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5 Handy Effects in Adobe After Effects You Should Know

Clay Asbury

Here are 5 useful effects can help you solve problems and create interesting looks.  All of these effects ship with After Effects!

Adobe After Effects

Check out these 5 filters and effects to improve the look and style of your video editing and motion design projects.  Get better looking video without having to purchase third party plugins!

Set Matte/Remove Color Matting

When you purchase design elements (ink, smoke, and fireworks) they often come on a black/white  background. You can quickly strip out the background of these elements using Set Matte in Adobe After Effects.  First, apply the effect.  Then, change “Use for Matte” from Alpha to Luminance.  Note: if the background is white, click “Invert Matte”.

An issue you may have with footage on black is fringing, so add Remove Color Matting to fix that.  You can also change the color of the element by applying Generate > Fill.

Click image for larger view:

Set Matte

With Remove Color Matting:
 Remove Color Matting

With Fill added:

Generate >Fill

CC Light Sweep

CC Light Sweep is an After Effects filter that gives you that ‘light moving across a logo’ look that you see constantly on TV. It may be overused but it is a popular effect and is easily done with CC Light Sweep. The CC stands for Cycore Effects, a set of useful third party effects that are bundled with Adobe After Effects.

First, apply CC Light Sweep to your text.  Then, animate the “Center” to move it across your text.  Customize the look with the width, intensity and thickness settings.  This After Effects light sweep looks particularly  good with the “Bevel Alpha”effect or “Bevel and Emboss” layer style.

CC Light Sweep

Roughen Edges/Burn Film

Grungy/distressed text is a popular look you see often in commercials, and one that’s easily created in After Effects.  Roughen Edges is handy for quickly creating distressed/grunge text instead of using brushes in Photoshop.  Pick one of the Rusty or Photocopy Edge Types, and increase Border and Edge Sharpness for a more distressed look.

Roughen Edges

Photocopy Edge Type:

Roughen Edges Photocopy

You can also apply additional After Effects filters to further customize the grunge look.  CC Burn Film isn’t subtle but can provides an interesting distressed look combined with Roughen Edges (you can animate the Burn setting to create a Burn On/Off Animation).

Use After Effects Brainstorm to experiment and create randomized looks by combining multiple effects. Select the effects in the timeline and click the Brainstorm icon. Read more on using After Effects Brainstorm at Adobe’s After Effects help site.

Animate Burn Film

Brainstorm Icon

After Effects Brainstorm Window: 


CC Composite

If you have ever needed to apply an effect to a layer and combine the two, CC Composite is the tool to use.  It allows you to composite an effect on a layer.  If I apply fast blur to a layer, the layer is just blurry, as it doesn’t have a mode or blend with its original setting. But If add CC Composite and change the composite mode, I can create a stylized look.  In the example below I used Fast Blur & CC Toner.  I often use adjustment layers to create effects like this, but CC Composite is handy when you need to do this on the layer itself.

CC Composite

Original Footage

Color Finesse

Color Finesse is another third party effect that is bundled with After Effects.  For those used to doing color correction in an editing app like FCP or Premiere Pro, it will look familiar. It gives you traditional color correction tools like a 3 way color corrector, secondary color correction and  scopes. You can choose a simplified or full interface, and there is a Gallery where you can apply common looks like Bleach Bypass or pick a film stock.

Color Finesse

What After Effects can you not live without?
Share your thoughts/experiences in the comments.