selection mode An entire shape group is selected. Transformations apply to the transform properties for the
group, in the Transform property group within the shape group in the Timeline panel.
Free-transform mode Multiple vertices on one or more Bezier paths are selected. A free-transform bounding box is
shown around the vertices in the Composition panel. By operating on this box, you can move multiple vertices with a
single transformation. Transformations apply to the vertices themselves, which are contained within the Path property
in the Timeline panel.
Path-editing mode Only vertices are selected. In this mode, you can perform path-editing operations, such as adding

vertices to a path and moving individual vertices.
When a pen tool is active, path-editing mode is active. To remain in path-editing mode, select the Pen tool; press V or
Ctrl (Windows) or Command (Mac OS) to temporarily activate the Selection tool as needed.

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A Layer selection B Group selection C Free-transform D Path editing

For information on selecting masks, see Select masks, segments, and vertices.
Press Ctrl+A (Windows) or Command+A (Mac OS) with a shape vertex selected to select all vertices on that path. Press
again to select all shapes. Press again to select all layers.

Select a shape layer
• Click the layer name or layer duration bar in the Timeline panel.
• Using the Selection tool, click within the layer bounds in the Composition panel.
• To deselect all shapes on a layer but leave the shape layer selected, click within the layer bounds but outside all shape
paths.

Select a shape group in group selection mode
• Using the Selection tool, double-click a member of the group in the Composition panel. Each time that you doubleclick, you descend another level in the group hierarchy.
• To activate the Direct Selection tool , hold Ctrl (Windows) or Command (Mac OS) with the Selection tool
selected. Click a shape in the Composition panel with the Direct Selection tool to directly select that shape’s group,
regardless of how deeply nested the shape is in the group hierarchy.
• To select a group that is contained within the same group as the group that is already selected, click the group to
select.
• To add a group to a selection, Shift-click it. You can combine the Shift key with double-clicking and with the Direct
Selection tool to add more deeply nested groups to the selection.

Select paths and vertices in path-editing mode
To specify the size of Bezier direction handles and vertices for masks and shapes, choose Edit > Preferences > General
(Windows) or After Effects > Preferences > General (Mac OS), and edit the Path Point Size value.

• To select a vertex, click the vertex with the Selection tool. To add vertices to the selection, Shift-click them.
• To select a path segment, click the segment with the Selection tool. To add segments to the selection, Shift-click
them.

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• To select an entire path, Alt-click (Windows) or Option-click (Mac OS) a segment or vertex of the path with the
Selection tool, or select any portion of the path and press Ctrl+A (Windows) or Command+A (Mac OS).
• To select vertices by dragging, select a path or portion of a path to enter path-editing mode, and then drag with the
marquee-selection tool to draw a marquee-selection box around the vertices to select. To add vertices to the
selection, hold down the Shift key as you draw additional marquee-selection boxes.

Select all points on a path and enter free-transform mode
• Double-click a path segment while in path-editing mode or in group selection mode for a single shape.
• Select the Path property in the Timeline panel and press Ctrl+T (Windows) or Command+T (Mac OS).

Select masks, segments, and vertices
Unlike layers, masks can have more than one level of selection. You can select a mask as a whole path, which is
appropriate when you want to move or resize a mask. However, if you want to change the path of a mask, select one or
more points on it. Selected points appear solid, and unselected points appear hollow.
To specify the size of Bezier direction handles and vertices for masks and shapes, choose Edit > Preferences > General
(Windows) or After Effects > Preferences > General (Mac OS), and edit the Path Point Size value.

Select or deselect masks in the Layer or Composition panel
• To select a vertex on a mask, click the vertex with the Selection tool
them.

. To add vertices to the selection, Shift-click

• To select a mask segment, click the segment with the Selection tool. To add segments to the selection, Shift-click
them.
• To select an entire mask, Alt-click (Windows) or Option-click (Mac OS) a segment, vertex, or handle of a mask with
the Selection tool, or select any portion of the mask and choose Edit > Select All or press Ctrl+A (Windows) or
Command+A (Mac OS). To add masks to the selection, Alt+Shift-click (Windows) or Option+Shift-click (Mac OS)
them.
• To select masks by dragging, select a mask or portion of a mask to enter mask editing mode and then drag with the
Selection tool to draw a marquee-selection box completely around the vertices or masks that you want to select. To
add masks or vertices to the selection, hold down the Shift key as you draw additional marquee-selection boxes.
• To select all masks on a layer, select a mask on the layer, and choose Edit > Select All or press Ctrl+A (Windows) or
Command+A (Mac OS).
• To deselect all masks, press Ctrl+Shift+A (Windows) or Command+Shift+A (Mac OS).
• To select an adjacent mask on a layer, press Alt+accent grave (`) (Windows) or Option+accent grave (`) (Mac OS)
to select the next mask, or Shift+Alt+accent grave (`) (Windows) or Shift+Option+accent grave (`) (Mac OS) to
select the previous mask.
• To deselect a mask, click anywhere other than on the mask.
• To remove a vertex or segment from a selection, Shift-click the vertex or segment.
To use the Selection tool when the Pen tool is selected, hold down Ctrl (Windows) or Command (Mac OS).

Select masks in the Timeline panel
1 Click the right arrow next to a layer name to expand it.
2 Click the right arrow next to the Masks heading to expand it, revealing all masks on that layer.

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3 Do any of the following:

• To select one mask, click its name.
• To select a contiguous range of masks, Shift-click the names of the first and last masks in the range.
• To select discontiguous masks together, Ctrl-click (Windows) or Command-click (Mac OS) the names of any
masks you want to include.
Note: You can select only whole masks in the Timeline panel. To select individual vertices on a mask, use the Composition
or Layer panel.

Lock or unlock masks
Locking a mask prevents you from selecting it in the Timeline, Composition, and Layer panels or setting it as a target
in the Layer panel. Use this feature to avoid unwanted changes to the mask.
1 In the Timeline panel, expand the Masks property group.
2 In the A/V Features column, click the box underneath the Lock icon

next to the mask you want to lock or unlock.
A mask is locked and cannot be selected when its Lock switch is selected—that is, when the Lock icon appears in
the box.

Note: To unlock multiple masks at one time, select one or more layers and choose Layer > Mask > Unlock All Masks.
To isolate selected masks and hide others, choose Layer > Mask > Lock Other Masks, and then choose Layer > Mask
Hide Locked Masks.

Move vertices in free-transform mode
You can scale and rotate an entire mask or shape path (or selected vertices in one or more paths) using the Free
Transform Points command. When you use this command, a free-transform bounding box surrounds the selected
vertices, and an anchor point appears in the center of the bounding box to mark the anchor point for the current
transformation. You can scale and rotate the selected vertices by dragging the bounding box or its handles. You can also
change the reference point from which the vertices are rotated or scaled by moving the bounding box anchor point. The
free-transform bounding box handles and anchor point exist independently of the handles and anchor point for the
layer.
Note: When you animate rotation using Free Transform Points, the vertices of the mask are interpolated in a straight line
from keyframe to keyframe. For this reason, the results may be different from what you expect.
1 Display the layer containing the paths that you want to transform in the Composition or Layer panel.
2 Using the Selection tool, do one of the following:

• To transform any number of vertices, select the vertices that you want to transform and choose Layer > Mask
And Shape Path > Free Transform Points.
• To transform an entire mask or shape path, select it in the Timeline panel and choose Layer > Mask And Shape
Path > Free Transform Points.
3 To move the anchor point of the bounding box, place the Selection tool over the bounding box anchor point

the Selection tool changes to a move anchor point icon

. Drag to position the anchor point.

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4 Do any combination of the following:

• To move the path or selected vertices, position the pointer inside the bounding box and drag.
• To scale the path or selected vertices, position the pointer on a bounding box handle and, when the pointer
changes to a straight, double-sided arrow , drag to a new size. Hold down Shift as you drag to constrain the
scale. Hold down Ctrl (Windows) or Command (Mac OS) as you drag to scale around the anchor point of the
bounding box.
• To rotate the path or selected vertices, position the pointer just outside the free-transform bounding box and,
when the pointer changes to a curved double-sided arrow , drag to rotate.
5 To exit free-transform mode, press Esc, Enter (Windows), or Return (Mac OS).

Convert a path between manual Bezier and RotoBezier
You can convert any manual Bezier mask path or manual Bezier shape path to a RotoBezier path. If the manual Bezier
path has direction handles that have been adjusted, this conversion changes the shape of the path, because After Effects
calculates the curvature of RotoBezier segments automatically.
The conversion of a RotoBezier path to a manual Bezier path does not change the shape of the path.
1 Select a mask in the Layer, Composition, or Timeline panel, or select a shape path in the Composition or Timeline

panel.
2 Choose Layer > Mask And Shape Path > RotoBezier.

Modify a Bezier mask path or shape path
You can change a Bezier mask path using the Selection tool and pen tools in the Layer or Composition panel. You can
change a Bezier shape path using the Selection tool and pen tools in the Composition panel.
The pen tools—Add Vertex, Delete Vertex, and Convert Vertex tools—are grouped with the Pen tool in the Tools panel.
To reveal these tools in the Tools panel, click and hold the Pen tool in the Tools panel.
In most cases, the appropriate pen tool becomes active when you place the Pen tool pointer in a particular context. For
example, the Delete Vertex tool becomes active when you place the Pen tool pointer over an existing vertex, and the Add
Vertex tool becomes active when you place the Pen tool pointer over a path segment. To manually activate and cycle through
these tools, press G.
When modifying a path, make sure that you click only existing vertices or segments; otherwise, you may create a new
path instead.

Move, add, or delete a vertex
❖ Do one of the following:

• To move a vertex, drag the vertex with the Selection tool

.

To temporarily switch from the Pen tool to the Selection tool, press V or Ctrl (Windows) or Command (Mac OS).

• To add a vertex to a mask, use the Add Vertex tool

to click the segment between two existing vertices.

• To delete a vertex from a mask, use the Delete Vertex tool

to click the vertex.

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Adjust a path segment
❖ Do one of the following with the Selection tool:

• Drag a vertex.
• Drag the direction handles extending from an adjoining smooth vertex.
• Drag a curved segment.
Dragging a curved segment on a RotoBezier mask also moves the vertices.

