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How To Apply Animation Presets in After Effects

In Adobe After Effects, Animation Presets are collections of solids, effects filters, property keyframes, and expressions that you can use to automatically create animations, backgrounds, and text effects. Animation Presets can be quite dense combinations of multiple filters, motion paths, and keyframes, but you can apply them with a single click to your own projects to create complex professional animations.

What's more, they're easily modifiable if the basic preset doesn't meet your needs, and they're a great learning tool as well - just apply a preset and open it up to see how the animation was created. In this Quick Tip, we're going to discuss some of the different preset categories and how to apply and modify them.

Step 1 - Create a New Composition

You need to have at least one empty composition to apply an Animation Preset, but that's all - many Animation Presets will create their own solid layers and default text if necessary. So in After Effects, make a new empty composition (Composition > New Composition... or Command/CTRL+N) of whatever size and length you like - the Animation Preset will automatically adapt its size to match your comp. The keyframes in the preset are often based on a fixed duration, but they're adjustable, as we'll see. I'm going to make a 10-second 1280x720 comp.

Step 2 - Display the Animation Presets Window

There are a couple of ways to apply an Animation Preset, but first you need to see them. If you don't already see them displayed, open the Effects and Presets window by choosing Window > Effects & Presets or by typing Command/CTRL+5, then roll down the Animation Presets twirly:

Step 3 - Apply a Preset

Roll down the twirly (disclosure) arrow for one of the Animation Preset categories, say Backgrounds, then double-click one of the presets (I'm using Blocks) to apply it to the comp - you'll notice that the Animation Preset makes its own new Solid, so the effects in the preset can be applied, and this will generate a new animation:

If, on the other hand, you already have a layer you want to apply the Animation Preset to, don't double-click the preset, as that will make a new layer - just drag the Animation Preset onto the existing layer to apply it.

Step 4 - Modify a Preset

You'll notice that by default the animating blocks stop after 5 seconds, but it's easy to change that - just type U to expose the animated keyframes, lasso the keyframes, and drag them to wherever we want in the timeline, say 10 seconds. Now you'll see that the animation has slowed down and filled the 10-second comp duration, as you'd expect:

One thing to be aware of is that Animation Preset keyframes will begin at the location of the Current Time Indicator (CTI) - if you want the default 5-second Blocks animation to start at 2 seconds, for example, move the CTI to 2 seconds in the Timeline, then apply the preset.


And that's it. A final word about the Animation Preset categories - some, like Backgrounds, Shapes, Sound Effects, and Synthetics generate new imagery (or sounds) from scratch, and don't require an existing layer. The others, including Behaviors, the Image categories, Text, Transform, and Transitions, are intended to modify your existing layers, although they will generate their own empty Solid layers or default text characters if needed.

You can, by the way, see a complete rendered preview gallery of all the Animation Presets at the Adobe After Effects site here.

Check them out, and enjoy working with Animation Presets on your own projects.?

Learn more After Effects tricks and techniques with our full range of After Effects tutorials.

Richard Lainhart

Richard Lainhart | Articles by this author

Richard Lainhart is an award-winning composer, filmmaker, and author. His compositions have been performed in the US, Europe Asia, and Australia, and recordings of his music have appeared on the Periodic Music, Vacant Lot, XI Records, Airglow Music, Tobira Records, Infrequency, VICMOD, and ExOvo labels. His animations and short films have been shown in festivals in the US, Europe, and Asia, and online at ResFest, The New Venue, The Bitscreen, and Streaming Cinema 2.0. He has authored over a dozen technical manuals for music and video hardware and software, served as Contributing Editor for Interactivity and 3D Design Magazines, and contributed to books on digital media production published by IDG, Peachpit Press, McGraw Hill, and Miller Freeman Books. Previously an Adobe Certified Expert in After Effects and Premiere, a demo artist for Adobe Systems, and co-founder of the official New York City After Effects User Group, he was, from 2000-2009, Technical Director for Total Training Productions, an innovative digital media training company based in New York and California.


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