AE Class

Creative Commons License


College of San Mateo
Multimedia Department

Instructor: Evan Donn

After Effects (Mult 282)

Course Description & Learning Outcomes

This class is intended to get you up and running with the capabilities and features of Adobe After Effects. I will focus on the basic concepts and techniques that will allow you to create everything from simple animated titles to complex motion graphics and visual effects. As a general guide, by the end of this course you should be able to take a set of graphics, audio & video files and a basic concept for a video and create the finished video. Specifically you should be able to:

  1. Identify & describe various software interface components
  2. Identify & describe various software features and functionality
  3. Demonstrate media acquisition technique
  4. Demonstrate working with the timeline
  5. Demonstrate basic animation and motion graphics techniques
  6. Demonstrate the use of 2D & 3D animation tools
  7. Demonstrate vector paint tools, layer editing, and keying tools
  8. Demonstrate motion tracking and type animation
  9. Demonstrate basic exporting
  10. Demonstrate basic media management techniques


All of my lecture notes have a print stylesheet, so if you print them from any modern browser they should print formatted for the page without the navigation and graphics links.

I'm not requiring a book for this class, but I have a few books that I'd like to recommend as companions to the class - these are the best ones out there and will take you well beyond the topics we cover in class.

Creating Motion Graphics with After Effects, 4th Edition: Essential and Advanced Techniques by Chris & Trish Meyer
I highly recommend this book in particular if you are hoping to master AE. My lecture notes are enough to provide you with a basic introduction to the program, but the book will go into much more detail than we have time to cover in class. I'll be refrencing chapters in the book troughout the class for furthur reading on the lecture topics.

Make sure if you get the book you get the latest one (4th Edition) as it covers the most recent version of AE which we'll be using in class.

After Effects Studio Techniques by Mark Cristiansen
While the Meyer's book above covers AE from the ground up with a focus on motion graphics, this book builds on the basics to cover real-world studio techniques for many common visual effects. I'd say this is a good book to grab about halfway into the class - you'll need to have the basics down before diving into it.

The DV Rebels Guide by Stu Maschwitz
The Rebel's Guide isn't specifically an After Effects book, but it covers many techniques in AE and even comes with some plug-in tools which simplify tasks like color correction. This book is really focused on making low/no-budget action movies, and a big part of that is using tools like AE to create effects which make your film look like a hollywood production without the hollywood price tag. It's an entertaining read and very focused on real world application rather than theory or application functionality.


Multimedia Lab
Monday evenings, 6:30 - 9:30pm
August 24th - December 14th

File Storage

You will need some way to store and backup your project files for this class. Since After Effects is a video application the files can sometimes be quite large; many of our class projects will involve working with smaller files and or still images though, so you probably won't need a very large storage device. At the minimum I would recommend getting a 2Gb USB2 thumb drive; check out Fry's electronics (closest one is in Palo Alto) for the best prices in a local store, or try DealRam for the best online prices - current prices on DealRam are running from $10 for 1Gb to $66 for a 32Gb drive. Firewire or USB2 hard drives are also fine, but they are larger and therefore more trouble to carry around. If you have an iPod it can also be used as a hard drive and will suffice for this class.


Grades are assigned via a standard 100 point scale; the breakdown is as follows:

A 90-100
B 80-89
C 70-79
D 60-69
F 59 or below

Grades are based on a combination of attendance & participation (30%) and the successful completion of several in-class and out-of class assigned projects (70%).

As this is not a design class, projects will not be judged by artistic or aesthetic criteria, but rather by how successfully they meet the stated objectives/goals of the assignment.


Class meetings will start and end as scheduled. Typically I will lecture for the first hour to an hour and a half (~6:30 - 8:00pm). Once the lecture is over the remainder of the class is lab time to work on your assignment or project. I will usually be available until the end of class to answer questions. The lab time is yours to use as you wish - if you have finished your work, or are planning to work at home or somewhere else you are welcome to leave at any time during lab.

As mentioned previously, part of your grade is based on attendence. I will have an attendence sheet for you to sign in on in the back of the room during each lecture - it is your responsibility to sign in at each class. Up to two absences will not negatively affect your grade, but three or more will. If you need to miss more than two classes let me know ahead of time and we can usually work something out to preserve your grade - but you must do it before your absences, not when you return to class. It is your responsibility to make up any lectures or projects you missed due to an absence... both will usually be available on this site.


Participation is an important part of this class and will be reflected in your grade as part of your attendence. I expect you to ask questions and participate actively in discussions in class. I have no way of knowing whether the material I give you is making sense to you if you don't ask questions...but when you do ask questions I'm able to improve the materials for everybody.


This is your class, so if you feel I am not covering material you are interested in, please let me know. I cannot accomodate all individual requests but I will do my best to shape the class to your interests. I welcome your feedback at any time - the more we work together the better this class will be.

This syllabus may change over the course of the class. Anytime I make a change I will post it on the "news" page as well as announce it in class. No changes to this syllabus will affect your grades or the grading process.