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Cleaning Up Those After Effects Projects

By Kevin McAuliffe

As I'm sure everyone knows by now, I am big on cleanliness and organization. For me, that is one of the keys to being efficient with not only your work, but the work of the editors you work with. I thought that for this article, I would look at two ways to tidy up your After Effects projects. The first method can be done at any point in your workflow, and the second can be done when the project is finished, and you are ready to archive.


This method is quick and easy, and is something that most people overlook, and that is "Reduce Project". "Reduce Project" is located under FILE>REDUCE PROJECT, and it does exactly what it says it does. It looks at the composition(s) you have selected, and removes everything from the project that is not associated with that particular composition(s).

Most people might be quick to say that you could use "Remove Unused Footage" (FILE>REMOVE UNUSED FOOTAGE), but all it really does is look at all your compositions (all of them, and even pre-comps as well), and removes footage that is not present in any of them. Not really a good way to clean up or organize your project. In most cases, you are working on a single, or multiple compositions at one time, and for me, it's better just to use "Reduce Project".  One thing to keep in mind about cleaning up this way is that it does not change your media hierarchy outside of After Effects.  It only cleans up the project from within After Effects.


My second method for cleaning up your After Effects projects is meant to be done when your project is finished, and it is by using "Collect Files" located under FILE>COLLECT FILES.  "Collect Files" would be used to back up a project, or move it to another system for you, or a colleague to work on.  This method works very similar to the above method.  If you only want to "collect" one sequence, select it in your project window, and then navigate to FILE>COLLECT FILES.

You will notice immediately that After Effects wants to "Collect Source Files: All", which is fine if you want to collect the files for the entire project, but we just want to clean up the files for a selected composition.  No problem, simply change from "All" to "For Selected Comps", and once you do, you will notice the project size change at the bottom of the "Collect Files" window, giving you an updated, smaller (new) project size.  What I am also going to do is add the "Reduce Project" step in here by simply clicking the checkbox, so now I will have my project streamlined into a new folder with only the media I am using.

Once you click "Collect", After Effects will prompt you to create a folder to collect the selected composition into.  The best part about cleaning up this way is that when After Effects is done collecting your composition, you will have a folder with your streamlined project, and only the files used within the composition(s) you collected.  You also get a text file telling you exactly what was moved, and the effects used in your comps, so if you are sending it to another system, whoever is working on it will know exactly what clips and effects you have used.  This is an excellent way to not only clean up your project, but to get it ready for archive as well.

Like I said at the beginning of this article, keeping a clean and organized project in any program you are using will not only help you find things quicker, but it will speed up your overall workflow as well.

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Kevin P McAuliffe is currently a Senior Video Editor working in HD post production in Toronto, Canada. He has been in the television industry for 12 years, and spends his days onlining on a Final Cut Pro HD. Kevin's high definition onlining credit list includes concerts for Coldplay, Sarah McLachlan, Barenaked Ladies, Snow Patrol, Sum41, Paul Anka, Il Divo and Pussycat Dolls, to name a few. Also, Kevin is an instructor of Advanced Final Cut Studio 2 at the Toronto Film College. If you have any questions or comments, you can drop him a line at [email protected]

Related Keywords:after effects, motion graphics, workflow


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