Review of After Effects CS6: Learn by Video

Review of After Effects CS6: Learn by Video

I was very excited to read this very in-depth review of After Effects CS6: Learn by Video on Amazon today;

5.0 out of 5 stars | August 20, 2012

A good solid base upon which to build

Diane Cipollo (Editor at – See all my reviews
This review is from: Adobe After Effects CS6: Learn by Video (Paperback)

I get many emails asking for the best way to begin learning a new software such as After Effects. My first suggestion is to start with a training video for the software of your choice. This is especially true for a robust and complex software such as After Effects CS6.

I found After Effects to be intimidating in spite of my strong Adobe Flash background but the Adobe After Effects CS6 Learn by Video training course from video2brain gave me a good solid base upon which to build. The authors Todd Kopriva and Angie Taylor share the instruction with Kopriva covering the technical aspects of the software and Taylor covering the creative.

The authors start with a short history of the After Effects software leading to what’s new in version CS6. With a panel-by-panel tour of the user interface, you are introduced to the basic project workflow and terminology.

Next, you learn what makes up a basic composition and how to build your own comps from scratch. You first learn how to create a line of text with the Character panel and a block of text with the Paragraph panel and then move on to using shape layers for creating simple and complex vector shapes.

The fun really starts with the Effects and Presets panel. You will learn how to apply a Keylight effect to turn the original background transparent. Then you create a new solid which will be your new background to which you can add effects such as the CC Mr. Mercury effect.

Not all comps are built from scratch. You learn how to import assets such as movies, stills, image sequences and audio. Also introduced is how to manage and organize the various assets for your comp. Of course, you will need to know the options for importing Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects, Premiere Pro and Final Cut Pro files. You will also learn about interlacing, pixel aspect ratio, and trimming basics.

Halfway through the course, we get to the part I enjoy the most which is animation. First, you cover the basics including how to use keyframes and tweens to control the transformation of various properties. Next, you cover motion paths and how to use Motion Sketch to draw freehand paths. Delving deeper into animation, you learn about the various types of keyframes in After Effects and how to use the Keyframe Assistants and Graph Editor to refine your animations.

The next section covers text animations. Taylor covers options for importing text created in Photoshop and how to edit the text in After Effects. She then demonstrates an easy and fast way to animate each letter individually with the Text Animators. She shows you how to combine animators to create more complex animations and how to save your custom animators as presets. Next we see how shape layers can be used to create many effects, as well as using the Repeater to emulate a particle-like effect.

Switching back to Kopriva, we learn the basics of compositing and how many effects can be created using Blending Modes, Alpha Channels and Masks. Next he discusses common problems and how to correct them with Color Keying, Motion Tracking and Rotoscoping.

The next section concentrates more closely on how to create custom effects. Beginning with a discussion of the Effect Controls panel and categories. Taylor also covers how to use keyframes to animate properties and how to apply easing. One nice feature is the Brainstorm viewer that lets you preview variations of effects and save them as presets. She also discusses what she calls fixer effects for solving common problems such as rolling shutter. She ends this section by covering how to edit layer styles and adjustment layers imported from Photoshop to create effects.

When working with video, you can manipulate the frame rate to achieve various effects. Kopriva first discusses frame rate in general and then covers common retiming tasks such as Time Stretching, Time Remapping, Freeze Frame, Slow Motion and Reverse Frame.

The next section concentrates on your workflow and ways to use grouped and linked layers as well as nesting and pre-composing. One example of character animation demonstrates parenting hierarchy and IK. You also learn about expressions and how easy it is to write your own for complex animation.

Animating 3D effects can add realism to your projects and this section of the course begins by discussing how to use the 3D wireframe and other views needed to work in 3d space. Once you are familiar with working in 3d space, Taylor moves on to how to animate by bending layers. She also covers the basics of using camera presets and controls for depth of field and point of interest. Next, she adds lighting to the 3D scene and walks you through the various types of lighting such as Environmental, Point and Spotlight and how to work with cast shadows and reflections. Reflections can be very important to the realism of your scene and Taylor discusses the various controls such as Reflection Intensity, Sharpness and RollOff, as well as Specular Intensity and Shininess and Environmental Layer maps.

