How to Transfer a Project from Final Cut Pro to After Effects

There are two variations of Final Cut Pro:

  • FCP-X, and the older
  • FCP 7

Exclusive Bonus: Download my free guide (with examples) on how to find the best camera angles for dialogue scenes when your mind goes blank.

This article will show how you can transfer a project from both versions of Final Cut Pro to Adobe After Effects.

FCP-X To AE Banner

Final Cut Pro X to After Effects

An FCP-X project isn’t directly readable by Adobe After Effects. You can export an FCP XML (*.fcpxml) file, but that isn’t supported by After Effects either. What other choices do you have?

The simplest and cheapest way (it’s free) to do so is by using ClipExporter for FCP-X, by MindTransplant. Here’s a video to get started:

Once you install and launch ClipExporter, you’ll be asked to import an FCP-X XML file (*.fcpxml). Once you do that you’ll get the following screen:

Clip Exporter Page

Click to the AE icon, and this tells ClipExporter what file it is to create. You can use subfolders if you want to further organize your media.

Click Run.

ClipExporter creates a *.jsx file, which stands for Java Serialization to XML.

You need to be careful with metadata. Here’s a note from ClipExporter:

Be aware that Adobe applications by default write XMP metadata to the source media files on import. This modifies your files and therefore FCP X occasionally looses it´s connection to the media files. We recommend to disable writing XMP data in After Effects: Preferences… > Media & Disk Cache… >

Under XMP Metadata, you get these options:

AE XMP SupportIf you plan to reuse these clips later, uncheck ‘Write XMP IDs to Files on Import’ before you run the *.jsx file. The second option is if you’re importing from Premiere Pro or another software that writes Markers in the XMP format.

Fire up After Effects and go to File > Scripts > Run Script File…, and select the newly created *.jsx file.

Your project is brought into After Effects as a Sequence, and each clip is imported under the media folder. However, each clip is put into its own composition/sequence, and all of these are found under the shot folder. The main sequence or composition is built from these pre-comps.

This allows ClipExporter to add handle frames if you want to. Compound clips are organized under the compoundClips folder.

If all goes well, After Effects will tell you:

AE Import Complete

What effects are supported?

ClipExporter supports the following effects on export to After Effects:

  • Blend modes and opacity.
  • Audio
  • Position, scale, rotation, anchor point
  • Markers and Handles
  • Retimed footage, but not always

You have the following options (click the wheel icon at the bottom left in ClipExporter):

Clip Exporter Options

Basic effects like transitions, dissolves, etc., are not supported at all. If you plan to be doing this in After Effects, you might want to add Handle frames on import. In fact, I recommend doing this even if you’re not sure:

handles in After Effects

ClipExporter writes an error log file if there are any errors, and it points to specific problems that you can correct individually. To read more, check out the simple to understand manual.

FCP 7 to After Effects

The simplest way to transfer an FCP 7 project into After Effects is via Automatic Duck. This software is part of After Effects, so you don’t need to download anything. However, if you don’t have After Effects on your computer, and just want to send the project to another person or facility, you can download Automatic Duck Pro Import AE 5.0 here.

 

Export an XML from FCP 7 (this is not the same as an FCP-X XML *.fcpxml file). This file will be written as *.xml. It can be directly imported into After Effects by going to File > Import > File…. and selecting the XML file.

FCP 7 XML is similar to Premiere Pro XML, and more features are supported upon import, as compared to FCP-X XML. Supported effects are:

  • Multiclips
  • Dissolve
  • Dip To Color Dissolve
  • Opacity (from motion tab)
  • Position (“center” in motion tab)
  • Rotation (from motion tab)
  • Scale (from motion tab)
  • Flops and Flips
  • Distort (from motion tab)
  • Basic 3D
  • Speed Changes including Time Remapping
  • Video Strobe
  • Freeze Frames
  • Composite Modes
  • Clip Markers
  • Sequence IN and OUT markers set After Effects Work Area
  • Sequence Markers
  • Text
  • Time Remapping
  • 3rd Party filters
  • Option to validate timecode of FCP media, only available on a Mac
  • Clip and Track enabled states control clip visibility in AE
  • Option to import R3D files instead of QuickTime proxies, only available if using Log and Transfer.

For more information about Automatic Duck support for After Effects, click here.

What about the other way around, from After Effects to Final Cut Pro?

There’s nothing you can do, because After Effects isn’t an NLE, and doesn’t treat clips as such. The only way is to render finished clips with or without effects (e.g., you can keep the alpha channel separate by rendering to Prores 4444) and reimport them into FCP.

The other crazy workaround is to try 7toX for Final Cut Pro (AE to Premiere Pro to XML to FCP X XML to FCP-X) but I haven’t used it nor do I recommend it.

I hope this brief guide has given you the tools required to get your projects from FCP-X and FCP 7 to Adobe After Effects. In the case of FCP-X, the process isn’t that smooth or easy. You’ll lose many of the transitions and effects you might have added while editing. If you plan to finish in Adobe After Effects, you’ll be okay.

Exclusive Bonus: Download my free guide (with examples) on how to find the best camera angles for dialogue scenes when your mind goes blank.