Introduction to the After Effects Interface


Import only creates a link to the file
** Don't move or rename source files

File menu - Import - File...


Projects (.aep)

Only one can be opened at a time. Projects holds all the elements of your video.


A project can hold:

Audio files
Tiff files
Illustrator Files
Photoshop files (single layer or individual layers with a new composition)
Solid colored layers

Information about the element is listed above (once you click it)

Below the elements (icons):


Interpret Footage: can change the alpha and other settings
New Folder: use folders to stay organized
New Comp: Can create as many compositions as needed
Project Settings: Use Timecode Base: 30 fps and NTSC: Non-Drop Frame
Delete: Select the items and click the trash to delete things


Can make as many as you want.
Can embed Compositions inside of Compositions
Comps hold layers which consist of elements from the Project window

The Composition Window:

You can switch between the footage windows and the Comp windows using the tabs on the top.

Lots of helpful icons


Always Preview this View - when you do a render or preview it will use this view

Magnification - use less than 100% to decrease preview time and amore than 100% to see detail

Grids and Guides - adds useful lines to help align or make sure elements do not exceed safe zones

grid guide

Toggle Mask and Shape Path Visibility - hides and shows the edges around shapes and masks

Current Time - displays where the time slider is - can click it to tell it to go to a specific time

Snapshot - take a picture and store it in memory

Show Snapshot - when you hold down this button you reveal the picture in memory

Channel and Color Management - can select which channel to display


Resolution - Very useful in speeding up the preview


Region of Interest - lets you select an area and it blacks out the rest of the image and focuses on the selected area (toggle button)

Toggle Transparency Grid - turning this on will reveal that the background is not really black - it is transparent even though it looks black

3D View - lets you select various 3D camera views


View Layout - different arrangements of the windows


Pixel Aspect Ratio Correction - used when working with DVD nonsquare pixels

Fast Preview Menu - select various render modes for preview

fast preview

Bring Timeline Forward - if the timeline window gets covered, this is useful

Composition Flowchart - switches to the Flowchart window - you need to click the Composition Tab to get back

Reset Exposure - toggles between the set exposure and the default (no exposure set)

Set Exposure - lets you change the entire composition's lightness or darkness




The timeline has many icons - some are even hidden by default. The icons are called SWITCHES.

Switches in the A/V Features column:

timeline AV

Video (eyeball) - Toggles layer visuals on or off
Audio (speaker) - Toggles layer sounds on or off
Solo (circle) - Shows the layer in previews and renders, all layers without solo are invisible
Lock (padlock) - Locks layer contents, preventing all changes

Additional Switches:

timeline 2

Along the top: MASTER SWITCHES

top switches

Mini-flowchart - Shows the hierarchy (nested compositions)

Live Update - this will make things go faster but you will not see your changes until you release the mouse button.

Draft 3D - Disables lights, shadows, and depth-of-field blur for cameras

Make Shy - will hide all the layers that you have marked as being shy

Frame Blending - When you time stretch or time remap, the frames can appear choppy. This icon will apply a smoothing effect to the layers that have frame blending turned on. Never apply unless layer time is altered.

Motion Blur - turns on motion blur for layers that have the motion blur icons set on.

Brainstorm - You can select parameters and it will display lots of possibilities for you to choose from

Auto-keyframe - If you turn this on, any parameter you change will be keyed whether or not you turned on the stopwatch

Graph Editor - This allows fine tuning of the animation using curves and lines on a graph

Switches in the Switches column

middle switches

Shy - Hides the current layer when the Hide Shy Layers composition switch is selected.

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.

Quality - Toggles between Best and Draft options for layer quality for rendering, including rendering to the screen for previews.

Effects - Select to render the layer with effects. The switch does not affect the setting for individual effects on the layer.

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 layer's frame blending setting is irrelevant.

Motion Blur - Toggles motion blur on or off for the layer. If the Enable Motion Blur composition switch is not selected, the layer's motion blur setting is irrelevant.

Adjustment Layer - Identifies the layer as an adjustment layer.

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 per-character 3D properties—the switch looks different.

Adjustment Layer - any effect applied to this layer effects all layers below it

Motion Blur - Identifies the layer as having motion blur on it

Frame Blend - Identifies the layer as have frame blending on it - this should only be used if the frame has been time stretched or time remapped.

Icons to Expand or Collapse (hide or show extra icons)

bottom switches

All collapsed:




expanded inOut

Transfer Controls


expanded Transfer

Layer Switches:


expanded layer switches

Next Lecture: [AE Compositions]