One stop resource:

Things have been really affordable lawyers griffitt sohara business legal service quiet around here at themographblog, and I apologize for that! To make up for the

absence of new content here, I’ve put up a new site:


The goal of mographnews is to be a one-stop, community oriented site for aggregating and posting all of the best content from moon bounce rentals around the motion graphics world.   There are so many different places to get your content these days it’s hard to keep track.   Hopefully the community will embrace mographnews and there will be quality links accompanied by even better discourse!

I delivered 4 projects last week, so hopefully I will free up some time to get some new stuff up here on The Mograph Blog.

A special shout to the the guys and girls at AD for helping my wife with her recent skin cancer battle



Mastering the Render Queue

The render queue in After Effects is like a Blackberry.   On the surface, it has a very basic and direct intention.  Need to make a call?  Dial a number and go.   Need to render a composition?  Add it to the queue and hit render.    But just like a Blackberry, if you dig a little bit deeper the render queue in After Effects has a lot to offer the motion graphics artist.   In this post I’m going to give a comprehensive overview on how to become a render queue power user.
(Update: There’s are some great links from Todd Kopriva in the comments, be sure to check them out)

  1. Multliple Output Modules for One Render

    Select output module, hit cmd+d

    Multiple Output Modules

    Many people don’t know you can actually have as many output modules as you want, all in the same render. Need an .avi, a quicktime, and an image sequence? You’d be crazy to do three separate renders for that, using multiple output modules you can generate them all from the same render!

  2. Stop Render, Reset Render Item to Original State

    During render, hold down option, click “Stop”

    Hold down alt, click stop

    When you stop a render, by default After Effects tries to be smart and help you out by creating a new render item in your queue, based off your original render item but with the “render range” updated to render only the frames that haven’t yet been rendered. It my entire career, I’m not sure if I have ever used that once. But something that is VERY helpful (and should be the default, if you ask me) is if you hold down option (alt on a pc) while you click “Stop”, After Effects will still create a new render item in the queue, however this one will be identical to the original render item. Very nice.

  3. Change Default Output Module (OM) or Render Setting (RS) template

    hold down cmd when selecting OM or RS from dropdown

    Setting Default Render Templates

    Using templates for your render queue are a huge timesaver. With templates you can setup specific render settings or output modules that you use often, and have them available in the respective dropdowns inside the render queue. There are system defaults that get used when you add a new item to the render queue, and if you don’t set new defaults, you end up always having to change them every time you add a new item. Have 30 comps you need to render? Well unless you set new defaults, you’ve got to change them all by hand. With this trick, you just hold down cmd when you select a OM or RS from the dropdown, and it will make whichever template you choose the new default. Sweet!
    Tip: This technique also works for “Save Frame As…” for saving out stills. Just add a new single frame to the Render Queue (cmd+option+s) and set the new defaults the same way.

  4. Duplicate Identical Render Item

    Select the render item, hit cmd+shift+d

    As with most things in After Effects, a simple cmd+d will duplicate an item in your render queue. The same works with layers, effects, and even footage items in your project window. But render items have more configurable options than some of those other things, and if you have a render queue stacked with render items and you want to duplicate #8 out of 20 items, often times you will have to reset your output directories and sometimes even some of your render options. By using cmd+shift+d, After Effects will duplicate your render item Exactly the way you set it up the first time, which can save you plenty of time in the long run.

  5. Drag from Project Window directly to Render Queue

    Select your chosen items from project window and drag ‘em over!

    This is one of those features that just makes sense. What’s really useful about dragging items to the queue directly from your project window, is using it in conjunction with the “Changing default output modules” from above to reap huge time-saving rewards. For example, if you have 100 quicktime movies that you need to re-render as half-res jpg sequences, you can just create the templates, set them as defaults, and drag all 100 quicktimes to the queue and hit render. Boom! Now go get some coffee.

    Tip: If you have multiple items to drag, but they are all going to the same directory, drag only one item first and set it’s output directory. Now you can drag over the remainder of the items together, and they will all set their default output directories to the correct folder.

  6. Add Selected Item(s) to Render Queue

    Select item(s) in Project Window, hit ctrl+shft+/

    For those of you that are too lazy (I prefer the term “selectively efficient”) to even drag items from the project window to the Render Queue, you can actually just use the ctrl+shft+/ hot-key combination to add selected items to the queue instantly.

