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What's the Score? Creating Compositions in After Effects

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Antony Bolante shows you step-by-step how to create compositions in After Effects CS3 Professional that will be music to your ears.
This chapter is from the book

Without compositions, a project is nothing more than a list of footage items—a grocery list without a recipe; an ensemble without choreography; finely tuned instruments without, well, a composition. This is because compositions perform the essential function of describing how footage items are arranged in space and time. This chapter shows you how to create a composition and define its spatial and temporal boundaries by setting frame size, frame rate, duration, and so on.

This chapter also describes the fundamental process of layering footage in compositions (and in so doing lays the groundwork for the rest of the book, which focuses largely on how to manipulate those layers). The footage items you add to a composition become layers, which are manipulated in the defined space and time of the composition, as represented by Composition and Timeline panels. The following pages give you an overview of these panels as well as the Time Controls panel. This chapter also introduces you to the technique of nesting, using comps as layers in other comps—a concept you'll appreciate more fully as your projects grow more complex.

Creating Compositions

A composition contains layers of footage and describes how you arrange those layers in space and time. This section explains how to create a composition; the following section describes how to choose specific settings to define a composition's spatial and temporal attributes.

To create a new composition:

  1. Do one of the following:
    • Choose Composition > New Composition.
    • Press Command/Ctrl-N.
    • At the bottom of the Project panel, click the Create Composition button (Figure 4.1).
      Figure 4.1

      Figure 4.1 Click the Create Composition button at the bottom of the Project panel.

    A Composition Settings dialog box appears (Figure 4.2).
    Figure 4.2

    Figure 4.2 In the Composition Settings dialog box, enter the appropriate settings for the composition.

  2. Choose a name for the composition and specify preset or custom composition settings (such as frame size, pixel aspect ratio, frame rate, display resolution, and duration) for the composition. (See "Choosing Composition Settings" later in this chapter for details.)
  3. Click OK to close the Composition Settings dialog box.

    A new composition appears in the Project panel, and related Composition and Timeline panels open (Figure 4.3).

    Figure 4.3

    Figure 4.3 A composition appears in a Composition panel and a Timeline panel, and as an icon in the Project panel (shown here).

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