What is easy? What is difficult? Vague terms get you nowhere. As a beginner, many things will be difficult. The rest is not really relevant. The specifics will depend on the sources used and can involve any number of steps and tools. In most cases you'll spend a good deal of time in Photoshop, anyway, to cut out the elements and patch up backgrounds before you can even think about how to arrange and animate them in AE.
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Start here: Basic Workflow
Learn about masking by typing masking in the Search Help field at the top right corner of AE and follow the links.
Learn about Time Remapping or freezing a frame.
- Shoot your shot with a locked off camera so there is no camera motion at all
- If there is any camera motion you will have to stabilize the shot and then crop it
- Duplicate the footage layer
- Freeze the bottom layer by enabling time remapping, then picking a spot in the shot where you are going to freeze the action
- Mask the top copy of the shot so that you only reveal the part of the shot you want to repeat
- Enable time remapping on the top layer and then careful go through the shot to find a good in and out point for a loop where the first and last frames are as identical as you can make them
- Set keyframes for time remapping at the in and out point of the loop
- Set the comp's work area to match the in and out point of the shot
- Move the out CTI to the out point then go back one frame
- Set a new out point for the work area
- Trim the comp to the work area
- Render your project to a suitable format. If you want to make an animated gif from your project then render a Quicktime Animation Codec movie and open the rendered movie in Photoshop then save is as an animated gif.
There you go, a 12 step program to create something that you can do in a few seconds with an iPhone and a free app.
Rick, thanks for taking the time to provide the steps! I spent some time looking into this, and did find a desktop program that does this rather simply effect. Just curious, the end user will never know what program was used to produce an effect, and time does cost money. Are there reasons to produce an effect like this in AE vs. a 3rd party program, assuming the end result is of similar quality?
The only good reason would be for portability to other machines. AE is far more prevalent than other applications that can do similar things. If that isn't a concern, stick with what you're doing.
I use the products that will deliver the results I need in the least possible time so that I can pay the bills.