Switching back to Kopriva, we discuss optimizing software performance by adjusting the default preferences and taking advantage of Ram and Disk Catching. Next, he covers After Effects default render order and how this order determines the final render, much like the hierarchy in Cascading Style Sheets determines the final HTML document.

After Effects has several options for exporting your projects and in this section Kopriva discusses how to use the Render Queue. Much like other video exporting, he shows you how to set the various format options. He discusses how to use preset output templates and how to save your own custom settings as a template. He demonstrates how After Effects can save time by rendering several formats simultaneously. Next, he does a walk through of how to use the Adobe Media Encoder to choose output presets for Vimeo, Apple and Android.

The final section is a wrap up and final thoughts. It examines several projects and discusses how they were made. It also covers how to integrate After Effects with Cinema 4D.

The course includes 10+ hours of the video2brain Learn by Video series and supporting files for following along for a hands-on, watch-and-work teaching approach. Also included with the DVD is a small booklet with additional information. As with all the Learn by Video series, you have an easy-to-use control panel for viewing the videos.

Todd Kopriva has been with Adobe and After Effects since version 7.0. He creates Adobe documentation and training materials. Angie Taylor has worked 14 years in motion graphics and animation. Examples of her work have been featured on the BBC.

*Peachpit Press provided a copy to me for review purposes.

Inspirational motion graphic designs

Here are some Inspirational motion graphic designs I include in my seminars on “Typography and Dynamic Text animation”. These are inspirational examples of opening title sequences that I have been inspired by throughout the years.

Big thanks especially to the “Art of the Title” website for providing such lovely, high-quality clips for us all to enjoy. They also have some great articles on the inspiration and processes used to create some of these stunning pieces of work. Enjoy!

Anemic Cinema – Marcel Duchamp & Man Ray

Saul Bass:

Man with the Golden Arm

Anatomy of a Murder

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

Ocean’s Eleven

The Facts of Life

Pablo Ferro:

Dr. Strangelove

Midnight Cowboy

The Thomas Crown Affair

Kuntzel and Deygas – Catch me if you Can

De Patie – Freleng – The Pink Panther

Kurtz & Friends – The Pink Panther

Arcady & Maurice Binder – Barbarella

Maurice Binder – Dr. No

Daniel Kleinman – Casino Royale

Saul Bass – North by Northwest

David Fincher – Panic Room

Kyle Cooper – Seven

Danny Yount:

Six Feet Under

Iron Man

Sherlock Holmes

Eric Anderson – Dexter

Matt Mulder & Rama Allen – True Blood

Jamie Caliri – Lemony Snickett

Karin Fong & Steve Fuller – the Mummy Tomb of the Dragon Emporer

Jorge Calvo – Buried

Moises Arancibia – Elektra Luxx      

Design Essentials for the Motion Media Artist

Design Essentials for the Motion Media Artist

Design Essentials on Amazon
Reviews for Creative After Effects 7    Buy Creative After Effects 7

Design Essentials for the Motion Media Artist – who is this book for?

This book was written for people I meet at trade shows and seminars who say “I’ve learned the software but my designs still look terrible. What am I doing wrong?”

This book is also for you if you’re a student or are new to motion graphic design. While teaching design students I found it frustrating recommending ten books to each student to cover the basic design principles for the foundation year of their degree course in Graphic Design. The university library never had enough books. The students couldn’t afford to buy the books they needed. Ironically, they only really needed one chapter from each to provide what they needed to get started. If only all that information could be provided in one book!

What will it teach me?

The book is designed as a one-stop, getting-started guide for anyone new to motion graphic design who wants to get the basic principles under their belt so they can get started quickly, making better design decisions as they work through the chapters.

