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A Guide to After Effects Menus: View

By Matt Nelson

Expand your knowledge of the After Effects Menus with our deep dive into the View Tab!

How often do you use the top menu tabs in After Effects? Chances are, you probably have a handful of tools you use, but what about those random features you haven’t tried yet? We're taking a look at the hidden gems in the top menus, and we're just about halfway through!
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In this tutorial, we’ll be doing a deep dive into the View tab in After Effects. View may not sound incredibly exciting, but there are so many tools in here that are essential for navigating your canvas and workspace. We’ll learn how to:
  • Speed up your workflow using custom resolution settings
  • Manage layout with rulers and guides
  • Export and import Guides
  • And quickly cycle through view options

View > Resolution

You’ve probably seen the resolution settings built into the lower portion of the preview window in After Effects. But it's worth pointing here for a few reasons. The first is that the View tab gives us the keyboard shortcuts for toggling between resolution states (although it is strange that there’s no shortcut for third resolution).
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The other reason is because the custom resolution feature is incredibly handy for dealing with large project files. For example, let’s say I have a massive 4K render and I’m having a hard time playing it back (even in quarter res). All I have to do is go to View > Resolution > Custom. If I want to lower the resolution of my preview, I’ll dial up the numbers in this window. Let’s try something like 15. 
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Once I do this, After Effects will drop the resolution substantially, but it will help my video play much faster. This is especially helpful if you need to get a sense of how animation is looking, but don’t need to dig into the details too much. I’ve had many projects where the render was simply too large to playback at a decent speed, and this is my go-to trick. 
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Show Rulers

Relying on rulers and measurement tools is absolutely essential in design programs such as Photoshop and Illustrator—and they are just as important in After Effects too! Whether I’m double-checking a layout or trying to create a frame of reference, rulers are a must-have feature. To access rulers, go to View > Show Rulers
You can also hit: 
Command+R (Mac OS)
Control+R (Windows) 
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Now, the rulers are visible and ready to use. Simply drag the measurements out from the top or side bar to place along your workspace. 
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Once you’ve pulled out the rulers, simply use Command+; (Mac OS) or Control+; (Windows) to toggle the visibility of your guides. 

Export / Import Guides

Sometimes you will need guides at multiple points in a project. Instead of recreating your ruler layout in each new comp, you can rely on this feature to save a bunch of time and templatize your project. 
To save guides for later use, simply go into the comp that has the guides you want to save. Go up to View > Export Guides. You can export these to anywhere you like, but I would recommend keeping it in your project folder. 
When you need to pull your guides up again, go to View > Import Guides, and select the file you exported. 
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View Options

Different projects require different view settings. This is where the View Options menu comes into play. For instance, what if you want to see what direction an object is moving in your scene without previewing the animation? Or what if you want to see the exact curvature of your motion path tangents? To view all of these wonderful options and more, go to View > View Options
You can also hit the keyboard shortcut:
Option + Command + U (Mac OS) 
Option + Control + U (Windows OS)
For this example, I’ll go ahead and select all the option boxes, just to test things out. 
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Once I do this, I can now see the motion path, keyframes, and other critical info just by selecting any object in my timeline. This is especially helpful in plotting out complex keyframes, and working with multiple objects in a scene. 
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A Tab with a View

As we’ve seen, the View tab has a solid library of tools that can help speed up and organize your workflow immensely. Tweaking the resolution playback in After Effects is absolutely crucial for managing your animation as you work through hefty projects. Relying on grids, guides, and rulers in your comp is critical as well. Be sure to explore and experiment with all of the other tools in the View menu as well.

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