Simple Dynamic Videos in After Effects

This document outlines how someone without any expirience in After Effects can add the snappy transitions and dynamic text to their projects. It's a lot easier than you think to turn a few simple tools into a professional looking video.


  1. Organize Your Project Media and Set Up Folders
  2. Build Out the Basic Edit in Premiere
  3. Importing a Premiere Project into After Effects
  4. Starting in After Effects
    • Layout
    • Compositions, Precomps and Layers
    • Blending Modes and Motion Blur
    • Keyframes and Essential Effects
    • Key Command Index
  5. Creating a Dynamic Video within After Effects
  6. Organize Media and Create a Main Composition
  7. Basic Geometric Borders in After Effects
  8. Basic Geometric Backgrounds in After Effects
  9. Basic Transitions in After Effects Using Transform
  10. Dynamic Text in After Effects
  11. Exporting in After Effects and Media Encoder

Organize Your Project Media and Set Up Folders

It's important to keep all of your files organized on your editing hard drive, whether it be external or internal. Here's an example of what your folder chain should look like:

(each indent marks a sub-folder)

NOTE: This might seem exessive or trivial, but it can solve a lot of problems before they happen, plus it makes things really easy to find. Also the folders contained within an 'Assets' folder depend on the type of project you're working on. Basically have folders and sub folders for each distinct type of content. For example, instead of a 'videos' folder you could have something like 'interviews' and 'b-roll'.

Build Out the Basic Edit in Premiere

Once you've injested and organized your initial media, you can start up Premiere.

For this specific case, we're taking two different town hall events and combining them with the intention of presenting something that feels like a debate. As well as including an extra source that will help reinforce the point we're trying to make.

To begin, set up your project appropriately:

Four Timeline Set Up

I find this setup to be the easiest in terms of finding the content you need and organizing it.

NOTE: The point of beginning the project in Premiere is to save you time and give you the flexibility to change the order of things quickly. You can technically do all of this in After Effects, but I just find it takes a lot longer and it's a lot easier to make mistakes. Also After Effects's rendering engine is built differently than Premiere's. Without getting into too much detail, Premiere is built to playback longer clips in real time, where After Effects is built to play short segments and sort of 'renders-as-you-go', which, depending on your system, can mean varying framerates and limited playback.

Importing a Premiere Project into After Effects

Correct Import Example

Starting in After Effects

I'll be going over how to do dynamic text, some easy geometric graphics and some basic compositing within After Effects. All of this is to give you the fundamentals of making this type of video, so that once you understand the basic tools, you can get a bit fancier with your execution.

This innitial section should be treated as an index to reference as I explain how to do things. If you have no expirience working in After Effects, it might be worth it to give it a quick read.


Composition (Timeline): This is where you rearrange the top-down order of your layers, add keyframes and make adjustments to the edit.

Project Panel: This is where you keep all of your media, similar to Premiere.

Program Monitor: Also like Premiere, you have a Program Monitor. From this panel you can view your whole composition or individual layers by double clicking on them.

Effect Controls: In most layouts, the Effect Controls share a window with the Project Panel. Here, you can tweak the effects on any given layer.

Compositions, Precomps and Layers

Compositions: Compositions are like layers in Premiere. If you're familiar with creating Nested Sequences in Premiere, you'll understand how Compositions work inside After Effects.

While there is typically one master composition, there are usually more than a dozen pre-compositions (precomps) that make it up.

Precomps: A precomp is just a way of organizing your media and making larger projects more streamlined. A precomp moves your origonal layer, or in most cases a group of layers, within their own composition. This composition can then be used in multiple compositions throughout your project.

To create a precomp, select a group of clips and with all the layers selected, hit Right-click -> Make Pre-comp

You'll see everything collapse into one layer. If you double click on the layer in the timeline, it will bring you to the composition that has all the origonal layers in it.

Layers: Anything that appears in your Composition is given its own layer. Where Premiere is built to organize media from left to right, After Effects is designed to place, blend and composit media from top to bottom.

Certain effects can be achieved depending on the order of your layers (for example, a background image could be placed on a layer below a layer of someone in front of a green screen. That way, it would appear as though the person was standing in front of the background).

Expanding a layer by clicking the arrow next to the layer name, gives you access to the effects you have applied to that layer.

Motion Blur and Blending Modes

Motion Blur: Motion blur is why you use After Effects for any kind of motion graphics work. Personally, everytime I create new layer, I turn motion blur on.

To explain: If you were to film someone running very fast and then examined the footage frame by frame, you would notice that for most frames, the legs would be blurred. The faster something moves, the blurrier it becomes. It's the same in After Effects. If something is moving in your composition, you'll want its movement to blur relative to its speed.

Blending Modes: By default, a layer's blending mode is set to 'Normal'. To change the blending mode of a layer just Right-click -> Blending Mode then choose the option that suites your needs.

Essendially a blending mode determines how your layer behaves in the composition. They are helpful for compositing multiple layers together. I won't go through all of the modes here, and for the most part, they won't come up again until we start doing more advanced stuff.

Keyframes and Essential Effects


Keyframes are how you change an effect over time. Set a keyframe by clicking the keyframe button, move your cursor along the timeline and either change the value of the effect your keyframing or click the keyframe button again.

