What is after effects used for ?

I’ve been using Adobe After Effects for over 20 years and I can still remember the excitement of opening the program for the first time. If unboxing videos existed back in 1995 then I would have made one, such was my enthusiasm for my new purchase.

The reason I was initially drawn to the software was because I had two major interests driving me forward in life – graphic design, which I’d just finished studying in Manchester, England and a passionate love of creating music. I’d recently started using photoshop and was very familiar with it’s interface and workflow and I also knew a bit about sound editing from hanging around in recording studios, so the day I found myself with a piece of software that could bring the two subjects together, I was hooked.

If you’re familiar with photoshop (and frankly who isn’t ? – photoshopped is even a verb these days), then you could think of After Effects as “Photoshop with a Timeline”. I’ve always described it as just that for years, but of course now Photoshop has a timeline of its own so I maybe I need a different description…

Motion Graphics

After Effects enables you to make animations, motion graphics, videos – call it what you will, at the end of the day, you’re always producing some kind of ‘visual sequence’. Yes you can do that with free video editing software that comes bundled with macs, pcs, tablets and phones, but after effects gives you so much more than that. With After Effects you can composite layers, hundreds of layers in some cases, throw a myriad of different effects onto your video footage, move text around in 2D space, 3D space, mask your layers, place a photograph into a 3D space and move it around, create shapes and lines, shine lights on any of your objects and give your objects different kinds of surface properties – the list goes on and on. Any of the objects on your layers can be manipulated by scripts and this in itself makes the software extremely powerful.

So that tells you a little bit about what After Effects can do, but exactly what is after effects used for ?

Video editors will typically use bespoke editing software to arrange their videos, one example is Adobe Premiere, which allows you to import your footage, place it on a timeline and scrub back and forwards adjusting things to make the final edit. There’s a lot you can do with Premiere, that overlaps with After Effects, but when it comes to creating special effects and having precise control over your sequence then After Effects is the software to use.

For this reason a typical use for After Effects would be for a motion graphics artist to create exciting title sequences that then get imported into Adobe Premiere by a video editor. So that’s one use – Creating Titles.

Here’s a quick list of things that After Effects is used for…

  • Title design
  • Character animations
  • Special effects in films
  • Text driven motion sequences
  • Restoring camera shake and damaged footage
  • Tracking an object
  • Sync’ing animation to audio events

So you’ll find After Effects being used in film studios, video editing suites, advertising agencies, design studios, animation studios, film restoration companies and of course in the home computer of someone who just wants to bring graphics and music together to create something amazing.