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How to Go Frame by Frame in After Effects: Beginner’s Guide

Adobe After Effects frame by frame editing

How to Go Frame by Frame in After Effects: Adobe’s After Effects offers many great visual effects and composition options for digital VFX artists. This software has gained many features over the years. However, one key feature it has always possessed is the ability to move through your video frame by frame. Seasoned After Effects users may already be familiar with using this feature. However, beginners may need some guidance in this area.

Today we will be examining how to go frame by frame in After Effects.

What Does Going Frame by Frame Mean?

Moving frame by frame means moving from one frame to the next in your video. Assuming you have shot a video at 24 frames per second, you can move through each of these still frames individually and add visual effects or perform compositing functions as needed.

Many digital effects artists may need to view their video frame by frame to ensure each one looks perfect. This is especially important if they wish to create a professional-looking end product that is fit for a major studio.

How to Move Frame by Frame in After Effects

Moving frame by frame in After Effects is quite straightforward. If you want to move forward or backward by a single frame, you simply need to hit the Page Up or Page Down keys.

Alternatively, you can hold the “Ctrl” (Windows devices) button or “Command” (Mac devices) and tap the left or right arrow keys. This allows you to look through a clip frame by frame and make changes as needed.

Note that you must hold down the Ctrl or Command button when using the arrow keys, as attempting to use only the arrow keys will nudge your entire layer left or right. This can be confusing for new users, as you can move frame by frame in other video editing softwares by simply hitting the left or right arrow keys.

How to Move to a Specific Time or Frames Number in After Effects

After Effects also allows you to move to a specific time or frame number easily. For example, if you want to go to the third frame in your composition, simply type “3” on your keyboard. If you want to navigate to the 3 seconds mark in your composition, type “300” or “3.” on your keyboard. Note that the period “.” is vital in the aforementioned command.

Moving Forward or Backwards by a Specific Number of Frames

If moving frame by frame feels too tedious for your specific application, you can actually move forward or backward by a larger amount. For example, if you wanted to move ahead by ten frames, you would type “+10”. If you wanted to move back by ten frames, you would type “+-10”.

Note that the last command still includes a “+” at the start. This is because typing “-10” would take you to the point ten frames before the start of your composition.

Can You Customize Shortcuts on After Effects?

Frame by frame editing in After Effects

Many video editing and compositing software such as Adobe Premiere Pro and Media Composer allow users to create custom shortcuts. This meant you could create shortcuts that allow you to perform your desired functions with ease.

After Effects initially did not include this capability. However, an update in 2018 finally added the ability to create custom shortcuts.

Creating Keyboard Shortcuts in After Effects

You can create keyboard shortcuts using the following steps:

  1. Click “Edit” in the top toolbar
  2. Select “Keyboard Shortcuts” near the bottom of the menu. A window showing the keymapping and functions for each key on your keyboard should now be displayed. The keys in purple already have functions assigned to them, while the ones in green do not have any functions assigned to them. You can also click the different modifiers such as “Ctrl” and “Alt” under the “Modifiers” section of the window to see which functions are assigned to each key when you press down the modifier.
  3. To change a key mapping, navigate to the function you wish to map under the Command section.
  4. Click the blank area under the “Shortcut” column next to the command.
  5. Press your desired keymapping on your keyboard. e.g: “Ctrl + Shift + X” to map the command to the key.
  6. Click “OK”

Using After Effects Efficiently

You can become quite efficient at using After Effects once you understand the different keyboard shortcuts. You can also create custom shortcuts to make the process of accessing certain commands much faster.

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