Adobe® After Effects® CC Visual Effects and Compositing Studio Techniques

Book description

This is the only book to focus exclusively on the creation of visual effects for After Effects, and is a one-stop resource for anyone who wants in-depth explanations that demystify the realm of visual effects and how they were created, thanks to veteran author Mark Christiansen's friendly and accessible style. A thoroughly packed, informative read, this masterful guide focuses on explaining the essential concepts, features, and techniques that are key to creating seamless movie-quality visual effects. Users who are comfortable with After Effects will find a helpful review of the fundamentals–managing footage, viewing and editing layers, animating type, and more–so they can learn how to work smarter and more efficiently. Readers of all levels will learn core techniques for effects compositing including color matching, keying, rotoscoping, motion tracking, emulating the camera, and concluding with using expressions in After Effects. The final section of the book delves into creative explorations, demonstrating professional effects that readers might want to re-create.

Readers will also find comprehensive coverage of all new features, including the new workflow between After Effects CC and CINEMA 4D, coverage on the 3D Camera Tracker, and examples of the Refine Edge tool for high-quality matting results.

Included with the book are HD media files and After Effects project files used for many of the techniques in the book, as well as demos of plug-ins that you can use to experiment with in your own effects.

Author Expertise:

Mark Christiansen ( is a visual effects supervisor and creative director and has worked on features including Avatar, Pirates of the Caribbean 3, and Beasts of the Southern Wild, and has served as a director, producer, designer, and compositor/animator on commercials, music videos, live events, and television documentary productions. Mark has done work directly for the Adobe After Effects development and marketing teams, is a founder at, and has taught courses at and Academy of Art University. He has been a guest host of popular podcasts such as “The VFX Show” and has written all editions of this book and coauthored After Effects 5.5 Magic. Mark is also founder of New Scribbler Press.

