What are Frames in After Effects

Updated on: September 20, 2022

When animating a composition in After Effects, more than once, you will need to zoom in on the Timeline to get to a specific time location in your sequence and adjust the shapes and effects you have added. 

At first, you may find that when you shorten the Time Navigator too much to zoom into your project, you may be confused by seeing your sequence on a scale of frames f rather than on a scale of seconds. But what is a frame?

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To understand what frames are in After Effects, you first must consider how a video recording is made.

What is a frame in a film?

If you already have a composition created in After Effects, you just have configured some values and characteristics of your project, such as its FPS: the number of frames per second you are going to work with. 

Let's say you decided to work with 29 FPS. That means that for every second of your footage, there will be 29 frames: in other words, 29 static images that, when played back in sequence, will give you the sensation of motion. That is exactly what a frame is in video production: each of the single images that, when put together, make up one second of the video.

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Frames in the After Effects Timeline

With the above clear, you should now understand better why, if you zoom in a lot on your Timeline, you will go from seeing your layer on a scale of seconds to a scale of frames: the type of view that will serve you to adjust effects and shapes in a much more precise way, since you will intervene the characteristics of your video directly from its smallest unit, a frame.

To manipulate the elements of a specific Frame, place your Time Indicator at the exact second of the timeline and narrow the Time Navigator to the maximum.

To return to a much more general panel, stretch the same tool until it covers the first second to the last of your composition.

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Note that the quality of a video depends on the frame rate and the number of frames.

For example, American television is broadcast at 30 fps, while cinema uses a frame rate of 24 fps.

So don't forget to take into account the existing video standards.

Andrea Mercado is a tech-focused journalist and copywriter with over 5 years of experience covering innovation, edtech, AI, and internet trends across media outlets. She is passionate about how technology can democratize access to education and is an avid learner when it comes to emerging tech like AI. Her articles and webinars help readers stay informed on the latest tech developments.
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