  7. Debug with “Current Render Details”

    Twirl down “Current Render Details” to access information about why your render is soooo slowwwww.

    Current Render Details are your friend

    Render moving slow? Sometimes it’s just because you are such a sick compositor that your sheer “make it look like sex” skillset creates comps that are slow to render as a whole. But, more commonly, there is something specific that is slowing your render down. Maybe a certain layer with 50 masks on it, or some ridiculous glow effect that isn’t even necessary, or something else all together. Current Render Details shows you (in real-time) what after effects is rendering and gives you a feel for how long each effect/layer is taking. By viewing your Current Render Details you can analyze and target layers or effects that are slowing your render down, and pre-render the problem layers to make your renders zip along. I use this all the time – I’ve literally seen this save HOURS over the life of a project. Every second counts when you are hitting deliveries, and there is no point wasting time waiting for renders that don’t have to be slow!

  8. Getting the Most Out of “Embed Project Link”

    When working in teams, this can be a lifesaver.

    Using Embed Project Link in After Effects

    People gloss over this setting because it’s not very intuitive. But, I’m willing to bet that you have been in the situation where you’ve got a pre-rendered quicktime movie in your AE project, and you need to change it but have no idea where it came from. Sound familiar? If you work in teams, this can happen often, and is especially problematic if a freelancer has left the project mid-way through and you’ve got to decipher their project.
    Fear not. Because After Effects defaults to having Embed Project Link selected, chances are you can find out exactly where the movie came from. Any time a movie is generated from AE with this option selected, metadata is stored in the file about which After Effects project rendered it.
    To access this data, select the quicktime movie in the project window and hit cmd+e. If After Effects can find the absolute path to the file, it will automatically open it. If it can’t find it, it will at least give you an error message that tells you what file to look for… useful error messages from Adobe? I know, I couldn’t believe it either:

    The embedded project link could not be found!

  9. How to use “Import and Replace Usage”

    View OM options in the render queue, then use the pic-wip technique to choose which comp to replace.

    When you have the Output Module window open, you’ve probably seen Import and Replace Usageunder the Post-Render Action menu. The problem is, if you’re looking at it in the Output Module window, it doesn’t tell you the whole story.

    Replace what?

    To get the most out of import and replace usage, twirl down the details for your output module inside the render queue window.

    Using Import and Replace Usage

    That little spiral icon is the key to your success. That represents the “pic-whip” in After Effects, which means if you click on that icon and drag it onto any composition, that comp will be linked to whatever option the pic-whip represents. In this case, wherever you drag and drop that icon, the chosen comp will be replaced everywhere in the project by the resulting render. Useful for pre-rendering comps as mentioned above. (Always be sure to keep original, non-prerendered comps somewhere in our project though, for backwards compatibility.)

And there you have it. As I said in the beginning, the rabbit-hole of the render queue goes deeper that it seems from the surface, and if you devote the time and continued effort to put these techniques into your pipeline, you will reap the benefits of efficiency and quality I/O.

Hope you enjoyed it, if you have any great Render Queue tips that I missed, please leave them in the comments for us all to enjoy!

Thanks for reading.


Free Tickets to “Pause: Ideas in Motion”

UPDATE: Tickets are all gone, congrats to the winners.

I’ve got some free tickets to giveaway for some lucky readers. Insane score, these tickets are valued at $199 – if you are going to be in NYC on November 10 – 11, don’t miss this bus. If you can’t make it to the conference, please don’t try to win them, you’ll make someone else miss out.

The first 3 readers to email chris *at* chriskelley *dot* tv the answer to which year did COSA create After Effects will get a free pass to Pause: Ideas in Motion – the premiere motion graphics conference in the States, and in my opinion the world.

What is Pause: Ideas in Motion?

Pause is an event that’s all about mograph. Theory, technique, concepts, you name it. The lineup of presenters this year is ridiculous: Hillman Curtis, Chris Milk, Mark Romanek, BTRY, Brand New School, BUCK, Digital Kitchen, GMunk, Hush, Joseph Kosinski, MK12 and UFO. Doesn’t get much more exciting than that.

PAUSE NYC is open to anyone who works with 3D and motion graphics technologies — whether After Effects, Combustion, Maya, Motion, or a combination of these and other bold new toolsets.

