Adobe After Effects Basics Tutorial 2/8 – Compositions And Pre-Composing

guys this time it'll totally fit I made a composition not one of you I was fine that's funny hey everyone if you've ever used Adobe After Effects to create any sort of effect before then you already know what a composition is let's talk a little bit more about the details of what exactly a composition is and why it is so essential to pre compose different elements to create more complex effects a composition is basically a container for one or more layers whenever you create a clip in Adobe After Effects you have to create a composition first because layers cannot exist outside of a composition free composing needs to take a number of layers in your current composition and nesting them this creates a new composition and places all of your individual elements inside of it and obvious reason to use compositions is just to keep things neat and manageable another reason is that once you pre compose a number of layers you could treat them like a single element and move them around or apply effects to the entire group but the biggest reason in my opinion is that compositions give you a way of creating reusable elements you create a single composition uses many duplicates as you want to and by changing the contents of the original composition all of those copies will reflect the change but while I was still standing here let's have a look at how all of this applies to After Effects before we get started I will assume that you already watched my After Effects basics beginner tutorial if you haven't yet please click on this link here which will take you straight to it for this tutorial I have two pieces of footage here the first one is a clip that I used for my explosion tutorial and the other one is a free stock footage explosion that you can download from detonation firms I put a link to the stock footage explosion in the description of this video as you know in order to create any visual effect in After Effects we first need to create a composition that we can drop our footage into there's more than one way to create a new composition you can go to the menu and select composition new composition you can also right click into the project window and select the new composition option from the context menu if you're not a fan menus you can also click on the little create a new composition I can just below the project window no matter which option you choose you will see the composition settings dialog box pop-up where you can configure your new composition I'm going to name this composition creating compositions make sure you set up your resolution as required and that you set up the correct pixel aspect ratio to match the footage you want to work with I'm going to leave this on square pixels which suits the footage shot with my DSLR you can also change the frame rate either by typing it in or by selecting one of the most common options from the drop-down menu I fill my footage at 23.976 frames per second so I will leave it at that very importantly change the duration of your composition to suit whatever effect you want to create I will leave it at 30 seconds finally you can also define the background color used for your composition I'll just leave it on black now click OK to create a new composition note that the time indicator for decomposition ends at 30 seconds just as we specified but right now there's nothing at all in our composition so all we see is the black background we can now drag our footage into this new composition and create a new layer as I mentioned this is the same clip I used for my explosion tutorial and it is just a simple scene of a park you can use any video you have for this tutorial I chose this footage simply because it suited adding some explosions into it next drag the explosion stock footage into your composition on top of the base layer you should now have a simple explosion in your scene but it looks pretty bad first let's start of the logo for detonation films and it has a mess with black box around it just like in my After Effects basic is beginner tutorial we first want to trim out the first few frames to get rid of the label then we'll set the blend mode of the layer to add to blend it more organically into our scene plane this composition back you should now see a single explosion appear in your scene let's say we wanted more explosions and who wouldn't how can morph good thing be bad make sure the explosion area is selected and duplicated you can simply press ctrl D on your keyboard for this or you can go to the menu and select edit duplicate move this copy of the explosion to a different part of your scene I'm going to move it over to the very left side of the frame now scale it up a little bit and drag it forward on the time and so it does not start at the same time as the first explosion now our composition contains two consecutive explosion again repeat the process and add a third explosion somewhere to you seen I'm going to add another one into the back of the park and scale it down so it looks like it is a little bit further away from the camera again delay the third explosion on your timeline so you now have three separate explosions being triggered now let's say we wanted to add some glow to our explosions for this move the timeline indicator so you can see your explosions select one and then search for the glow effect in your effects and presets panel on the right side of the interface double click it or drag it onto your explosion layer to apply it in the effects properties window increase the glow radius lower the glow threshold and check up the glow intensity until you can clearly see the glow if we now scrub through the footage you will notice that our explosion now has a nice intense glow to it but the other two explosions don't we need to apply the same glow effect to the other two explosion layers as well the easiest way to do this is simply to copy a glow effect onto the other layers for this simply select glow effect and press ctrl C on your keyboard or go to the Edit copy option select another layer and simply paste the effect into it for this again you can use control V on your keyboard or just go to edit and paste now repeat the process for the third explosion and paste the same glow effect onto it now all of your explosion layers in the composition have the same glow effect applied to it but this is a really bad way of solving this problem let's instead use compositions to be a bit smarter about it first off delete all of the glow effects you apply to your explosion layers now select all three explosion layers at once we are going to nest them into another composition by pre composing them again you have two options to do this you can either right click and select pre compose from the context menu or go to the main menu and select layer pre compose I'm going to call this new composition explosion group comp note that this dialog box gives us two separate options option one is to leave all attributes in our parent composition this will leave any effects and transformations we apply to the layer we are pre composing in the current composition and only nest de layers themselves this option is not available if you are pre composing more than a single layer the other option is to move all attributes into the new composition this will move all selected layers any effects and transformations on them into the new composition since we have three layers selected which is more than one this is the only option available to us but that's cool just click OK note that our three explosion layers get replaced by a single layer called explosion group comp this is our newly created composition and