I don't see a playback button on the After Effects platform.
Let me be very direct: Read/ search the help. Seriously. The word you are looking for is "Preview". Conversely, any kind of choppiness can be simulated using time-remapping, the Posterize Time effect or a gigazillion other ways like using expressions. Your AI layers will have to be separated so they can be imported as an image sequence. In any case, you have some learning to do. It's not a good idea to jump into AE without having even the slightest glimmer of some basics.
Where can I get the slightest glimmer of the basics? That would be the purpose of this question. I did look at some of the other forums and several tutorials and none of them come close to answering my question.
And neither does your response. Would you mind either elaborating or directing me to a specific place that I can use. I know you said go to the help. But there are (as you said) a gazillion things in there, and I'm not sure what to look for.
At the top right corner of AE there is a search help field. Type questions in there and you will be taken to community resources that have been compiled by the Adobe community. You have to be careful about just searching Google for advice on AE because there are more and more YouTube 'tutorials' out there by inexperienced AE users that are demonstrating inefficient and ineffective workflows that point you down dead end alleys and some even promote procedures that are guaranteed to give you problems.
A couple of things that will help you. If you are going to work in video you have to learn about video formats, compression, codec's and the proper use of the rendering tools. Video is based on standard canvas sizes and frame rates. Until you have a good understanding of how video and animation works it is best to stick with standard HD 1080 29.97 for most of the world or 1080 25 if you live in PAL countries with 50hz electricity. If your composition settings say Custom then you need to know exactly what you are doing.
Let's talk about Illustrator and Photoshop for a minute. First unbreakable rule in both programs since Photoshop and Illustrator now support art boards, You can only have one artboard in an AI or PSD that you are importing into After Effects. It doesn't matter what size that artboard is, but there can only be one. You can have a bunch of layers. Each layer can be imported as a separate file. If you import a PSD or an AI file as a composition then you have the choice of having the layers cropped to the size of their content or have all of the layers set to the size of the Artboard. ALL artwork that you want to see in an After Effects comp must fit on the artboard. It's OK for a clipping mask to extend off the artboard, but if you draw a circle in AI that is half on the artboard and half off you will get a half circle in After Effects and there's noting you can do to make it a full circle again unless you go back and edit the original artwork.
To learn how to import Illustrator files as comps and find some good tutorials type 'ai as comp' in the search help field inside AE.
Here's how to create a basic animation in Illustrator that animates a circle into a star. This will give you the idea.
- Start a new AI file and set the frame size to 1080 X 1920 points
- Because you are using Illustrator to create graphics for video turn on Pixel Preview and Snap to Pixel
- Use the Ellipse tool to create a circle in the center of the artboard
- Use the PolyStar tool to create a Star in the center of the artboard
- Just for fun set different fill colors or gradients for each shape
- Select both shapes and use the Blend Tool in AI to blend between the shapes
- Select Blend Options and set the options to 60 steps
- Select Blend > Expand to create 60 individual shapes
- In the Layers panel select Expand To Layers > Build
- In the layers Panel shift select all of the new sub layers and drag them above layer 1 so you have new layers
- Layer 1 should now be empty so delete it
- Save the Illustrator file with a suitable name
- Import the Illustrator file into AE as a composition - retain layer sizes
- You will find a new composition with the same name as the AI file in the project panel and a folder with all the layers
- Double click the composition to open the Timeline and Composition Panel
- The CTI (current time indicator) will be at the start of frame 1 and the time indicator in the time line will read 0
- Select the timeline and press Ctrl/Cmnd + A to select all layers and then press Alt/Option + ] to set the out point of all layers to frame 2 (each layer will now be one frame long)
- With all layers still selected right click or go to the Animation Menu and select the Keyframe Assistant > Sequence layers
- Press the space bar to preview your animation
- If the composition is not long enough to include the entire animation then check the composition settings by press Ctrl/Cmnd + K or use the Composition Menu to change the composition settings and adjust the composition length
- If you want the last frame to continue for a while then select only the last layer, move the CTI to the last frame of the comp and press Alt/Option + ] to set a new outpoint for that layer
There you are. How to set up an animation in Illustrator. If you want to do a morph you can set up as many as 256 layers. If you want to create a hand drawn animation just put each drawing on a separate layer. If you are doing a long project then break the layered AI files up into shots or scenes that are less than 10 seconds and then edit the completed scenes into your final story in Premiere Pro or your favorite NLE.
I hope this gets you started.