Good surfing is power, speed, and flow. The rest of it doesn't matter to me at all.
Gary Elkerton, Australian surfer
Version 7.0 may be remembered as the most radical upgrade to Adobe After Effects to date, because it includes a complete overhaul of the user interface. Although this new version of After Effects will not be completely unfamiliar to anyone who has used previous versions of the application, everything will, at first, seem a little bit different in this version.
Like every other compositing program available today, After Effects is a project-based, non-destructive image editor. In other words, the basic workflow of After Effects is that you import such resources as footage, still images, and audio and work to create compositions, which are combinations of those resources. When you save, the resources themselves are unaffected; you create new shots by rendering them to an entirely new file.
If this book opens at too advanced a level for you, check out Adobe After Effects 7.0 Classroom in a Book (Adobe Press) and After Effects 7.0 for Windows and Macintosh: Visual QuickPro Guide (Peachpit Press), two helpful beginner's resources.
The big advantage of After Effects 7.0 is that it is more streamlined, and this chapter focuses on how to make your own workflow habits more efficient and effective within it. This first chapter is a different beast from the openers of most other books out there; it assumes you already know your way around the basics of After Effects and are ready to learn to work smarter. So, even if you're an experienced After Effects artist, keep reading. You may discover techniques and options you did not even know were available to you. I encourage you to look through this chapter and the rest of Section I carefully for new ideas about working with After Effects.
Section I. Working Foundations
The 7.0 Workflow
Selections: The Key to Compositing
Optimizing Your Projects
Section II. Effects Compositing Essentials
Rotoscoping and Paint
Effective Motion Tracking
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