After Effects is loaded with powerful features, impressive presets, and sexy special effects but when you begin to create your composition, you need a management tool to keep everything organized. Welcome to After Effects Layers!

The next layer switch in lower left hand corner turns off and on the transfer controls pane. These columns display the blending mode, if chosen, and the track matte. Blending modes are just that, settings that help you blend different layers together. A track matte is an overlay that blocks out part of the underlying image. Picture a Christmas Card that reveals part of the image with an overlay on the outside, sometimes using verse or a greeting. There are countless uses of matte in our world of animation and presentation including a matte that is itself, part of the meaning such as a cutout of a planet, a character, a flag. Turning this switch off and on presents your mode and track matte columns.

As you develop your animation, at different times different views will be helpful. I like to see the complete timeline. There is something about the complete scope that appeals to me but as you begin to use more features and controls such as the layer switches , it will be helpful and flexible to use these display options. The switch on the far left turns off and on the 'layer switches'.

One of my favorite examples of animation is the special text treatment at the beginning of any movie, television show, or news flash. Typically you will see an associated logo such as 'Warner Brothers' or 'NPR News' and this will be a combination of text, graphics, and animation. In After Effects this would probably be a single text layer with the many available fonts and special treatments available for text. There would be a backdrop with texture and color and this would be a solid layer. There would also be some accompanying activity, clouds or stellar objects, fireworks or animated shading and color. This simple animation would be presented and adorned using light layers and perhaps camera layers to present different perspectives as it unfolds.

These four columns that let you view and set the time settings 'eat up' quite a bit of your timeline viewing width. I never have them on by default. However, when you are tuning the interactions of different layers, when things appear and disappear and you are synchronizing their duration, these switches are indispensable! You can also key in precise numbers in the 'In', 'Out' and 'Duration' values.