Many of the coolest graphic animation effects you see on television or on the web are created using Adobe AfterEffects. This is an extremely versatile program, but it is also very complex. The best way to learn this (or any other) program is through tutorials in which you apply the tools and techniques to a particular project.
1. Open AfterEffects. Select “Composition” and click “New Composition.” In the dialog box, select the size you want to use from the presets, such as NTSC DVD or HD. Then set the “Duration.” For example, you might choose “Web Video,” which is 320 x 240, and make it five seconds long. Name the project and click “OK.”
2. Select “Layer,” then “New” and click “Solid.” In the dialog box, make the size of the solid 200 x 200 and change the color to white. This creates a new layer in the “Layer” panel. Select the layer and hit “S” on your keyboard. This brings up the “Scale Control,” which lets you change the size of the solid.
3. Go to the timeline on the right and drag the timeline arrow to two seconds. Click on the little stopwatch to add a keyframe. Now drag the arrow back to the first frame, go back to the layers, and change the Scale to “0.” Now, if you click “0” on the number pad, the video will play, and you will see the solid getting larger (or closer). Drag the blue timeline slider over to the keyframe you inserted so that you will only play the part you are working on. To make the animation run more smoothly, highlight both keyframes and hit “F9” on the keyboard.
4. Select the layer and go to “Edit” and click “Duplicate.” Offset the new layer in the timeline one frame by clicking on the layer in the timelime and dragging it. Click on the “Toggle” switch at the bottom of the screen. Then click on the “None” menu under “TrkMat” and select “Invert Alpha.” Now the top layer solid (which appears smaller in each frame because it is offset) is functioning as a mask for the other frame, which now appears to have a hole in it.
5. Highlight both layers and duplicate them. Select the second layer down. Select “Layer” and click “Solid Settings.” In the dialog box, change the color to whatever you want. Select the top two frames and move them two frames over in the timeline. Now, when you play the video, you see two nested colored squares becoming larger.