The Adobe After Effects Import Guide (Part Three): Adobe Premiere Pro and Other Projects

In Part Two we looked at how to import codecs into Adobe After Effects. But that’s not all you can import into After Effects. You can also import:

  • Projects from Adobe Premiere Pro
  • Projects from third-party applications
  • Files and projects from other Adobe applications

In this part we’ll look at all of these options, and wrap up our import guide.

Importing Adobe Premiere Pro projects

I have never seen perfect integration between any two softwares. However, if I were asked which two applications come closest to round-tripping perfection, I would say Adobe After Effects and Adobe Premiere Pro. Having used the combo (and Encore and Photoshop) for a movie (I used version CS3) I can say there is nothing else that comes this close to post-production nirvana.

There are many advantages to round-tripping between Premiere Pro and After Effects, but the most important for me is the preservation of the source file without the need to transcode. I can simply edit native in Premiere Pro, bring the project to After Effects for effects or finishing, or take it back to Premiere Pro for finishing; then take the project to Encore or Adobe Media Encoder for mastering and delivery. The only time I need to render is at the final mastering stage.

In fact, I’ve grown so used to it, that when I deal with applications that almost force me to transcode, I turn the other way! If I have to name one software that comes close to this marriage, it is Autodesk Smoke. However, Smoke is Mac-only, and has other serious limitations that prevent it from having the same level of flexibility as the Adobe CC suite.

Okay, enough about that.

Once you’ve locked your edit (or even if you haven’t!), you can bring your project to After Effects. To do so:

  • Click File > Import > Adobe Premiere Pro Project…
  • Choose the project file (*.pproj)
  • It will ask you the following questions:

AE PPro Import

  • The sequence name ‘PProExport’ is just the name of my test sequence in Premiere Pro. You also have the option to import all your sequences, and you can Import Audio as well.
  • Click Ok

Depending on the size of your project, and the file types and hard drives they are located in, and the available memory, this could take quite some time. On a ‘slow’ system, an After Effects project can take up to one hour to load! So, be patient.

Your timeline order is preserved. Most common effects and filters are carried over. One important transition that isn’t carried over is the Cross Dissolve. After Effects has a different system when it comes to cross dissolve. After Effects also preserves retimed footage, markers, in and out points, etc. Titles are not carried over, and they are replaced by blank clips.

This is what your ‘linear’ timeline in Premiere Pro will look like in After Effects:

AE Timeline Look

It is impossible to assume 100% of the features will be carried over. If Adobe can make that happen, they might as well combine the two applications into one bigger application.

Here are some notes from Adobe regarding how the import is carried out:

When you import an Adobe Premiere Pro project, After Effects imports it into the Project panel as both a new composition containing each Adobe Premiere Pro clip as a layer, and as a folder containing each clip as an individual footage item. If your Adobe Premiere Pro project contains bins, After Effects converts them to folders within the Adobe Premiere Pro project folder. After Effects converts nested sequences to nested compositions.

The Copy-Paste feature

You can choose any item(s) or clip(s) in the timeline in Adobe Premiere Pro (hit Ctrl+C (Windows) or Command+C (Mac)) and then paste that in your After Effects composition directly.

You can also copy items from the Project panel in Premiere Pro and paste to After Effects, and the same in reverse.

To know more about which features and effects are carried over, and how they are used within After Effects, refer to page 105 of the manual, where Adobe has listed an easy-to-follow table. However, the manual isn’t always updated correctly (read it and you’ll see), so always try it yourself as well!

Dynamic Link

Dynamic Link is the system Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects uses to ‘stay in touch’ while both are open. This allows you to replace a clip in the Premiere Pro timeline with an After Effects composition. This is extremely useful if:

  • You are editing and working with effects at the same time.
  • You only use After Effects for certain effects-related work like keying, compositing, etc., applied to a few clips.

Regarding dynamic link and importing projects, this is what Adobe has to say:

Important: Importing an Adobe Premiere Pro project into After Effects does not use Dynamic Link. After Effects can’t import a Premiere Pro project if one or more sequences in it are already dynamically linked to After Effects.

