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Getting Started

Getting Started

Adobe® After Effects® 6.0 provides the core 2D and 3D tools for compositing, animation, and effects that motion-graphics professionals, Web designers, and video professionals need. After Effects is widely used for digital post-production of film, motion graphics, video multimedia, and the Web. You can composite layers in various ways, apply and combine sophisticated visual and audio effects, and animate both objects and effects.

About Classroom in a Book

Adobe After Effects 6.0 Classroom in a Book® is part of the official training series for Adobe graphics and publishing software. The lessons are designed so that you can learn at your own pace. If you're new to Adobe After Effects, you'll learn the fundamental concepts and features you'll need to use the program. Classroom in a Book also teaches many advanced features, including tips and techniques for using the latest version of this application.

The lessons in this edition include opportunities to use new features, such as compositing layers in 2D and 3D space, viewing 3D from different perspectives, creating and editing expressions, editing masks, defining parent-child relationships between layers, animating lights and cameras, using an enhanced interface with new conveniences, and more.


Before beginning to use Adobe After Effects 6.0 Classroom in a Book, make sure that your system is set up correctly and that you've installed the required software and hardware. You should have a working knowledge of your computer and operating system. You should know how to use the mouse and standard menus and commands, and also how to open, save, and close files. If you need to review these techniques, see the printed or online documentation included with your Microsoft® Windows® or Apple® Mac® OS documentation.

Installing Adobe After Effects

You must purchase the Adobe After Effects 6.0 software separately. For system requirements and complete instructions on installing the software, see the Install Readme.wri (Windows) or Install Readme.txt (Mac OS) file on the application CD. You must also have QuickTime 6.1 or later installed on your system.

Install After Effects from the Adobe After Effects 6.0 application CD onto your hard disk; you cannot run the program from the CD. Follow the on-screen instructions.

Make sure that your serial number is accessible before installing the application; you can find the serial number on the registration card or on the back of the CD case.

Allocating RAM to After Effects

Creating movies is memory-intensive work for a desktop computer. The more random access memory (RAM) available to After Effects, the faster the application will work for you. It's a good idea to allocate as much RAM to After Effects as possible. For these lessons, a minimum allocation of 128 MB is strongly recommended.

Exit as many other programs as possible while you work in After Effects. Windows and Mac OS automatically allocate RAM to the application.

Installing the Classroom in a Book fonts

To ensure that the lessons appear on your system with the correct fonts, you may need to install the Classroom in a Book font files. The fonts for the lessons are located in the Fonts folder on the Adobe After Effects 6.0 Classroom in a Book CD, which is attached to the inside back cover of this book. If you already have these on your system, you do not need to install them.

You can install the Classroom in a Book fonts by copying all of the files in the Fonts folder on the Adobe After Effects 6.0 Classroom in a Book CD to the Program Files/Common Files/Adobe/Fonts (Windows) or Library/Application Support/Adobe/Fonts (Mac OS). If you install a Type 1, TrueType, OpenType, or CID font into these local Fonts folders, the font appears only in Adobe applications.

Restoring default preferences

The preferences file controls the way the After Effects user interface appears on your screen. The instructions in this book assume that you see the default interface when they describe the appearance of tools, options, windows, palettes, and so forth. Because of this, it's a good idea to restore the default preferences, especially if After Effects is new to you.

Each time you exit After Effects, the palette positions and certain command settings are recorded in the preferences file. If you want to restore the palettes to their original default settings, you can delete the current After Effects preferences file. (After Effects creates a new preferences file if one doesn't already exist the next time you start the program.)

Restoring the default preferences can be especially helpful if someone has already customized After Effects on your computer. If your copy of After Effects hasn't been used yet, this file won't exist, so this procedure is unnecessary.


If you want to save the current settings, you can rename the preferences file instead of deleting it. When you are ready to restore those settings, change the name back and make sure that the file is located in the correct preferences folder.

Locate the After Effects preferences folder on your computer:

  • For Windows XP: .../Documents and Settings/default/Application Data/Adobe/After Effects/Prefs.

  • For Windows 2000: .../Documents and Settings/<user name>/Application Data/Adobe/After Effects/Prefs.

  • For Mac OS: .../<user name>/Library/Preferences.

Delete or rename the Adobe After Effects 6.0 Prefs file.

Start Adobe After Effects.


(Windows only) If you do not see the Prefs file, be sure that the Show hidden files and folders option is selected for Hidden files on the View tab of the Folder Options dialog box.

Copying the lesson files

The lessons in Adobe After Effects 6.0 Classroom in a Book use specific source files, such as image files created in Adobe Photoshop® and Adobe Illustrator®, audio files, and prepared QuickTime movies. To complete the lessons, you must copy these files from the After Effects Classroom in a Book CD (inside the back cover of this book) to your hard drive.

Setting up a folder structure

Before you copy the source files to your hard drive, create the folder structure that you will use throughout these lessons. Because the project builds from lesson to lesson, this structure is very important as you progress, so be sure to take the time to set it up now.

