After Effects and Premiere are heavy duty professional programmes designed for serious production line video editing. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be used occasionally for lighter purposes. This seasonal masterclass will introduce you to some of the main techniques used for animation in After Effects, such as keyframes, motion paths and expressions for looping. As well as looking at the new Keylight effect for removing backgrounds we will also take a quick peek at using particle effects and demonstrate how to apply filters.

We will also show how Photoshop integrates with After Effects and while you don’t need to be an artistic genius (if you can’t draw it then you can find it on the internet) you do need a sense of humour. Hopefully this masterclass will inspire you to create your own personalised seasonal greeting to post on your website, Youtube or Vimeo.

1. Create your composition - The Christmas scene is a multilayered Photoshop file, 640 x 480 at 72ppi. Create a new After Effects project then import the file as a Composition. It appears as a new composition in the project palette. Double click the composition to open it in the timeline and hit Command K to set the frame rate (15 fps) and time (10s).

2. Create the flight path - Import the sleigh graphic (found on the internet) as footage. Select this layer and with the pen tool create a path for the sleigh to fly along. As soon as it is created select Edit>Copy. Next, press P to bring out the position property. Click on the word “Position” and select Edit>Paste. The graphic locks onto this path.

3. Animate the sleigh - Select Layer>Transform>Auto Orient and tick “Along Path”. Press S to reveal the scale property. With the playback head at the beginning of the timeline click the stopwatch to turn on keyframes. Move in two seconds along the timeline, reduce the scale so it looks at though the reindeer disappear into the distance. Press 0 on the numeric keypad for a RAM preview.

4. Import as composition - A stylised robin has been imported as a composition. It is a three layered Photoshop file. Double click the composition in the project palette to open it in the timeline. Each layer has an anchor point which references all animation and properties. For the wing to flap properly the anchor pint must be moved to the wing’s shoulder.