After reading this book you’ll feel comfortable with the basic concepts and principles of design, animation and editing. There’s a chapter on drawing that teaches you the importance of “learning to see” through fun drawing exercises. Among other things, you’ll learn how to choose color combinations that work and how to create convincing and compelling movement in your animations. It will also help you choose fonts that work and improve composition with balance and elegance.


At the end of each chapter, a well-respected creative professional will talk about how their work incorporates some of the principles taught in the book. This helps you see the importance of these principles and to understand how they eventually become second nature to artists and designers.

Record Sleeve designs for Buzzcocks by Malcolm Garret

Learn from some of the top people in their respective industries. The book includes “Inspiration” sections written by graphic designer and creative director Malcolm Garrett and musician Joan Armatrading amongst others. The Foreword to the book is written by commercial director and photographer, Rob Chiu (AKA The Ronin).

The Ronin

Where will it take me?

“Design Essentials” confidently points you in the right direction on the road to becoming a better designer and animator. The book presents the principles of design in an engaging and inspiring way. Each principle is explained in plain English with illustration, and photography where necessary. As well as mastering the fundamental concepts and principles of motion graphic design, with my creative approach to teaching, you’ll learn how to manipulate and bend the rules to create something unique that will also achieve your communication goals.

Once you’ve finished reading this book you should have the confidence to implement what you’ve learned to your motion graphics projects. There’s also an extensive Recommended Reading List on this website that will help you decide where to go next so you can increase your knowledge of these basic principles even further. There’s also a page featuring links to all the external resources mentioned within the pages of my book.

Design Essentials Resources

Design Essentials Resources

Design Essentials Resources provides chapter links for Angie Taylor’s book, Design Essentials for the Motion Media Artist. There are several references made to influential work from other designers, file downloads and websites of interest in the chapters of my book. Here is a list of them broken down, chapter-by-chapter;

Design Essentials – 01 Drawing Chapter

Here’s a summary of links quoted in the Drawing Chapter;

I usually use a propeller pencil for sketching when I’m on the move (sometimes known as a propelling pencil or a mechanical pencil). Rotring makes a great range of propeller pencils including their Tikky range.

I use a variety of pens but for disposable fiber-tips or roller-balls visit

Obviously you can’t easily erase pen marks in the same way that you can with pencil marks. A solution to this is to use correction fluid (or liquid paper) such as Tip-ex to cover over any errors. Once the correction fluid has dried, you can then draw on the surface

Brushes are described by shapes and sizes. The shapes include round, flat, fan, and angled. Sizes range from negative values denoted by 4/0 (can also be written as 0000), to positive values indicated by single numbers such as 4. Here are the most common sizes; 4/0, 3/0, 2/0, 0, 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 11, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24You can refer to this web page for some free brush measurement charts

Graphic tabelts provide you with much more freedom and versatility than a mouse. You might even find a new style that you wouldn’t achieve from traditional drawing. If you want to find out about Wacom tablets you can visit their website at

There are some great tutorials about the Vanishing Point tool and other Photoshop features to help you draw more successfully on Deke McClelland’s fantastically informative, yet compellingly entertaining website at I’d recommend signing up to for fabulous freebies, podcasts and tutorials.

Design Essentials – 02 Planning Chapter

The Alister Buss example seen here was inspired by the famous Saul Bass title sequences for “Anatomy of a Murder”

The Roarke Pearce example seen here was inspired by Anni Albers;

There are a few software applications that are good for brainstorming like the fantastic Omni Group applications ( or my personal favorite, Zengobi’s Curio

I have provided you with an A4 storyboard template to download from here. Just click on the link on the following page. This will enable you to download an Adobe PDF file that can be re-sized to your chosen dimensions without losing resolution. Print out a copy so that you can develop your own storyboard for your project.