PAUSE – Dates, Times and Location:
November 10 – 11, 2008, 9 AM – 6 PM
BMCC Tribeca Performing Arts Center
199 Chambers Street #110SC
New York, NY 10007

Follow The Mograph Blog on Twitter

Twitter Logo

So due to my semi-inconsistent posting, I want to try and make it as easy as possible for everybody to get updates when I add stuff around here.  In honor of that, I created a Twitter account for The Mograph Blog to tweet out updates when I post new articles.   The Twitter account will be solely for update notifications on this site, and will be used for nothing else, so don’t worry about any spamminess.

You can follow the Twitter account here:

Also, if you’re not already subscribed to the RSS feed, you can grab that here:

Linking Particles to a Null with Particular

Back from the dead!  Thanks for stopping by, here’s a new one for you that I think you’ll find very valuable if it’s not already in your workflow.   I use this literally everytime I’m moving particles on a path, I find the technique much better than emitting particles from a light.

Linking your particle simulation directly to a null also gives you the ability to link multiple simulations to the same null and gives you the flexibility to really create some killer simulations.


Cinema4D Layer Browser Trick

First thing is first, sorry for going so long without a post. Life has been pretty crazy lately (in a good way) and I’ve neglected some important things and people unfortunately, one of them being TMB. Not to worry, here’s a tip that hopefully will excite you as much as it did me.

The Layer Browser (LB) in Cinema4D is a killer tool, and is super helpful for scene management. Within the LB you can do cool stuff like turn off hypernurbs, exclude your layer from the Object Manager, and nest layers together in a hierarchy. But one thing that can be a pain is adding a huge nest of objects from the Object Manager to a layer. (Picture to the right is a faux unwieldy Object Manager, I realize that it’s not the LB. Keep reading)

Shame the Old way

The old way I used to accomplish this was to select the parent object, right-click->Select Children, then right-click again and Add to Layer. Sure that seems pretty easy, but it’s too many unnecessary stepsMaxon has given us a great little trick to circumvent that process.

Cheer the New way

All you have to do is hold down the Control key (NOT the Command key on a Mac, but the CONTROL key) and drag your desired layer on to the top Parent object…. BOOM! Cinema automatically applies your layer to every child in your hierarchy. Sweet.

Little work flow enhancements like this add up. Imagine how many menus and right clicks and window openings you do throughout the average work day. It’s a lot. If you can shave even 2 or 3 seconds of little things like this, it may be the difference between getting your render to the client in time or making up an excuse so your producer doesn’t eat your brains.

Stay keyframey San Diego.

Top 10 Semi-Underground After Effects Hotkeys

I’m a hotkey fanatic, in case you haven’t noticed. Yesterday Aaron Knapp dropped a shifty unknown-to-me photoshop hotkey right on my head, so in honor of that, here are my top 10 favorite underground* After Effects hotkey combos.

  1. cmd+up / cmd+down with layer selected in timeline

    What it does: Selects the layer above/below

    I use this hotkey a lot when I am in tight, nudging layers around with page-up and page-down and don’t want to go back and grab my mouse to select another layer. Bonus Tip: if you hold down shift you can select multiple layers like this.

  2. shift+scrollwheel while cursor is in timeline

    What it does: scrolls the timeline left and right

    I like this one because if I’m in super-animator-mode, and I don’t want to be breaking my focus looking for that damn scollbar or zooming in and out of my timeline, I can just use this baby. Wacom users, sorry you’re out of luck unless you have a fancy pen with a scroller. Bonus Tip: Use option+scrollwheel to zoom in and out… best of both worlds!

  3. EE (tap twice)

    What it does: reveal any expressions on a layer

    I’m a big expressions user, so it’s a pain in the ass to be tracking down expressions and having to twirl down the expressions window all the time. EE, and you’re ready to code.

  4. cmd+option+shift+E

    What it does: applies the last used effect

    This one is just handy, there’s not any particular time I use it more often.

  5. cmd+option+zero

    What it does: brings your render queue to the front

    This one I love too, because I like a really clean work area and I don’t enjoy seeing my Render Queue all the time. Personal preference, but the render queue is for rendering times only, otherwise I don’t want to see it.

  6. shift+cmd+E

    What it does: removes all effects from selected layer

    What do you mean the client doesn’t like my exorbitant use of Shine and Starglow‽ This is my creative vision we are talking about here!! FINE! I’ll just delete everything!

