I was hoping to get some advice on general workflow in AE that people use and also how people would best approach incorporating narrative / explainer audio into their workflow. I am making educational videos for a learning platform. I’m very much a learner of AE still and finding my way.
In terms of workflow within AE, I am finding that a typical video is running to 5-10 mins. In terms of AE’s performance is it better to divide various ‘scenes’ within the video into separate project files and then combine them later on into the final video or does it make much difference? Is there any other approach that people might use for this approach that I haven’t thought of that would be better. AE struggles at times in previews and I wonder if the size of the project files is contributing to this and could be circumvented by smaller individual projects that I’d later combine into the final video?
The workflow is pretty much animating around explainer audio. I don’t particularly use any video footage and pretty much everything is being generated in Illustrator / AE. Right now my approach is initially work with audio in a DAW (I’m quite comfortable working with audio) and then import that into AE and then animate around it essentially. There is a lot of pre- and post tweaking in the sense that I often have to animate loose scenes before importing the audio as I am generally developing the two in parallel as ideas come. I don’t know what people would think of this approach and any suggestions for improvements are welcome. I’m unfamiliar with but have access to other programs such as Premiere Pro but could conceivably go about learning if it would worth my while in the long run. It strikes me animating around the audio is the main thing and that needs to happen within AE but I’m new this and open to any suggestions.
Thanks for any suggestions! Much appreciated.
Proiject size doesn't matter. Other factors like caches filling up and Ae not freeing up RAM after Previews do. The rest is mostly irrelevant. Splicing out individual shots to separate projects and then importing them for a final merge has its own caveats in terms of consolidating footage and all that and at the end you don't save anything if you need to import the same assets for each shots and they produce the same cache data. So settle on streamlining your workflow within the project using comps and pre-comps. As for efficiency going back and forth - there's no good way if you're making this up on the fly. That being the case, it would probably be best to actualyl develop a story board first and the base narration, then create a rough cut e.g. based on some still graphics in Premiere in order to import it into AE. That would allow you to place markers and cuts in Premiere and convert them in AE markers, separate layers and comps as a reference, if nothing else.
Thank you for your help and advice, very much appreciated as always,
This is the workflow that I follow with all of my After Effects projects. I use it for everything from feature films to explainer videos, from Music Videos to TV commercials.
Rule number 1: After Effects is NOT a video editing app, do not try and use it as one.
Rule number 2: Use After Effects to create shots, motion graphics, composites, and animations you cannot create in an NLE like Premiere Pro.
If I am working on a project with a lot of narration, I will use Premiere Pro or Audition to add markers to the audio track with the text in the markers. Those markers will show up in After Effects and give you a visual representation of where the words are.
Before I start creating any compositions, I sketch out or at least outline on paper the major points that I need to cover in each sentence or even in each phrase of the narration. When that planning is done, I start the project b importing the marked-up audio track, then I create a new composition from the audio.
I then split up the narration track at each cut or transition to another idea that needs to be visualized. It's very simple using Shift + Ctrl/Cmnd + D. I usually add a second or two to the head and tail of each cut audio track, then I pre-compose each layer, giving it an appropriate name that include the scene and shot number. When I have all of the shots and scenes cut up and pre-composed, I delete the original comp with the whole audio track and start working on each section of the narration. The project file now all of the compositions I will need for the project and one Audio file. It's time to organize some folders and import any other assets I will need for the project.
I start with the shots or scenes that require the most work. Then I move on to the easier ones. Most of my comps are no longer than a single sentence. Some may require a transition between ideas that cannot be handled with a cut. I can match up starting and ending frames so the cuts will be seamless, or I can build in a transition.
When each comp is complete, I use the Rende Queue to render a production master using the default High-Quality Output Module template and start assembling the final edit in Premiere Pro. After each comp has been rendered, I will preview it to see if the shot works. That's the same workflow you use on a movie. Rehearse the scene and plan the camera move (that's building the comp), roll the camera and call "action" (previewing the comp), and then, when the performance is good, calling Cut, we got it, moving on (rendering). You would not consider shooting a 10-minute film in one take. Why would you consider trying to make a 10-minute film in one AE composition.