Toggle a vertex between a smooth point and a corner point
❖ Click the vertex with the Convert Vertex tool

.

To activate the Convert Vertex tool when the Pen tool is selected, hold down Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS).

Adjust the tension of a RotoBezier mask
1 If you want to adjust the tension of more than one vertex simultaneously, then select them.
2 Using the Convert Vertex tool

, drag a vertex.

To activate the Convert Vertex tool when the Pen tool is selected, hold down Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS).
The Adjust Tension pointer

appears as you drag a vertex of the RotoBezier mask.

Clicking a vertex instead of dragging sets the vertex to a corner point (100% tension); clicking again sets the vertex
to a smooth point (33% tension). Dragging up or to the right decreases the tension of the selection, increasing the
curve of adjacent path segments; dragging down or to the left increases the tension of the selection, decreasing the
curve of adjacent path segments.
To view the tension value of a vertex, look in the Info panel as you adjust the tension.

Change a mask path numerically
1 Select the mask.
2 In the Timeline panel, expand the Mask properties.
3 Next to the Mask Path property, click the underlined word, and specify the changes in the Mask Shape dialog box.

Designate the first vertex for a Bezier path
To animate a path, After Effects designates the topmost vertex at the initial keyframe as the first vertex and numbers
each successive vertex in ascending order from the first vertex. After Effects then assigns the same numbers to the
corresponding vertices at all successive keyframes. After Effects interpolates the movement of each vertex from its
initial position at one keyframe to the position of the correspondingly numbered vertex at the next keyframe. At any
time during an animation, you can designate another vertex as the first vertex; this causes After Effects to renumber
the vertices of the path. Renumbering vertices causes path animation to change, because After Effects then maps the
new vertex numbers to the corresponding old vertex numbers still saved at successive keyframes.
When copying a closed path into a motion path, the vertex designated as the first vertex of the closed path is used as
the beginning of the motion path. All motion paths are open paths.

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Some shape path operations, such as Trim Paths, also use the first vertex as input to determine how to modify the path.
Note: By default, when you add a vertex to a path, the new vertex appears on the path throughout the duration of the path
but reshapes the path only at the time at which it was added. When you delete a vertex from a path at a specific point in
time, the vertex is deleted from the path throughout the duration of the path. Prevent After Effects from adding and deleting
vertices throughout the duration of the path by choosing Edit > Preferences > General (Windows) or After Effects >
Preferences > General (Mac OS), and deselecting Preserve Constant Vertex Count When Editing Masks.Note: Preserve
Constant Vertex Count When Editing Masks is called "Preserve Constant Vertex and Feather Count when Editing Masks",
in After Effects CC and CS6.
1 Create an animated path.
2 In the Timeline panel, move the current-time indicator to the point where you want to designate a new first vertex.
3 Select the vertex to designate as the first vertex.
4 Choose Layer > Mask And Shape Path > Set First Vertex.

Note: The vertex designated as the first vertex appears slightly larger than the other vertices in the Composition panel.

Animate a mask path with Smart Mask Interpolation
Smart Mask Interpolation provides a high level of control for creating mask path keyframes and smooth, realistic
animation. After you select the mask path keyframes to interpolate, Smart Mask Interpolation creates intermediate
keyframes based on settings you provide. The Info panel displays the progress of the interpolation and the number of
keyframes created.
1 Choose Window > Mask Interpolation.
2 Select at least two adjacent mask path keyframes.
3 Set options in the Mask Interpolation panel, and then click Apply.

Note: To interrupt the interpolation process, press Esc. The Info panel indicates that the process has been interrupted
and reports the number of keyframes created.
Keyframe Rate Specifies the number of keyframes that Smart Mask Interpolation creates per second between the
selected keyframes. For example, a value of 10 creates a new keyframe every 1/10 of a second. Choose Auto to set
the keyframe rate equal to the composition frame rate, which appears in parentheses. Create more keyframes for
smoother animation; create fewer keyframes to reduce render time.

Note: Regardless of the keyframe rate you choose, Smart Mask Interpolation always adds keyframes at the frame just
after the first mask path keyframe and at the frame just before the second mask path keyframe. For example, if you
interpolate between keyframes at 0 seconds and 1 second in a 30-fps composition with a keyframe rate of 10 keyframes
per second, mask path keyframes are added at frame numbers 1, 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 21, 24, 27, and 29.
Keyframe Fields Doubles the keyframe rate. When this option is selected, and Keyframe Rate is set to the
composition frame rate, a keyframe is added at each video field. Select this option for animated masking for
interlaced video. If this option is not selected, the mask may slip off the object that you are attempting to key out.
For more information about fields in interlaced video, see Interlaced video and separating fields.
Use Linear Vertex Paths Specifies that vertices in the first keyframe move along a straight path to their
corresponding vertices in the second keyframe. Leave this option unselected if you want some vertices to interpolate
along curved paths; for example, when the desired interpolation involves rotating parts. If this option is not selected,
Smart Mask Interpolation creates a natural path for the mask.
Bending Resistance Specifies how susceptible the interpolated mask path is to bending instead of stretching. A

value of 0 specifies that, as the mask path animates, it bends more than it stretches; a value of 100 specifies that the
mask path stretches more than it bends.

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Quality Specifies how strictly Smart Mask Interpolation matches vertices from one keyframe to another. A value of
0 specifies that a particular vertex in the first keyframe matches only the same-numbered vertex in the second
keyframe. For example, the tenth vertex in the first keyframe must match the tenth vertex in the second keyframe.
A value of 100 means that a vertex in the first keyframe can potentially match any vertex in the second keyframe.
Higher values usually yield better interpolations; however, the higher the value, the longer the processing time.
Add Mask Path Vertices Specifies that Smart Mask Interpolation adds vertices to facilitate quality interpolations. In
general, Smart Mask Interpolation works best when the mask paths have dense sets of vertices. Also, a vertex on the
first mask path cannot match the middle of a curve or straight-line segment on the second mask path, so sometimes
you must add vertices before matching to produce the desired result. Smart Mask Interpolation does not modify the
original keyframes. Only the new mask path keyframes computed by Smart Mask Interpolation have additional
vertices.

The value you set specifies how finely the input mask paths are subdivided. Pixels Between Vertices specifies the
distance, in pixels, between vertices on the larger perimeter mask path after subdivision. Total Vertices specifies the
number of vertices on the interpolated mask paths. Percentage Of Outline specifies that a vertex is added at each
indicated percent of the mask path outline length. For example, a value of 5 means that a vertex is added at each
successive segment of the outline that represents 5% of the total perimeter. To use only the vertices that were on the
path at the first frame, do not select this option.
Note: Smart Mask Interpolation may add vertices at existing vertex locations even if Add Mask Path Vertices is not
selected. If two vertices on one mask path match a single vertex on the other, the single vertex is duplicated at the same
location so that the segment between the two vertices shrinks to that location.
Matching Method Specifies the algorithm that Smart Mask Interpolation uses to match vertices on one mask path

to vertices on the other. Auto applies the matching algorithm for curves if either of the two selected keyframes has
a curved segment; otherwise, it applies the polylines algorithm. Curve applies the algorithm for mask paths that have
curved segments. Polyline applies the algorithm for mask paths that have only straight segments.
Note: The mask path keyframes added by Smart Mask Interpolation are polylines when Polyline Matching Method is
selected, regardless of whether the input mask paths contained curved segments.
Use 1:1 Vertex Matches Specifies that Smart Mask Interpolation creates a vertex on one mask path that matches the
same-numbered vertex on the other mask path. On each of the input mask paths, Smart Mask Interpolation matches
the first vertices, the second vertices, the third vertices, and so forth. If the two paths have unequal numbers of
vertices, this action may produce undesirable results.
First Vertices Match Specifies that Smart Mask Interpolation matches the first vertices in the two mask path

keyframes. If not selected, Smart Mask Interpolation searches for the best first-vertex match between the two input
mask paths.
Note: To ensure good results, make sure that the first vertices of the input mask paths match, and then select First
Vertices Match.

Additional resources about animating masks with Smart Mask Interpolation
Chris and Trish Meyer provide some tips on animating masks, including using Smart Mask Interpolation, on the
ProVideo Coalition website.

Move a mask or pan a layer behind a mask
You can adjust the area that is visible through a mask by either moving the mask in the Layer or Composition panel or
panning (moving) the layer behind the mask in the Composition panel. When you move a mask, the Position values of
the masked layer remain constant, and the mask moves in relation to other objects in the Composition panel.

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When you use the Pan Behind (Anchor Point) tool to pan a layer behind a mask, the position of the mask remains
constant in the Composition panel but changes in the Layer panel. The Position values of the masked layer change in
relation to the composition. As you pan past the edges of the layer frame, the Mask Path values on the layer also change.
Using the Pan Behind (Anchor Point) tool saves steps; without it, you would have to change the Position and Mask Path
properties of the masked layer manually. You can animate a layer panning behind another layer by setting keyframes
for the Position and Mask Path properties of the masked layer.

Move a mask
1 Select the mask or masks you want to move.
2 In the Composition panel, drag the mask or masks to a new location. To constrain the movement of the mask or

masks to horizontal or vertical, hold down Shift after you start dragging.

Pan a layer behind its mask
1 Select the Pan Behind (Anchor Point) tool in the Tools panel.
2 Click inside the mask area in the Composition panel and drag the layer to a new position.

More Help topics
About masks
Creating masks
About paths
Keyboard shortcuts
Keyframe interpolation

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Shape attributes, paint operations, and path operations
for shape layers
Adding attributes to shape layers
After a shape layer has been created, you can add attributes—paths, paint operations, and path operations—by using
the Add menu in the Tools panel or in the Timeline panel.
By default, the new attributes are inserted into the selected shape group or groups according to the following rules:

• New paths are added below existing paths and groups.
• New path operations—such as Zig Zag and Wiggle Paths—are added below existing path operations. If no path
operations are present, new path operations are added below existing paths.
• New paint operations—strokes and fills—are added below existing paths and above existing strokes and fills.
To override these rules and place a new attribute at the end of the group, below all attributes, hold the Alt (Windows)
or Option (Mac OS) key as you click to choose an item from the Add menu.
The Repeater operation is always added at the end of the group.