it contains our three explosion layers if you go to the project window you will also see our new composition in there you can open up the composition by double-clicking onto it either in the project window or in the timeline you will find the three explosion layers we pre compose inside of it note that they are still at the same positions at the same timing with the correct transformation that we've originally set them up with if we now return to our parent composition which we call creating compositions and scrub through the effect we will see our three explosions appear do note that they have regained their ugly black boxes this happened because the new composition we created is set to normal blend mode we can fix this easily by setting the blend mode back to add now this might look exactly like I did with our three separate explosion layers but this setup allows us to assign the glow effect to the explosion group complier and it will apply to all of the explosions again increase the glow radius and the intensity so that you can see this effect clearly we have used compositions to group together our explosions so we can treat them like a single layer besides pre composing to nest compositions you can also drag one composite into another assuming that you're not creating a cyclic reference to show you what I mean go back to the project window and drag another copy off the explosion group comp into your current composition this will add another three explosions into your scene again set the blend mode to add for this new layer to get rid of the black boxes another thing I'm going to do a Mexican to flip this layer horizontally so the explosions don't line up exactly I'm also going to offset this second explosion group by a little bit so we end up with six explosions all happening at different times scrub through your footage and you should see a branch of explosions appear note that if we disable the visibility of a single explosion group complier we hide all of the elements inside of it so we're hiding this single layer we are hiding all three explosions that sit inside of it did you notice that only the explosives from our first explosion group comp have the glow effect apply to it again if we wanted the glow to be applied to all six explosions we will have to copy it across from the first layer on to the second one now all six explosions have a nice glow to them again not a smart move let's instead pre-compose all of our explosions together first select the glow effect and hit delete on your keyboard to delete it also select the first explosion layer and remove the glow effect from that one as well note that we can pre compose any type of layer whether it is a footage layer text solid shapes or even other compositions to prove my point select both explosion group complex and go to layer pre compose I'm going to call this new composition six explosions and hit OK and yet again set the blend mode back to add on the new composition this layer now contains two explosion group complex which in turn contain three explosion layers each I'm just getting really bored of the glow effect let's instead add a tint effect to our six explosions layer change the map white to property to a funky color like blue n4r all six explosions in you Sina now strange blue puffs or something not particularly pretty but I just wanted to show you that you are free to pre compose any elements that you want so that you can manage them in groups but since this is not really what you want and it looks stupid I am going to undo the last few steps by hitting ctrl Z on my keyboard a couple of times we want to get back to the stage when we had two explosion group comm players they're all good again finally let me show you what I consider to be the true power of compositions creating reusable elements if we dig into our explosion group comp we can see our three stock footage elements in separate layers each of these elements is essentially the same they're just scaled positioned and timed differently we should create a new composition that contains nothing but our basic building block a single stock footage explosion element we can then reuse that composition everywhere where we currently use the raw explosion footage what this allows us to do is to change the look and feel of all explosions because we can tweak how it looks inside that very basic composition if that sounds confusing don't worry it really isn't let me show you what I mean go back to your project window and select the explosion stock footage element now drag this element onto the create a new composition button at the very bottom of your project window this will entirely skip the configure settings dialog box and create a new composition with the same dimension frame rate and duration as the footage that we dropped onto the icon let's clean this composition up a little bit and trim out the first few frames of the stock footage element to remove the logo now return to the explosion group comp what we want to do is replace all layers that use the raw stock footage explosion with our newly created composition there's an easy way to replace a layer first make sure the layer is selected so simply select one of the explosion layers then select the layer you want to use as a replacement in this case our fireball against black or one composition in your project window now if this is important holding down the Alt key on your keyboard drag this composition onto the layer you want to replace voila the layer has been replaced maintaining the timing transformation and all of the effects that were applied to it select the next layer that still uses the raw stock footage and repeat the process drag our new composition from the project window onto the layer while holding down the Alt key repeat this once more to replace the last layer if you scrub through the explosion group comp it should look exactly like it did before with three explosions going off at different times and different positions okay so now for why this is so much better of a setup than what we had initially double click on one of the fireball against black Awan compositions to open it up go to a time where you can clearly see the explosion and go over to effects and presets panel search for the cc-vector blur effect and apply it to the stock footage layer increase the amount property on the vector blur effect to around 30 this will distort your explosion in a very single way and make it look almost like an alien energy ball explosion pretty funky it does look rather alien let's further shift it away from a natural explosion by coloring it slightly blue for this search for the color balance effect and apply it to the layer increase the highlight blue balance to around 60 to give the energy explosion a nice bluish tint in the bright areas if he now returned to the explosion group comp and scrub through it you will notice that all of our explosion have changed into an alien energy ball explosion if you go back to the original composition and play it back you will see six energy explosions go off and all we had to do was to tweak this single composition that contained our base explosion stock footage element we created a simple reusable building block and by tweaking the underlying composition we affected the look of all of its copies this is where the true power of composition lies and it is an essential technique for creating more elaborate visual effects I hope you enjoyed today's tutorial and as I was please leave any comments questions or suggestions in the section below and for more tips and tricks and other random bits you can also follow me on Facebook or Twitter until next time I will see you later you [Applause]

