The Avid to After Effects Workflow

This article explores the workflow from Avid Media Composer to Adobe After Effects and back. It builds on the following articles:

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

How to move projects from Avid Media Composer to Adobe After Effects

The simplest way to transfer projects from Avid to After Effects is via AAF. I’ve already covered the detailed steps in the links provided above, but here’s the gist of it:

Select the sequence you want to export and go to File > Export….

Avid Export Options

In the Export As drop down, choose AAF:Avid AAF Export Settings

The primary reason one exports from Avid to After Effects is to add effects and filters to footage. You don’t want to transcode media or reduce its quality in any way. For this reason, I recommend you select ‘Link to (Don’t Export) Media in the Export Method drop down (as shown above). However, if you’re moving from one computer to another, then it might be a good idea to select ‘Copy All Media’ instead. This way, your clips travel with the AAF file.

If you’re having issues you could try checking and unchecking AAF Edit Protocol, but leave it unchecked to start. You’re supposed to leave it checked but I had trouble either way.

Also uncheck Use Enabled Tracks if you want to export the entire timeline/sequence with all its video tracks.

As far as audio is concerned, it is pointless to export multiple audio tracks to After Effects. Better to mixdown the audio to one track and export that single track if necessary. If you’re only exporting clips or portions of your sequence, then uncheck Include Audio Tracks in Sequence.

In After Effects, go to File > Import… > Pro Import After Effects…. Click on Modify Settings…:After Effects Pro Import Options

Under the Avid Media section you have four options:

  • Connect After Effects direcetly to Avid media files – check this if you’re working with native footage or high-quality MXF files.
  • Create QuickTime reference movies to Avid media files – to create reference movies that After Effects can use later. I don’t think this is necessary anymore because as of Creative Cloud After Effects can directly work with DNxHD. If you still prefer them, Automatic Duck tells us:  “However practically no additional storage space is required when you use reference movies, because these pointer files are tiny.”
  • Flatten reference movies to Avid media – this also creates QT files (which is why it is a sub-option), but no longer references the original media.
  • Add layers for rendered Avid media – you can render Avid effects and by checking this box, you can bring over both the rendered version and the original clip, and decide which to keep. AAF files keep tabs on which clips have been rendered in Media Composer.
  • Search for original imported graphics files – check this when you’re dealing with still images and graphics, which usually don’t port very well, or shouldn’t be transcoded to MXF (which happens).

What effects are supported? Here’s a list (from

  • Dissolve
  • Dip To Color
  • Superimpose
  • Picture-in-Picture, now with support for Advanced Keyframes
  • 3D Warp, now with support for Advanced Keyframes
  • 3D PIP
  • Submaster
  • Flops and Flips
  • X, Y and Z-Spin
  • Matte Key
  • Speed Changes, now including Timewarps
  • Strobe
  • Freeze Frames
  • Title Tool text***
  • Supports all ABVB, DV, DV50, Meridien, DNxHD and DVCProHD compressions (HDV native media and 720p 1:1 not supported)
  • Support for media captured to multiple files
  • Option to reference rendered media

This method works great with DNxHD MXF media that resides in your Avid MediaFiles folder. However, this method is buggy when you’re working with AMA media. Not all media will port over with AAF. Media that cannot be ported over will be replaced by a Black Solid in After Effects. Simply right click on the clip in After Effects, select Replace Footage > File… and choose the source clip. It might not always align correctly though.

Here’s an excellent tutorial covering these steps:

This is how you move projects from Avid to After Effects. Now let’s try the reverse.

How to move sequences, clips or projects from Adobe After Effects back to Avid Media Composer

It’s almost a given that you’ll render within After Effects. Otherwise why go there? The effects you add won’t come back to Media Composer.

After Effects cannot export to AAF, so you’re stuck with a convoluted workflow where you have to export the project to Adobe Premiere Pro and then export an AAF. That’s like flying to another country and back just to travel to your local grocery store.

Now that Adobe After Effects CC can work with DNxHD natively, and also render to it, I recommend you export your compositions as high-quality DNxHD files that can be brought back to Media Composer without any porting.

You don’t need to import your rendered clips one by one. If the original clips had a unique name (which it has!), and is an AMA-linked media, you can relink to the new clip by just overwriting over the original file. If it is the same codec, duration and resolution, Media Composer won’t know the difference. This is the most elegant method of doing it. If it fails, there’s always the Import option, and you could do it manually.

The render queue does not have the DNxHD OP1a MXF option, so you’ll need to add the composition to the Adobe Media Encoder queue by going to File > Export > Add to Adobe Media Encoder Queue…:

After Effects DNxHD Export

You can also export a DNxHD Quicktime (*.mov) codec, though I don’t recommend it now that you can work with native DNxHD files. But still, this is available in your Render Queue settings. Select Quicktime and under Format Options… choose AvidDNxHD Codec. Go to Codec Settings and you’ll get this:

After Effects QT DNxHD Options

After Effects works in RGB space, so choose RGB Levels when you export. Avid Media Composer will take care of remapping it to your sequence settings, whether it be YCbCr or RGB.

That’s all there is, really.  As always, the key to a successful workflow is simplicity. The most fancy methods are always the weakest – unless you are a master at troubleshooting the millions of problems that will crop up along the way.

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

5 replies on “The Avid to After Effects Workflow”

  1. Dude, this is helpful and stuff but PLEASE use screenshots where the right settings are already filled in. It’s super confusing to first see the wrong settings and then you telling me, they have to be changed. You could make our life easier by just taking screenshots of CORRECT settings.

    Besides that: Very helpful workflow! Thank you!

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