Strokes and fills for shapes
Andrew Devis shows how to modify gradient fills and strokes for shape layers, plus other options, in a video on the
Creative COW website.
Strokes and fills for shapes are paint operations that add colored pixels to a path or to the area defined by a path. A
stroke or a fill can consist of a solid color, or it can use a gradient of colors. Strokes can be continuous, or they can consist
of a periodic series of dashes and gaps. Each stroke and fill has its own blending mode, which determines how it
interacts with other paint operations in the same group.
By default, paint operations within a group are performed from the bottom to the top in the Timeline panel stacking
order. This means, for example, that a stroke is rendered on top of (in front of) a stroke that appears after it in the
Timeline panel. To override this default behavior for a specific fill or stroke, choose Above Previous In Same Group for
the Composite property for the fill or stroke in the Timeline panel.
Note: When you add a stroke or fill using the Add menu in the Tools panel or Timeline panel, the paint operation is added
below existing paths and above existing strokes and fills. To place a new stroke at the end of the group, hold the Alt
(Windows) or Option (Mac OS) key as you click to choose an item from the Add menu.
New shapes are created with fill and stroke properties depicted by the swatch buttons next to the underlined Fill and
Stroke text controls in the Tools panel. You can also modify the fill colors, stroke colors, fill type, and stroke type for
selected shapes using these controls. The Fill and Stroke controls are only visible in the Tools panel when a shape layer
is selected or a drawing tool is active.
If multiple shapes are selected, with different fill or stroke properties, then the swatch button next to the Fill or Stroke
control contains a question mark. You can still modify the fill and stroke properties using these controls, and the
corresponding properties for all selected shapes are set to the same value.
Fills and strokes can be any of four types:
None No paint operation is performed.
Solid color The entire fill or stroke consists of one color.

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Linear gradient The fill or stroke consists of colors and opacity values defined by a linear gradient and then mapped

onto the composition along a single axis from the Start Point to the End Point.
Radial gradient The fill or stroke consists of colors and opacity values defined by a linear gradient, which are mapped

onto the composition along a radius extending outward from the Start Point at the center to the End Point at the
circumference of a circle. You can offset the starting point by modifying the Highlight Length and Highlight Angle
values.
You can animate and interpolate gradients by adding keyframes to the Colors property and using the Color Picker in
Gradient Editor mode to add, modify, and remove color stops and opacity stops. You can also save gradients as
animation presets. (See Save an animation preset.)
The colors of strokes and fills for shape layers are not rendered as high-dynamic range colors. Color values under 0.0
or over 1.0 are clipped to fall within the range of 0.0 to 1.0.

Choose stroke or fill type and blending options
• To choose a fill type or stroke type for new shapes, or set the blending mode or opacity for a fill or stroke for new
shapes, click the underlined Fill or Stroke text control in the Tools panel. To cycle through fill types or stroke types
for existing shapes, select the shapes before using these controls.
• To cycle through fill types or stroke types for new shapes, Alt-click (Windows) or Option-click (Mac OS) the swatch
button next to the underlined Fill or Stroke text control in the Tools panel. To choose a fill type or stroke type for
existing shapes, select the shapes before using these controls.

Choose a solid color or edit a gradient for a stroke or fill
• To choose a solid color or gradient for fills or strokes for new shapes, click the swatch button next to the underlined
Fill or Stroke text control in the Tools panel. To choose a solid color or gradient for fills or strokes for existing shapes,
select the shapes before using the controls.

Modify the color mapping for a gradient
A gradient is a range of color and opacity values that you can customize in the Gradient Editor dialog box. You can also
customize how those colors are applied to a stroke or fill by modifying the Start Point and End Point, which determine
the direction and scale of the gradient. For example, you can modify these points to stretch the colors of a gradient over
a larger area, or orient a linear gradient so that colors fade from top to bottom instead of from left to right. For a radial
gradient, you define the center of gradient, its radius, and the offset of a highlight.
By default, when you create a shape path by drawing with the Pen tool, the control points for the gradient are placed in
the center of the layer. You can adjust these points after you finish drawing.
You can modify the Start Point, End Point, Highlight Angle, and Highlight Length properties in the Timeline panel.
You can also modify these properties directly in the Composition panel.

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A Highlight control point B Start Point C End Point

1 Select the group in which the gradient is contained.
2 With the Selection tool active, drag the Start Point, End Point, or Highlight controls in the Composition panel.

The Selection tool turns to a gradient control pointer

or

when placed over a gradient control.

Set stroke width
• To set stroke width for new shapes in pixels (px), drag the underlined Stroke Width control (which is located to the
right of the Stroke controls in the Tools panel), or click the control and enter a value in the box. To set the stroke
width for existing shapes, select them before using the Stroke Width control.

Create a dashed stroke
You create a dashed stroke by adding any number of dashes and gaps to the Dashes property group for the stroke. The
dashes and gaps in this property group are repeated as many times as necessary to cover the entire path. The Offset
property determines at what point on the path the stroke begins.
Animate the Offset property to create a moving trail of dashes, like the lights on a marquee.
1 Expand the property group for a stroke in the Timeline panel.
2 Click the Add A Dash Or Gap

button to add a dash and gap to one cycle of the dashed-line pattern. You can add
up to three dashes for each stroke pattern.

3 Modify the Dash and Gap properties to make the dashes and gaps the lengths that you want.

Line Cap options for strokes
The Line Cap property for a dashed stroke determines the appearance of the ends of the stroke segments (dashes).
Butt Cap The stroke ends at the end of the path.
Round Cap The stroke extends beyond the end of the path for a number of pixels equal to the stroke width in pixels.
The cap is a semicircle.
Projecting Cap The stroke extends beyond the end of the path for a number of pixels equal to the stroke width in pixels.
The end is squared off.

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Line Join options for strokes
The Line Join property for a stroke determines the appearance of the stroke where the path suddenly changes direction
(turns a corner).
Miter Join A pointed connection. The Miter Limit value determines the conditions under which a beveled join is used

instead of a miter join. If the miter limit is 4, then when the length of the point reaches four times the stroke weight, a
bevel join is used instead. A miter limit of 1 causes a bevel join.
Round Join A rounded connection.
Bevel Join A squared-off connection.

Fill rules for shapes
A fill operation works by painting color in the area defined as inside a path. Determining what is considered inside a
path is easy when the path is something simple, like a circle. However, when a path intersects itself, or when a
compound path consists of paths enclosed by other paths, determining what is considered inside is not as easy.
After Effects uses one of two rules to determine what is considered inside a path for the purpose of creating fills. Both
rules count the number of times that a straight line drawn from a point crosses the path on its way out of the area
surrounded by a path. The nonzero winding fill rule considers path direction; the even-odd fill rule does not.
After Effects and Illustrator use the nonzero winding fill rule as the default.

Even-odd fill rule If a line drawn from a point in any direction crosses the path an odd number of times, then the point

is inside; otherwise, the point is outside.
Nonzero winding fill rule The crossing count for a line is the total number of times that the line crosses a left-to-right
portion of the path minus the total number of times that the line crosses a right-to-left portion of the path. If a line
drawn in any direction from the point has a crossing count of zero, then the point is outside; otherwise, the point is
inside.

A more intuitive way to think of the nonzero winding rule is to think of a path as a loop of string. A point is considered
outside the path if you can put your finger at that point and then pull the string away without it being caught, wrapped
around your finger.
Because the nonzero winding fill rule takes path direction into account, using this fill rule and reversing the direction
of one or more paths in a compound path is useful for creating holes in compound paths.
To reverse the direction of a path, click the Reverse Path Direction On

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Alter shapes with path operations
Path operations are similar to effects. These live operations act nondestructively on a shape’s path to create a modified
path that other shape operations (such as fills and strokes) can apply to. The original path is not modified. Because path
operations are live, you can modify or remove them at any time. Path operations apply to all paths above them in the
same group; as with all shape attributes, you can reorder path operations by dragging, cutting, copying, and pasting in
the Timeline panel.
1 In the Composition panel or Timeline panel, select the shape group into which to add the path operation.
2 Choose a path operation from the Add menu in the Tools panel or the Timeline panel:
Merge Paths Combines paths into a compound path. (See Merge Paths options.)
Offset Paths Expands or contracts a shape by offsetting the path from the original path. For a closed path, a positive
Amount value expands the shape; a negative Amount value contracts it. The Line Join property specifies the
appearance of the path where offset path segments come together. A bevel join is a squared-off connection. A miter
join is a pointed connection. The miter limit determines the conditions under which a beveled join is used instead
of a miter join. If the miter limit is 4, then when the length of the point reaches four times the stroke weight, a bevel
join is used instead. A miter limit of 1 causes a bevel join.
Pucker & Bloat Pulls the vertices of a path outward while curving the segments inward (Pucker), or pulls the vertices

inward while curving the segments outward (Bloat).
Repeater Creates multiple copies of a shape, applying a specified transformation to each copy. (See Using the

Repeater to replicate shapes.)
Round Corners Rounds corners of paths. Higher Radius values cause greater roundness.
Trim Paths Animate the Start, End, and Offset properties to trim a path to create results similar to results achieved
with the Write-on effect and the Write On setting for paint strokes. If the Trim Paths path operation is below
multiple paths in a group, then you can choose to have the paths trimmed simultaneously or treated as a compound
path and trimmed individually.

Aharon Rabinowitz provides a video tutorial on the Creative COW website that shows how to use the Trim Paths
operation to animate a dashed line following a path on a map.
Twist Rotates a path more sharply in the center than at the edges. Entering a positive value twists clockwise; entering
a negative value twists counterclockwise.
Wiggle Paths Randomizes (wiggles) a path by converting it into a series of jagged peaks and valleys of various sizes.

