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Controlling the View in the Footage Panel in After Effects CS4

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The Footage panel in After Effects CS4 provides a myriad of features for adjusting how you view your footage. Antony Bolante discusses helpful options such as grids, guides, rulers, magnification, and more.
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This article introduces you to the After Effects CS4 Footage panel, which lets you see a footage item in a large viewer, magnify it, measure it with rulers and guides, overlay it with grids, and reveal its individual image channels. Most of the controls in the Footage panel are also found in the Composition and Layer panels, which means that learning how to use these controls now will go a long way toward providing the grounding you need later.

Viewing Footage

When you double-click a footage item in the Project panel, the footage appears either in an After Effects Footage panel or in the player native to its file type, depending on the file type and your preference. Still images always open in an After Effects Footage panel (see Figure 1). By default, movie footage (including audio-only files saved in a movie format) opens in the appropriate media player (see Figure 2). However, you can Option-click the movie footage (Windows: Alt-double-click) to open it in an After Effects Footage panel instead (see Figure 3).

Figure 1

Figure 1 Still images always open in a Footage panel.

Figure 2

Figure 2 By default, motion footage opens in a panel according to the file type.

Figure 3

Figure 3 Option-clicking motion footage (Windows: Alt-double-clicking) opens it in a Footage panel.

The Footage panel is designed primarily for viewing purposes. Once a footage item becomes a layer in a composition, you use the Layer and Composition panels to arrange the item in space and time, and to change its other properties.

A Footage panel has a variety of controls for viewing footage. As you might expect, it lets you play back and cue motion footage. You can magnify or reduce your view of the image, or see its individual channels. You can also show rulers, set guides, and superimpose a grid or video-safe zones. A snapshot feature lets you save and recall a frame of footage that you can use for reference (see Figure 4).

The following sections show how to work with some of the more useful features of the Footage panel.

Figure 4

Figure 4 The Footage panel shares several features with the Composition and Layer panels, including the snapshot feature.

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