Table of contents

  1. Title Page
  2. Copyright Page
  3. Contents
  4. About the Author
  5. About the Contributors
  6. Acknowledgments
  7. Foreword
    1. Who Brings the Sex?
    2. Did It Feel Just Like It Should?
    3. Was It Good for You?
    4. Lights On or Off?
    5. In Your Hands
    6. Bring It
  8. Introduction
    1. Why This Book?
    2. Organization of This Book and What’s New
    3. Artistry
    4. Compositing in After Effects
    5. Example Files
    6. The Bottom Line
  9. Section I: Working Foundations
    1. Chapter 1. Composite in After Effects
      1. A Basic Composite
      2. Compositing Is A Over B and Just a Teeny Bit More
      3. Get Settings Right
      4. The User Interface: Use It Like a Pro
      5. Effects in After Effects: Plug-ins and Animation Presets
      6. Output: Render Queue and Alternatives
      7. Assemble Any Shot Logically
    2. Chapter 2. The Timeline
      1. Dreaming of a Clutter-Free Workflow
      2. Timing: Keyframes and the Graph Editor
      3. Shortcuts Are a Professional Necessity
      4. Animation: It’s All About Relationships
      5. Accurate Motion Blur
      6. Timing and Retiming
      7. What a Bouncing Ball Can Teach You About Yourself
    3. Chapter 3. Selections: The Key to Compositing
      1. Beyond A Over B: How to Combine Layers
      2. Edges on Camera (and in the Real World)
      3. Transparency and How to Work with It
      4. Mask Options and Variable Mask Feather
      5. Mask Modes and Combinations
      6. Animated Masks
      7. Composite With or Without Selections: Blending Modes
      8. Share a Selection with Track Mattes
      9. Right Tool for the Job
    4. Chapter 4. Optimize Projects
      1. Work with Multiple Comps and Projects
      2. Special Case: Adjustment and Guide Layers
      3. Image Pipeline, Global Performance Cache, and Render Speed
      4. Optimize a Project
      5. These Are the Fundamentals
  10. Section II: Effects Compositing Essentials
    1. Chapter 5. Color Correction
      1. Color Correction and Image Optimization
      2. Levels: Histograms and Channels
      3. Curves: Gamma and Contrast
      4. Hue/Saturation: Color and Intensity
      5. Compositors Match Colors
      6. Beyond the Ordinary, Even Beyond After Effects
    2. Chapter 6. Color Keying
      1. Procedural Mattes for the Lazy (and Diligent)
      2. Linear Keyers and Hi-Con Mattes
      3. Color Keying: Greenscreen and Bluescreen
      4. Keylight: The After Effects Keying Tool
      5. Fine-tuning and Problem Solving
      6. Fix It on Set
      7. More Alternatives for an Impossible Key
    3. Chapter 7. Rotoscoping and Paint
      1. Roto Brush and Refine Edge
      2. Articulated Mattes
      3. Refined Mattes: Feathered, Tracked
      4. Paint and Cloning
      5. Avoid Roto and Paint
    4. Chapter 8. Effective Motion Tracking
      1. Track a Scene with the 3D Camera Tracker
      2. Warp Stabilizer VFX: Smooth Move
      3. The Point Tracker: Still Useful
      4. Mocha AE Planar Tracker: Also Still Quite Useful
      5. Camera Integration
    5. Chapter 9. The Camera and Optics
      1. The Unreal After Effects Camera
      2. 3D and CINEMA 4D
      3. The Camera Tells the Story
      4. Don’t Forget Grain
      5. Real Cameras Distort Reality
      6. Train Your Eye
    6. Chapter 10. Expressions
      1. What Expressions Are
      2. Creating Expressions
      3. The Language of Expressions
      4. Linking an Effect Parameter to a Property
      5. Using a Layer’s Index
      6. Looping Keyframes
      7. Conditional Events
      8. Randomness
      9. Tracking Motion Between 2D and 3D
      10. Color Sampling and Conversion
      11. Become an Expressions Nerd
    7. Chapter 11. Advanced Color Options and HDR
      1. What Is High Dynamic Range, and Does Film Even Still Exist?
      2. Linear HDR Compositing: Lifelike
      3. Linear LDR Compositing, Color Management, and LUTs
      4. Beyond Theory into Practice
  11. Section III: Creative Explorations
    1. Chapter 12. Color and Light
      1. A Light Source Has Quality and Direction
      2. Light Falloff
      3. Color Looks in After Effects and SpeedGrade
      4. Source, Reflection, and Shadow in Compositions
      5. Multipass 3D Compositing
    2. Chapter 13. Climate and the Environment
      1. Particulate Matter
      2. Sky Replacement
      3. Fog, Smoke, and Mist
      4. Billowing Smoke
      5. Wind and Ambience
      6. Precipitation
    3. Chapter 14. Pyrotechnics: Heat, Fire, Explosions
      1. Firearms
      2. Energy Effects
      3. Heat Distortion
      4. Fire
      5. Explosions
  12. Index
  13. Scripting
    1. Basic Concepts
    2. Object Hierarchy
    3. User Interface
    4. Case Study: Trim Zero Opacity
    5. Case Study: Slated
    6. Case Study: Light Wrap
  14. JavaScript Guide
    1. Variables
    2. Operators
    4. Arrays
    5. Conditionals
    6. Comparison Operators
    7. Loops
    8. The Math Object
  15. Links to Scripts Referenced in the Book
    1. Introduction
    2. Chapter 1
    3. Chapter 2
    4. Chapter 4
    5. Chapter 7
    6. Chapter 8
    7. Chapter 9
    8. Chapter 12
    9. Appendix (online)
  16. Animating with the Puppet Tool
    1. Deformation with the Puppet Tool
  17. Extruded 3D Layers
    1. Ray-traced, Extruded 3D Fundamentals
    2. Stereoscopic 3D Integration
    3. Stereo 3D Convergence
    4. Sensor Sizes for Film and Video Cameras
  18. Expressions Extra Credit
    1. Extra Credit
  19. Color Management
    1. Adobe Color Management
  20. Where are the Lesson Files?

Product information

  • Title: Adobe® After Effects® CC Visual Effects and Compositing Studio Techniques
  • Author(s):
  • Release date: July 2013
  • Publisher(s): Adobe Press
  • ISBN: 9780133442632