The distortion is auto-animated, meaning that it changes over time without the need to set any keyframes or add
expressions.
Several properties for this path operation behave the same as properties of the same name for the Wiggly selector
for text animation. (See Wiggly selector properties.) The Correlation property specifies the amount of similarity
between the movement of a vertex and that of its neighbors; smaller values create more jagged results, as the position
of a vertex depends less on the position of its neighbors. The Correlation property is similar to Correlation for the
Wiggly selector, except that the Wiggle Paths version specifies the correlation between neighboring vertices instead
of neighboring characters. Set the maximum length for segment paths using an absolute or relative size. Set the
density of jagged edges (Detail) and choose between soft edges (Smooth) or sharp edges (Corner).
Animate the Size property to fade the wiggling up or down. To smoothly accelerate or decelerate the wiggling, set
Wiggles/Second to a constant value of 0, and animate the Temporal Phase property.
Wiggle Transform Randomizes (wiggles) any combination of the position, anchor point, scale, and rotation

transformations for a path. Indicate the desired magnitude of the wiggle for each of these transformations by setting
a value in the Transform property group that is contained in the Wiggle Transform property group. The wiggled

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transformations are auto-animated, meaning that they change over time without the need to set any keyframes or
add expressions. The Wiggle Transform operation is especially useful following a Repeater operation, because it
allows you to randomize the transformations of each repeated shape separately. (See Using the Repeater to replicate
shapes.)
Several properties for this path operation behave the same as properties of the same name for the Wiggly selector
for text animation. (See Wiggly selector properties.) The Correlation property specifies the amount of similarity
between the wiggled transformations of a repeated shape and its neighbor within a set of repeated shapes.
Correlation is only relevant if a Repeater operation precedes the Wiggle Transform operation. When Correlation is
100%, all repeated items are transformed in the same way; when Correlation is 0%, all repeated items are
transformed independently.
When randomizing repeated shapes keep the following in mind: If the Wiggle Transform path operation precedes (is
above) the Repeater path operation, then all of the repeated shapes will be wiggled (randomized) in the same way.
If the Repeater path operation precedes (is above) the Wiggle Transform path operation, then each of the repeated shapes
will be wiggled (randomized) independently.
Chris Meyer provides a video tutorial on the ProVideo Coalition website that shows how to use the Wiggle
Transform path operation. This tutorial explains why you must use multiple instances of the Wiggle Transform path
operation if you want to wiggle multiple properties independently.
Andrew Devis shows how to use the Wiggle Transform path operation in a video on the Creative COW website.
Zig Zag Converts a path into a series of jagged peaks and valleys of uniform size. Set the length between peaks and

valleys using an absolute or relative size. Set the number of ridges per path segment, and choose between wavy edges
(Smooth) or jagged edges (Corner).

Merge Paths options
The Merge Paths path operation takes all of the paths above it in the same group as input. The output is a single path
that combines the input paths. The input paths are still visible in the Timeline panel, but they are essentially removed
from the rendering of the shape layer, so they don’t appear in the Composition panel. A fill and stroke are added after
the Merge Paths property group in the Timeline panel if a fill and stroke are not already present; otherwise, the output
path wouldn’t be visible.

A Add for all shapes B Subtract for squares C Intersect for squares D Exclude Intersections for squares

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Aharon Rabinowitz provides a video tutorial on the Creative COW website that shows how to combine multiple paths
into a single compound shape using the Merge Paths path operation.
The Merge Paths path operation has the following options, each of which performs different calculations to determine
the output path:
Merge Merges all input paths into a single compound path. This option is the default used for shapes created from text
characters made up of multiple paths, like the letter e, when using the Create Shapes From Text command.
Add Creates a path that encompasses the union of the areas of the input paths.
Subtract Creates a path that encompasses only the areas defined by the topmost path, subtracting the area defined by

underlying paths.
Intersect Creates a path that encompasses only the areas defined by intersections between all input paths.
Exclude Intersections Creates a path that is the union of the areas defined by all input paths, minus the areas defined

by intersections between all input paths.

Using the Repeater to replicate shapes
The Repeater path operation creates virtual copies of all paths, strokes, and fills above it in the same group. The virtual
copies are not represented by separate entries in the Timeline panel, but they are rendered in the Composition panel.
Each copy is transformed according to its order in the set of copies and the values of the properties in the Transform
property group for that instance of the Repeater.

If the original shape is numbered 0, the next copy is numbered 1, and so on, then the result of the Repeater is to apply
each transformation in the Transform property group n times to copy number n.
Consider the example of the Repeater applied to a shape with the Copies value set to 10 and the Position property in
the Transform property group for the Repeater set to (0.0, 8.0). The original shape remains in its original position, (0.0,
0.0). The first copy appears at (0.0, 8.0), the second copy appears at (0.0, 16.0), the third copy appears at (0.0, 24.0), and
so on, until the ninth copy at (0.0, 72.0), for a total of ten shapes.
You can apply multiple instances of the Repeater within the same group. In other words, you can repeat the Repeater.
Using multiple instances of the Repeater is an easy way to create a grid of virtual copies of a single shape: just set the
Position property for one instance of the Repeater to modify the horizontal values, and another instance to modify
vertical values.

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The Offset property value is used to offset the transformations by a specific number of copies. For example, if the
Copies value is 10 and the Offset value is 3, then the original shape is transformed by 3 times the amount specified in
the Transform property group, and the last copy is transformed by 12 times the amount specified in the Transform
property group.
Animating the Offset property is a good way to easily create interesting results.
The Composite option determines whether copies are rendered above (in front of) or below (behind) the copies that
precede them.
Use the Start Opacity value to set the opacity of the original shape, and the End Opacity value to set the opacity for the
last copy. Opacity values for copies in between are interpolated.
If you place the Repeater after a path, above the fill and stroke property groups for a shape, then the set of virtual copies
is filled or stroked as a compound path. If you leave the Repeater below the fill and stroke, then each copy is filled and
stroked individually. The difference is most apparent with gradient fills and strokes.
Add a Wiggle Transform path operation after a Repeater operation to randomize (wiggle) the position, scale, anchor
point, or rotation of the repeated copies within an instance of the Repeater. If the Wiggle Transform path operation
precedes (is above) the Repeater path operation, then all of the repeated shapes will be wiggled (randomized) in the same
way. If the Repeater path operation precedes (is above) the Wiggle Transform path operation, then each of the repeated
shapes will be wiggled (randomized) independently.
Eran Stern provides a video tutorial on the Creative COW website that shows how to use the Repeater operation.
Chris Zwar provides an example project on his website that uses the Card Dance effect and a shape layer with the
Repeater operation to simulate a halftone color separation for any image or video.

More Help topics
About shapes and shape layers
Groups and render order for shapes and shape attributes
Select a color or edit a gradient

Mask Tracking
The rigid mask tracker transforms a mask so that it follows the motion of an object (or objects) in a movie. You usually
create and use masks to hide clips from the final output, select a part of the image or video to apply effects, or combine
clips from different sequences.

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To use the mask tracker, select a mask and click the Mask Path setting under the mask. Right-click the selected mask
and select Track Mask to begin tracking a mask.
When a mask is selected, the Tracker panel switches to mask tracking mode, and displays the following controls:

• Track forward either one frame at a time or until the end of the layer.
• Track backward either one frame at a time or until the end of the layer.
• Different methods with which you can choose to modify position, scale, rotation, skew, and perspective of the mask.
If the Tracker panel is not displayed, select a mask and go to Animation > Track Mask to display the panel. You can also
context-click a mask and choose Track Mask from the context menu.
The result of using the mask tracker can be seen in the application of keyframes for the Mask Path property; the mask
shape matches the transformations tracked in the layer, depending on the type of method that is chosen.
Other considerations when using the mask tracker

• For effective tracking, the tracked object must maintain the same shape throughout the movie, though the position,
scale, and perspective of the tracked object can change.
• You can select multiple masks before beginning the tracking operation, and keyframes are then added to the Mask
Path property for each selected mask.
• The layer being tracked must be a track matte, an adjustment layer, or a layer with a source that can contain motion.
This includes layers based on video footage and precompositions, but not solid-color layers or still images.
The mask tracking analysis searches for content inside the mask. Use the Mask Expansion property to expand or
contract the area of the mask.

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How to use the Track Mask effect (Learn tutorial)

Watch this tutorial to learn how to use the Track Mask effect in After Effects to add and shape mask elements that move
accurately through your Premiere Pro sequence.

How to use the Rigid Mask Tracker (Learn tutorial)

See this tutorial to learn how to use the rigid mask tracker in After Effects.

Compositing Options and Mask Reference

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Effect Opacity Property
The property group of each effect includes a Compositing Options property group. There is a new Effect Opacity
property which provides similar functionality to every effect as the Blend With Original controls. With the Effect
Opacity property, you can change the global opacity and it will affect the entire effect. There is no need to add a mask
separately.
The Blend With Original controls group lets you precisely apply any effect to a particular area of an image by masking
the desired area.
For more information, see the Blend effecteffect section.

About Mask Reference
Use the new Mask Reference option to restrict the area of effects that is applied to a layer. The Mask Reference property
is found under the Compositing Options under each effect in the Timeline panel.

Create a Mask Reference

Click the '+' sign under the Compositing Options in the Timeline panel and choose a mask from the Mask Reference
menu.
While creating a mask reference, keep in mind the following considerations :

• You can only choose a mask on the same layer as the effect.
• You can add as many mask references as you like.
• You can reference an existing mask.
• You cannot create a new mask from an After Effects effect.

When a mask is applied to a layer, a dynamic stream is created under the Masks options which shows the list of masks
applied to a layer. When a new mask is created, this list is automatically updated.

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Changes to a mask that is referenced by an effect will change where the effect is composited. For example, you can
feather the mask or use per-vertex feathering to change the edge of the effect composite. Changing the opacity changes
the overall intensity of the effect per for every mask.
You can also use mask modes and combine multiple masks to apply an effect only to the area of intersection of masks.
For more information, see the Mask modessection.

Effect masks and layer masks
An effect mask cannot be used to modify the alpha channel of a layer. Hence an effect mask cannot be used as a layer
mask.
For more information about layer masks, see the Preparing and importing Photoshop filessection.

Learn tutorial

Watch this tutorial to learn how to limit an effect to a specific area using a mask on the layer, and change properties on
a per-mask basis.

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Chapter 10: Text

Live Text Templates
About Live Text Templates
You can create text template compositions in After Effects wherein the source text can be edited in Premiere Pro. Any
composition with text layers can be used as a text template, and unlocked text layers in that composition can be edited
in Premiere Pro.

Using Live Text Templates in After Effects
1 Create an After Effects composition with one or more text layers.
2 In the Advanced tab of the Composition Settings dialog box, choose Expose As Text Template.
3 Animate, add effects, or perform any other action that you want to on the text layer.
4 Click the Lock icon

to lock any text layers that you do not want to be edited in Premiere Pro. The locked text layer
will not be visible in Premiere Pro.

