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by Chris and Trish Meyer

Chris & Trish Meyer founded Crish Design (formerly known as CyberMotion) in the very earliest days of the desktop motion graphics industry. Their design and animation work has appeared on shows and promos for CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, HBO, PBS, and TLC; in opening titles for several movies including Cold Mountain and The Talented Mr. Ripley; at trade shows and press events for corporate clients ranging from Apple to Xerox; and in special venues encompassing IMAX, CircleVision, the NBC AstroVision sign in Times Square, and the four-block-long Fremont...

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Using the new Refine Edge Tool in After Effects CC

Using the new Refine Edge Tool in After Effects CC

Keying hair (and more) without a greenscreen

By Chris and Trish Meyer | May 23, 2013

Every time After Effects or any other major tool you use is updated, you go through a decision process of whether or not to buy the upgrade. Adobe has upped the ante this cycle by announcing the end of permanent licenses for most of their software; from now on, their major apps are only available through their Creative Cloud subscription model. We’ve avoided publicly joining the Creative Cloud debate (we happen to actually be subscribers, and we’re very happy - while also realizing it may not work for everyone), but in the meantime, we wanted to share with you more about some of the significant new features in the Creative Cloud version of After Effects so you can be better informed about your upgrade decision when the June 17 release date rolls around.

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Combining Cartoon with Brainstorm

Combining Cartoon with Brainstorm

Using one tool to show you what another can do.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | May 01, 2013

Ever feel like you’re getting the same old looks out of Cartoon, no matter what you try? In this third and final installment of learning how to get better results with the Cartoon effect, we will show you how to combine Cartoon with the After Effects Brainstorm module to get unexpected looks out of Cartoon, including images that look like they were created with a fine pencil, fat markers, or a photocopy machine.

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Enhancing the Cartoon Effect

Enhancing the Cartoon Effect

Just as you shouldn’t use all effects at their defaults, don’t be shy about combining them with other effects.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | April 30, 2013

In this second installment of learning how to get better results with the Cartoon effect, we will go beyond altering Cartoon’s own parameters from their less-than-ideal defaults and explore pre- and post-processing the video clip getting the Cartoon treatment.

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Using Cartoon in After Effects

Using Cartoon in After Effects

Go beyond the defaults to get more interesting looks.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | April 29, 2013

As we’ve mentioned before, we updated our After Effects Apprentice video courses last year. As part of adding and reorganizing material, some movies got cut. But we hate to see anything go to waste, so we’re reposting them here for free - including a three-movie set on using the Cartoon effect.

Cartoon may be one of the most unfairly maligned tools in After Effects. Some of that is due to burn-out based on the popularity of the this look a few years ago; a lot of that is due to the less-than-attractive default settings for Cartoon. But if you’re reading this, you know to go beyond the default settings - and learning those settings is the basis of this first movie.

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Learning More About the Next Version of After Effects

Learning More About the Next Version of After Effects

Two hours of videos; six hours of sessions

By Chris and Trish Meyer | April 04, 2013

Adobe has started to “reveal” information about its next generation of pro video tools, and yesterday we wrote an overview of some of the more significant new features being slated for a future version of After Effects. But if you’re hungry for more information, and sooner rather than later, then you may be interested in some more in-depth videos we’ve recorded, plus a pair of sessions Chris is presenting at next week’s NAB show.

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After Effects CC Technology Preview

After Effects CC Technology Preview

Adobe is giving us a peek at what is on tap for the next version of After Effects.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | April 03, 2013

On the heels of their Refine Edge sneak peek last week and just a few days before NAB, Adobe is releasing more information about some of the cool technology we may see in the next generation of their other pro video tools – including After Effects (now known to be After Effects CC, to be released June 17 2013). Adobe has given some folks like us the opportunity to work with these features in advance, and we wanted to share our thoughts with you.

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After Effects Brainstorm: Keyframe Variations

After Effects Brainstorm: Keyframe Variations

Part 3 of our exploration of the Brainstorm module in After Effects.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | March 29, 2013

In the third of our rescued movies on Brainstorm, I demonstrate a much less common use of Brainstorm: to randomize keyframes. Brainstorm can essentially randomize any property you can select in the Timeline or Effect Controls panels - including values that vary over time. In this movie, I create a swarming-style animation by duplicating a layer multiple times, and then using Brainstorm to randomize the intermediate Position, Rotation, and Scale values the layers go through.