In this movie I shamelessly used lot’s of influences from the 1960’s. Pop Art – opening title sequence – a series of documentaries about design and music from the swinging 1960s.

Design Essentials – 04 Animation Chapter

Here is a link to the example of a Bouncing Ball animation from the Animation page of the website.

The opening titles for Barbarella (by Arcady and Maurice Binder) feature text animation that dances weightlessly around Barbarella in her space ship. You can see this online at the wonderful “The Art of The Title Sequence” website.

One of the most inspiring projects I worked on was Aphex Twin’s infamous “Rubber Johnny” video. I worked alongside director, Chris Cunningham for a year on that project (it was a six-minute music video!). I learned a lot by watching Chris at work.

Another music video artist whose work is worth watching is Michelle Gondry who also has a knack for matching music to imaginative and innovative visuals.

An example of an animated sequence created by rotoscoping (drawing on top of footage or photographs).

In this chapter you can see drawings of a dog’s walk cycle. Here are two examples of the final animation, one where the drawing and animation was done with Corel Painter. Here’s the second animation where the character was redrawn in Adobe Illustrator and then and animated in Adobe After Effects.

A fairly common job that you may be asked to do as a motion graphic designer is to create moving footage by animating around a still image. Panning and Zooming is easily controlled in the Layer panel in Adobe After Effects, here is an Example of panning and zooming around a street map of Edinburgh.

One of the characters I designed for Children’s BBC series “See You, See Me – The Inventors”. John Logie Baird, the Scottish inventor of the television. This was drawn in liiustrator with each body part on a separate layer, ready to be animated in Adobe After Effects.

Design Essentials ResourcesA good practice exercise is to use an application like Adobe After Effects to animate some ordinary text. If you can use animation to convincingly bring life to an inanimate object then you know you’re doing a good job. In this example I’ve taken the word “Accelerate” and animated it as if it is a car being driven off the screen.

Design Essentials – 07 Editing Chapter

The opening title sequence for Midnight Cowboy is a great example of an establishing shot, both character and location are established during the opening title sequence. You can find out more about this title sequence in the Communication chapter.

A little forward planning goes a long way in video and film production and can save oodles of time and money further down the road. You can find out more about how to do this in the Technical chapter. Here’s a Chip Chart to download and print out to help you set up your cameras correctly before shooting footage.

Design Essentials – 08 Communication Chapter

The opening title sequence for Midnight Cowboy is also referred to in the Communication chapter.

Bob Kurtz’s wonderful sequence for the Pink Panther 2 Film is another good example where the opening titles are used to establish the main characters as well as the rough plot.

You can see “Anémic Cinéma” by Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray, as well as many other avante-garde films at a fantastic website named UBUWEB.

Save time by creating a single presentation template that you can use for all clients and pitches. Keep your presentation simple and concise. There’s more information about presentations in the Communication chapter and I’ve included a  Design Essentials Presentation Template for you to get started with.

Lady Sovereign’s music video for her track, Hoodie (directed by Family) sees a gang of rough-looking kids, dressed in hoodies, chasing a woman through a shopping precinct. The audience (and the woman) assumes that the gang is planning to mug the woman but at the end of the video it turns out that they are chasing her in an effort to return her bag, which she dropped while shopping. The video is intended to turn stereotypes on their heads and makes the woman look foolish for thinking the worst of the young people.

Adobe After Effects CS6 – Learn by Video

Adobe After Effects CS6 – Learn by Video

It’s finally here, my brand new After Effects CS6 – Learn by Video course. I worked on this course with Adobe’s Todd Kopriva who I just love working with. Together we teamed up to provide a good mix of technical and creative training in our favorite software application. We hope you enjoy it. Here’s an intro to the course from us both.

This Learn by Video course offers in-depth training on the interface, workflow, and features of Adobe After Effects CS6. If you subscribe to my newsletter you can get 20% off this course with a discount code. The contents of this course include:

Introducing After Effects CS6
In this chapter you’ll get an overview of how After Effects works, what it does, and what the main controls are.