5 Open Premiere Pro.
6 In Premiere Pro, click File > Import to import the After Effects composition.
7 Load the composition in the Source Monitor.
8 The new After Effects Editable Text category is displayed in the Effect Controls panel in Premiere Pro.
9 Edit the source text items in the Effect Controls panel in Premiere Pro, and verify that this appears in the content in

Premiere Pro. The changes do not affect the original material in After Effects.
10 The edited text is sent from Premiere Pro to After Effects and the original text in After Effects is replaced.
11 In After Effects, you can modify some aspects of the composition, including properties of the text layer, such as

position and color.
12 The text is rendered and then sent back to Premiere Pro.

Note: You can modify the source text in After Effects for one of the text layers where the text was changed in Premiere Pro.
The text does not change in Premiere Pro.
See the Live text templates section in Premiere Pro for details specific to Premiere Pro.

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Text

Learn tutorial

Watch this tutorial to learn how to create live text templates in After Effects that are editable in Premiere Pro.

Creating and editing text layers
About text layers
You can add text to a composition using text layers. Text layers are useful for many purposes, including animated titles,
lower thirds, credit rolls, and dynamic typography.
You can animate the properties of entire text layers or the properties of individual characters, such as color, size, and
position. You animate text using text animator properties and selectors. 3D text layers can optionally contain 3D
sublayers, one for each character. (See Animate text with text animatorsand Per-character 3D text properties.)
Text layers are synthetic layers, meaning that a text layer does not use a footage item as its source—though you can
convert text information from some footage items into text layers. Text layers are also vector layers. As with shape layers
and other vector layers, text layers are always continuously rasterized, so when you scale the layer or resize the text, it
retains crisp, resolution-independent edges. You cannot open a text layer in its own Layer panel, but you can work with
text layers in the Composition panel.
After Effects uses two kinds of text: point text and paragraph text. Point text is useful for entering a single word or a
line of characters; paragraph text is useful for entering and formatting the text as one or more paragraphs.

You can copy text from other applications such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe InDesign, or any text
editor, and paste it into a text layer in After Effects. Because After Effects also supports Unicode characters, you can
copy and paste these characters between After Effects and any other application that also supports Unicode (which
includes all Adobe applications).

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Text formatting is included in the Source Text property. Use the Source Text property to animate formatting and to
change the characters themselves (for example, change the letter b to the letter c).

Best practices for creating text and vector graphics for video
Text that looks good on your computer screen as you are creating it can sometimes look bad when viewed in a final
output movie. These differences can arise from the device used to view the movie or from the compression scheme used
to encode the movie. The same is true for other vector graphics, such as shapes in shape layers. In fact, the same
problems can occur in raster images, but the small and sharp details of vector graphics cause the problems most often.
Keep in mind the following as you create and animate text and vector graphics for video:

• You should always preview your movie on the same kind of device that your audience will use to view it, such as an
NTSC video monitor. (See Preview on an external video monitor.)
• Avoid sharp color transitions, especially from one highly saturated color to its complementary color. Sharp color
transitions are difficult for many compression schemes—such as the compression schemes in MPEG and JPEG
standards—to encode. These compression schemes can cause visual noise near sharp transitions. For analog
television, the same sharp transitions can cause spikes outside the allowed range for the signal, also causing noise.
• When text will be over moving images, make sure that the text has a contrasting border (such as a glow or a stroke)
so that the text is still readable when something the same color as the fill passes behind the text.
• Avoid thin horizontal elements, which can vanish from the frame if they happen to be on an even scan line during
an odd field, or vice versa. The height of the horizontal bar in a capital H, for example, should be three pixels or
greater. You can thicken horizontal elements by increasing font size, using a bold (or faux bold) style, or applying a
stroke. (See Formatting characters with the Character panel.)
• When animating text to move vertically—for scrolling credits, for example—move the text vertically at a rate in
pixels per second that is an even multiple of the field rate for the interlaced video format. Such a rate of movement
prevents a kind of twitter that can come from the text movement being out of phase with the scan lines. For NTSC,
good values include 0, 119.88, and 239.76 pixels per second; for PAL, good values include 0, 100, and 200 pixels per
second.
Apply the Autoscroll - Vertical animation preset in the Behaviors category to quickly create a vertical text crawl (for
example, a credit roll).

• To avoid the risk of twitter that comes with vertical motion, thin graphical elements, and fields, consider presenting
credits as a sequence of blocks of text separated by transitions, such as opacity fades.
Fortunately, many problems with text in video and compressed movie formats can be solved with one simple technique:
Apply a blur to the text layer. A slight blur can soften color transitions and cause thin horizontal elements to expand.
The Reduce Interlace Flicker effect works best for the purpose of reducing twitter; it applies a vertical directional blur
but doesn't blur horizontally, so it degrades the image less than other blurs.
Philip Hodgetts provides tips on the Creative COW website for getting the best results when creating text or vector
graphics for video.

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Scripts and expressions for working with text
Christopher Green provides a script (crg_Text_from_File.jsx) on his website that creates one or multiple text layers
based on the contents of a text file. You can either create one text layer from all of the text, or you can create one layer
for each line in the text file. The script also provides options for leading and other spacing.
Todd Kopriva provides an example script on the Adobe website that demonstrates the text formatting features available
through the scripting interface.
Salahuddin Taha provides a script on the After Effects Scripts website that enables entry of Arabic text (which flows
from right to left).
Michael Cardeiro provides a script on the After Effects Scripts website that makes multiple versions of your
compositions using information from a spreadsheet or database. The script goes through your spreadsheet line by line,
making a new version of your composition with text layers in the composition receiving text from the spreadsheet
automatically.
The After Effects Scripts website provides many scripts for working with text. Paul Tuersley provides a script on the
After Effects Scripts website that allows you to search for and edit text layers throughout your After Effects project,
create your own text style presets, and apply them to multiple layers.
Paul Tuersley provides a script on the AE Enhancers forum for importing Substation Alpha (SSA) karaoke files and
automatically creating animated text layers from them.
Jeff Almasol provides a script on his redefinery website for editing the source text of text layers.
Jeff Almasol provides a script on his redefinery website that converts various plain text punctuation into their “smart”
typographical representations (for example, (c) is converted to the copyright symbol, ©).
Jeff Almasol provides a script on his redefinery website that sets keyframes for the Source Text property of a text layer
and sets the values to text from a text file; the keyframes are placed at times specified by layer markers on the text layer.
For examples of expressions for the Source Text property, see Writing expressions for source text and MarkerKey
attributes (expression reference).

Enter point text
When you enter point text, each line of text is independent—the length of a line increases or decreases as you edit the
text, but it doesn’t wrap to the next line.
The small line through the type tool pointer marks the position of the text baseline. For horizontal text, the baseline
marks the line on which the text rests; for vertical text, the baseline marks the center axis of the characters.
When you enter point text, it is created using the properties currently set in the Character panel. You can change these
properties later by selecting the text and modifying settings in the Character panel.
1 Do one of the following to create a text layer:

• Choose Layer > New > Text. A new text layer is created and an insertion point for the Horizontal Type tool
appears in the center of the Composition panel.
• Double-click a Type tool. A new text layer is created and an insertion point for the appropriate type tool appears
in the center of the Composition panel.
• Select the Horizontal Type tool
set an insertion point for the text.

or the Vertical Type tool

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Note: The pointer for a type tool changes depending on whether it is over a text layer in the Composition panel. When
; click to create a new text layer. Shiftthe pointer is not directly over a text layer, it appears as a new text pointer
click always creates a new text layer.
2 Enter text characters by typing. Press Enter on the main keyboard (Windows) or Return (Mac OS) to begin a new

line.
Note: You can also choose Edit > Paste to paste text that you have copied from any application that uses Unicode
characters. Text receives the formatting of the first character in the text layer into which it is pasted.
3 To end text-editing mode, press Enter on the numeric keypad, select another tool, or press Ctrl+Enter (Windows)

or Command+Return (Mac OS).

Enter paragraph text
When you enter paragraph text, the lines of text wrap to fit the dimensions of the bounding box. You can enter multiple
paragraphs and apply paragraph formatting.
You can resize the bounding box at any time, which causes the text to reflow within the adjusted rectangle.
When you enter paragraph text, it has the properties set in the Character and Paragraph panels. You can change these
properties later by selecting the text and modifying settings in the Character and Paragraph panels.
1 Select the Horizontal Type tool

or the Vertical Type tool

.

2 Do one of the following in the Composition panel to create a text layer:

• Drag to define a bounding box from a corner.
• Alt-drag (Windows) or Option-drag (Mac OS) to define a bounding box around a center point.
Note: The pointer for a type tool changes depending on whether it is over a text layer in the Composition panel. When
; drag to create a new text layer. Shiftthe pointer is not directly over a text layer, it appears as a new text pointer
drag always creates a new text layer.
3 Enter text by typing. Press Enter on the main keyboard (Windows) or Return (Mac OS) to begin a new paragraph.

Press Shift+Enter on the main keyboard (Windows) or Shift+Return (Mac OS) to create a soft carriage return, which
begins a new line without beginning a new paragraph. If you enter more text than can fit in the bounding box, the
overflow icon appears on the bounding box.
Note: You can also choose Edit > Paste to paste text that you have copied from any application that uses Unicode
characters. Text receives the formatting of the first character in the text layer into which it is pasted.
4 To end text-editing mode, press Enter on the numeric keypad, select another tool, or press Ctrl+Enter (Windows)

or Command+Return (Mac OS).

Select and edit text in text layers
You can edit text in text layers at any time. If you set the text to follow a path, designate it as a 3D layer, transform it, or
animate it, you can still continue to edit it. Before you can edit text, you must select it.
To disable the Path Options property group for a text layer, click the visibility (eyeball) switch for the Path Options
property group. Temporarily disabling the Path Options property group can make editing and formatting text easier.

