In this post I want to talk about an organizing structure for anything bigger than the most simple After Effects projects. This is a basic concept that I didn’t know about since I’m pretty new to After Effects.
When I started this CNO Tenets project, I was having problems organizing the whole thing. I was trying to build everything in one composition (comp), but the comp got crazy really fast. I asked my coworker, After Effects Ninja Nate Quinn (quinngraphicdesign.com), for advice. He suggested I use one composition as a “stage.” He said I should build all my individual elements in their own little comps, and then, drop those comps onto the Stage Comp. Using a Stage Comp not only keeps things organized, but it also makes life a lot easier when you have to make changes to your project late in the process.
Let’s look at the first 15 seconds of the CNO Tenet project. What’s going on in the first 15 seconds?
First, there is a black and white image of a couple of ships; this image serves as a background for this scene.
Second, there are picture panels of the Chief of Naval Operations testifying before congress.
Third, there is a text animation that IDs the CNO as Adm. Jonathan Greenert.
Fourth, there is a camera movement that transitions the viewer from this scene to the next scene (the text animation of the three tenets.)
Here is what the first 15 seconds looks like in the Stage Comp. There are four elements and a camera.
I created each of the elements in its own composition, and then I dropped each of them onto the Stage Comp. Each element can have tons of layers with its own cameras and movements, but when I drop the comps onto the main Stage Comp, they’re in neat, self-contained comps.
This is what the first 15 seconds would look like if I put everything in the same comp instead of using a Stage Comp.
So, that’s it. By using a Stage Comp, I can keep my project clean and more manageable. And when your PAO decides that he doesn’t like a particular element or scene, it’s pretty easy to swap that element out of the Stage Comp.
Thanks for reading. I know this was a really basic concept, but it’s definitely changed the way I work, and I’ve shown it to some of my co-workers who are also new to AE, and they’ve found it really helpful, too. Pass it on to a newbie.