Up your production value with these valuable features found in Adobe After Effects.

As a video editor, you have likely used Adobe After Effects before. Even if you aren’t planning on pursuing motion graphics or something similar, After Effects can still be a great tool from the Adobe Suite for video editors. Here are a few simple features of After Effects that video editors can use to up their production value.


1. Text Layers

While Adobe Premiere does offer quite a few text options, After Effects is generally more suited towards creating fancy titles that not can only look better in terms of layout, but can animate in better as well. You can create a new text layer by choosing the Text Tool (CMD + T or CTRL + T), and clicking  anywhere in your composition. Then simply enter your text and then modify it as you please. Text formatting is fully adjustable in terms of spacing, scale, and more.

6 Simple Tools Video Editors Should Learn in After Effects - Text Layers 01

Text layers also include an Animation Tab that allows you to animate words in and out in creative preset ways — even down to the individual letter. Like most programs, After Effects imports fonts directly from your computer, so to use custom fonts, simply install them on your computer.

6 Simple Tools Video Editors Should Learn in After Effects - Text Layers 02


2. Transform Properties

Most layers in After Effects have a handful of basic properties that affect the way that layer looks. These usually include but are not limited to: Position, Scale, Rotation, Opacity, and Anchor Point. These can be accessed by clicking the drop-down arrow of a layer, then clicking the drop-down arrow for Transform. Each property has its own access hot key, so you can modify them individually on the fly.

6 Simple Tools Video Editors Should Learn in After Effects - Transform Properties

For instance, selecting a layer and pressing “P” would show its Position, and pressing “A” would show its Anchor point. See the After Effects Shortcuts Reference for more shortcuts.


3. Keyframes

Keyframes are a part of Premiere and most other NLEs, but not quite as integral to them as with After Effects. Each transform property or effect property will usually allow you to add keyframes. Simply create your first keyframe by moving to the desired moment in the timeline, and then click the stopwatch next to the property you wish to work with. This will create your first keyframe.

6 Simple Tools Video Editors Should Learn in After Effects - keyframe gif

Then create additional keyframes by moving elsewhere on the timeline and clicking the ‘create keyframe’ dot that should have just appeared to the left (or even just by making a change in value from the last keyframe). You may notice that keyframes do not automatically provide the smoothest animation, so to learn how to make your motion more organic and professional looking, check out our post on smoothing keyframes with the graph editor.


4. Masks

Masks are relatively intuitive in that they allow you to mask off a selected area of a given layer. To create a mask, select a layer, and then select the Pen Tool (G) or the Shape Tool (Q). Draw your mask — just be sure it forms a closed shape and you’ll be good to go!

6 Simple Tools Video Editors Should Learn in After Effects - masks

Each mask can be inverted or set to interact with other masks differently, whether it be to subtract from them or add to them. An unlimited number of masks can be added to a layer. These can be used to cut out elements from a video and more.


5. Shape Layers

Shape layers are a great way to quickly generate geometric patterns and shapes that can be used to do things like frame text or outline a logo. The easiest way to create a new shape layers is to click either the Shape or Pen Tool without selecting an existing layer, and then to draw your desired shape layer on your composition. This will automatically create a shape layer with a Fill and Stroke.

6 Simple Tools Video Editors Should Learn in After Effects - SHAPE LAYERS

The Stroke is the outline of the shape, and the Fill is the color in the middle. Both can be modified and deleted. Shape Layers include a variety of adjustable settings, but the animation of a stroke is arguably the most useful way to accent titles.


6. Blending Modes

A cool way to add some flair to an overlay of any kind is by changing its blending mode. After Effects has quite a few blending modes (38, to be exact) that each differently affect the way the layer is rendered in the composition.

6 Simple Tools Video Editors Should Learn in After Effects - Blending Modes


With these basic tools, you can take advantage of your Creative Cloud membership by adding some more visual fidelity to your editing work.

What other things would be helpful in your video editing skill set? Let us know in the comments below.

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