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The pointer for a type tool changes, depending on whether it is over a text layer in the Composition panel. When the
pointer for a type tool is directly over a text layer, it appears as the edit text pointer ; click to place the insertion point
in the existing text.
❖ To select text with a type tool, do one of the following:

• To select a range of text, drag over the text.
• To select a range of text, click, move the pointer, and then Shift-click.
• To select a word, double-click it. To select a line, triple-click it. To select a paragraph, quadruple-click it. To select
all text in a layer, quintuple-click anywhere in the text.
• To use the arrow keys to select text, hold down Shift and press the Right Arrow or Left Arrow key. To use the
arrow keys to select words, hold down Shift+Ctrl (Windows) or Shift+Command (Mac OS) and press the Right
Arrow or Left Arrow key.
To select all text in a text layer and activate the most recently used type tool, double-click the text layer in the Timeline
panel.

Online resources for selecting and editing text in text layers
Jeff Almasol provides a script on his redefinery website for editing the source text of text layers.
Jeff Almasol provides a script on his redefinery website that converts various plain text punctuation into their “smart”
typographical representations (for example, (c) is converted to the copyright symbol, ©).
Jeff Almasol provides a script on his redefinery website that sets keyframes for the Source Text property of a text layer
and sets the values to text from a text file; the keyframes are placed at times specified by layer markers on the text layer.

Resize a text bounding box
1 With a type tool active, select the text layer in the Composition panel to display the bounding box handles.
2 Position the pointer over a handle—the pointer turns into a double arrow

—and do one of the following:

• Drag to resize in one direction.
• Shift-drag to maintain the proportion of the bounding box.
• Ctrl-drag (Windows) or Command-drag (Mac OS) to scale from the center.

Move a text layer
You can drag with the move pointer
in the Composition panel to move a text layer. To activate the move pointer
without leaving text editing mode, move the type tool away from the text in the Composition panel; when you see the
, drag to move the text. You can also hold down the Ctrl (Windows) or Command (Mac OS) key to
move pointer
momentarily activate the move pointer.

Convert point or paragraph text
Note: When you convert paragraph text to point text, all characters outside the bounding box are deleted. To avoid losing
text, resize the bounding box so that all text is visible before conversion.
1 Using the Selection tool

, select the text layer.

Note: You can’t convert the text layer if it’s in text-editing mode.
2 Using a type tool, right-click (Windows) or Control-click (Mac OS) anywhere in the Composition panel, and choose

Convert To Paragraph Text or Convert To Point Text.

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When you convert from paragraph text to point text, a carriage return is added at the end of each line of text, except
the last line.
To display the bounding box of paragraph text and automatically select a type tool, double-click the text layer in the
Timeline panel.

Change the direction of text
Horizontal text flows from left to right; multiple lines of horizontal text lie from top to bottom. Vertical text flows from
top to bottom; multiple lines of text lie from right to left.

A Horizontal point text B Horizontal point text converted to vertical C Horizontal paragraph text D Horizontal paragraph text converted to
vertical

1 Using the Selection tool

, select the text layer.

Note: You can’t convert text in text-editing mode.
2 Using a type tool, right-click (Windows) or Control-click (Mac OS) anywhere in the Composition panel, and choose

Horizontal or Vertical.

Convert text from Photoshop to editable text
Text layers from Photoshop retain their style and remain editable in After Effects.
If you imported the Photoshop document as merged layers, then you must first select the layer and choose Layer >
Convert To Layered Comp to decompose the imported Photoshop document into its layers.
1 Add the Photoshop text layer to your composition and select it.
2 Choose Layer > Convert To Editable Text.

The layer becomes an After Effects text layer and no longer uses the Photoshop text layer as its source footage item.
If the layer contains layer styles, the layer styles are converted to editable layer styles as if the Layer > Layer Styles >
Convert To Editable Styles command had been used on the layer before converting the text to editable text.

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More Help topics
Examples and resources for text animation
Apply an effect or animation preset
Formatting paragraphs with the Paragraph panel
Type
Preparing and importing Photoshop files
Layer styles

Formatting characters and the Character panel
Use the Character panel to format characters. If text is selected, changes you make in the Character panel affect only
the selected text. If no text is selected, changes you make in the Character panel affect the selected text layers and the
text layer’s selected Source Text keyframes, if any exist. If no text is selected and no text layers are selected, the changes
you make in the Character panel become the new defaults for the next text entry.

• To display the Character panel, choose Window > Character; or, with a type tool selected, click the panel button
in the Tools panel.
To open the Character and Paragraph panels automatically when a type tool is active, select Auto-Open Panels in the
Tools panel.

• To reset Character panel values to the default values, choose Reset Character from the Character panel menu.
Note: You open the panel menu by clicking the panel menu button

in the upper-right tab of the panel.

After Effects doesn't provide a character style for underlining text, but you can underline text with a variety of other
graphical elements. Possibilities include using a shape layer containing a path with a stroke, applying a stroke to an open
mask, using the Write-on Effect, and using an animated series of tightly spaced (kerned) underscore or dash characters. For
a discussion of why underlining is considered bad typographic form and how you can create underlines in After Effects, see
this post on the Creative COW After Effects forum.

Fonts
A font is a complete set of characters—letters, numbers, and symbols—that share a common weight, width, and style.
In addition to the fonts installed on your system in the standard location for your operating system, After Effects uses
font files in this local folder:
Windows Program Files\Common Files\Adobe\Fonts
Mac OS Library/Application Support/Adobe/Fonts

If you install a Type 1, TrueType, OpenType, or CID font into the local Fonts folder, the font appears in Adobe
applications only.
If the formatting for a character specifies a font that is unavailable on your computer system, another font will be
substituted, and the missing font name will appear in brackets. Font substitution sometimes occurs when you open a
project on Mac OS that was created on Windows, because the set of default fonts differs between the two operating
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When you select a font, you can select the font family and its font style independently. The font family (or typeface) is
a collection of fonts sharing an overall design; for example, Times. A font style is a variant version of an individual font
in the font family; for example, regular, bold, or italic. The range of available font styles varies with each font. If a font
doesn’t include the style you want, you can apply faux styles—simulated versions of bold, italic, superscript, subscript,
all caps, and small caps styles. If more than one copy of a font is installed on your computer, an abbreviation follows the
font name: (T1) for Type 1 fonts, (TT) for TrueType fonts, or (OT) for OpenType fonts.
The font size determines how large the type appears in the layer. In After Effects, the unit of measurement for fonts is
pixels. When a text layer is at 100% scale value, the pixel values match composition pixels one-to-one. So if you scale
the text layer to 200%, the font size appears to double; for example, a font size of 10 pixels in the layer looks like 20 pixels
in the composition. Because After Effects continuously rasterizes text, the resolution remains high when you increase
the scale values.
Note: When choosing fonts and styles from the menus in the Character panel, press Enter (Windows) or Return (Mac OS)
to accept an entry, or press Esc to exit the menu without applying a change.
For information about what fonts are installed with After Effects CS5, see these pages on the Adobe website:

• Useful Details About Creative Suite 5 (CS5) Fonts
• Fonts included with Adobe Creative Suite 5 Applications
You can use the Adobe Font Finder on the Adobe website to browse and search fonts by various characteristics.

Choose a font family
• Click in the Font Family menu box, and begin typing the name. Continue typing until the desired font family name
appears.
• To choose the previous or next font family in the menu, place the pointer over the Font Family menu box and use
your mouse scroll wheel; or click in the Font Family menu box, and press the Up Arrow or Down Arrow.
• Click the arrow to the right of the Font Family menu box, and press the key for the first letter of the font family name.
Press the key again to advance through the font families with names that begin with that letter.

Choose a font style
• Choose from the Font Style menu in the Character panel.
• If the font family you chose does not include a bold or italic style, you can click the Faux Bold button
Italic button in the Character panel to apply a simulated style.

or the Faux

Choose a font size
• Enter or select a new value for Size

in the Character panel.

Spacing between characters and lines: non-breaking spaces, kerning,
tracking, and leading
Leading is the spacing between lines of text. Kerning is the process of adding or subtracting space between specific letter
pairs. Tracking is the process of creating an equal amount of spacing across a range of letters. Positive kerning or
tracking values move characters apart (increasing the spacing from the default); negative values move characters closer
together (reducing the spacing from the default).
Note: When you open a project that was last saved in After Effects 6.0, text in the project may lie differently than in After
Effects 6.0 because of improvements in kerning behavior.

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Tracking and manual kerning are cumulative, so you can first adjust individual pairs of letters and then tighten or
loosen a block of text without affecting the relative kerning of the letter pairs.
Note: Values for kerning and tracking affect Japanese text, but normally these options are used to adjust the aki (spacing)
between Roman characters.

Create a non-breaking space
If a set of characters is set to be non-breaking, the characters animate together as if they were a single word.
1 Select the characters you want to prevent from breaking.
2 Choose No Break from the Character panel menu.

Note: You open the panel menu by clicking the panel menu button

in the upper-right tab of the panel.

Specify leading
❖ In the Character panel, do one of the following:

• Choose the desired leading from the Leading menu

.

• Select the existing leading value, and enter a new value.
• Drag the underlined leading value.

Specify kerning
You can automatically kern type using metrics kerning or optical kerning. Metrics kerning uses kern pairs, which are
included with most fonts. Kern pairs contain information about the spacing of specific pairs of letters such as LA, To,
Tr, Ta, Tu, Te, Ty, Wa, WA, We, Wo, Ya, and Yo. After Effects uses metrics kerning by default so that specific pairs are
automatically kerned when you import or type text. Some fonts include robust kern-pair specifications.
For fonts for which metrics kerning provides inadequate results, or for two different typefaces or sizes in a line, you
may want to use the optical kerning option. Optical kerning adjusts the spacing between adjacent characters based on
their shapes.
You can also use manual kerning to adjust the space between two letters.
Alan Shisko provides an article and video tutorial about kerning on his Motion Graphics 'n Such blog.

• To use the built-in kerning information for a font, choose Metrics from the Kerning menu
panel.

in the Character

• To adjust kerning manually, click between two characters with a type tool, and set a numeric value for Kerning
in the Character panel.
Note: If a range of text is selected, you can’t manually kern the characters. Instead, use tracking.

Specify tracking

• To specify tracking, set a numeric value for Tracking

in the Character panel.

