To Import Still Images
Before you import an image, you should check the settings for the still image duration, which you will find in the Preferences; go to Edit > Preferences > Import > Still Footage and enter a duration amount:
- Under “Still Footage,” make sure to deselect “Length of Composition” and enter a duration instead. For example, “00:00:02″ for double-frame animation (or 2 frames per image).
- Press OK.
- Once you import single image files, it is possible to change their duration again, by setting new in- and out-positions on their layers.
When you have set the still image duration, you can go to the main menu, choose File > Import > File and select the images you wish to add to the Project Window.
To Import an Image Sequence
Referring to the main menu, go to File > Import > File. An “Import File” dialogue box will then open. Find the folder that holds the image sequence that you intend to import.
Click on the first file in the sequence ONLY; do not press Open yet!
Look at the the lower-half of the Import File Window and choose the following options:
- Format: After Effects should recognize the type of image format that you are about to import (e.g., PSD, PNG, TIFF, etc.)
- Import As: Footage
- Select the type of image sequence (i.e., “PSD Sequence”)
- Press Open. After Effects will subsequently bring the sequence into the Project Window as “Footage.”
The image sequence will subsequently appear in the Project Window.
N.B. When you import “un-flattened” PSD images, After Effects will ask you particular Layer Options:
- Merged Layer: If you would like to “flatten” the Photoshop layers to make a single image layer
- Choose Layer: You can select a single layer from the original Photoshop file
In addition, you can import a Photoshop file as a Composition, under “Import Kind” (as opposed to Footage). However, this option will not work for image sequences. It is better to import as Composition for still images.
N.B. When you import images with alpha channels, an Interpret Footage dialogue box will appear, noting that the images had an “unlabeled alpha channel.” Under “Alpha,” you should choose “Straight – Unmatted.”
To Interpret Footage
This step will allow you to convert an image sequence to 24, 15, or 12 frames per second. In addition, you will be able to turn the sequence into a repeating loop (for a walk cycle for example).
Once you have imported an image sequence to the project, After Effects will store the footage in the Project Window. To Interpret the Footage — or, to change the duration of the sequence or loop the images — you should do one of two things.
First of all, referring to the Project Window, click on the footage icon and go to File > Interpret Footage > Main. Or, similarly, to activate the dialogue box, right-click on the icon and go to File > Interpret Footage > Main.
Under the Interpret Footage options, you should select the following:
- Alpha: Choose “Straight – Unmatted”
- Frame Rate: “Assume the frame rate” is 24 frames per second (single-frame animation) or 12 frames per second (double-frame animation)
The other Options to consider are:
- Pixel Aspect Ratio: Choose “Square Pixels”
When Interpreting Footage, Choose Loop to Create Cycles
A very useful option that After Effects offers is to “loop” image sequences. This will allow you to repeat sequences. For example, the loop feature is ideal for treadmill walk cycles.
- First, import an image sequence, such as a treadmill walk cycle.
- Once you’ve imported the sequence, in the Project Window, right-click on the sequence icon and Interpret Footage > Main.
- After you have set the frame rate, go to the lower section of the Interpret Footage Dialogue Box and choose Other Options > Loop:
- Loop: Choose a large amount of times you would like to the cycle to repeat. For instance, to make a 10 second walk cycle, the software should repeat the character’s steps 20 times.
To Create an Image Sequence from Multiple Images
There is another method that you can use to create an image sequence. This particular way works well if you want to work specifically with double-frame animation. Furthermore, you can edit the duration of individual images and arrange them in a timeline, to reflect the varied timing (i.e., to assemble double- and single-frame sequences, plus longer holds).
Before you proceed, you should change the duration of still images. Referring to the main menu, go to Edit > Preferences > Import > Still Footage and enter a duration amount:
- Under “Still Footage,” make sure to deselect”Length of Composition” and enter a duration instead. For example, “00:00:02″ for double-frame animation (or 2 frames per image).
- Press OK.
- Once you import single image files, it is possible to change their duration again, by setting new in- and out-positions in their layers.
Import a Group of Images
This time, instead of importing an image sequence, you will import a group of images. Because you have set the still image duration to “2 frames” or “00:00:02,” the images will come into the AE Project Window as individual images that are two frames in length (as opposed to the “Length of Composition”).
- Go to File > Import. Locate the files you would like to import and select them all, by clicking on the first image in the sequence and, while holding down the Shift Key, choose the last image in the sequence.
- Import as “Footage.”
- Do not choose “Image Sequence.” This is different than importing an image sequence.
- Click Open.
After Effects will add the images to the Project Window. To better organize the Project Window, you should place them in a folder in the Project Window (i.e., go to File > New Folder or click on the “Create New Folder” button at the bottom edge of the Project Window). Name the folder “Image Sequence,” for example.
Add the Images to a Composition
You will have to add the image sequence to a composition. Doing so will be easier if the images are already organized in a folder in the Project Window.
Go to the Main Menu and choose Composition > New Composition. From there, give it a “Composition Name;” then, referring to the “Basic” settings, choose the following (using Standard Resolution as an example):
- Composition Name: Give the composition an appropriate name
- Preset: NTSC D1 Square Pix, 720 x 540
- Width: 720
- Height: 540
- Pixel Aspect Ratio: Square Pixels
- Frame Rate: 24
- Resolution: Full
- Start Frame: 0000
- Duration: Enter a value of “x” frames @ 24 fps
- Click 0K
To add the sequence to the composition, simply drag the folder into the Composition’s Timeline.
Sequence the Layers
Once you’ve added the collection of layers to a composition, you will want to “sequence the layers:”
- After you have dragged the folder of images into the timeline, you should deselect them and start fresh (i.e., Main Menu > Edit > Deselect All). Otherwise the order of layers might end up in reverse order. Click on the first layer, to be certain that it will be first in the sequence, and then, while holding down the Shift Key at the same time, click on the last layer, to select them all.
- Referring to the main menu, go to Animation > Keyframe Assistant > Sequence Layers.
- In the Sequence Layers dialogue box, deselect “Overlap.” By doing so, After Effects will arrange the images one after the other along the Timeline.
- Press OK.