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Finding the Best Workflow Between Premiere Pro and After Effects

11.30.10 @ 3:06PM Tags : , , , ,

Since switching to Premiere Pro, my editing workflow has been to lock picture in Premiere and then finish in After Effects. To date I’ve been using a workflow similar to the one I’d use when editing in Final Cut Pro, which was to import a final sequence into After Effects (either as an XML or by using Premiere Pro as an intermediary), and apply color correction, titling, and other effects in AE. While this approach gives a very high quality output, a problem rears its head if you want to make changes to the edit after “locking” picture. So what’s the best workflow between Premiere and After Effects?

Dynamic Link is the answer, as the tutorial above demonstrates.

Once I change the coloring and add the final titles and effects, I find my picture lock often becomes unlocked. But now if I make changes to my edit in Premiere, they aren’t reflected in AE, and so I find myself making edits in AE, which is far from ideal given the program’s lack of real-time editing features (and editing tools like trim, slide, etc). And then if I need to revisit the edit in Premiere, I in fact have a newer edit in AE than I do in PPro. It’s a version control nightmare. However, it’s hard to beat from a price:quality perspective — this is the reason this workflow is spotlighted in Stu Maschwitz’s DV Rebel’s Guide. In theory, Adobe has designed Dynamic Link to solve this problem. And in Premiere selecting “Replace with After Effects composition” is the best solution available anywhere to this issue.

Dynamic Link gives you a few options, which are: one, you can create an After Effects composition within Premiere Pro, and have that comp dynamically update in your Premiere sequence when you make changes in AE. The second option is to use Dynamic Link to open a Premiere project in After Effects, at which point you can import sequences and have them show up in AE — as a single object. There’s no way to drill down to the individual clips to make changes unless you import a Premiere sequence, at which point I’m back in the same boat I was in before when using Final Cut (though it’s worth noting that Premiere’s integration is far more advanced, as most effects and transitions carry over flawlessly). While I’m happy to have the ability to open a Premiere Pro sequence in After Effects, one can’t but wonder if the two programs could be combined in order to prevent this non-ideal workflow. As it is, once you go AE, it’s hard to go back. At least, this is my understanding — am I missing something? Is all of this just confusing? Please share your experiences in the comments.

Rather than just focus on my own experiences, however, I’d like to share a tutorial on how to use Dynamic Link. Andrew Devis at CreativeCOW has recorded a tutorial highlighting the different options for using Dynamic Link to roundtrip between Premiere, AE, and Encore. While he focuses on adding a title to Premiere Pro from After Effects (and then outputting through Encore DVD), he also mentions the other way of using Dynamic Link (a more After Effects-centric method). You can find a link to the tutorial below (it’s not embeddable), and here’s his blurb:

Dynamic link allows you to use the power of After Effects in Premiere Pro, but it is something that many people do not understand and so it is under-used. However, with dynamic link you can bring the power of motion graphics to your titles in PP with hardly any effort at all. In this tutorial Andrew Devis will explain the basics of dynamic link and then show you how to start a new AE composition in PP and use powerful motion graphic templates to animate your text. He then covers how to replace an item in your sequence with a new AE composition (i.e. a title) and lastly, how to use dynamic link to take the whole thing into Encore ready to make your DVD – all without rendering.

For me personally and my working style, I often find myself wishing After Effects and Premiere Pro would just merge and become the same program.

Link: Dynamic Link for the Premiere Pro Workflow


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Description image 35 COMMENTS

  • I simply select all my clips and audio in the time line, ricght click and choose replace with AE comp. This creates an automatticly updating comp as long both programs are open.

  • I’m curious, why are you color grading in after effects? To use the stock AE color tools? I highly recommend getting magic bullet looks and upgrading within Premiere. With the Mercury Playback Engine, it makes grading a breeze and no need to worry about dynamic link.

  • Thanks Todd and Paul — both of those workflows work, but I think I’m going to have to take more of a “finish in Premiere” approach with select comps dynamically linked to AE. Richard, I do use Magic Bullet — but I find that the three-way controls in Colorista are much more responsive in AE than PPro.

    • Very interesting article Koo!
      I’m stuck at the very same problem you are. I switched for the very same reason to AE for color control, because of the lagging controls in PP. They’re a pain in the ass, especially with a tablet!
      It would be awesome if AE could update the imported PP sequences if you have to make time-related changes. Really looking forward to a solution!

      Have you ever tried to compare a final AE output to one of PP? Is there a difference in quality or could one just go with the “finish in Premiere” approach? Maybe I’ll test this for myself the next days …

  • Finishing in Premiere limits your output options. Rendering from AE is faster and more flexible – especially with the ability to output to several formats at the same time. (I realise you can do this in CS5 with Media Encoder out of Premiere, but I’m still using CS3).

    Also, colour grading isn’t the only use of AE – far from it. What about motion graphics and so on?

    Agreed: the ideal would be one application that does it all – as is the case with Smoke, I think. Presumably the awkward workflow is a result of these two applications having been developed by different companies before Adobe acquired them. The same is true for Final Cut and Color, yes?

