AE Quicktip: Assign Keyboard Shortcuts on a Mac

Is there that one menu command you always use in After Effects and wish there was a keyboard shortcut? In the past, there were cumbersome methods of modifying a text file buried in the filesystem to change things. But there’s a much easier way:

System Preferences: Keyboard & Mouse

System Preferences: Keyboard & Mouse.

Go to the Keyboard Shortcuts tab and click on the “+” button towards the bottom.

Then select After Effects from the Application pulldown (you might have to go to “Other…” at the bottom and browse to AE).

Type in the exact name of the menu item you want a shortcut for, then hit the keys you’d like to be the shortcut. Just make sure they shortcut isn’t already used by After Effects.

And there you go!

AE Mini Tip: Color Control Layer

If you’ve worked on commercial project, you know there’s only one constant: change… especially at the last minute. One of the things that seems to frequently change is color choice. If you have a complicated AE animation and many layers that use the same colors, this can be a royal pain. You can reduce this pain if, from the beginning, you set up a color control layer.

[Note: this really only works well if you’re working on vector animations with single-color objects.]

First, set up an adjustment layer and add the “Color Color” effect found under “Expression Controls.” Do this for as many colors as you want.

I recommend naming the controls for the layers you will be coloring rather than the color itself.

Then, apply the “Fill” effect under “Generate.” Here, you can option-click (alt-click on PC) and drag the pick-whip (that little spiral button) to the color control in your color control layer.


Now, when the client comes back to you with the comment “The trees should be purple,” you won’t be cursing under your breath (as much).

Time Machine Done Right


So I finally made the jump to Leopard last weekend. Overall, I’m fairly impressed with it. Time Machine is definitely nice. But Something always bugged me about the way Time Machine is accessed.

If I’m looking for something in a folder and I want to access a TM backup, I have to go down to the dock, then click Time Machine. Sure, I could put it in the sidebar, but it’s not a search or directory or drive, it’s not even really a program, it just brings up an interface. And yes, you could put Time Machine in the toolbar, but that just looks ugly.

After some very minor searching, I ran across this post on The Pug Automatic blog. So I grabbed the PSD, threw a Time Machine icon on there, and turned it into a .icns fle with Icon Composer. Here’s how I got it into a copy of Time Machine for the toolbar:

  1. Make a copy of Time Machine. I named mine “Run Time Machine.” (This is so you can still keep a clean copy in your dock or elsewhere as the new icon is only 32×32.)
  2. Right-click on your new copy and select “Show Package Contents…”
  3. The file we’re looking for is in Contents/Resources/backup.icns.
  4. Replace that file with the icon I made here (right-click, save as).
  5. Finally, drag your new toolbar ready Time Machine to the, well, toolbar and enjoy your extra .3 seconds you’ve saved.