All said and done, importing Premiere Pro projects into After Effects is as simple as it gets, really.

Importing third-party projects

What else can After Effects import?

Projects from other NLEs (Non-linear Editors)

Go to File > Import > Pro Import After Effects…

What the heck is ‘Pro Import After Effects…’? This is the ‘Pro Import’ plug-in from Automatic Duck that is now part of After Effects. This is Adobe’s way of telling us that it can import XML and AAF files and projects from third-party applications. To know more about XML, check out What is Final Cut Pro XML?

The supported formats are:

  • FCP 7 XML (XMEML, *.xml)
  • AAF
  • OMF

FCP-X XML (*.fcpxml) isn’t supported. Click here to learn more about how to import Final Cut Pro projects (both 7 and X) into Adobe After Effects.

As you can imagine, this works to some extent, but not to the degree to which Premiere Pro projects work seamlessly.

3D Applications

Cinema 4D can export an After Effects composition directly. In fact, Cinema 4D Lite R14 is included in After Effects, and you can directly import or create Cinema 4D projects (*.c4d) within Adobe After Effects. The import uses the CINEWARE effect, and you can work directly with OBJ, FBX, etc. formats in a 3D scene. Any changes made to an imported project file are automatically updated in After Effects.

Regarding other applications, try these links:

3D Image files and objects

Adobe After Effects also supports a host of 3D image files from third-party applications:

  • Softimage PIC, RLA, RPF, OpenEXR, and Electric Image EI format.
  • Baked camera data from Maya
  • Camera data saved with RLA or RPF sequence files

Here’s an important note from Adobe on how much control you have over your 3D objects:

Though you can import composited files with 3D information into After Effects, you cannot modify or create 3D models directly with After Effects. After Effects treats each composited 3D file from another application as a single 2D layer. That layer, as a whole, can be given 3D attributes and treated like any After Effects 3D layer, but the objects contained within that 3D file cannot be manipulated individually in 3D space. To access the 3D depth information and other auxiliary channel information in 3D image files, use the 3D Channel effects.

For more information, links and resources on working with 3D files and elements, read page 118 of the manual.

Importing files and projects from other Adobe applications

Finally, we come back to Adobe’s own stable. Other than Premiere Pro, After Effects also integrates with:

  • Photoshop
  • Illustrator
  • Encore (Dynamic Link and Export only)

PSD and AI files can be imported directly via the import methods outlined in Part One. To learn more about how you can prepare your files prior to import, read Preparing and Importing Still Images in page 121 of the manual. As always, not all features are supported.

Photoshop can also create 3D objects, but these cannot be imported into After Effects if they are in the PSD format.

Vanishing Point Exchange

The next important import object is the Vanishing Point Exchange (VPE). Here’s Adobe’s take:

When you use the Vanishing Point feature in Photoshop Extended, you can then use the File > Export For After Effects (.vpe) command to save the results as a collection of PNG files—one for each plane—and a .vpe file that describes the geometry of the scene. You can then import the .vpe file into After Effects. After Effects uses the information in the .vpe file to re-create the scene as a composition containing a camera layer and one perspective-corrected 3D layer for each PNG file.

The camera is on the negative z axis, at (x,y)=(0,0). The point of interest for the camera is in the center of the composition. The camera zoom is set according to the field of view in the Vanishing Point scene.

The 3D layers for the planes in the scene have a parent layer with its anchor point at the center of the composition, so the whole scene can be transformed together.

Vanishing Point exchange only works well for images that have square pixels in Photoshop.

To import a *.vpe file, go to File > Import > Vanishing Point (.vpe)….

For more information on how this works, check out this tutorial from Adobe.

Placeholders and Solids

The last two things you can import (actually create) in Adobe After Effects are:

  • Placeholders – blank clips to fill gaps
  • Solids – colored clips (black, white, etc. backgrounds)

We’re done.

We have barely scratched the surface of what Adobe After Effects is capable of. I hope this quick import guide has given you ideas on how to tackle your own workflow.

What do you think? If I have missed out on something, or you need clarification on a certain point, let me know in the comments section below.