The advantage of this workflow is threefold. First, if you need to go and change something in one of the shots you have created, you only have to work on a comp that is a few seconds long. Second, It is far easier to edit audio tracks, mix music, and add sound effects in Premiere Pro than it is in After Effects. AE is terrible; no, let me rephrase that. AE is a truly awful audio editing application. Trying to fiddle with sound effects and music in AE is like trying to drive nails with a screwdriver.
And finally, any good project goes through several edits before it is polished to the point that a client would pay for it and ask you to work for them again.
Even PIXAR renders shots and versions of shots and then edits them into scenes, then a final movie using an NLE. Trying to do everything in a quality five or ten-minute movie in AE is an excruciating experience. You'll never get a real-time preview of the entire project. There is no way to really judge the effectiveness of the program as a whole.
I hope this helps.
Thank you so much for the detailed reply, I really do appreaciate it. What you are describing makes much more sense so I'll try and rearrange things. I'll put some work into getting to grips with Premier Pro and using the dynamic linking etc. Can I ask one more question if you don't mind. As I create scenes / comps in AE that will be eventually moved to Premiere Pro, would you typically add transitions between scenes within Premiere Pro as well as sound effects and narration? I'm finding shape element transitions seem to suit the style I have but I imagine it is simplest to input those in Premiere Pro rather than after effects?
Thanks again for your time!
If you watch a feature film or a TV show, it is a very unusual thing to see anything but a straight cut from one shot to another. Try and pan around the room with your eyes. Unless you are following someone walking around, your eyes will cut from one view to another way more often than you can smoothly pan around. That's the way we are built. Something grabs our attention, and we cut from what we were looking at to the new thing that grabs our attention. Your eyes can't crossface or wipe. If you do need that kind of transition, it is very easy to add one in Premiere Pro. You just need a few extra frames (we call them handles) on each shot.
When you are writing the script for an explainer video, the various points are always grouped together in sections. If you were trying to explain how to figure out why a desk lamp was not working, you would break things down into the required steps. The story would go something like this.
Wide shot of the desk lamp -- Narration: "If your Desk Lamp is not working, the first thing you want to do is check the switch."
Close-up of the switch -- Narration: "Press the switch a couple of times and listen for a clicking sound. If you hear a clicking sound, the next thing you want to do is to check the power cord."
Locate the power cord and follow it to the wall -- Narration: "Make sure it is securely attached to the outlet."
In this over-simplified example, you could simply cut from the wide shot of the lamp to a close-up of the switch, then cut to the power cord and pan down the power cord until the camera gets to the outlet. Another approach would be to start with a wide shot of the lamp and do a smooth camera move to the switch, followed by a continuous shot following down the lamp from the switch to the base, to the power cord, then to the wall. It would also be easy to create an invisible cut between each of the three sections by matching the camera position at the end of the last shot to the camera position of the next shot. This can be very easily accomplished in After Effects by simply creating a slightly longer shot in scene one, setting a layer marker for every layer you want in Scene 2 where you want to make the cut, then copying and pasting the layers into Scene 2 and then dragging all layers, so the layer markers line up with the start of Scene 2, setting a new in-point, then extending the out point for the layers.
I hope that makes sense to you. Did you ever see the movie 1917? It's a World War 1 movie that follows two young men carrying a message from one side of the battlefield to the other over a very long day. Every shot was a match cut and the whole movie, from the opening shot to the finalle, looks like one shot. All it takes is planning. It's a lot easier to do in After Effects working with graphics and text than it is to do with Actors on a set.
I hope this makes sense. A few years ago, I created a series of animated videos that explained the business model, company organization, employee training, recordkeeping strategy, marketing, and compliance requirements for a new financial advisory firm using one animated character that seamlessly walked through every phase of each 15-minute video. There were only a couple of visible cuts in the project, but I did not create a single comp that was longer than a single sentence of narration. I think the longest sentence was just under 10 seconds. All it takes is a little planning.
That's very helpful. Thanks so much for taking the time to explain. It's much appreciated.