29 Replies to “Adobe After Effects Basics Tutorial 2/8 – Compositions And Pre-Composing”

  1. Ryan Ritchey says:

    Like your videos but you need a better mic

  2. Ravi Goswami says:

    thank you you are the best

  3. Chella Vimal says:

    What to do if we want the blend mode screen to only one of my composition in the precomposition?! Wherelse i need other composition to be in normal blend mode.. kindly help me.. thNks in advance..!

  4. Linus Knight says:

    i've said it before but this is BY FAR the best after effects tutorial online. I learned more with the first minute of video 2/8 than watching official Adobe tutorials

  5. Dropship Sensei says:

    Thank you for these

  6. fallenSlave says:

    thank you

  7. Kalpit Katpara says:

    awesome! thank you so much for your explanation. your videos are the best for learning after effects.

  8. Jim Crick44 says:

    I'm considering building a computer. What specs would you suggest in order to create a great video editing computer? My budget is between $1,000 – $2,000. Thanks!

  9. Shyamal Dutta says:


  10. Seth Du says:

    great tutorials, thanks

  11. Abhishek Nigam says:

    Thanks!! Great tutorial

  12. Hamish Campbell says:

    You rule! Many thanks

  13. rs keeran says:

    I am not a beginner now. But when I was one of them i watched thousend of videos but I couldn't find one like this series. I am watching this series, although I'm not a Beginner because it is awesome.

  14. Swing Yew says:

    Thank you. I enjoy this tutorial.
    I have one question.
    Precomposed single or more layers will become a composition.
    When I change attributes like scale or position , time etc of a specify layer inside the composition , the other duplicated composition will have the same changes.
    What I curious is
    Is there any ways to prevent the other duplicated composition have the same changes?
    Let’s say I precomposed 3 explosion which located in 3 different position and different scale with different timing. Then I duplicate the composition. Now I have 2 composition with 6 explosion which is explosion A, explosion B , explosion C and duplicated explosion A, duplicated explosion B and duplicated explosion C
    Now I wish to change explosion B scale But duplicated explosion B scale remain. Is that possible and how ?

  15. LJ C says:

    love the videos but can you PLEASE slow it down. you talk REALLY fast. thanks

  16. Landekar says:

    Tobias, I made a video with 230 explosions. Can something like this cause lag?

  17. skort94 says:

    So, I found your video trying to learn how to make AE and found HitFilm in your description box. I've been looking for a new editing program and HitFilm was exactly what i was looking for! I didn't know they had an editing program. So, I just wanted to give a quick thanks for linking them and helping me find my new editing program. 🙂

  18. Hello World says:

    das mit den verschachtelten Compositions muss ich nochmals setzen lassen… 🙂

  19. someone true says:

    how do ascertain which composition settings shall works best in terms of
    color enhancements
    etc. etc.

  20. alloneword154 says:

    Do most effects like the explosion come with bounding boxes??

  21. Buddy Couch says:

    I just found your channel through creativecow. Great work!!! I have always wanted a tut that explained some details about comps.

  22. OkaySky says:

    I feel like I just had my mind blown. Awesome tutorial!!

  23. I_ Eng says:

    thanks you are amazing

  24. Mohammed Ghabbour says:


  25. דקל ששון says:

    When i make new composition it's without colour///

  26. 101 Percent Kyle says:

    where do you get most of your stock footage such as the explosions and other things

  27. ivancoart says:

    Why is it necessary to change the blending mode of the composition again when it already contains other compositions with selected blend mode? I mean 9:43. And what if they had different blend modes?

  28. Keith Henry says:

    I love watching your tutorials! Very entertaining and that makes learning fun!, by far not at all drab or boring to say the least, Thank you Tobias for all that you do here!!

  29. RAVI.K 12mail says:

    sir you are great i am new to Adobe After Effects i been learn loot from you thank a lot

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