Interface Tour
Before you start following along with the instructions in this training, it will help to learn what the controls are called and where things are located. You’ll learn about the basic controls and the most commonly used panels in this chapter.

Creating Compositions and Layers
In After Effects we work in projects. Every project contains compositions, each of which is the framework of a movie; layers are assembled within the framework of these compositions. In this chapter you’ll learn how to create compositions and bring layers into them from the Project panel. You’ll also learn how to create layers from scratch.

Importing Footage
In this chapter you’ll learn how to bring various types of files into After Effects. You’ll also see how to make sure After Effects interprets these files correctly and how to manage them once you get them in.

Interpreting and Managing Footage
Sometimes you need to tell After Effects how to use source files. This chapter shows you how to set various parameters for how files are interpreted and used.

Animation Basics
The most important aspect of learning to fully understand After Effects is getting to grips with how After Effects handles animation. Once you have mastered the topics covered in this chapter, you can really do anything in this powerful application.

Fine-Tuning Animation
This chapter will take your animation skills further by showing you how to understand timing. You’ll learn how to work in the Layer panel and the Graph Editor for more precise control over layers and animation.

Animating Text Layers
Text layers can be animated in a variety of different ways to create exciting and compelling motion graphics. In this chapter you’ll learn about the properties and methods used to control these layers. Text layer properties use a slightly different animation system than standard layer properties, so we’ll also discuss the idiosyncrasies involved in animating these wonderfully flexible design elements.

Fun with Shape Layers
Shape layers are pretty unique but can be confusing to new users. This chapter will help demystify shape layers and give you the confidence to push them in all sorts of creative directions.

Basic Compositing
Compositing is about stacking layers on top of one another and making parts of each layer show through others in specific ways. You’ll learn about many of the ways to composite layers together in this chapter.

After Effects provides you with scores of effects that you can apply to your layers, allowing you to create virtually any look or style you like. Imagine being able to animate all of these over time and you get a real sense of the creative flexibility that After Effects can offer you. This chapter tells you everything you need to know to create amazing effects.

A movie is a series of images that plays over time, and After Effects provides many powerful controls for controlling exactly how this happens. This chapter will teach you about tools like frame blending, slow motion, freeze-frame, and more.

Grouping and Linking
There are times when it makes sense to group layers together into a single item, either to simplify complicated comps or to make editing, moving, or applying effects a whole lot easier. In this chapter we’ll look at several methods for grouping layers together.

Introduction to 3D
After Effects allows you to transform and animate your layers within a 3D environment. This adds some complexity to your compositions. After Effects CS6 also lets you work in ray-traced 3D, where you can extrude and bevel shapes and text and even bend video layers. In this chapter you’ll see how After Effects deals with mixing 2D and 3D in the same composition.

Memory and Performance
Every person, project, and computer system is different. In this chapter you’ll learn how to configure After Effects to match your needs, the capabilities of your computer system, and the needs of your projects.

Render Order and Collapsing Transformations
Layers and their components are processed in a specific order. In this chapter you’ll learn about that order and how to use special features to control it

Output Options
When you’re finished with your project, you need to get your data out of After Effects, usually as a finished movie. In this chapter, you’ll learn the basics of rendering and exporting movies.

Project Explorations and Recap
This chapter contains some examples of animations created in After Effects along with explanations of how they were made. You’ll also get some tips on integrating After Effects with Cinema 4D, as well as some final thoughts on the course and suggestions for further learning.

The lessons are wrapped in a feature-rich interface that lets you jump to any topic and bookmark individual sections for later review. Full-Screen mode provides a hi-def, immersive experience, and Watch-and-Work mode shrinks the video into a small window so you can play the videos alongside your application. Also included are exercise files that give you an easy way to try out the techniques you learn and a 48-page guide containing supplemental material.