Like with everything else, there is more than one way to create a composition inside of Adobe After Effects. To create a new comp, you can select Composition -> New Composition from the menu bar. You can also click on the little 'Create a new composition' button at the bottom of your Project tab.
After Effects will pop up a dialog where you can configure the settings of your new composition like name, resolution, pixel aspect ratio, frame rate, duration and much, much more.
Give your comp a useful name like 'My First VFX' so you can easily identify it.
I will leave the resolution at 1080p, the frame rate at 23.976 frames per second and set the duration to 30 seconds to match the base footage I filmed. Once you're done, click OK to create the composition.
Note that it has been added to your Project Window next to your imported media items.
After Effects will also automatically open your new composition in the timeline window. You will see a tab with the name of your composition at the bottom of the screen. This indicates that the 'My First VFX' comp is currently open and we're ready to add layers into it!
Should you accidentally close your composition, you can open it again by locating it in the Project tab and double clicking it.
To add layers into your composition, simply select the visual elements you want from your Projct Tab and drag them into the layer window on the left side of your timeline. I am going to drag my base footage as well as the stock footage explosion into my composition.
Ensure that the explosion footage sits above the base footage as layer order is important in Adobe After Effects and layers on top will obscur any Layers beneath, unless they are blended or masked out.
You can rename any layer by selecting it and pressing the enter key on your keyboard and I do suggest you give your layers useful names
On the right side of the timeline you can now see the life bars for the two layers, indicating where the footage starts and where it ends. You can drag these bars around at will to change the timing of your layers and you can grab and drag the sides of the bars to trim the layers either from the start or from the end.
Move the explosion to where you want your explosion to start. Keep an eye on the preview window and play back your composition (space key) to ensure the timing is ok. To remove the big 'detonation films' logo from the start of the explosion clip, grab the left side of the explosion layer life bar and drag it a few frames to the right to trim the frames from the start.
You can click on the explosion directly in the preview window and move it around to reposition it in the scene. You can click on the little squares on the corners and drag them to resize the layer. If you hold the shift key pressed while rescaling your layer, it will be scaled up or down uniformly.
Place the position in your scene exactly where you want it.
Now you may have noticed that there is a huge black ugly rectangle around our explosion!
Let's get rid of it!
There are many ways to remove the black of the explosion stock footage, but since I want to get this blog post finished someday, I am going to focus on the 2 main options:
Because I want to show you how to apply effects to layers in Adobe After Effects, let's use a color key effect to remove the black around the explosion first
Go to the Effects & Presets panel on the right side of the screen and search for the 'Color Key' effect. You can apply this effect to the explosion layer either by dragging it from the Effects & Presets panel onto your layer or, if you have your layer already selected, simply double clicking on the effect
You should notice that when you applied the colour key effect, the space where the Project Tab is usually displayed changed over to the 'Effect Controls tab'.
This tab shows you all the effects and their parameters available on the currently selected layer. Currently, the black around our explosion is still visible, so let's configure the colour key effect to remove it.
Simply click on the colour picker for the 'Key Colour' parameter and click on the black of your explosion! Voila! Most of the black should be gone However, I am also going to increase the Color Tolerance to remove as much black as I can without cutting into the explosion.
I will show you an easier and way better looking way in a moment, but I just wanted to show you how you can apply effects to your layers in After Effects. I encourage you to try out all the effects available and just play around with them and see what they do
I will quickly remove the colour key effect. You can do that either by clicking on the little FX icon next to the effect name to disable it or by selecting the effect in the Effect Control panel and hitting delete on your keyboard.
Now let's remove the black of the explosion by using a different blend mode
After Effects supports different blending modes for layers. In the layers window you should see a column called 'Mode'.
If you cannot see this column, you may have to click on the 'Toggle Switches / Modes' button at the bottom of the screen.
In the mode column, you can change the blending mode and thus affect the way the layer is blended together with the layers below it.
If we change the blend mode for our explosion layer to 'Add', the black around the explosion disappears and it looks a lot cooler!
Try out the different blending modes to get a feel for what they do!
Now that we have our two layers blended together nicely, we're ready to export our composition