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Chapter 2. Importing Footage into a Project

Chapter 2. Importing Footage into a Project

Think of an After Effects project as a musical score. Just as a score refers to instruments and indicates how they should be played, your project lists the files you want to use and how you want to use them. When you've finished creating your project, you can output an animation as a movie file or an image sequence. The important thing to remember is that the project contains only references to the source files, not the files themselves. The project contains neither the sources nor the end result—any more than a sheet of music contains a tuba or a recording of the concert. For this reason, a project file takes up little drive space, often less than 1 MB. Source files, on the other hand, consume considerably more storage. You need both the project and the source files to preview or output your animation, just as a composer needs the orchestra to actually hear a work-in-progress or, ultimately, to perform it in concert. Nonlinear editing systems (such as Premiere and Final Cut Pro) and multimedia authoring systems (such as Macromedia Director) also work by referring to source files. Thus, if you're familiar with those programs, you have a head start on the concept of using file references in a project.

An After Effects project contains two types of information: footage files and compositions. Footage files refer to the source files you use in your animation. Compositions describe how you arrange the footage, including attributes such as their order in time, effects, and motion.

In this chapter, you'll learn how to create a project and import various types of footage. We'll cover the specifics of importing still images (including Photoshop and Illustrator files), motion footage, and audio. We'll even show you how to import other projects (and their file references) into your current project. This way, you can easily repurpose another After Effects project or add effects to a sequence created in Premiere.

Don't be intimidated by the length or depth of the chapter. Importing different types of footage into your project is a simple and straightforward process. As you go through the chapter, take just what you need. As you begin to incorporate a wider range of formats in your work, revisit sections to learn the idiosyncrasies of those particular formats.

To revisit our metaphor, if a project is like a musical score, start by composing for an ensemble, then build up to an orchestra. Turn to the sidebars to gain additional technical grounding, from how to prepare your still images and understand alpha channels to how to deal with 3:2 pulldown and pixel aspect ratios. Once you've learned how to import footage files, you'll be ready to organize them, view them, and arrange them in a composition—but first things first.


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