On your hard drive, create a new folder in a convenient location and name it AE_CIB job, following the standard procedure for your operating system:

Windows In the Explorer, select the folder or drive in which you want to create the new folder, and choose File > New > Folder. Then type the new name.

Mac OS In the Finder or desktop, choose File > New Folder. Type the new name and drag the folder into the location you want to use.

Inside your new AE_CIB job folder, create eight more folders and name them as follows:

  • _aep

  • _ai

  • _audio

  • _mov

  • _psd

  • _txt

  • Sample_Movies

  • Finished_Projects

You'll use these folders to store files by type, with Adobe Illustrator files in your _ai folder, your After Effects project files in the _aep folder, and so forth.

Copying the source files

The source files for the lessons are relatively small files. You can install all the files for those folders now. The Sample_Movie files are large, so unless you have many gigabytes of free storage space on your computer, it's best to copy the sample movies as needed for each lesson and then remove them from your hard disk after you finish viewing them.

If you use After Effects on a computer running Windows 2000, you may need to unlock the files before you use them. This is not necessary if you are using a Windows XP or Macintosh computer.

Insert the Adobe After Effects 6.0 Classroom in a Book CD into your CD-ROM drive.

Copy the source files from the following five folders on the CD to the folders of the same name on your hard drive: _ai, _audio, _mov, _psd, and _txt. There is no _aep folder to copy because you'll use this folder for the project folders you create in each lesson.

Unlock the files you copied (Windows 2000 only) by doing one of the following:

  • If you copied all of the lessons, double-click the unlock.bat file in the AE_CIB/Lessons folder.

  • If you copied a single lesson, drag the unlock.bat file from the Lessons folder on the CD into the AE_CIB job folder, and then double-click the unlock.bat file inside that folder.

  • If you want to unlock the files individually, right-click the file, and select Properties from the contextual menu. In the file Properties dialog box, under Attributes, deselect the Read-only option.

About copying the sample movies and projects

You will create and render one or more QuickTime movies in most lessons in this book. The files in the Sample_Movies folder are low-resolution examples that you can use to see the end products of each lesson and to compare them with your own results. These files tend to be large, so you many not want to devote the storage space or time to copying all the sample movies before you begin. Instead, find the appropriate Lesson folder in the Sample_Movies folder on the CD and copy the files it contains into your Sample_Movies folder as you begin work on a lesson. (You cannot play movies from the CD.) After you finish viewing the movie, you can delete it from your hard drive.

The Finished_Projects files are samples of the completed projects for each lesson. Use these files for reference if you want to compare your work in progress with the files used to generate the sample movies. These files vary in size from relatively small to a couple of megabytes, so you can either copy them all now if you have available storage space or copy just the finished sample for each lesson as needed, and then delete the sample when you finish that lesson.

How to use these lessons

This entire book represents a single project, based on a hypothetical scenario in which Adobe Systems hires your company to create an 18-second movie that they will use for NTSC broadcast and on the Web. The designer for this project has separated the project into more than a dozen independent elements that you create and render separately. In the later lessons of the book, you'll bring all the elements together in stages to create the final composite and render it to the various formats your client requires.

Each lesson provides step-by-step instructions for creating one or more specific elements of that project. These lessons build on each other—in terms of concepts, skills, and the job files themselves—so the best way to learn from this book is to go through the lessons in sequential order. In this book, some techniques and processes are explained and described in detail only the first few times you perform them.


Many aspects of the After Effects application can be controlled by multiple techniques, such as a menu command, a button, dragging, and a keyboard shortcut. Only one or two of the methods are described in any given procedure, so that you can learn different ways of working even when the task is one you've done before.

The organization of the lessons is also design-oriented rather than feature-oriented. That means, for example, that you'll work with three-dimensional effects and layers in different ways over several chapters rather than in just one chapter entirely devoted to 3D, as you'd find in the After Effects 6.0 User Guide.

Additional resources

Adobe After Effects 6.0 Classroom in a Book is not meant to replace documentation that comes with the program. This book explains only the commands and options actually used in the lessons, so there's much more to learn about After Effects. Classroom in a Book aims to give you confidence and skills so that you can start creating your own projects. For more comprehensive information about program features, see:

  • The Adobe After Effects 6.0 User Guide, which is included with the Adobe After Effects 6.0 software and contains descriptions of all features.

  • Online Help, an online version of the user guide, which you can view by starting After Effects and choosing Help > Contents (Windows) or Help > Help Contents (Mac OS).

  • The Adobe Web site (www.adobe.com), which you can explore by choosing Help > Adobe Online if you have a connection to the World Wide Web.

Adobe Certification

The Adobe Training and Certification Programs are designed to help Adobe customers improve and promote their product proficiency skills. The Adobe Certified Expert (ACE) program is designed to recognize the high-level skills of expert users. Adobe Certified Training Providers (ACTP) use only Adobe Certified Experts to teach Adobe software classes. Available in either ACTP classrooms or on-site, the ACE program is the best way to master Adobe products. For Adobe Certified Training Programs information, visit the Partnering with Adobe Web site at http://partners.adobe.com.

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