Adobe Systems developed Adobe After Effects as a visual and motion graphics effects software. It has multiple purposes, however, and can also be used for tracking, animation and compositing. The software has been around since 1993, so After Effects has gone through several changes in the time it’s been in existence, with new features added regularly.

One of the reasons designers love using After Effects is its extensive third-party plug-ins to add features and functions. One of the keys to what After Effects is used for can be found in the name. It isn’t efficient as a video-editing software, but is excellent at adding effects to a finished video, such as plugging in titles or layering some 2D footage into a 3D space.

1. Add Effects, Such as Rain

After Effects is an excellent tool that will allow you to plug in various effects. For example, if you want to advertise a new umbrella you designed, you can shoot and edit footage of a model as though she is splashing around in the rain with the umbrella. Fortunately, you don’t have to wait for rain or use the lower light of a rainy day to shoot the footage. Instead, you can shoot it and then add the after effect of rain while you’re editing the video. Brilliant, right?

Tip: Drag and drop the effect you want to the timeline. This will also allow you to add effects like rain — or anything else you’d like — to part of the video only.

2. Add Titles

After Effects allows you to add titles to your videos that look like they are straight out of a movie theater. Advanced looks such as faded background blocks or text that flies in from some angle give your video the look of one you paid thousands of dollars to have produced. For example, you can create the look of a smoky type, animating your text and giving your titles a wispy look.

Tip: Add an opacity animator to create smoky text.

3. Compositing

Blend two images together for a seamless, realistic look. For example, if your video needs an explosion, you can layer the image of an explosion over footage of a building and come up with a dramatic effect. Without Adobe After Effects, you’d have to layer in a bunch of elements, such as dust, the explosion, flying parts and smoke. This would be very difficult to accomplish with a realistic look.

Tip: Blur the background plate for a more seamless look when compositing and add a fake camera move to camouflage things.

3. Add Some Wiggle

Adding a slight shake can make it look as though someone is holding the camera and can also serve to hide the fact that you’ve added effects with techniques such as compositing. You can adjust the wiggle to be as strong or subtle as you’d like. This slight shake will cover up any minor imperfections that a viewer might otherwise notice. The viewer won’t notice the shake, seeing it as part of a cinematography effect, but it will distract him or her enough to make the scene look as realistic as possible.

Tip: Link the wiggle value to a slider or add a double wiggle for a stronger effect.

4. Add or Switch out Footage

One rule of video editing is that even if you think your video is finished, it probably isn’t. Let’s say you create an amazing ad for your car dealership, but then you realize you need to add another line of speech or a shot of the latest models at the end of the video. A great feature of After Effects is how easy it is to swap out footage. You can simply drag the new footage to a composition or replace a layer.

Tip: CTRL + / will allow you to quickly replace the layer you’re on instead of having to drag and drop.

5. Speed up or Slow Down Footage

If you’re trying to create an ad and want a portion of it to be slower or faster, you can accomplish this with After Effects, placing the different-speed film at a very precise location in your footage. For example, if you are creating an ad for a dating service and you want to show a couple the moment they fall in love, you might slow down the footage at the precise moment the couple’s eyes meet.

Tip: Look for the reverse speed icon on the timeline and use the popup window to make the adjustments desired for your project.

6. Fine-Tune Colors

Perhaps you had to shoot the video at a time of day you really didn’t want to and the colors are just a little off. Maybe you want to make it look like an old movie, which would require more sepia-toned colors. Whatever you are going for, After Effects allows you to easily adjust the colors of images in your project. Minor changes can make a huge impact in the overall look and professional quality of your projects.

Tip: Select “Tint” and then use the color swatch or an eyedropper to specify the color you want to adjust.

There are many ways you can use Adobe After Effects to improve the quality of your advertising videos. Whether you just need to add a simple call to action or information about your business, or you want to create more dramatic effects, this software allows you to become a self-contained mini editing crew.

*Cover image by Dmitri Litvinov.