From the pulse and swirl of the lightsabers in Star Wars to the defense of Helm’s Deep in The Lord of the Rings, special animated effects are everywhere. When you turn on the daily weather report, you are watching something that was made with animation software like Adobe After Effects.

What Can After Effects Do For You?

After Effects is a motion, video compositing, and visual effects program. It is part of Adobe’s Creative Cloud along with Photoshop, Illustrator, Premiere Pro, Audition, and others. After Effects lets you fix errors during video post-production, fill in elements after the shoot is over, remove items you don’t want in the shot, and let your creativity flow freely with a huge collection of animation libraries.

Because it works in layers, it is easy to experiment with an effect and then remove it if you don’t like it without damaging the original footage. After Effects lets you correct color, blur faces in a crowd, or make the crowd bigger. It is incredibly powerful.

What Is After Effects?

After Effects is used for motion graphics animation, video compositing, motion tracking, creating special video effects, and 3D camera tracking. You can edit videos in After Effects, but in most cases, Premiere Pro is the choice for editing video.

The choice of whether to use Premiere Pro or After Effects depends upon two questions: what are you used to using and what are you doing with it? Premiere Pro is for video editing and allows you to create multiple channels for video and audio with tools to make cuts and transitions easily. It has some graphics abilities but they are not as powerful as After Effects.

While it can be used for editing video, After Effects excels in graphics and animation. It is a compositing program that allows you to create layers of effects and merge them together.

Experienced users develop a fondness for both programs and both being Adobe products, Premiere Pro and After Effects work very well together. A common practice is to start a project in Premiere Pro and then use After Effects to insert graphics and animation. Some people choose to create videos entirely in After Effects, but it is mostly used in post-production.

Essential Features of After Effects

After Effects can be used in a couple of ways. You can import video into Premiere Pro, edit it, and then import it into After Effects to insert graphics or alter scenes. You can also create a video entirely in After Effects. This is more common if you are working with animation.

After Effects can be used for creating and inserting beginning titles and end credits, as well as any graphics or animation within the video, but that is only the beginning of its abilities. Three functions that are commonly done through After Effects are compositing, rotoscoping, and motion tracking.


The term compositing is used in different ways in video production, but it generally means combining items to create something new. This can mean cutting together the best takes by two actors to create a new scene, or removing an element from one shot and placing it in another. Compositing is often used to create large crowd scenes or battle shots in films and television shows. Another use is with a green screen. This technology allows you to film a subject in front of a green screen, and then add other video and effects behind them later. This is how many movie effects are created and also how modern weather reports are put together.


This is an animation technique that has been around since before computers, but programs like After Effects make it easier to do and produce much more satisfying results. The technique was invented by Max Fleischer in the early 1900s, and was later adapted by Disney animators working on Snow White in the 1930s. Rotoscoping involves filming a scene with live actors and then tracing over the film to create more life-like movements in animated characters. The lightsabers in Star Wars were created through rotoscoping. The difficult part was the meticulous tracing. After the 1990s, the practice was digitized and After Effects is now an every-day part of video post-production. The automatic tracing feature makes rotoscoping much easier.

Motion Tracking

Motion tracking lets you follow moving objects in a video clip, and After Effects’ motion tracking tool makes this easier than ever before. Because it integrates so easily with other Adobe products like Photoshop, Illustrator, and Premiere Pro, motion tracking lets you import clip art, photos, or graphics and make them move with After Effects motion tracking. The magical hand effects in the Marvel Movie, Dr. Strange, were created using After Effects motion tracking.

Animation Platform

Professional Animators and Motion Graphics Designers like After Effects because of its powerful animation distortion tools and the ability to manipulate text. You can pull anything in from other programs like Photoshop and Illustrator and animate it. You can also draw on some of the many preset libraries available. Portions of the animated program, Archer, were done using After Effects.

History of After Effects

After Effects has a long history. It was originally created by the Company of Science and Art in January of 1993 and acquired 6 months later by Aldus Corporation. Adobe bought Aldus in 1994. Originally, After Effects was only for Macs, but a Windows version came out in 1997. After Effects version 7 was the first to be linked to Premiere Pro, and it was included in Adobe’s Creative Cloud in 2013. The current version is After Effects CC2020.

How to purchase After Effects

Adobe offers a monthly subscription to After Effects with a 7-day free trial available before purchase. This allows you to edit some videos before deciding if you want to pay for it. For a few dollars more a month, you can get the full Creative Cloud, which includes storage as well. The cost of a monthly subscription to After Effects is $20.99. A monthly subscription to Creative Cloud is $52.99.

How to Learn After Effects

There is no way around it; if you want to learn to use After Effects, your best bet is to take a class. Video editors refer to this program as “the beast” with good reason. There are many tutorials out there, but the learning curve for After Effects is like standing at the bottom of the Grand Canyon and looking up. This is because animation software is very complex and can do so many things.Many people find it easier to learn through classes.

You can choose classes that meet in-person or online to learn After Effects. Some people prefer to attend brick-and-mortar sessions when learning new information, but that isn’t always available. Live online classes have a similar set-up with a real-time, remote instructor who can answer questions and take control of your monitor—with permission—to show you how to do things. Training is part or full-time and available weekdays, weeknights, or weekends.

The best way to prepare for a career shift to a technical field like motion graphics design is to enroll in a bootcamp or certificate program. These are intensive training courses that run from a few weeks to a few months and will cover motion graphics and animation in much more depth than tutorials can. Another plus of training is that you will leave class with a professional-quality sample video portfolio that you can show to prospective employers.

It’s easy to learn Adobe’s After Effects and start a new career. Check out Noble Desktop’s After Effects courses. Choose between in-person sessions in NYC at Noble’s location or sign up for live online After Effects courses and attend from anywhere. Use Noble Desktop’s Classes Near Me to find other courses in After Effects in your area.