Program Layout

The layout of Adobe After Effects is not unlike other editing software. The main differences will be in the way After Effects arranges different windows in a tabbed structure and the way multiple monitors are dealt with.

That may indeed be the most stark difference. Most programs will utilize a two-monitor set up. One for previewing the current piece of raw footage and another for displaying the final product. After effects is similar but since it is designed around the idea of pulling together multiple source elements not only in sequence but *simultaneously* there are times when more than two monitors are required. It would however be wasteful to show monitors for the final composite, a piece of raw footage, a layer mask, and an effects output all at once so a tabbed system is used. By default when a new monitor is made it will simply replace the current monitor in the center of the screen. You'll be able to switch between each by the tabs at the top of the monitor window.

The second major element that will differ from other software is the presence of the "Effects & Presets" window at the right side of the screen. This is where a master list of all available effects can be found. Take note of the search box at the top of this window which will allow you to quickly search through all the available effects simply by typing the name of it.

Furhermore the footage / source elements bin resides, by default, in the upper left as a list as opposed to in the lower left like premiere. Remember that this, be default, will be hidden when viewing the settings for any given effect as the tab will replace the position of the source elements window.

The Main Toolbar

Look at how main it is!

New Projects

Upon opening Adobe After Effects you do not need to choose wether or not to set up a new project. Since each composition within the project bin can contain different video and audio settings there are no monolithic "project" settings such as resolution. Final resolution will be determined by whichever composition you wish to export.

In After Effects one can simply open the program and immediately begin dragging and dropping files into the project bin. This indeed may be easiest as it allows you to make use of a command to base a new composition on source footage automatically instead of entering the parameters of the project by hand and then importing footage.

To create a new composition from a piece of source footage simply Right-Click on the source footage entry and choose "New Comp from Selection". A new composition entry will be created whose parameters (resolution, timing) match those of the source file.

Common shortcuts

There are several shortcuts within Adobe After Effects that will make your life easier. Here is a small list of the most useful shortcuts.

EACH ELEMENT IS A LAYER OF ITS OWN THERE IS NO SOUND WITHOUT RAM PREVIEW
Space Play / Pause selected video
Delete Removes selected layer, effect, or Keyframe
Page Up Go back in the timeline a single frame
Page Down Go forward in the timeline a single frame.
B Truncate beginning of work area to current position
N Truncate end of work area to current position
J Go to the nearest previous keyframe (on any layer)
K Go to the nearest next keyframe (on any layer)
Shift Turn on marker snapping while held down
Alt + Mouse wheel Zoom timeline around current position
Shift + Mouse wheel Move timeline view to left or right
Arrow keys Nudge a (selected) object on the canvas in a direction
The complete list can be found at the official adobe site.