You're sitting at your computer, staring at the blank workspace you've just created in After Effects when someone walks in to your office, pulls up a chair and says Wanna see something cool? Try this
And then your friend proceeds to teach you 4 or 5 little tricks that actually stay with you. Practical things like hitting Alt + Home (Option-HOME) while a layer is selected will send its in point to the beginning of the timeline, or that J and K will allow you to travel back and forth between keyframes. Leaving you thinking Why didn't I know that already? I've got to write this down! I know I'm going to forget this.. But you don't write it down and yet somehow it still stays with you. You're now hitting Alt+Home as naturally as you would hit Ctrl+C and then Ctrl-V (which is copying and pasting for those of you who may be scratching your head). Well that's what my experience with this book was like. I have at least 10 more favorite keystrokes and a cleared off spot on my desk where this book will be sitting for quite a while.
First things first. How much? The After Effects 6 On the Spot: Time-Saving Tips and Shortcuts from the Pros came in at 38.95 CAN / 27.95 US / 19.99 UK, which is pretty affordable when you consider what you walk away with after having read it. Most of the books I buy are around 70.00 CAN so I was happy to give my bank account a bit of a break (I think my wife was too).
Cons: I'll get this part out of the way right now. The gripes. I only have a couple.
1. B&W images. I know this is done to keep the price down but frankly, I would have paid the extra $ for some color. As well, at times the images were so small that the content became difficult to read.
2. Spelling and grammatical errors. I have a real problem with this. I don't know what the proofreading process is before something goes to Press but someone dropped the ball a bit on this one.
Pros: And now for the praise.
Aside from the above mentioned issues, I thought this was a great book. As someone who's been using After Effects for at least 5 years, I've become pretty efficient with the software. I can think my way through most design challenges, and the ones I can't, I know are probably addressed in some wonderful book, misfiled in the wrong section of some fantastic Latte infested bookstore. This is not that magic book. After Effects 6 On the Spot: Time-Saving Tips and Shortcuts from the Pros, in my opinion, is much more useful because it's Packed with over 400 techniques. to take a quote directly from the back cover.
Each page can contain anywhere from 1 to 4 tips. With simple titles like Centering Text Around a Point and Keylight: You Don't need a Ph.D., I was pulled in pretty quickly. I found myself resisting the urge to just skim through the pages until something caught my eye. Instead, I sat at my desk with After Effects running and felt compelled to go through each and every tip, afraid to miss anything and wondering how I was going to remember it all. Now, like many books of this nature, a lot of the tips were fairly basic. I say this since most users know that Ctrl-R will show Rulers and Ctrl-N creates a new composition.
At the risk of sounding elitist, even a seasoned After Effects Artist can find quite a few new tricks from this one. A lot of the tips include working with Photoshop, Illustrator and even Encore DVD. There's a great section on expressions which even includes a few sample scripts. Overall my experience with this book was a good one.
I give it 4 out of 5 cows. If not for the gripes, I would have given it a 4.5