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Adobe Refine Edge

Adobe Refine Edge

UPDATED: Ever pulled your own hair out trying to key or rotoscope hair or other soft edge details? Help is on the way.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | March 26, 2013

Adobe recently posted a video called The History (and Future) of Rotoscoping in After Effects. It gives a quick overview of how masking has evolved over the years in AE, as well as Paint and Roto Brush. At the very end, it teases a new technology called Refine Edge that seems to magically create a detailed alpha channel around the hair of a dancing girl. Adobe has given me the chance to work a bit with Refine Edge, and invited me to share my initial thoughts with fellow users. (Just so we’re clear up front, I’m receiving no compensation from Adobe for this; these are my honest reactions and advice after using it.)

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After Effects Brainstorm: Learning Effects

After Effects Brainstorm: Learning Effects

Part 2 of our exploration of this little-used creative-block-buster.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | March 25, 2013

In the second of our rescued movies on Brainstorm, I focus on using Brainstorm to help learn an effect you may be unfamiliar with. When presented with all the options in available in an open-ended effect such as Fractal Noise, it can be challenging to know just what all the effect is capable of without spending hours of concentrated, methodical study. Of course, that’s still the best way to truly master an effect, but deadlines don’t always allow us to take the rigorous, ideal approach. Therefore, in this movie I share an approach for using the Brainstorm module in After Effects to help explore what an unfamiliar effect may be capable of, including saving off promising variations for later exploration.

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After Effects Brainstorm: Effect Variations

After Effects Brainstorm: Effect Variations

Taking advantage of a little-used feature to overcome creative blocks.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | March 20, 2013

Continuing our rescue operation on orphaned training movies, this is the first of a trio of movies on the little-used and oft-maligned Brainstorm module in After Effects. Brainstorm provides a way to randomize selected parameters or effects with the goal of helping generate new ideas. It’s easy to think that such results would be just as useful as monkeys sitting at a bank of typewriters trying to create your next script, but when used judiciously, it can actually be quite useful. In this first movie, I demonstrate the most common case of using Brainstorm to quickly try out different settings for already-applied affects to see if it can come up with something useful more quickly than you could messing around with the effect’s parameters.

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After Effects Render Order Issues

After Effects Render Order Issues

Why the same treatments can look different on pixel or vector layers - and how to work around it.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | March 15, 2013

Last year, we updated our After Effects Apprentice video courses. As part of adding and reorganizing material, some movies got cut. But we hate to see anything go to waste, so we’re going to repost them here for free. 

After Effects follows a very specific order of calculations when it renders each layer of each frame in a composition. The trick is, that order changes depending on circumstances, such as whether their source layer is made out of pixels (such as photographs and video), vector outlines (such as text and shape layers), or is switched between the two (such as Illustrator artwork, which can be treated as pixels or as vectors). What may seem like “random” behavior is actually very repeatable and thought out; you just have to know it.

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More on Vignettes

More on Vignettes

A simple, often-overlooked technique to add sophistication to your graphics.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | February 28, 2013

Earlier this week, we posted a video on using 3D lights in After Effects to enhance a scene. One of the main reasons for doing so was to add a vignette, where the edges of the frame were darkened, and the center of the frame - where the main action occurred and the main title appeared - was brightened. It’s not as sexy as blowing something up, but it is an effective, more subtle way to help focus the viewer’s attention on the area we wanted, and not have them unduly distracted by non-essential action happening in the background.

A few years ago, we created an entire video course dedicated to different ways of creating vignettes. Among the techniques demonstrated were:

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After Effects Apprentice Free Video: Adding 3D Lighting to a Scene

After Effects Apprentice Free Video: Adding 3D Lighting to a Scene

Enhancing a simple scene through the addition of 3D lighting.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | February 24, 2013

As we mentioned earlier, we’re sharing the free movies from our latest video course that demonstrates creating an opening title from scratch. We were pleased with our initial results, but felt it was looking a touch flat. This movie demonstrates how we used a single 3D light to enhance the scene and focus the viewer’s attention.

