WwwAdobe After Effects is an incredibly deep compositing program that often flusters first-time users with its myriad panels and switches. It's not the most intuitive program, and as such I don't recommend taking the approach I did: banging my head against the wall until it made sense. Instead, why not take advantage of two hours of free training from Video Copilot? This video series came out a while ago (circa CS3), but 99% of it still applies to CS5.

Here's their blurb and lesson selection:

In this Free Video Training Series, you'll learn everything you need to know to start using After Effects today. This is not an overview of the software, this is a real training series that covers advanced techniques for Motion Tracking, Color Keying and even 3D Title Design. Of course, we'll cover the basics too.

00. Welcome
01. Introduction
02. Effects
03. Animation
04. Keying & Transparency
05. Motion Tracking
06. Time Remapping
07. 3D Integration
08. Titles: 1 & 2
09. Expressions
10. Rendering

All in all it totals up to over two hours worth of free video training. Yeah, they're going to try to sell you their plugins, but as far as online tutorials go, this is about as good as it gets shy of heading over to Lynda and plunking down a bit of cash (I'm a fan of Lynda's online training courses because they're offered as inexpensive monthly plans instead of one-time fees. I used Lynda to learn Photoshop and got a job at MTV; they have a free 24-hour trial as well). When it comes to After Effects, however, Video Copilot's free training looks like a great way to get started.

Link: After Effects Basic Training