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I don't know if there's a way to replace footage without changing interpretation (I'll try to find out), but one thing you could do is create an interpretation rule in the interpretation rules.txt file for the kind of file you're replacing with, so that it's interpreted just as the original source type.
For instructions on how to edit the interpretation rules file, take a look at Edit interpretation rules for all items of a specific kind in AE Help.
Apparently, there's no official way to replace without affecting interpretation.
But perhaps a fairly easy way would be: Remember Interpretation > Replace > Apply Interpertation.
Doing it with the interpretation rules text file would make it all automatic.
Thank you for looking into that. I may need to learn a bit of coding in order to make it automatic, but for now I suppose I can do it through Remember and Apply Interpretation. Perhaps future versions of AE could have a preference setting for retaining interpretation when replacing files?
I am glad we found something you can use now.
Editing the interpretation rules is not coding, just entering information in a specific format and order. But of course, that can still be scary for anybody but über-geeks
As for your suggestion... personally I am not sure it's a good idea. If AE thinks item B is different from the original (item A) and it doesn't update the interpretation accordingly, the footage item could be incorrectly interpreted. Of course, there are a ton of exceptions...as the particular need you have now shows. I will send your suggestion, in any case.