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Free Webinar: Two Decades of After Effects

Free Webinar: Two Decades of After Effects

War stories from the start of the desktop motion graphics industry.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | February 20, 2013

We’ve been desktop video users since December 1991 when QuickTime 1.0 and the first version of Adobe Premiere shipped. At the time, the results were mostly heavily compressed, low frame rate, postage stamp sized video, but we had faith it would scale up. In late 1992, we started beta... Read More

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After Effects Apprentice Free Video: Creating Wiggly Lines

After Effects Apprentice Free Video: Creating Wiggly Lines

Exploiting a few tricks with Shape Layers to create and animate faux vital signs displays.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | February 17, 2013

As we mentioned last week, we’re sharing the free movies from our latest video course that walks through creating an opening title (and more) for a medical-themed television special. As part of this, we wanted to create a series of vital signs traces to use as graphical elements in the background. However, we didn’t want to go through the trouble of tracing a real vital signs chart. In this movie, we show how to exploit the capabilities of After Effects’ under-used Shape Layers to create and animate similar-looking traces with minimal effort.

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After Effects Apprentice Free Video: Roughing Out a Camera Move

After Effects Apprentice Free Video: Roughing Out a Camera Move

Starting with initial poses, then separating the camera’s dimensions to craft a smooth move inbetween.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | February 09, 2013

In each edition of our book After Effects Apprentice, the last chapter is a project that brings together skills learned throughout the book, applied to a real-world scenario such as creating a show opening title. For the third edition of our book, we chose the example of creating an open (plus lower thirds and more) for a medical special, with particular emphasis on the technical and design process we go through when building something from scratch to a client’s specifications. The video training version of this chapter has recently been released on Lynda.com, and we want to share the free movies that are available from it.

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After Effects Apprentice Free Video: Adjusting Roto Brush’s Propagation Settings

After Effects Apprentice Free Video: Adjusting Roto Brush’s Propagation Settings

With the After Effects Roto Brush, some assembly is required.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | January 13, 2013

Does it drive you crazy to see somebody use something the wrong way, then declare it doesn’t work? That’s how I feel about the Roto Brush tool introduced in After Effects CS5. This semi-automated tool helps you separate the foreground (i.e. an actor) from a complex background (i.e. not greenscreen) - “all” you have to do is make a couple quick brush strokes defining where those areas are. Well, not exactly. But when you follow the correct process, it can work rather well, and save you a lot of time in the process.

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After Effects Apprentice Free Video: Converting a Comp to Ray Tracing

After Effects Apprentice Free Video: Converting a Comp to Ray Tracing

What do you gain; what do you give up?

By Chris and Trish Meyer | January 10, 2013

One of the major additions to After Effects CS6 was the introduction of a new ray-traced 3D rendering engine. This allowed 3D text to have actual thickness (extrusions and beveling), and added transparency and reflectivity parameters to the Material Options list for all 3D layers with the ray-traced rendering engine is selected for a comp. However, choosing this engine over the "classic" (formerly known as "advanced") 3D renderer also takes away several features, including the use of blending modes and track mattes.

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After Effects Apprentice Free Video: Bending Layers in AE CS6

After Effects Apprentice Free Video: Bending Layers in AE CS6

You cannot extrude and bevel still and movie layers in CS6, but you can bend them.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | January 06, 2013

One of the Apprentice video lessons that received the largest overhaul was AEA11: 3D Space. In CS6, After Effects got its own ray-traced 3D rendering engine, which brought new ways you could treat 3D layers - as well as a few quirky limitations. In this movie, we dive into one of those quirks: Bending layers.

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After Effects Apprentice Free Video: Depth of Field Blur

After Effects Apprentice Free Video: Depth of Field Blur

Reviewing this underused feature which got a major update in CS5.5.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | January 02, 2013

As we mentioned recently, we've been updating our After Effects Apprentice video courses to reflect changes in the third edition of the book, and in particular new and enhanced features introduced in recent versions. One such feature is Depth of Field blur for 3D cameras in After Effects. AE has supported this feature for years, but few have used it as it was slow and had poor quality to boot. In After Effects CS5.5, this feature finally received a much-needed overhaul: It's faster, it looks much better, has many new parameters to control the look of the blur, and also received some handy utilities accessed through the Layer menu which make it easier to tie the focal plane to target layers. These are all demonstrated in the movie below:

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