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Motion is faster to work with, if you limit yourself to its behaviors and only use a few layers and effects. In AE you will miss the real-time playback, but instead you will be able to do A LOT more with higher degree of control.
- Jonas Hummelstrand
Well, the difference is substantial. Apart from the realtime stuff, you will find that e.g. the principles for drop zones and nested compositions work differently. You will also find that AE projects will be in general become more complex, simply because you have more options of sensibly combining stuff, allowing you much greater creative freedom. Of course a lot of the tools are way more complex to begin with. Personally I also find AE much less confusing. While some may argue that the lack of timeline groups and the requirement to manage several properties directly in the timeline speaks against AE, it still strikes me as more streamlined compared to Motions multiple palettes and seemingly infinite number of extra clicks just to get a simple transform. In either case: your, mileage may vary and just as it is a matter of what kind of work you have to do, it is also a matter of personal preference, after all.
Motion eventually started to grow on me. There are some great interface elements that Adobe should have invented first, especially those 3D guides and the smooth transitions between 3D views that help keep you oriented.
Once you've finished your AE class, you will find yourself wondering why Apple ever bothered with Motion.
Thanks for all this! Very interesting. Are the basic commands or basic gist (for lack of a better word) of AE fairly easy to pick up if I'm familiar with Photoshop and the other programs above? Just wondering if it's necessary to look at some tutorials before class to get familiar with the interface before we jump in (since it's not really an AE class, but a class that uses AE) or if it's going to be pretty similar to what I'm familiar with from other stuff...?
I've never used Motion, but I think you'll probably be able to pick up AE fairly quickly. You could look at some tutorials, but you might as well start by downloading the trial (if you don't own AE).
Create a multi layered file in Photoshop. Drag the file into the Project folder (import as comp, not footage). Then double click the comp; that will display the image in the comp viewer, and show your layers on the timeline. Twirl down the arrow next to the layer to display the properties of that layer. Click the little stopwatch next to the parameter you want to animate (if you click it again, it will remove all animation/keyframes, so you probably don't want to do that...). Move forward in time and change the parameter's value. Voila - you've just created your first keyframed animation in AE.
Biggest thing for beginners. DON'T USE SPACEBAR to play. Instead, use Ram Preview (0 numpad).
If you are used to Adobe lingo from Photoshop, then understanding the AE help files should be simple enough. You should still consider watching some tutorials covering the basics such as Andrew Kramer's AE Basics, though. In a way AE is Photoshop with moving layers, but then again it is not. Some principles are still different and the less confused you are, the more you can focus on doing work.
I loathe Photoshop with deep and totally unreasonable passion. One of the major issues adapting concepts form Photoshop to AE is that PS uses layers that are made of pixels as the basic components. After Effects uses objects as the basic building blocks.
It's a critical distinction when expecting what "select" operations accomplish.
I found that being familiar with photoshop helped a little, just because it is also an adobe product - but AE is set up completely different.
I just took a motion graphics class that we had to use AE in, but the class really wasn't about teaching AE so we were told to get memberships to an online video tutorial service (linda.com). That really got me prepared - I watched about 50 hours of videos throughout taking the class and now I understand AE!