If you already use Premiere Pro to edit videos, then maybe you’ve heard of Adobe’s other product After Effects? It’s a powerful motion graphics tool, which can drastically improve your videos in specific scenarios. Sometimes though, using After Effects doesn’t make sense, so keeping it simple and sticking to Premiere Pro could still be the best option.
In this article, you’ll discover when you might want to use After Effects, when not to use it, and how best to dynamically link it to your Premiere Pro project.
What’s Premiere Pro good at?
Premiere Pro is marketed as video editing software. It helps combine multiple video clips together into a sequence, which then gets rendered as a video file.
Of course, there’s a lot more to it, including features like:
- transition between video clips in interesting ways e.g. wipe, dissolve, push
- keyframe video clips to change properties over time e.g. position, scale
- add effects to video and audio clips e.g. gaussian blur, pitch shifter
As you learn more about Premiere Pro, you’ll discover new features to incorporate into future videos. This should hopefully improve quality and make your videos more engaging.
But there may be specific video effects you want to achieve which seem either tricky or impossible with Premiere Pro. For this, Adobe offers us After Effects.
What’s After Effects good at?
After Effects is marketed as motion graphics software. It helps you produce amazing looking graphics from scratch, or work with existing video footage to add special effects.
There is crossover between Premiere Pro and After Effects, but here’s what After Effects is particularly good at:
- multi-layer graphics effects e.g. intro sequences and lower thirds (graphic overlays on bottom portion of screen)
- creating reusable compositions e.g. animation you want to use again and again, with different text
- using code to simplify animation e.g. repeat a particular motion indefinitely without adding more keyframes
Composition vs. Sequence: an After Effects composition represents a single clip you want to produce. It’s the equivalent of Premiere Pro’s sequence.
If you’ve every tried to animate multiple items at the same time in Premiere Pro, you’ll probably find the tools in After Effects easier to use (once you get used to them).
For example, say we want to rotate multiple cog images at the same time. In After Effects you can see all the rotation properties of all cogs in one place.
In fact, each element here is a layer. We can toggle properties on an off to drill down to exactly what we need to see.
The same animation is achievable in Premiere Pro, but you’d need multiple tracks with multiple clips, and you can’t see all the rotation properties together.
As your motion graphics become more complicated or numerous, combining After Effects with Premiere Pro can be a big time saver.
When should you combine After Effects and Premiere Pro?
Premiere Pro and After Effects are designed to work together. Combining them in the following ways can save time in your video production workflow.
- create more complex motion graphics in After Effects rather than Premiere Pro (discussed above)
- add special effects to videos that you can’t easily achieve in Premiere Pro
- create reusable components to bring consistency and impact to your Premiere Pro sequence
To illustrate point 2, here’s an example where I used After Effects’ motion tracking feature to overlay an image onto every face within the video.
This type of effect is easily created in After Effects, using tools to track pixels across the screen. Given the number of effects and tools available, it’s likely you can achieve some dramatic effects with little effort
In terms of creating reusable components, After Effects has its essential graphics tool where you select what properties of a composition should be configurable.
Here’s how that looks in After Effects, for creating the end screen of my YouTube videos.
Once this graphic is exported to a library, within Premiere Pro it can be imported and configured as necessary.
Once you start to identify common elements that appear frequently in your Premiere Pro sequences, this can be a massive timesaver.
When should you NOT combine After Effects and Premiere Pro?
Although these two tools work well together, combining them does add some complexity, since you’ll be working across both applications.
If your Premiere Pro sequence consists mostly of video footage, with few text elements, then you might consider keeping everything within Premiere Pro. Although editing graphic elements might be slightly trickier, it’s outweighed by the simplicity of using one application.
But as soon as your project becomes more complex, start up After Effects, and seamlessly combine it with Premiere Pro using one of the following techniques.
How do you use an After Effects composition in Premiere Pro?
There are 2 main ways that I use After Effects compositions within Premiere Pro.
1) Import an existing composition
If you already have an After Effects project with a composition you want to import, select File > Import and select the After Effects .aep project file.
Then pick the composition.
You’ll then have a new item available in the Project panel, which you can drag onto a sequence. Here I’ve imported the cogs composition we saw earlier.
Note how the clip is pink. This is a special type of clip, using Adobe’s dynamic link feature. Any changes you make in After Effects automatically update in Premiere Pro.
For example, let’s remove one cog from my After Effects composition. It immediately updates in Premiere Pro, even without saving changes!
2) Create a new composition from a Premiere Pro clip
If you decide afterwards that a video clip in Premiere Pro would be better edited in After Effects, just right click and select Replace With After Effects Composition.
Premiere Pro will then:
- create a composition in After Effects
- replace the clip in Premiere Pro with a new clip dynamically linked to After Effects
You can then make changes to the clip in After Effects, and have them reflect in Premiere Pro, as described earlier.
What else should I know when using Premiere Pro with After Effects?
One thing to look out for if you combine After Effects with Premiere Pro, is when using the latter’s Project Manager feature.
When I’ve finished a project, the Project Manager helps collect all the project files spread around my hard drive into one single directory. Within that directory, the tool also creates a new Premiere Pro .prproj project file.
Unfortunately, within the new Premiere Pro project, any After Effects clips won’t preview and render properly. They’ll need to be relinked with an After Effects project.
Here’s a workaround to try before using the Project Manager. Right click any clips dynamically linked to After Effects, and select Render and Replace.
This does exactly what you’d imagine, and generates a video file, which gets exported properly when using the Project Manager. The neat thing is that you can always revert to the dynamically linked clip by right clicking and selecting Restore Unrendered.
In summary, using After Effects with Premiere Pro can improve your videos by adding motion graphics or special effects. The two tools work together well, so jumping between them isn’t too much hassle.
To learn more about After Effects, I definitely recommend the Animated Infographic Video & Data Visualisation course on SkillShare. In fact, that’s exactly where I started.