    • Yep. Not to mention Motion is a third application… at least PPro + AE covers editing, color correction, and MGFX. I agree that AE is the best finishing system (though I often suspect it’s messing with my audio).

      • If you suspect that it is messing with your audio, you can’t be serious that it’s the best finishing system, can you?
        I mean, audio is half (or more) of your project qua impact (depends a bit on the project of course). So how can grading be more important?

        • That’s my point, that there’s no ideal solution at present. Each has its advantages, but the only way to get the best of both worlds might be to combine the two…

  • I suppose it would be futile to lobby Adobe to produce an integrated application, but this must be what we are all after and it must have occurred to them already.

  • I’ve spent a lot of time wondering how other people work with both programs and always assumed there was an obvious solution out there that I hadn’t found. Glad to see I’m not the only one.

    Here’s how I’ve come around to working:
    1. Make a locked cut in Premiere. Or, well, locked enough. That sequence is called “x-cut” with “x” being the title of the project.
    2. Create a new sequence in Premiere called “x-Master” and put “x-cut” inside of that. I link “x-Master” up in After Effects and do the grading, add titles or whatnot. If individual shots inside of that need specific grading/effects/whatnot that for some reason I can’t do in AE with the master timeline, I open those shots in AE, but that’s extremely rare.

    Working this way, I can edit the cut in Premiere and not have version control issues. And I can still work on the cut without having to watch it stutter in AE.

    • My workflow is similar, but what’s the reasoning for creating another sequence in Premiere before going into AE? Couldn’t you simply throw “x-cut” into AE?

  • The way I do it is based on time-code. It takes quite some time but basically delivers the best results. I do my edit lock in premier, then look at the time-code of each individual shot. I write it down then go into After Effects and load up the original uncut video file. I cut out the shot that i need, work on it to my heart’s content, then render it out. I then grab that individual shot ( or during a conversation with coverage I just do all the shots with the same angle at the same time) and place it on top of the original shot in premiere.

    Is it time consuming? At first, but once you get into it, it’s the best way to get the quality you want. I used this method first for composite shots, but then got comfortable enough for color correction.

    Any other minor changes I might want to do to the after effects file, I just go back to it, make my changes, then render it out with the same name, replacing the old file, and the shot automatically changes in premiere.

  • In DV Rebels guide, Stu points out why you dont want to masterize your work in Premiere. In short: you can work with higher bit depths in AE (16 bpc, 32 floting). You’ll need more machine power, but you take the payoff.

    I’m tryibg, too, to discovery the best workflow. I edit monsters wedding projects with this workflow. The thing I do that helps me is, say, in a multicam weddind coverege, I rename each archive (e.g, 7DXXXX, 5DXXXX).

    And when I’m in AE, I can stack easily by cam name, make precomp, color correct with adjustmente layer, and so on.

    • So I take it what Stu is saying is to complete all the editing in Prem Pro, open that project in AE, and do the finishing/grading there? And then render from AE to take advantage of the higher bit depths? Or have this as a linked comp in Prem Pro and render out from Prem Pro?

    • isn’t Premiere Pro CS5 work with 32 floating color natively?

  • What render settings do you use in AE?

  • I’m glad I’m not alone in these thoughts.
    If Adobe is reading this the answer is simple:
    Premiere Effects

  • I wonder: what fundimental issues would prevent Adobe from merging the two applications?

    AutoDesk Smoke does it all I think (but is fiendishly expensive). I gather one difference between AE and Smoke is that the latter is node-based rather than timeline-based. Is it because PPro and AE timelines don’t work in the same way that they can’t be integrated? Does that make sense?

    Apologies if this is going off-topic; perhaps this would be better on an Adobe forum (say it isn’t so!).

  • Nice to read I’m not the only one who desires better play between AE and editing platforms. Essentially, forced me to learn how to edit in After Effects since there are always little changes to be made by clients at the last minute.

    It’s true, once you throw your edit into AE – there it must stay.

    Count me as another vote for Premiere Effects.

  • You might could try the plugin Magnum – The Edit Detector. This will take one piece of footage and find the edit points. So you could bring your timeline from Premiere into After Effects as one comp. Then have Magnum find your edit points. If you need to change the edit, then you go back into premiere, make changes and then bring it back in to AE and run Magnum again, moving your adjustment layers as needed. I haven’t tried this yet but it should work great assuming Magnum can find edits in your comp.

  • having EXACTLY the same problem. why can’t they just export the premiere edit to after effects as seperate files..?! wasn’t DL supposed to help with that exact problem?!

  • William Dutton on 02.14.12 @ 5:06PM

    Very interesting to read that AE is considered the best platform to export your final project from. However I cannot find as many export presets in AE as I can from the PPro media encoder like: VImeo/U-tube to mention a few. Are they in AE as well but under different descriptions?
    Or does this mean I would still have to return to PPro to export to certain formats.

