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Make Notes for Others

Hiding Comments in After Effects By Ko Maruyama
With the ever-expanding user base who trade Adobe After Effects project files, it is important to include notes in your files in order to allow other artists to quickly understand your work.  Sometimes, notes made to particular files need to be included not only when transferring the file, but also embedded in the file, through various parts of the application, so there is no confusion regarding which steps are to be followed, and which parts may or may not be changed.

In an earlier article, I wrote instructions for completing embedded notes in MAXON's CINEMA 4D.  By using the Release 9 HUD in MAXON's 3D software, artists are able to easily and quickly make annotations for other artsits, or even for reference when coming back to the file at a later date.  You can look at the article here: 
http://maxon.digitalmedianet.com/articles/viewarticle.jsp?id=32416


Note taking in Adobe's After Effects is also very easy, and will make the passing of projects from one artist to another virtually seamless.



The first place to put notes is in the COMMENTS column.  By right clicking (cmd-clicking), or clicking on the fly-out menu of the project bin, you can add the Comment column, which allows you to enter a string of text.





This is a great way to ensure that, even with the most oddly named comps, you can navigate to the one that you want quickly.

In the Timeline, you'll find a Comment column available in the same way.  By right clicking (cmd-click), or clicking on the fly-out menu, you can add it to the columns in the timeline.

Again, you can add a string of text here as you wish.




For the sake of Timeline real estate.  You may wish to limit your use of columns.  Instead of using the column to contain your message, you can add a note directly to the source bar in the timeline.

Click Option-* (asterisk) to bring up the Marker menu.  You can add a Comment to the marker which will show up in the icon for the duration of the layer.  NOTE: You don't need to click at a specific time, the Marker window allows you to change the time at which you'd like your marker and note to be displayed.


In order to change the marker's text, simply double click on it.



OR you could add an expression.

You'll have to look at other tutorials and techniques here on DMN to check out in-depth expression use, but by adding an expression, After Effects will - BY DEFAULT - give you the proper syntax for the operation it is already doing.  DON'T CHANGE IT.  Simply move your cursor to the end of the provided text, then add to forward slashes and your message.  The slashes will serve to tell After Effects that what follows is a remark rather than a command.


Here is a short lesson:

1. Select a layer.
2. Open the Position attribute by pressing 'P'  on the keyboard, or revealing it from under the transform properties.
3.  Select the attribute by clicking on the word "Position".  Option-click the stopwatch to add an expression.
4. A box appears, with text, highlighted in blue.  Do not delete the word "position".  Place your cursor after the word, then type:

// this is a remark that does nothing

5.  Press ENTER (not Return)



Not everyone will be able to find the comments column, and the expressions list is usually very well hidden, unless someone is looking for it.  However, if you want to ensure that everyone will see your note, add text.

Using the Text tool in After Effects, add a layer of text to the topmost layer in your composition.  This can say as much as you'd like, or can fit within the composition window in order to be read.


If you want to ensure that nobody will accidentally render this, be sure to turn the layer into a guide layer, by selecting it from the LAYER pulldown menu, or right-clicking on the layer and selecting "GUIDE LAYER".  You may want to lock it out and 'shy' it to prevent editing it later.

In the Render Queue, make sure that your default Render Settings have the option set to not render guide layers (which are off by default).



The last place you might want to add a note is in the Render Queue itself. Again, in the columns area, you can add a column for Comments.  This is particularly helpful if you make a habit of saving your projects with completed renders in the queue.  Otherwise, the comment will be deleted with the queued render.



Mark things up, hide personal messages, you can annotate in several places in the After Effects project.  If you have a project that's going around the studio, be sure to keep notes in one place, where everyone can find them.

HTH

Ko


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Ko Maruyama is a freelance animator in Los Angeles.  In addition to working on film and broadcast animations, Ko teaches at Pasadena's Art Center College of Design - focusing on motion design.  When working, writing or testing software allows, you can find him lending a hand in the After Effects board and lurking among the Cinema4D, Visual Effects and Photoshop posts within the DMNForums.
Related Keywords:Adobe AFter Effects, tutorial, comment, scripting, notes, expression remark

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