You'll notice that almost every effect has multiple attributes, each with their own starting value (usually 0%, 50%, 100%). By changing the values over time using keyframes, you can do things like move, scale or roatate your image, as well as achieve different looks with different effects.

Essential Effects

Here are just a few effects that I'll reference or that come up a lot when working in After Effects.

Key Command Index

Anytime I reference a key command, I'll also add it here as a reference.

Creating a Dynamic Video within After Effects

It's always good to have a rough idea of what you're trying to accomplish going into After Effects. In this case I have a few goals that I've outlined for myself:

  1. Create a dynamic boarder template I can use for the two politians in my video
  2. Create a dynamic background for the video
  3. Create dynamic text to outline a key point made by the secondary source video.

Organize Media and Create a Main Composition

To start my project, I'll begin by organizing all the clips of the first politician so that they stack on top of one another and do the same for my other politican. This will only change the order on the layer stack, and not on the timeline.

Media Organization In Main Composition

I'll then go through my clips and make sure everything is the same scale and is centered

I'll then make precomps of everything I can, where it makes sense to do so. Usually if there's only one clip, I won't give it its own precomp. The purpose of this is just to organize my footage.

Precomps In Main Composition

With my main composition set up, I'll begin creating my 'Assets'. In this case, my assets will be, like I mentioned previously, a border for the clips that I can reuse for both politians, a background and some dynamic text. In theory, you could create different assets in Photoshop or Illustrator and import them into your project, but, to keep things simple, I'll be creating all of my asets within After Effects using a layer type called a 'Solid'.

Creating Assets within After Effects

An asset in After Effects is a general term which typically refers to anything you use in your composition that isn't a video source. Having that said, 'assets' can also refer all of your media including your video source. In this case, when I say to assets think of it to mean anything (mostly graphics) that isn't from Premiere.

Basic Geometric Borders in After Effects

The first thing I want to do is to create a border around my two politicians and my other video source.

Solids are layers set to a specific solid color which you determine when you create one. Solids are simple to use and very lightweight in terms of computing power required to work with them.

The First Solid

Duplicated and Scaled

Drag To Scale

Two Layers in the Same Precomp

Transforming the Solid into a Band

Blue Solid with Rotation

Creating the Keyframe 1

Creating the Keyframe 2

Readjusting the Solid

Finishing the Solid Animation

Refining Solid Animation

Duplicated Solid Color Change

Masking the Lines Layer

Refining the Mask

Duplicate and Re-Order

Rotating the Duplicated Layers

Scaling and Refining the Duplicated Layers

Recolor Boarder 2

Placing the Boarders into the Main Composition

Basic Geometric Backgrounds in After Effects

The background will be a super simple looping animation. In a new composition create a solid, I chose a less saturated red, and Keyframe the Scale so that it slowly decreases over time. A few frames into the clip, create an Opacity Keyframe that starts at 100% and decreases to 0% when the Scale has also reached a value of 0. Then at the start of the clip create a Keyframe for the Opacity at a value of 0%. This way, the solid will smoothly fad in and out and we can loop it.

Simply duplicate, offset the duplicated layer's starting point and repeat. By duplicating all clips every step, you'll find that you can have the animation continue for a while without duplicating too many times.

Your final composition should look like this:

Final Background Composition

You can then use this inside your Main Composition as its own layer. In my case, I wanted the color to change from blue to red depending on who was speaking. To achieve this, I applied a Color Balance (HSL) effect to the layer and set Keyframes one frame apart from on another to change the hue from blue to red during the cut.

Basic Transitions in After Effects Using Transform

With all of our assets in place, we can begin to animate them. The method I'll show will have to do with Scale, but you can apply the same principles to the Position. Instead of zooming in and out, the layer can slide in or slide up.

Before we begin, it's a good idea to go back through your compositions and add motion blur to everything. Even if it doesn't move, I always just like to have it turned on for every layer at every level.

Motion Blur Everything

Setting the First Keyframe

Keyframe for bounce animation

Pasting Keyframes and Adjusting for Timing

Dynamic Text in After Effects

For my external source video, I want to add some text. I want a specific phrase to appear one word at a time as he says each word.

Setting Up Text Box

The Text Layers in the Timeline

Text Layers with Proper Anchor Points

NOTE: If your using this effect a bunch in your video, I'd suggest you experiment with different intro and outro animations for the text using the Opacity and Position.

Exporting in After Effects and Media Encoder

If you've done all of your audio work in Premiere, you're able to export a completed video from After Effects. Exporting from After Effects is different than Premiere. It's designed for exporting things that Premiere can work with as opposed to final projects, and as a result, the options for formats are limited to very large uncompressed files. The default render option in After Effects is called Lossless and it outputs a .avi file.

Once it's finished rendering, the .avi file can be brought into Media Encoder where you can choose a more compressed output codec like H.264.

To render your composition in After Effects just open the Main composition and click Composition -> Add to Render Queue. This will open up the Render Queue. Double click on the name next to 'Output to' to decide on your file name and location. Once you're good to go, just click 'Render'.