  7. cmd+option+shift+v

    What it does: toggles selected layer visibility

    Couple this with the Bonus Tip from #1 and you’ve got yourself a pretty nifty workflow.

  8. shft+F9 / cmd+shift+F9

    What it does: toggles easy-ease keyframe in/out

    I’m actually surprised at how few people I see use this hotkey. It was one of the first ones I learned in After Effects and I use it all the time. I’ve seen way to many people using the right-click menu to set their easing. Another way I know not many people use this, is everytime I sit down at a new studio running OS X, and I hit cmd+shift+F9, Expose’ gives me the middle finger and I have to go to the OS X prefs and turn it off for the 5 millionth time.

  9. option+dbl-click any keyframe

    What it does: shows the keyframe velocity dialog

    Maybe it’s the programmer in me, but thinking in numbers instead of battling the f-curve editor in After Effects is just faster for me. Over the years I’ve gotten pretty good at knowing exactly what numbers I need to use to get the visual I want, and this is the quickest way to get it. Also, this is GREAT when you are trying to smooth out keyframes with secondary motion, it’s much easier to pop this dialog open and set your speeds for in/out equal to each other, then it is to try to match your curves in the pseudo f-curve editor.

  10. cmd+j / cmd+shift+j / cmd+shift+option+j

    What it does: toggles resolution Full/Half/Quarter

    Another one of my faves to finish off the list. I like to work at low resolutions whenever possible, but sometimes you need a quick hi-res preview to see how things are going… use this to go from quarter to full and back to quarter in the blink of an eye! Bonus Tip: cmd+option+j will throw you into your last used custom resolution mode.

So, there it is. 10 of my favorite After Effects hotkeys. I could go on for days, but I think there’s a Dunbar’s Number for learning hotkeys in one sitting, so I’ll leave it at this for now.
What did I miss? What are your favorites? Leave ‘em in the comments!
Free t-shirt** to anybody that can name a hotkey that I didn’t already know – I’ll be honest I swear.

*underground status is derived from the following equation: (FrequencyOfUse/NumberOfUsersThatKnowItOutOfOneHundred)*100…. ok not really

**I don’t have any TMB t-shirts, so you can’t actually win one. But I will bow down to your uber-hotkey authority.

New Icons for Net Render!

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe said, “God is in the details” (although some in the design crowd incorrectly attribute it to Hillman Curtis). Details matter, especially in software design. Good little things like Adobe changing the “image sequence” checkbox default to “checked” when importing image sequences, go a long way. Then there are other little little things that drive me crazy. For example: Maxon not giving NET Render Client and NET Render Server their own icons. And what do we do when something doesn’t exist? We create it. So here you go, new icons for NET Render Client and NET Render Server, free as can be.

Download Icons

Included in the zip file are my original PSD files (created in CS3), 48×48 png, 32×32 png, 16×16 png (yuck) and ICNS files for Mac users. You are free to change, re-distribute, whatever you want – except sell (duh) or pass off the originals as your own creation (wickety-wack).


If you are on OS X, read this article on installing new icons. The .icns file you want to replace is c4dapp.icns. If you want to try the ol’ Get Info->Paste trick, you can try that, but it’s infamous for not actually changing your icon permanently. On Windows, read up on your options over here at the help section. Since I included the .PSDs, you have the ability to create whatever you may need.


  1. Before you go replacing anything, backup your old files. It’s not my fault if you mess something up.
  2. The C4D Logos were obtained from the Maxon site HERE.
  3. The little character in the header image on this post was grabbed from HERE, I did not create the character, I don’t know who did, but good job.
  4. Just like with the Plugin Cafe RSS Feeds, I have no affiliation with Maxon. I just use their software.

Nesting Cameras in After Effects Using Expressions

I use this technique in a lot of my projects, and I have seen others use it too it’s a pretty common task – but what I don’t see very often is people using the activeCamera property. If you don’t use activeCamera and instead write your expressions with hard-coded layer names, you’re bound to break your expression somewhere down the line. This video will show you how and why to use activeCamera when nesting AE cameras into precomps.

Cinema 4D Hotkey o’the Day

In Cinema 4D, you can nudge forward and back in your timeline using the ‘G’ and ‘F’ keys, respectively. This is the equivalent of using ‘Page-Up’ and ‘Page-Down’ in After Effects.


Coming Soon - cut a new video last night covering using nested cameras with expressions in After Effects, should be able to post it up by tomorrow morning so stay tuned.