Master Effects

When it comes to software, After Effects is generally quite straight-forward. If you’re not careful however, you may pick up some bad habits that can cost you valuable time in the long run. If you fancy finding out some tips and tricks to streamline your workflow, take a look below!

Colour Coding

Each layer has a colour, which you can change by right-hand clicking (cmd + click) on the little coloured square for that layer. If you have 8 layers that are all components of one character, why not colour code them all the same to help spot these at a glance? You can also right-hand click the coloured box to select all other layers with the same colour, which can be extremely helpful.

One thing to note is that if you change the colour of a shape layer all of its paths will change colour too. If you make the sun layer orange for example, it may seem logical but it may also make it difficult to see the paths.


File Organisation

“Boring” I hear you sigh, but this is a crucial part of the animation process. I’ll outline a structure we use within After Effects for animation. Feel free to adapt and tweak it till you have a setup that works for you… just remember to stick to it!

  • Complete: This is where the master of all of your compilations lives, the complete video. Stick it in here and you’ll find it a lot easier to find when it comes to rendering (from the media encoder)
  • Assets: This folder is generally split in two: one for visual and one for audio. This is where all of your illustrations, textures, voiceovers and soundtracks are kept. It can help to break this into sub folders to keep things even easier to manage.
  • Intro/Outro: Often videos require and intro/outro including elements like a logo reveal, strapline, call to action etc. Throw these comps in here.
  • Scenes: Break down your animation into scenes and label these here in subfolders. Number them to make sure they stay in order and place all precomps in their relevant subfolders.
  • Solids: Our friendly neighbourhood solids folder will generate itself once you start adding null objects, solids etc.


Use a Template

Once you have a file structure you’re happy with, save this as a template for future use. This will save you constantly recreating all of your folders and comps every time you make a new project.


Reuse Your Nulls

Null objects can quickly fill up your solids folder. Why not reuse one by dragging it from your solids? Be warned, it won’t look the same as when you create a new one; ensure you lower the opacity to 0% … oh, and the anchor point will move to the centre of the null!


Beware the Precomp

Precomposing footage can be a great way to help consolidate your file among other things. If you are precomping layers however, be tactical about why you’re doing so as it can actually make things a lot harder to work with.

If you precomp a group of layers (maybe you’re allergic to having more than 10 layers per composition) and later need to make any some changes to their animation, you’ll be forced to yo-yo between comps to see how your changes in the child comp affect the parent comp. Even precomping items at the end of a project can cause problems if they want tweaks or changes down the line so make sure to think this process through carefully.


Thanks for reading,

Tariq Al-Ani

Lead Animator, The Like Minded

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