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Text fills and strokes
For text, a fill is applied to the area inside the shape of an individual character; a stroke is applied to the outline of the
character. After Effects applies a stroke to a character by centering the stroke on the character’s path; half of the stroke
appears on one side of the path, and the other half of the stroke appears on the other side of the path.
The Character panel lets you apply both color fill and color stroke to text, control the stroke width, and control the
stacking position of the fill and stroke. You can change these properties for individual, selected characters; selected
Source Text keyframes; all text in a layer; or all text across multiple selected layers.
You can also control the compositing order of the fill and stroke for a text layer using the All Fills Over All Strokes or
All Strokes Over All Fills options, which override the Fill Over Stroke or Stroke Over Fill properties of individual
characters.
Note: For text that has per-character 3D properties, you cannot control the order of stroke and fill operations between
characters; the Fill & Stroke menu in the More Options property group in the Timeline panel is unavailable, and the All
Fills Over All Strokes and All Strokes Over All Fills options in the Character panel do nothing.

Add a stroke (outline) to text
1 Select the characters to which you want to add a stroke.
2 Set a stroke size with the Stroke Width

property in the Character panel.

3 Set the stroke color with the Stroke Color control in the Character panel.
4 Choose one of the following in the Character panel to control the position of the stroke:
Stroke Over Fill, Fill Over Stroke The stroke of only selected text appears over or behind the fill.
All Strokes Over All Fills, All Fills Over All Strokes Strokes appear over or behind fills in the entire text layer.

Change text fill or stroke color
The text you enter gets its color from the Fill Color and Stroke Color controls in the upper-right corner of the Character
panel. Select text to change its color after the text has already been entered.

• To set fill or stroke color using the color picker, click the Fill Color or Stroke Color control. To set fill or stroke color
and then click anywhere on the screen to sample the color.
using the eyedropper, click the eyedropper button
• To swap colors for fill and stroke, click the Swap Fill And Stroke button

.

• To remove fill or stroke, click the No Fill Color button or No Stroke Button. Only one of these buttons is available,
depending on whether the Fill Color or Stroke Color box is forward.
• To set the fill or stroke to black or white, click the Set To Black

or Set To White

button.

• To bring the Fill Color or Stroke Color box forward, click it.

Change text stroke line join
The line join type for a stroke determines the shape of the stroke when two segments of the stroke intersect. You set the
line join type for a text stroke with the Line Join setting in the panel menu of the Character panel, which you open by
in the upper-right tab of the Character panel.
clicking the panel menu button

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❖ Choose Miter, Round, or Bevel from the Line Join menu.

Blend overlapping characters in a text layer
1 In the Timeline panel, expand the text layer and the More Options group.
2 Choose a blending mode from the Inter-Character Blending menu.

Note: To blend a text layer with the layers beneath it, specify a blending mode from the Modes column in the Timeline
panel.
Inter-character blending is not available for text layers with per-character 3D properties.

Text scale and baseline shift
Horizontal scale and vertical scale specify the proportion between the height and width of the text. Unscaled characters
have a value of 100%. You can adjust scale to compress or expand selected characters in both width and height.
Baseline shift controls the distance that text appears from its baseline, either raising or lowering the selected text to
create superscripts or subscripts.

• To adjust scale, enter a new percentage for Horizontal Scale
the underlined value.

or Vertical Scale

in the Character panel, or drag

• To specify baseline shift, set a value for Baseline Shift
in the Character panel. A positive value moves horizontal
text above and vertical text to the right of the baseline; a negative value moves text below or to the left of the baseline.

Change the case of text
You can enter or format text as uppercase characters, either all caps or small caps. When you format text as small caps,
After Effects uses the small caps designed as part of the font, if they are available. If the font does not include small caps,
After Effects generates faux small caps.
Note: Small Caps formatting does not change characters that were originally typed in uppercase.

• Click the All Caps button

or the Small Caps button

in the Character panel.

• Choose All Caps or Small Caps from the Character panel menu.
Note: You open the panel menu by clicking the panel menu button

in the upper-right tab of the panel.

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Format text as superscript or subscript
Superscript characters are reduced in size and shifted above the text baseline; subscript characters are reduced in size
and shifted below the text baseline. If the font does not include superscript or subscript characters, After Effects
generates faux superscript or subscript characters.

• Click the Superscript button

or the Subscript button

in the Character panel.

• Choose Superscript or Subscript from the Character panel menu.
Note: You open the panel menu by clicking the panel menu button

in the upper-right tab of the panel.

Chinese, Japanese, and Korean text
After Effects provides several options for working with Chinese, Japanese, and Korean (CJK) text. Characters in CJK
fonts are often referred to as double-byte characters because they require more than one byte of information to express
each character.
To display CJK font names in English, choose Show Font Names In English from the Character panel menu. You open
the panel menu by clicking the panel menu button
in the upper-right tab of the panel.

Adjust tsume
Tsume reduces the space around a character by a specified percentage value. The character itself is not stretched or
squeezed as a result. When tsume is added to a character, spacing around both sides of the character is reduced by an
equal percentage.
1 Select the characters you want to adjust.
2 In the Character panel, enter or select a percentage for Tsume

. The greater the percentage, the tighter the
compression between characters. At 100% (the maximum value), no space exists between the character’s bounding
box and its em box.

Specify how leading is measured
1 Select the paragraphs you want to adjust.
2 Choose Top-To-Top Leading or Bottom-To-Bottom Leading from the Paragraph panel menu. A check mark

indicates which option is selected.
Note: You open the panel menu by clicking the panel menu button

in the upper-right tab of the panel.

Use tate-chuu-yoko
Tate-chuu-yoko (also called kumimoji and renmoji) is a block of horizontal text laid out within a vertical text line.

1 Select the characters that you want to rotate.

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2 Choose Tate-Chuu-Yoko from the Character panel menu. (A check mark indicates that the option is turned on. To

turn off the option, choose Tate-Chuu-Yoko again.)
Note: You open the panel menu by clicking the panel menu button

in the upper-right tab of the panel.

Using tate-chuu-yoko does not prevent you from editing and formatting text; you can edit and apply formatting
options to rotated characters as you do to other characters.

Smart quotes
Smart quotes, or printer’s quotation marks, use a curved left or right quotation mark instead of straight quotation marks.
❖ To use smart quotes, choose Use Smart Quotes from the Character panel menu.

Note: You open the panel menu by clicking the panel menu button

in the upper-right tab of the panel.

More Help topics
Text (keyboard shortcuts)
Blending modes and layer styles
Per-character 3D text properties

Examples and resources for text animation
Chris and Trish Meyer provide a video tutorial on the ProVideo Coalition website about entering, editing, formatting,
and typesetting text.
Harry Frank provides a tutorial on animating text with text animators on the Digital Arts Online website.
Aharon Rabinowitz provides a video tutorial on the Creative COW website that shows a few ways to make 3D extruded
text in After Effects, using duplicate layers or the Shatter effect.
In the “After Effects Text Tips” series of video tutorials on the Creative COW website, Aharon Rabinowitz demonstrates
how to use multiple text animators to create and fine-tune complex text animations.
Steve Holmes provides a tutorial on the Layers Magazine website that uses three text animators and per-character 3D
text animation to create a text animation.
Colin Braley provides a tutorial and example project on his website that show how to use an expression on the Source
Text property to animate text to overcome some of the limitations of the Numbers effect.
Eran Stern provides a set of video tutorials on the Creative COW website that show how to use the text animation
features to create a variety of simple animations, including some that use punctuation and other non-alphanumeric
symbols as simple vector graphics elements:

• Part 1
• Part 2
Eran Stern provides a video tutorial on the Creative COW website that demonstrates how to use per-character 3D text
animation to animate text along a path in the shape of a 3D tornado.
Rhys Enniks provides a video tutorial on his website in which he uses expressions and multiple text animators and range
selectors to animate text as if it is being typed onto a computer screen.

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Angie Taylor provides a tutorial on the Digital Arts website that shows how to use per-character 3D text animation
together with a common workaround for simulating extruded 3D text.
Eran Stern provides a video tutorial on the Artbeats website that shows how to use the After Effects text animation
system as a particle system.
Rich Young collects several resources and tutorials for creating extruded 3D text in After Effects.
On the ProVideo Coalition website, Chris & Trish Meyer provide several tips for animating text in After Effects.
Toby Pitman shows tricks for using shape layers to animate text on the MacProVideo website.

Example: Animate characters with per-character 3D properties
This example illustrates how you can easily animate individual characters in 3D so that each character steps out of line
and takes a bow.
1 Create a new composition.
2 Create a new text layer with the word ovation.
3 Choose Animation > Animate Text > Enable Per-character 3D.
4 Choose Animation > Animate Text > Position.
5 Choose Animation > Animate Text > Rotation.
6 In the Timeline panel, in the Animator group, set the X Rotation property to 45, and set the Position value to (0.0,

0.0, -100.0).
7 Expand Range Selector 1.
8 Click the stopwatch icon for the Offset property to set an initial keyframe with the value at 0 seconds.
9 Set the Offset property value to -15%.
10 Set the End property value to 15%.
11 Move the current-time indicator to 10 seconds, and set the Offset value to 100%.
12 Press the R key to show the Rotation properties for the entire layer.
13 Set the Y Rotation value for the layer to -45, rotating the entire layer so that you can more easily see the 3D motion

of the characters.
14 Preview the composition.

Example: Offset characters
This example illustrates how you can easily animate random characters so that they gradually form a legible word or
phrase by specifying a Character Offset value and animating the range selector.

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1 Create a new composition.
2 Create a new text layer with the word Galaxy.
3 Choose Animation > Animate Text > Character Offset.
4 In the Timeline panel, set the Character Offset value to 5.
5 Expand Range Selector 1.
6 Click the Start stopwatch to set an initial keyframe at 0 seconds and set the value to 0%.
7 Move the current-time indicator to 5 seconds and set the Start value to 100%.
8 Set Character Alignment to Center.
9 Preview the composition.

Example: Animate characters with the Wiggly selector
This example demonstrates how easy it is to animate the position of individual characters. It also shows how the Wiggly
selector can create a dramatic change to the animation simply by adding it to the layer.

1 Create a new composition.
2 Create a new text layer with the word Galaxy and set the color to blue in the Character panel.
3 Choose Animation > Animate Text > Position.
4 In the Timeline panel, drag the y value of the Position property to the left until all of the characters are out of the

frame.
5 Expand Range Selector 1.
6 Click the Start stopwatch and leave it at 0% at 0 seconds; then move the current-time indicator to 5 seconds and set

Start to 100%.

