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Timesaver/lifesaver

Replacing elements in an After Effects Timeline for instant repurposing By Stephen Schleicher
There are going to be times when you need to repurpose an animation in an After Effects Timeline. Knowing how to do it quickly is not only a huge timesaver, but could be a lifesaver on a tight deadline.

Imagine if you will that you have created a very complex animation for your client that has hundreds of little nurnies flying around the screen. Each has their own rotation, opacity, and scale changes applied to make the composition look totally random. Now imagine if the client told you that the composition would fit better into her production if the little abstract nurnies were instead dollar signs. (Dont ask... its her production.)


It might have taken you hours and hours to set up the various layers and motions for the nurnies, now it seems like you are going to have to spend hours and hours again rebuilding the composition from scratch just to make the client happy.

"Oh, by the way, the presentation has been moved up and I need the new animation in 30 minutes."

Dag-nab-it! What do you do?

Simple. Swap the dollar signs for the nurnies in just one step.

Open After Effects and duplicate your masterpiece (you never know when she may change her mind again). Name the duplicate composition with the new element being replaced; Masterpiece_DollarSign for example.

Your original project waiting to have elements replaced.


Load the replacement element into After Effects by pressing Command+I on the Mac or Control+I on the PC.

In the After Effects Timeline, highlight all of the nurnie layers that need to be replaced. If you have created a pre-comp that includes nothing but the nurnie elements press Command+A on the Mac or Control+A on the PC to select everything in the Timeline.

In the Project Window click on the replacement object and hold down the Option key on the Mac or the Alt key on the PC and drag and drop the replacement element on the selected layers in the Timeline.



The replacement element instantly replaces all of the nurnies that were selected in the Timeline.

All selected layers in the Timeline are replaced with the replacement element.


Not only did it replace the nurnies, the replacement element retains all of the transform properties (and keyframes) of the original objects. This keeps you from having to manually go back into all of the layers and recreate motions.
From there, you can render this new animation and have it to the client in plenty of time for her presentation.

Use this technique anytime you need to replace elements of an animation. A good example would be if you have created interstitials for affiliate networks and need to quickly replace one stations logos for another.

While your boss may congratulate you for spending all of the extra time working on getting the interstitials done on schedule, you can smile and nod, knowing that all that "free time" was spent surfing the web.

When not working deep in the labs of the DMN Central Division testing the latest and greatest software/hardware products Stephen Schleicher can be found at the local university teaching a few courses on video and web production. He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also visit him on the web at www.mindspring.com/~schleicher

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Stephen Schleicher has crossed the country several times over the last couple of years going from Kansas to Atlanta , Georgia, and Southern California. In his time traveling, he has worked as an editor, graphic designer, videographer, director, and producer on a variety of video productions ranging from small internal pieces, to large multimedia
corporate events.

Currently, Stephen shares his knowledge with students at Fort Hays State University who are studying media and web development in the Information Networking and Telecommunications department. When he is not shaping the minds of university students, Stephen continues to work on video and independent projects for State and local agencies and organizations as well as his own ongoing works.

He is also a regular contributor to Digital Producer, Creative Mac, Digital Webcast, Digital Animators, and the DV Format websites, part of the Digital Media Online network of communities (www.digitalmedianet.com), where he writes about the latest technologies, and gives tips and tricks on everything from Adobe After Effects, to Appleā??s Final Cut Pro, LightWave 3D, to shooting and lighting video.

He has a Masters Degree in Communication from Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kansas. As a forward thinker, he wrote his Thesis on how Information Islands and e-commerce would play a major role in keeping smaller communities alive. This of course was when 28.8 dialup was king and people hadnā??t even invented the word e-commerce.

And, he spends what little free time he has biking, reading, traveling around the country, and contemplating the future of digital video and its impact on our culture. You can reach him at [email protected]

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