Fun With Precomping in After Effects

April 6, 2010

In this short tutorial, I show you how to make a complex animation with only a few keyframes with the power of PRECOMPING!!! I do this all the time in projects, and it creates some really fun animation.

Final Animation

Tutorial Focus:  , ,

  • The result is looking awesome!

    Looking forward to this tut πŸ™‚

    Great job, Nick!

  • My fav part was “Bloop, Bloop, Bloop BLOOP!” πŸ™‚

    Thanks Nick!

  • Buddy wishing you a happy birthday? haha
    Happy Birthday!

  • Happy Birthday! Great tutorial too! The dots remind me of Wonder Bread.

  • Cool tip. Cheers.
    Side bar: What’s the agenda on 5sec Projects these days? Is it
    still Posts every 2 weeks?

  • Nick,
    So glad you posted this! I am in the middle of a project and importing illustrator files (clicked the rasterize button). Then I have animated them, PRECOMPED them, and once in the final scene (w/camera) I’m getting pixelated. This is probably SO rudimentary to all the AE Gurus out there.
    What’s the trick? What am I doing wrong?

    Share the love.
    Thanks much Nick!

    • Hey Joshua,

      Make sure the illustrator layer and the precomp it’s in are both rasterized.

      Also, is the illustrator file an .eps or an .ai? I rememeber having some problems with pixelization with .eps files and I just saved it as an .ai file.

    • Chris,
      Thanks! When I put the AI file as rasterized (before the pre-comp) everything is fine. Once I rasterize the precomp (the final scene w/camera) it becomes invisible. (You still see that there is SOMEthing there but the actual shape is invisible.


    • Hm, just tried to recreate your problem but everything seems fine to me.

      Here’s what I did:

      1) Imported .ai file
      2) Dragged .ai file to ‘Create a new Composition’ button
      3) Ticked rasterize and 3D buttons on the .ai layer
      4) Precomp’d the .ai layer – chose ‘Move all attribute into the new composition’
      5) Ticked rasterize and 3D buttons on the new precomp’d layer
      6) Created a camera and moved around
      7) Went back here and typed this…

      Hope that helps!

    • 3D!
      thats its! SO SIMPLE! i breezed over the 3D buttons in first layer (before precomping) so that when I was 3D for the final, it couldn’t find 3D attributes.

      damn! Chris. thanks! really appreciate it.
      thanks again.
      It helps a lot!

  • Again you pull me from work to watch your tuts Nick!

    It would’ve looked cool with some d shadow like you said. All one would have to do is put it on the original circle and BAM! – all 30 kajillion of those circles get the drop shadow.

    Oh and being a big keyboard shortcut guy, Command+Y (New solid) and Command+Shift+Y (Solid Settings) has collectively saved me hours.

    Anyways, I have an odd craving for some fruit loops right now…

  • Good stuff! Looks like fun.
    Hey Nick,
    Will you be at NAB next week? Working any particular Booth?

  • Very cool Nick, thanks!
    And happy bday!

  • Happy Birthday m8 – and this was a nice tutorial to refresh my mind.

  • hey Gorilla, thanks a lot for this cool sh!t

    i always need somethings like this to push my thinking and to come up with some simple but cool stuff on my own, thanks again

  • and happy birthday if it wasnt a joke πŸ˜€
    at first i thought it was.. but then.. spending time on making tut for a loyal chaps is exactly Gorilla’s style, much appreciated style of course. So thanks again for sharing and all the best and just all the awesomeness in the world for you, happy birthday Nick πŸ˜‰

  • Great reminder of how fun and simple after effects can be, its faster than sketching!

  • damn, i’m stuck πŸ™‚ my memory’s telling me you’ve had your birthday not so long ago..

  • Dude! Great as usual!! Thanks for everything Nick! An out to date cheer for your birthday, hope you had a great day =) Take Care!

  • Thanks Nick!! It’s awesome to see how such a simple beginning can create a deep and awesome animation. I tend to overthink things a lot in AE and this has helped to remember that sometimes simple is better!

  • You should make the next 5 Second Project based on this technique.

  • Excellent. You the man.

  • Roald AndrΓ© Pedersen April 6, 2010 at 7:28 pm

    I just love theese “KISS” (keep it simple, stupid :P) tutorials! I personaly learn lots more from these than those super advanced tuts (thou a good mixture of both is superb), cause it just gives you so much room to play around with! Thansk for yet another awsome tutorial…

    And ohh yes, happy birthday you big hairy gorilla! πŸ˜€

  • hee nick,
    nice one, looks really cool. gave me the little big planet feeling.

