7 Replies Latest reply on Nov 17, 2010 9:17 AM by Christopher Duncan

    CS4: Reusable compositions / objects?

    Christopher Duncan Level 2

      I may be overlooking something terribly obvious, certainly wouldn't be the first time...


      As someone with a software development background, I tend to think in terms of building a library of objects and reusing them across projects. For example, I'm working on a series of videos and there are some 3d compositions I've built which are essentially the background for various text messages. In a perfect world, I would create this object once, and then be able to import / reference it and use in multiple AE projects. It would also be nice to paramaterize the text so that I could essentially drop an object into a timeline and at a certain point tell it, "here's your text."


      Currently, the only option I see is to create an AE project, create the composition / object, and then just dupe it wherever needed. However, this approach would mean that if I wanted to reuse the same object in every show, I would have to put every episode of every season in the same AE project in order to reference it. The alternative would be a "save as" scenario for each episode, but of course that means if I need to change anything in the composition that I'm reusing, I'd have to replicate those changes in a boat load of AE projects (one for each episode). Can't imagine that the pros do it this way.


      The fact that I'm fairly new to this coupled with the incredible power I see in AE leads me to believe that the kind of reuse I'm looking for is probably possible, I'm just too much of a noob to understand how. For that matter, I'm not even sure what concepts I should be looking for in the manual, making my typical desire for RTFM a bit constrained.


      If I haven't been too obtuse in my explanations of what I'm trying to accomplish, could any of you point me to the right spots in the manual (or other resources) so that I can learn how to build a reusable (and perhaps even parameterized) compositi8on / object?


      Alternatively, if this sort of thing just ain't possible, I'd love to hear how you guys go about handline these sorts of scenarios in your production environment.



        • 1. Re: CS4: Reusable compositions / objects?
          TimeRemapper Level 4

          I think that one quasi-solution to your issue would be to create reference projects. For example, your 3D scene. Save it as a standalone scene in a directory on your file system that you can import into any other After Effects project that you'd like. The only down side of this is that, unlike a layered PSD that you import into a project, if you go back and edit the original, the imported scene does not update. Having imported project files auto update would be a great feature request though. If you don't request it, I will!

          1 person found this helpful
          • 2. Re: CS4: Reusable compositions / objects?
            Todd_Kopriva Level 8

            There are a few ways to save and reuse elements.


            Creating reference projects and then importing them as needed into your work projects is one approach, as already mentioned.


            There are also template projects.


            (Here's a tip that really helps when you're using template projects, as well as other reuse scenarios: To replace the source footage item for a layer with another footage item, without affecting changes made to the layer properties, select the layer and then Alt-drag (Windows) or Option-drag (Mac OS) the new footage item onto the layer in the Timeline panel.)


            Be sure to look into animation presets. You can save a _lot_ of things in animation presets, not just keyframes. You can save text, mask shapes, complex stacks of effects, expressions... any collection of layer properties and their values.


            Scripts. This is one of those things that takes some work to set up, but it may be worth it in some cases: You can create scripts that take some of your layers or other assets as input and build an entire composition around them.


            A simpler use of scripts, relevant to your specific case, is to import text into text layers from a text file. There's such a script linked to from the top of this page. There are lots of handy scripts lined to from that page, so browse them all.

            • 3. Re: CS4: Reusable compositions / objects?
              Christopher Duncan Level 2

              Hey, man.


              Thanks for taking the time to help.


              Yeah, that sort of import is pretty much the same as the "save as" scenario in that regard. From the looks of it, I don't know how the Adobe guys could ripple in future changes, as it's essentially a copy and paste operation. Once you've iomported (pasted) the stuff in, you're free to edit and change it any way you like. Wouldn't want to be the programmer trying to figure out how to unwind all the changes you made after the initial import, which is probably why they don't offer that feature.


              I was hoping that there was a way of saving compositions / objects out as some sort of reusable binary-ish object. These apps (AE, PrPro, etc.) were clearly written in C++ (I see crash messages with the .cpp filename referenced). From that perspective, what I was hping for would be analagous to creating a Library project in C++. Code it, compile it, and then the project using it simply imports the binary .lib file and references the appropriate objects. Of course, that's meaningless in AE, just trying to illustrate.


              Appreciate the ideas, though!

              • 4. Re: CS4: Reusable compositions / objects?
                Christopher Duncan Level 2



                Great stuff. Sounds like the animation presets have a lot more horsepower than I realized. With my programming background I figured it was only a matter of time before I got into scripts, but since I tend to really go down the rabbit hole on that sort of thing I was trying to exercise a little self discipline if there were more UI oriented solutions (which animations may well be).


                Given all the resources you just mentioned and the fact that I'm starting to get comfortable enough in AE to reach for more, I think it's time I dig in and take it to the next level. If I drop out of sight, at least you guys will know which rabbit hole to find me in. 


                Thanks for all the references, man. Time for a nice, hot, steaming cup of RTFM!

                • 5. Re: CS4: Reusable compositions / objects?
                  Christopher Duncan Level 2

                  Hey Todd - I just noticed that all your links point to the CS5 system. Are there any limitations in CS4 that I should know about in this regard?

                  • 6. Re: CS4: Reusable compositions / objects?
                    Todd_Kopriva Level 8

                    I can't think of a significant difference between CS4 and CS5 in this context.


                    When in doubt, you can check this complete list of every change from CS4 to CS5.

                    • 7. Re: CS4: Reusable compositions / objects?
                      Christopher Duncan Level 2



                      Thanks, man. You know I appreciate it.