Advanced Video Camera and Editing

After Effects - 2

Basic Animation


The objective of this exercise is to ease you into After Effects using simple shapes and keyframing.


Step 1: Create your project folder 
Since we're generating shapes in AE, you won’t need to collect any assets.


Step 2: Open After Effects
Save your project to the folder you created

File > Save As > Save As. Always name your project.


Step 3: Create a new Composition

Composition > New, or use Command + N (for Macs).

In the Composition Settings box, this is where you need to:

  • Name the Composition – don’t leave it as Comp 1 because you might come up with several versions of your project. To keep track of them, make sure you name them appropriately.

  • Choose a Preset – this depends on how you intend to distribute the video, but choose a HD format for now.

  • Make sure the frame rate is 59.97 fps (this is typical of most video footage that you’ll be shooting in class).

  • Change the Duration – for this exercise, you can make the duration 10 seconds.

  • Change the Background Colour – sometimes you might want to use different colours to see footage items better once you start layering.

If after you start your project and want to go back and change the Composition settings, just go to:

Composition > Composition Settings

or use Command + K (for Macs) Control + K (for Windows)

Step 4: Apply a Shape

In the Tool Bar, position you pointer on the Rectangle Tool and click on its disclosure triangle, which will display a number of preset shapes. It’s up to you, but choose any shape you want and draw it on the Composition.

Hint: if you want to draw a Circle, choose an Ellipse, then start drawing in the Composition panel, but hold down the Shift key, which will turn the ellipse into a circle.

Step 5: Change the Colour of the Shape

Click on Fill (located at the top of the window) and select a colour that you want. You can also add a Stroke, which outlines the shape, and changes its thickness.


Step 6: Reposition the Shape

You’ll find a footage item in the Timeline that corresponds to the Shape Layer (followed by a number that corresponds to the number of shapes you're using). To move the shape to another location in the Composition, select the Shape Layer and then click the Transform disclosure triangle to show the Transform properties.

The Position property shows you the X (horizontal) and the Y (vertical) coordinates. Click and hold on either coordinate and scrub to change the number. Note: if you scrub along the X coordinate, the shape will move horizontally. If you scrub along the Y coordinate the shape will move vertically. Using the coordinates might help you to move the shape more accurately. 

To move the shape directly in the Composition window, simply click on the shape and drag (make sure that you're using the Selection tool - use the keyboard to select it - Press V).

Step 7: Simple Animation - Using Keyframes

Now that you got the feel for repositioning the shape, let’s animate it over time.

Moving the shape horizontally – Keyframes are markers that tell a clip to do something at a certain time. In this example, we’re going to tell the clip to move the shape from position A to position B. All we need are 2 keyframes – one at the start of the move and the other at the end.

Applying keyframes – in the Timeline, select the shape layer and then reveal the Transform properties. These properties include Anchor Point, Position, Scale, Rotation and Opacity. Feel free to adjust any of these properties to see what they do to the shape. To move the shape horizontally, all we need concern ourselves with is Position. To the left of each of these properties is a stopwatch icon. Clicking this stopwatch tells AE that you’ll be animating this property.

In the Time Graph, move the playhead to the beginning of the sequence and then click the stopwatch. This adds your first keyframe.

Now move the playhead a few seconds into the sequence. You can either drag the shape across the Composition window or change the value of the X coordinate in the Transform properties.

Once you release the shape to a new coordinate, AE will automatically apply a keyframe.


Play the sequence from the beginning to see the motion – your first animation! You can vary the direction of the motion and make it more complicated by simply adding more keyframes at different points in time. Always move the playhead to a different point in the sequence before you change the shape's position. Try applying keyframes to the other properties like Rotation and Scale. Don’t worry about making mistakes – you just want to get familiar with the concept until it feels like it makes sense.