Don't Waste Time

Five efficiencies that every Adobe After Effects user should know

“Lost time is never found again.” – Benjamin Franklin

I couldn’t have said it better, Benny! Why would you want any task to take longer than necessary? That becomes wasted time that you literally never get back. There are always so many things to be done in life, and in my mind, never enough time to get them all done. So some quick tips to save a few minutes here and a few minutes there? Yeah, I’ll take ‘em!

If you’re a devoted After Effects user, you’re likely familiar with these tips. But if you’ve only just “dabbled” in the program, here are five quick ways to save time on your next project.

Stay Organized. Be sure to start your project with organized media. This should begin before you even open up the program. Moving files after they have been imported causes unlinked footage, which means additional time to locate and relink. If it’s organized to start with, you won’t have to deal with the headaches later.

Keyboard Shortcuts. Learning keyboard shortcuts in any program is always the first step in saving time. Eliminating a few clicks might seem like small potatoes, but trust me, it adds up! Here are a few basic shortcuts that I use most frequently:

U – Shows all keyframed properties for a layer

P – Position

S – Scale

R – Rotation

T – Opacity

Command+D – Duplicate

Try to add a new shortcut to your workflow every time you use After Effects. There are literally hundreds of shortcuts, so you won’t be running out of new ones to add any time soon!

Change Preview Resolution. Lowering the resolution of your preview will speed up the render time for viewing your work. You can change this in the dropdown menu at the bottom of your composition panel. Switching this to half or even quarter will allow you to preview your work much quicker than waiting for a full-quality render. Changing the preview resolution won’t affect your export settings when you render your final project.

Replace Layers. Imagine you added some incredible effects, beautiful keyframed movement, a mask, and a few layer styles to an image. What a success! Then suddenly, your client tells you they want to use a different image instead. So before you break down and burst into tears – thinking about manually copying every property, keyframe, effect, mask, and layer style – know that there is an easier way to recreate all of this time-intensive work with the new image. This easy shortcut allows you to simply replace the source file of the layer that you added these effects to.

In the composition panel, select the layer you want to replace. In the project panel, grab the new media while holding down Option/Alt and drag it onto the selected layer to replace it.

Align Tools. If you want something to be centered, don’t eyeball it. Make the computer do the work and guarantee precision instead of guessing, or doing – gasp – math! The Align tab can be found under Window > Align, if it’s not already in your workspace. This allows you to align or distribute objects horizontally or vertically to either your composition or selection of objects.

So next time you’re working in After Effects and you use one of these “time-saving tips”, think about how you just saved yourself a few clicks. You now have a few extra seconds to do something else with your day. So, go make Benjamin Franklin proud and do something extra!

-Morgan Breker