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7 Preview the composition.
8 Collapse the Animator 1 group.
9 Make sure that nothing is selected except the text layer name in the Timeline panel, and choose Fill Color > Hue

from the Animate menu. A new animator group, Animator 2, appears in the Timeline panel.
10 Set Fill Hue to 1x+0.0.
11 Expand the Range Selector 1 for Animator 2.
12 Click the Start stopwatch and leave it at 0% at 0 seconds; then move the current-time indicator to 5 seconds and set

Start to 100%.
13 Preview the animation. The colors change now as they drop from the top of the screen, but they all use the same

color and end up the same, original color.
14 With Fill Hue selected, choose Selector > Wiggly from the Add menu.
15 Expand the Wiggly Selector 1 property and choose Add from the Mode menu.
16 Preview the composition.

Note: If you add the Fill Hue property to Animator 1 and then add the Wiggly selector, both the position and the colors
wiggle, instead of just the colors.

Example: Animate text tracking
This example shows you how easy it is to isolate characters when tracking a line of text. Using the Tracking and Line
Anchor animator properties, you can easily move all but one or a few characters.

1 Create a new composition.
2 Create a new text layer and type 3579.
3 With the text layer selected, click the Center Text button in the Paragraph panel.
4 Choose View > Show Grid.
5 In the Timeline panel, select the text layer and choose Animation > Animate Text > Tracking.
6 Make sure that Before & After is specified in the Track Type menu.
7 Click the Tracking Amount stopwatch and leave the value 0 at 0 seconds.
8 Move the current-time indicator to 5 seconds and drag the Tracking Amount value until all characters are off the

screen.
9 Preview the animation.
10 With the current-time indicator at 0, take a snapshot of the Composition panel. You will use this snapshot, and the

grids, to determine the original location of the number 7 at the end of the animation.
11 Move the current-time indicator to 5 seconds.
12 Click the Show Snapshot button.
13 In the Timeline panel, select Animator 1 and choose Line Anchor from the Add menu.

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14 Drag the Line Anchor value until the 7 is positioned in approximately its original position in the center of the

Composition panel.
15 Click the Show Snapshot button in the Composition panel to see the exact location of the 7 in its original location.

Adjust the Line Anchor value to position the character in the original location.
16 Preview the animation.

Example: Use selectors to animate specific words
This example shows how to use selectors to limit an animation to a specific word.

1 Create a new composition.
2 Create a new text layer with the words Speeding Saucer.
3 Choose Animation > Animate Text > Skew.
4 In the Timeline panel, set the Skew value to 35.
5 Expand Range Selector 1.
6 Make sure the current-time indicator is at 0 seconds and click the End stopwatch.
7 In the Composition panel, drag both selector bars to the left side of the S in Speeding.
8 Move the current-time indicator to 2 seconds and drag the right selector bar to the right side of the g in Speeding.
9 Preview the composition.

Example: Create a write-on animation
You can easily create the appearance of writing on the screen by using the Opacity animator property.

1 Create a new composition.
2 Create a text layer with the characters 01234.
3 Choose Animation > Animate Text > Opacity.
4 Set Opacity to 0%.
5 Expand the Range Selector 1 and click the stopwatch icon for Start.
6 In the Composition panel, drag the start selector to the left edge of the text (the value will be at 0).
7 Move the current-time indicator to 5 seconds and drag the start selector in the Composition panel to the right edge

of the text (the value will be 5).
8 Preview the composition.

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Note: By default, the Smoothness property is set to 100%. To create a typewriter appearance, expand the Advanced
property and set Smoothness to 0%.

Example: Animate text with multiple selectors
This example uses the selectorValue parameter in an Expression selector with the Wiggly selector to make a string of
characters flash on and off randomly.
1 Create a new composition.
2 Create a new text layer.
3 In the Timeline panel, choose Opacity from the Animate menu for the text layer.
4 Expand the text layer and its animator in the Timeline panel.
5 Select the Range Selector and delete it.
6 Choose Add > Selector > Wiggly next to the Animator property group for the text layer.
7 Choose Add > Selector > Expression. If the Wiggly selector doesn’t come before the Expression selector, drag the

Wiggly selector above the Expression selector.
8 Expand the Expression Selector.
9 Expand the Amount property to reveal the expression. The following expression appears by default:
selectorValue * textIndex/textTotal

10 Replace the default expression text with the following expression:
r_val=selectorValue[0];
if(r_val < 50)r_val=0;
if(r_val > 50)r_val=100;
r_val

11 Set the opacity to 0%, and preview the composition.

Example: Animate text position with expressions
This example uses the textIndex and textTotal attributes with the wiggle expression to animate a line of text.
1 Create a new composition.
2 Create a new text layer.
3 Expand the text layer in the Timeline panel to view the text properties. Add a Position animator group from the

Animate menu.
4 Delete the default Range selector, Range Selector 1.
5 Add an Expression selector by selecting the Add menu, then choosing Selector > Expression. Expand the Expression

selector to reveal its options.
6 Expand the Amount property to reveal the expression. The following expression appears by default:
selectorValue * textIndex/textTotal

7 Replace the default expression with the following expression:
seedRandom(textIndex);
amount=linear(time, 0, 5, 200*textIndex/textTotal, 0);
wiggle(1, amount);

The linear method is used in this example to ramp down the maximum wiggle amount over time.

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8 Set the vertical position value. The greater the value, the more the characters wiggle.
9 Preview your composition.

Example: Animate text as a timecode display
❖ With no layers selected in the Timeline panel, double-click the Current Time Format animation preset in the Effects

& Presets panel. (You can locate the animation preset by typing its name in the Contains field in the Effects & Presets
panel.)
A new text layer is created, with an expression on the Source Text property that makes the text show the current time
in the time display format set for the project.
You can use other expressions in the Global category to display time in another format.
To see the expressions on a layer, select the layer and press EE.

More Help topics
Create a composition
Enter point text
Text selectors
Set or add keyframes
Preview video and audio
Snapshots
Timecode and time display units
Time conversion methods (expression reference)

Animating text
About text animation
Animating text layers is useful for many purposes, including animated titles, lower thirds, credit rolls, and dynamic
typography.
As with other layers in After Effects, you can animate entire text layers. However, text layers offer additional animation
features with which you can animate the text within the layers. You can animate text layers by using any of the following
methods:

• Animate the Transform properties, as you would any other layer, to change the entire layer, not its text contents.
• Apply text animation presets. (See Text animation presets.)
• Animate the source text of the layer, so that the characters themselves change to different characters or use different
character or paragraph formats over time. (See Select and edit text in text layersand Writing expressions for source
text.)

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• Use text animators and selectors to animate many properties of individual characters or a range of characters. (See
Animate text with text animators.)
To smooth the edges and movement of animated text, enable motion blur for the text layer. See Motion blur for more
information.
For a video tutorial on animating text, go to the Adobe website.

Text animation presets
Browse and apply text animation presets as you would any other animation presets. You can browse and apply
animation presets in After Effects using the Effects & Presets panel or Adobe Bridge. To open the Presets folder in
Adobe Bridge, choose Browse Presets from the Effects & Presets panel menu or from the Animation menu. (See Apply
an effect or animation preset and Animation presets.)
A great way to see how advanced users use After Effects is to apply an animation preset, and press U or UU to reveal
only the animated or modified layer properties. Viewing the animated and modified properties shows you what changes
the designer of the animation preset made to create the animation preset.

Tips, notes, and caveats for text animation presets
The text animation presets were created in an NTSC DV 720x480 composition, and each text layer uses 72-point
Myriad Pro. Some preset animations move the text on, off, or through the composition. The animation preset position
values may not be appropriate for a composition that is much larger or smaller than 720x480; for example, an animation
that is supposed to start outside the frame may start inside the frame. If the text isn’t positioned as expected or the text
disappears unexpectedly, adjust the position values for the text animator in the Timeline panel or Composition panel.
After you apply a 3D Text animation preset, you may need to rotate the layer or add a camera to rotate around the layer
to see the results of the 3D animation.
Text animation presets in the Paths category automatically replace the source text with the name of the animation preset
and change the font color to white. These animation presets may also change other character properties.
The Fill And Stroke category of animation presets contains presets that may change the fill color and stroke properties
of the preset that you apply. If the animation preset requires a stroke or fill color, the animation works only if you have
assigned one to your text.

Additional online resources for animation presets
You can download additional animation presets that take advantage of per-character 3D text animation from the After
Effects Exchange on the Adobe website.
For a list of animation presets included with After Effects, see Animation preset list.

Animate text with text animators
Animating text with animators and selectors consists of three basic steps:

• Add an animator to specify which properties to animate.
• Use a selector to specify how much each character is affected by the animator.
• Adjust the animator properties.
Note: To always affect all characters in the layer, delete the default selector. In this case, animating a text layer is not much
different from animating any other layer.

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Usually, you don’t need to set keyframes or expressions for the animator properties. It’s common to only set keyframes
or expressions for the selector and specify only the ending values for the animator properties.
1 Select a text layer in the Timeline panel, or select the specific characters that you want to animate in the Composition

panel.
2 Do one of the following:

• Choose Animation > Animate Text and then choose a property from the menu.
Note: The Enable Per-Character 3D menu item does not add an animator. It adds 3D properties to the layer and to the
individual characters, for which you can then add animators.

• Choose a property from the Animate menu, located in the Switches/Mode column of the Timeline panel.

3 In the Timeline panel, adjust the animator property values. Often, you simply set the property that you want to

animate to its ending value and then use the selectors to control everything else.
4 Expand the Range Selector property group and set keyframes for Start or End properties by clicking the stopwatch

for the property and doing one of the following:

• Set the values for Start and End in the Timeline panel.
You may find it easier to think in terms of numbers of characters than percentages for the Start and End properties
of a range selector. To show these properties in numbers of characters (including spaces), choose Index for Units in
the Advanced property group of a range selector.

• Drag the selector bars in the Composition panel. The pointer changes to the selector movement pointer
when it is over the middle of a selector bar.
5 To refine the selection, expand Advanced and specify options and values as desired.

For example, to animate opacity gradually from the fir