Adobe After Effects Basics - Compositions

Creating Reusable Elements with Compositions

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 (by double-clicking on it) we can see our 3 fireball stock footage elements layers just like we added them into our original composition. Note that each of these elements is essentially the same, they're just scaled, positioned and timed differently.

With this set up, if we wanted to change the look and feel of the individual explosions we would have to apply effects to each layer separately and that's not a good way to manage complex effects.

Instead, we should create a 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 of all explosions because we can tweak how it looks inside that very basic composition.

If that sounds confusing, it really isn't.

Let me show you what I mean!

For this, go to your project window and select the explosion stock footage element. Drag this element onto the 'Create a new Composition' button at the bottom of the project window.

This will skip the configure settings dialog box and create a new composition with the same name, dimensions, frame rate and duration as the footage you dropped onto the icon.

As we did with the explosion we added at the beginning of this tutorial, trim out the first few frames of the stock footage to remove the logo.

Now return to the Explosion Group Comp.

We now want to replace all layers that use the raw stock footage explosion with our newly created composition.

There is an easy way to replace a layer: first, make sure the layer is selected. Then select the layer you want to use as replacement - in this case our FireballAgainstBlack01 composition - in your project window. Now, 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, transform and all effects that were applied to it.

Select the next stock footage explosion layer and repeat the process: drag the new FireballAgainstBlack01 composition onto the layer while holding down the ALT key. Repeat once more to replace the last layer.

All your explosion layers should now be instances of the FireballAgainstBlack01 composition which contains the explosion stock footage.

If you scrub through the Explosion Group Comp, it should look exactly like it did before with 3 consecutive explosions in different parts of your scene.

Now for why this is a much better setup than what we had initially!

Double-click on the FireballAgainstBlack01 composition to open it up.

Go to a time where you can clearly see the explosion and go over to the Effects & Presets panel. Search for the CC Vector Blur effect and apply it to the explosion stock footage layer.

Increase the Amount to around 30. Feel free to play with some of the other parameters to change your explosion effect until you're happy!

This will distort your explosion in a very sinewy way and make it look almost like an energy ball. Pretty funky

Let's further shift it away from a natural explosion by colouring 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 blue-ish tint in the bright colours.

Your explosion should now look like a blue energy ball explosion!

If you now return to the Explosion Group Comp and scrub through it you will notice that all of our explosions have changed into the energy ball explosion! If you go to our original composition and play it back you will see 6 energy explosions go off!

And all we had to do was tweak the single composition that contained our base explosion stock footage element!

If you look at our composition setup, we have the 6 Explosions composition which contains 2 copies of the Explosion Group Comp which contain 3 layers with the Explosion Comp each. Explosion Comp layer points to the same composition and therefore, changing this single composition will affect all of its copies

Creating reusable elements is where the true power of compositions lie and it is an essential technique for building very elaborate visual effects.


User avatar
6 Years Ago
June 17, 2013 @ 1:30 pm
Hi There ( i don't know Yr Name, Yet )

Maybe i'm first who comment here...

Very Great Tutorial and also Help Me...

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6 Years Ago
October 3, 2013 @ 0:18 am
Really great! Thank you!!
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5 Years Ago
August 8, 2014 @ 9:09 am
Hey Tobias,
I've been editing for a little while now and wanted to expand my Affter effects skills. Your tutorials are great! i really appreciate you taking the time to put these together and have the different experience levels to work through. Your the man, keep up the great work!
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5 Years Ago
August 8, 2014 @ 1:59 pm
Thank you very much Glad you're enjoying my tutorials!
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Alok Sharma
5 Years Ago
April 13, 2015 @ 11:16 am

Thanks for all the hard work you are putting in .

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Surfaced Studio@ Alok Sharma
5 Years Ago
April 26, 2015 @ 11:02 am
Thank you very much!

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