Adobe After Effects is an amazing program! There is very little it can’t do in terms of video production. It does to video what Photoshop does for still imagery. Which is…. EVERYTHING!
It was released in 1993 by the ” Company of Science and Art” ( COSA) and it let you add flying letters and box / matte effects to computer video that, until then, required huge multimillion dollar equipment to do. COSA After Effects made your video look like ” real TV.” COSA was bought out by ADOBE the next year and since then has added many new features and integrated Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator so that they are (almost) the same program
To get how amazing after effects is to someone who used to have to edit without it, do a YouTube search on ” tv news 1970s, ” You can now do a better job of making video on your home computer than a national network could before AE. Do a YouTube search on ESPN graphics and compare it to TV from the 70s and it’s like a skateboard compared to a space shuttle.
A student can look to Adobe After Effects to improve / alter footage or ” fix bad video.” It is also the BEST tool for creating titles / credit sequences. Even ” real” multi-million dollar blockbusters use Adobe After Effects to make their titles, and almost EVERY TV show and TV commercial uses AE for titles and graphics.
Students can get Adobe After Effects at a significant discount, and there is a MOUNTAIN of free learning material on lynda .com and video co pilot, and similar tutorials on YouTube ( made by fans / users) that are almost as good as the paid tutorials.
The word “documentary film” seems to imply that a filmmaker followed something or someone and recorded what happened and then edited the best material into a good story. It may also mean that an editor compiled old tv news/ newsreel footage, photographs home movies (etc.) to tell a story that no one was documenting on film.
Ken Burns was (and is) a well-respected PBS TV producer who often used slow zoom ins and pans across old historical photographs and paintings to tell stories of the Civil War, which happened before motion pictures were invented, and still photography was still a very new thing. He wasn’t the first to do this, but he did it so often in his productions that the name stuck.
In 2002 a “documentary” on the life of legendary and infamous movie producer Robert Evans was produced using extensive use of after effects. I say “documentary” with sarcastic quotation marks because it strains the definition of documentary. Robert Evans wrote an autobiography about himself and then recorded an audio version of it. This documentary simply takes the autobiography audio book and lays video on top of it. No original interviews, no fact checking on what Evans said or claimed. They just present his story. It is almost like an audio book with video on top. A …. video book? While it is journalistically weak it is cinematically very interesting. While Robert Evans obsessively saved thousands of still photographs and newspaper clippings about himself, he didn’t have that much home video or home movies. The producers WERE going to do the “Ed Burns Effect ” on the still images but their editor began experimenting with a new feature on the latest (at the time) version of After Effects, ” 3D Space.” With ” 3D Space ” an editor can cut up pictures in Photoshop, (usually separating the foreground and background) then composite them in After Effects, moving the virtual “camera” through the layers, imitating the Disney Multiplane Camera, making still photographs feel a little bit like motion picture footage.
Do a youtube search on “Ken Burns Effect” , ” The Kid Stays in the Picture Effect ” and ” Disney Multiplane camera” to see examples of this.
Again, “The Kid Stays in the Picture” wasn’t the first documentary to use 3D space, but it was (one of) the first time the public had seen so much of it that the name stuck. The “Kid” film also raised interesting ethical journalistic questions. The editors photoshopped together pictures of people into scenes MAY have never happened. The movie opens with the prologue:
” memory serves each person differently, no one is lying,” which seems to me to be Evans saying ” I am lying about my past to feel better”
Another recommended documentary for an aspiring After Effects user is the low budget movie “Tales of the Ratfink,” (2006). It is the story of car customizer and T shirt artist Ed Roth. Never heard of him? Few outside the car customizing world did, so there was NO film footage or audio interviews with him. This movie tells his story with actor John Goodman pretending to be Roth, with Roth’s old art work, and pictures of his cars manipulated in Photoshop and After Effects (and I think some Flash) into animation. I cannot describe what an excellent job they did with the After Effects work, and there is NO better example for an aspiring filmmaker to look at to make a documentary with no footage and no budget.
After Effects is used to make the opening and titles/credits on almost TV commercial, major TV show and feature film made today.
Do a youtube search for the opening credits of ” Catch me if you Can” “Captain America” and “James Bond Casino Royale” and realize that the “big boys” are using the same tools you have.
Even 3D CGI spectacles like those coming from 3D giants like Pixar and the like often end their 3D movies with old(er) fashioned 2D animation made in After Effects.
After Effects can make new High Defintion video look like old Black and white film or faded color film. You can use “Adjustment Layers” with saturation, color and contrast effects to replicate any variety of film looks.
It can also correct badly shot footage ( although there is no substitute for getting it right in the first place, altered footage always looks a little “off”).
Nowadays many of the basic features of Adobe After Effects are built right IN to apps like the AVID Media Composer, Adobe Premiere and Apple’s Final Cut Pro. One can assume that since After Effects growth in popularity, end users asked developers ” can you put after effects features right into the editing app?”
Tutorials on Adobe After Effects are still indispensable to an editor because once you know how to do it in Adobe After Effects it can easily translate to whatever non linear editor you are using.