    Any comments would be most welcome.

    Many thanks,


  • New to AE, I did some effects to bring back to PP, then found out that half of them were not converted. I don’t know if there is a way around this, but there must be or the workflow would be PP-> AE and never back again. Like Will, I use Vimeo export. If I don’t learn how to keep the AE effects in PP, I can’t really use AE at all.

  • I have the same issue to this day! I can NOT figure out a good way to finish in AE for the life of me :/ and it seems like it would be a match made in heaven. But… it isn’t… at least not yet. If anyone has some solutions I am all ears.

  • I tried to use MBL for color grading in Premiere, but my picture looked very different in MBL preview than Premiere preview, so I jumped to AE to use MBL there… It happens the same, except if I use a color profile, so I did (709 with h264 i-ALL from my 5D mkiii). But when I export with the same profile everything looks much more saturated in my players. Then I import it to PrP to see if it’s because the QT gamma issue, and still everything looks completely different to AE.

  • If only AE didnt need to RAM preview its audio.

    • Agreed. Probably my biggest gripe with it. Never thought it would be so tedious to see if 2 seconds of video syncs up properly.

  • Good read. I definitely have been wondering the same.

    My workflow has been Premiere for cutting/audio/arranging > Dynamic link to After Effects for grading/titles/effects > Final output.

    The reason I like dynamic link is because you don’t lose any quality and you don’t have to pre-render anything out first. I’ve only had some issues with the audio in the first few seconds of the video, but a workaround is to just start the first scene a couple seconds in.

    If I need to adjust clips and times I’ll revert back to Premiere, move around what I need to then go back into After Effects to adjust any keyframes to match the changes. It’s a pain and you miss things sometimes, but so far it’s the simplest solution for me.

    My biggest restraint with this workflow is that it limits me from using After Effects for cool cuts and transitions. Ideally, I would love to use After Effects from start to finish, in fact I have before, it’s just a pain because the audio isn’t in realtime.

    I suppose to get around this, I could do small edits in After Effects where I want the transitions, then render (or dyn link?) them out to throw into Premiere, then finally bring the whole project back into AE. Seems a little convoluted, but I don’t have any other ideas. Anyone have any experience with this?

  • Good read…Finally got round to using Dynamic link after our Studio have taken the leap back to Premiere CC instead of Final Cut X. I’ve used After Effects for years so its nice to finally try out Dynamic Link properly.

    The workflow to get decent render times at the end are currently causing issues, if you don’t have your sequence setup right the simple export of a 3 minute h.264 mp4 takes an age (even if I tick use previews). Where in Final cut as I’d already sat through the render times the mp4s would export in seconds.

    I’ve read up on it, there are ways to make it work, tick match sequence settings, tick use previews and make sure your comp is setup right… its a learning curve… that I’m sure I will get used to… but I wonder how many users will just assume you have to sit and wait for the render at the end.

    Anyway… Dynamic links seems cool and is only going to get better I guess.

    Thats all..

  • Also just found this useful workflow for when using ‘Dynamic link’ between After Effects and Premiere.

    yet to try it out, but it sounds like it might be the perfect mix of the control of Dynamic link with the speed when you need it of final renders.

    As at times you really just want the scene 100% rendered already to save time when you come to export from Premiere. (You can tick use preview files when exporting from Premiere, but that still lacks some control).

    1) Starting From PPro Use any normal method to create a Dynamic link clip in a PPro Seq. Like “replace with AE COMP”

    2) In after effects do something to that comp. create fx. whatever you want.

    3) Save your AE Project

    4) In AE Project Panel: Right Click the Dynamic Link Comp icon. In the context Menu choose “Create Proxy>Movie” this will add the comp to the RenderQueue

    5) Unless your intent is to make low res previews….adjust your settings in the render queue.
    a) Quality Best
    b) Resolution Full
    c) Choose a codec that’s optimized for your workflow in PPro

    6) Specify a Render Output Location. However you organize your material, realize that these aren’t temp files but finished renders.

    7) either add more comps to the Queue as in the above steps OR render

    8) Once the render is complete you will notice:
    a) a bright red bar at the bottom of the comp viewport that says proxy enabled. This means that what is being played and displayed in the viewport is the file you just generated.
    b) look at the project panel in AE. to the left edge of the comp name you will notice a small gray square. This also indicates that a proxy has been attached to this comp. Clicking the square enables/disables the proxy. When disabled, the square will be holow and you can edit your comp as normal. When the square is filled, you won’t see changes you make toyour comp, because it’s currently looking at the already rendered file.

    9) Save AE project again…

    10 Back in Premiere…nothing to do….edit trim and change as normal. the dynamic clip in the PPro sequence is referencing the AE Project/comp. The AE COMP is (or in’t) looking at the proxy. Depeding on your setup. If you have to make changes to the comp, disable the proxy, change the comp, and leave it live or make a new proxy….your choice….

    Exciting stuff I know… Render queues don’t get much cooler.


  • Wow thanks Jon D that’s a really good tip.