The 7.0 Workflow
37
Figure 1.24. Feel free to create your own preset if none of the listed ones match one that
you will be using continually for your project.
Notes
Several new presets have been added in After Effects 7.0 for increasingly common HD formats.
The Advanced tab in the Composition Settings dialog pertains to options for specifying composition temporal
and spatial settings (Chapter 4) and for working with motion blur and 3D (Chapter 9).
Previews and OpenGL
Nothing sets you apart as a visual effects pro more than the way you examine footage. A tax accountant who
dealt solely with artists encouraged me a decade ago to write off my VCR and any movies I rented or purchased.
She said that the IRS has no idea of the way that effects people look at moviesback and forth over the same
section, frame by frame, and so onnor the wear and tear it puts on video equipment.
Obviously, the way you look at a clip in After Effects is much different than the way your audience will look at
it once its in the finished movie. So to get to the heart of the matter: How exactly does a professional work with
footage in After Effects? This section offers some of the habits of highly effective compositors, to paraphrase
a popular productivity guru.
The strategies outlined here are particularly helpful when working with typically large format footage such
as 2K film plates (film resolution typically footage measuring approximately 2000 pixels, or more precisely
The 7.0 Workflow
38
2048, horizontally), but theyre not bad habits for speeding you along regardless of format (or the speed of
your workstation).
Resolution and Quality
After Effects 6.5 finally made it standard for any new layers in a composition to be set to Best quality in the
timeline (with a check box for the setting in Preferences > General). Long ago, in the era of truly slow desktop
computers, Draft quality was an effective hedge against slow previews, but in this day and age there are far
more effective ways to manage preview speed without creating inaccurate previews, as Draft quality does.
Notes
Avoid Draft quality, because in most cases the potential pitfalls (forgetting that it is set when making
fine adjustments) are no longer outweighed by the benefits (which can be gained by reducing overall
resolution, sampled area, frame rate, and so on, all detailed here).
There are several other effective ways to speed up previews and interactivity without ever resorting to Draft
quality:
Change Resolution/Down Sample Factor to Half; or in extreme cases, change it to Quarter
Preview a Region of Interest (ROI)
Change the way controls update using Preview settings and the Option key (for more on this, see the section
Caching and Previewing)
Enable the Caps Lock key to prevent further updates to rendered views; use only in cases of extreme slow-
down
Tip
In Preferences > Display is an option to Auto-Zoom When Resolution Changes but most artists
leave it off, preferring to manage these separately. I find it can be handy with specific tasks such as
rotoscoping.
Production monitors with a horizontal resolution of 1920 pixels or more are more common than they used to be,
but theyre far from universal. Artists working at film resolution tend to use this to their advantage by leaving
the footage at 50% magnification and Half resolution, which keeps things moving more quickly (Figure 1.25).
Figure 1.25. It’s generally good practice to keep the resolution (highlighted, right)
matched to the current magnification setting (highlighted, left); this prevents over-
rendering the current view (wasting your time) and helps RAM Previews to play at full
speed.
This setup allows four times as much data to fill a RAM preview, and preview renders are created in a
fractionsometimes one half or, in extreme cases, one tenthof the time required for Full resolution, which
is reserved for cases in which it is necessary to zoom in and look closely, and for final render preparation.
To quickly change the display resolution in the Composition panel, use the keyboard shortcuts shown in Table
1.2.

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