  • Do you have to ‘continuously rasterize’ when you do this, since its vector based? Or do you not have to do that for masks?

  • That’s really nice stuff Nick. I knew about precomping but never thought to try multiple levels of it. D’oh.

    Here’s my spin on it.

  • You can do this kind of thing pretty well in Particular by using the circle animation as the partical. Cuts out all the copying and rotate/move stuff too.

    Plus the shading option gives you the shadows for all the circles, which looks pretty nice! πŸ™‚

    Cheers Nick!

    • Hi

      Particular limits your layer to 100×100 pixels. So if you want to pan through it or a flyby you will have jagged circles. Also, precomping gives you total control over the elements positioning which is more fun and looks better in the end

    • Hey Ajandi,

      Particular will only give you a warning about that if you use something gigantic.

      It’s quite possible to go over 100×100 pixels if you want, and your computer can take it.

      I was just playing with one using a comp size 300×300 pixels. Worked fine. πŸ™‚

    • Nice,that’s new to me. I learn something new everyday! Thanx! πŸ™‚

  • Hey Nick ! Great tutorial as always..

    Quick question : How do you make some changes in just one of the precompositions without changing all of them ?

    Let’s say I duplicate the first precomp to have one version who will be quick and a second one who will be slow.. (“Original Circle1” and “Original Circle2”) How do ou do that ? When I change one it automatically changes the other one as well.. I tried to change the names of the precomps but it doesn’t seem to work..

    • That’s not possible without another version of the original, with different keyframes. At least that’s the easiest way.

      Nick’s precomps all use the same comp as a reference so you can’t make one slower than the other.

  • great tutorial…i wanted to learn how to do this for a while..congratulations..

  • Nice man! Make more After tutorials!

  • Quick question Nick, any way to click-drag-duplicate in AE? I often try the Photoshop trick of option drag but that just gives the wireframe in AE. I think you did it once or twice in the tutorial (the option click) and wanted to ask. Thanks for all the great knowledge!

  • Have you considered using screen capture software that shows the keys that you are hitting when you’re recording your videos? It would be nice to be able to see the shortcuts that you’re using. Sometimes it’s the little things that make everything a lot easier and faster.

  • Hey thanks for the great inspiration Nick!
    Looking forward to hearing you speak at SCAD’s Comotion event.

    Take a look at what I came up with using this technique here:

  • woow, cool, maybe a good idea for a five-second project: use only two keyframes, and no expressions.

  • Hey,

    I made this when I started to poke around in AE –

    It’s very basic, but nevertheless, tell me what you think!

  • Good to see some crisp Ae tuts again πŸ™‚ Been a long time.

    Where did your white bright layout go??


  • Sweet! It’s cool how easy it can be to make something look professional and very awesome. This made me want to create more slick, original, simple effects! Great tips, great result and great motivator! Thank you!

  • anyone has ideas or link to nice animations with dots?

  • Hey Nick,
    Great tutorial. Here is what I ended up coming up with.

    All the best.

  • Amazing Tutorials, Thanks for all!

  • just getting into After Effects so happy I found your site!
    Here’s my little precomps exploration:

  • I really love your tuts. Thanks again, for sharing this knowledge with the rest of us πŸ™‚

  • Cool tut’ man.
    I played with a it after a bit and this what i come out with:

  • This sounds like Andrew Kramer. Is this him? Nah, Kramer’s using Windows.

  • amazing tutorial
    precomps rock! i just never know how much!

  • hi there!! nice tut but i have a problem… when i duplicate some of the precomps, some of the circles get cuted, like if there was an invisible black edge… im stuck and it looks aweful πŸ™

    i know this is old, but it can help me A LOT!!!

    thanks! Jupa (Mendoza, Argentina)

  • Pretty inspiring how easy you make cool looking stuff! Simple tools used in an awesome way. Thx for that one! I’m really looking forward to play around a lot more with such easy precomp stuff

  • Hey Nick, hey guys – had some time to play with precomps while traveling by train on the weekend… here’s the result, hope you like it

  • 9:37 video stop ?

  • that’s really cool.. i know it’s an old post but i have a question, i don’t get the whole idea behind the “null object” why didn’t you just resize the original circles comp with scale? from what i understand is that as long as the adjustment is done in the original comp it will affect whatever this comp is used in. right?

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