Adobe After Effects CC

How to add special effects to video with After Effects

In this beginner tutorial, learn how to add special effects and use video compositing techniques to create a realistic-looking UFO that flies across a city scene. (Try it, 30 min)

Want to begin creating motion graphics and video effects in Adobe After Effects CC? This project is for you.

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This beginner tutorial shows you the basics of using motion graphics and video compositing techniques in Adobe After Effects to create a convincing, handheld video that purports to show an eyewitness account of a flying saucer above New York City. At the end of this tutorial, you should have a general understanding of what After Effects does and how to use it to create special effects for your videos. We hope you’ll want to do more with it and learn more about it when you’re done.

Get an overview and import files

In this video, you’ll learn how to import some footage into your blank project, inspect the elements in your project, and create a composition to hold your assets.

Import footage (0:20); Review sample assets (1:00); Create new composition (2:05); Understand the panels (3:00)

Learn about layers and blend modes

In this video, you’ll learn how to add a full moon to the scene and adjust its color levels, hue, and saturation to make it look like a natural part of the widescreen background shot of New York.

Combine elements in scene (0:50); Inspect layers (2:15); Find blend modes (2:40); Apply effects (4:55)

Add some animation

In this video, you’ll learn how to add the UFO to the scene, animate its flight path over the city, and correct its color and shadows. You’ll also add a street lamp in the foreground for the ship to pass behind.

Add the UFO (0:02); Animate the UFO (1:05); Adjust UFO path (3:00); Correct shadows (4:00); Add foreground street lamp (5:30)

Work with nested compositions

In this video, you’ll learn how to create a nested composition that crops into the 4K background to simulate a low-resolution camera moving within the larger scene. You’ll improvise the camera move and add a wiggle to give it a handheld look.

Create nested comp (0:20); Animate background layer (1:25); Fake a handheld look (3:15); Add a wiggle (5:00)

Refine with adjustment layers

In this video, you’ll learn how to add some motion blur and use an adjustment layer to incorporate more effects, such as a camera lens blur, a uniform color wash, and some subtle noise to make this UFO illusion even more convincing.

Add motion blur (0:20); Use adjustment layer (1:10); Add camera lens blur (1:50); Apply uniform color wash (3:35); Add subtle noise (3:55)

Export your project

In this video, you’ll learn how to export your project using Adobe Media Encoder so you can share it with the world.

Export to Media Encoder (0:20); Change output options (0:50); Change output path (1:20); Play final output (2:00)

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Brian Maffitt

Brian is President and Chief Creative Officer of Total Training. He is devoted to great training, crafted by an extraordinary creative team for exceptional customers. Brian also produced many award-winning software plug-ins for After Effects, including "Shatter" — which Adobe acquired and now bundles in After Effects. Brian's plug-ins have been featured prominently in untold commercials and films, including The Incredibles. Follow him on Twitter: @bmaffitt.