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Creating a composition and arranging layers

The next step of the workflow is to create a composition. You create all animation, layering, and effects in a composition. An After Effects composition has both spatial dimensions and a temporal dimension (time).

Compositions include one or more layers, arranged in the Composition panel and in the Timeline panel. Any item that you add to a composition—such as a still image, moving-image file, audio file, light layer, camera layer, or even another composition—becomes a new layer. Simple projects may include only one composition, while elaborate projects may include several compositions to organize large amounts of footage or intricate effects sequences.

To create a composition, you will drag the footage items into the Timeline panel, and After Effects will create layers for them.

  1. In the Project panel, Ctrl-click (Windows) or Command-click (Mac OS) to select the bgwtext composition as well as the DJ, gc_adobe_dj, kaleidoscope_waveforms, and pulsating_radial_waves footage items.
  2. Drag the selected footage items into the Timeline panel. The New Composition From Selection dialog box appears.

    After Effects bases the dimensions of the new composition on the selected footage. In this example, all of the footage is sized identically, so you can accept the default settings.

  3. Click OK to create the new composition. The footage items appear as layers in the Timeline panel, and After Effects displays the composition, named Bgwtext 2, in the Composition panel.

    When you add a footage item to a composition, the footage becomes the source for a new layer. A composition can have any number of layers, and you can also include a composition as a layer in another composition, which is called nesting.

    In this composition, there are five footage items and therefore five layers in the Timeline panel. Depending on the order in which the elements were selected when you imported them, your layer stack may differ from the one shown in the preceding figure. The layers need to be in a specific order as you add effects and animations, however, so you’ll rearrange them now.

  4. Click in an empty area of the Timeline panel to deselect the layers, and then drag Bgwtext to the bottom of the layer stack if it is not already there. Drag the other four layers so that they’re in the order shown in the figure.

    From this point forward in the workflow, you should be thinking about layers, not footage items. You’ll change the column title accordingly.

  5. Click the Source Name column title in the Timeline panel to change it to Layer Name.
  6. Choose File > Save to save your project so far.
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