Study a Shot like an Effects Artist

Table of contents:

The last chapter of this book is a take on how visual effects artists look at the world around us. Here, I'd like to focus for a moment on how you study a given shot in After Effects most effectively.

If you've never had your work reviewed in dailies at an effects studio, your first time in that setting may be a bit of a shock. Seasoned visual effects supervisors miss nothing, and in some cases they do not even need to see a clip twice to tell you what needs to changeeven if it is only 40 frames long. In other cases, your shot will loop on and on for several minutes while the whole team gangs up on it, picking it apart.

Typically, however, footage is examined in dailies the same way that you want to look at it in After Effects, but in After Effects, you have a huge advantageextra tools at your disposal to show you what is going on, and no surly supervisor sitting near you!

Throughout the book, and in your work, as you preview your shot you are encouraged to

  • Check your Info palette (Figure 1.45)

    Figure 1.45. Whoops! You thought your background level was pure black, but a glance at the Info palette while your cursor is over the background shows that it is actually 2% gray, which can cause problems further down the line.

  • Loop and rock and roll previews (Figure 1.46)

    Figure 1.46. The three available settings for looping previews are highlighted in blue: loop (the default, top), ping-pong (center), or play through once (bottom); toggle these by clicking on the icon.

  • Zoom in and take a close look
  • Examine footage channel by channel
  • "Slam" your levels to see your work in extreme contrast; this is the practice of temporarily (via a top level Adjustment Layer) applying high-contrast to your composition to make sure that blacks, midtones, and highlights still match (introduced in Chapter 5, "Color and Light: Adjusting and Matching")
  • Keep looking for the thing you cannot initially see, and remain critical of the result (without being unfair to yourself)
  • Expect that you will make careless errors; many final takes are lost to this factor. Effects compositing is a little like computer programming: a series of exacting decisions, where one careless error can invalidate the whole effort.


Does your mouse have a zoom wheel? If so, you can use it to zoom in and out on your Composition and Layer views. If you hold down Alt/Option as you mouse-wheel, the zoom will center around your pointera very useful extra for an effects artist hunting for details.

Were I teaching you this subject in person, I would probably remind you of these practices constantly; because doing that throughout a book isn't practical (and could get downright annoying), I encourage you to remind yourself. You will reap the benefits: a shot that is final in fewer takes, thanks to few careless mistakes, resulting in a pleased effects team who lauds your efforts and awards you with trickier, even more impressive shots (and an occasional break).

The Timeline

Section I. Working Foundations

The 7.0 Workflow

The Timeline

Selections: The Key to Compositing

Optimizing Your Projects

Section II. Effects Compositing Essentials

Color Correction

Color Keying

Rotoscoping and Paint

Effective Motion Tracking

Virtual Cinematography


Film, HDR, and 32 Bit Compositing

Section III. Creative Explorations

Working with Light

Climate: Air, Water, Smoke, Clouds

Pyrotechnics: Fire, Explosions, Energy Phenomena

Learning to See


Adobe After Effects 7. 0 Studio Techniques
Adobe After Effects 7.0 Studio Techniques
ISBN: 0321385527
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2004
Pages: 157 © 2008-2020.
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