How To Navigate Precomps In After Effects


In this video we're gonna be looking at some things that can be difficult to find or figure out when you're starting out in After Effects. We’re going to be covering stuff like navigating through precomps, shying layers, and soloing layers. So let’s get started. 

Navigating Precomps in After Effects

This video has been transcribed for optimal reading experience

Okay, here I have a template and I want to change the animation a little bit. Right now there’s these two shapes and they cover up my text just a little bit. I want to get rid of those shapes so my text isn’t covered up. Since I don’t know what composition those shapes are in, I need to dig through some pre comps until I find where they're located. Right now I have “Final Comp” open because well… It’s the final comp and when everything’s said and done this will be the comp that's rendered. Inside of “Final Comp” there’s only one layer and it's a composition called “Color” so I’m not going to be able to change my animation here. I can tell this layer is a composition by the little icon to the left of it’s name. Since I can’t make the changes here I’m gonna need to navigate into the “Color” composition and possibly further until I find the layers I’m looking for.  

To navigate into the composition I just need to double click on it. You’ll notice that when I do this After Effects makes a new tab in the timeline. So now I’m in “Color” but I can click the “Final Comp” tab to go back into that composition. Back inside of “Color” there’s no animated shapes or solids so I’m gonna keep going deeper into the compositions. Here in the “All” composition I’m starting to get closer. I can see my different titles populating the timeline so I’m gonna pick the one that's in the right spot on the timeline and keep going. 

Okay, now it looks like I’ve gone too far. None of the elements I’m wanting to change exist in this comp so I need to go back out one. Here in “Title_03” I’ve only got one layer but it doesn’t contain the elements I’m wanting to change.  Well, how can that be? The answer is shy layers. In your timeline window there's the “Shy” button. It’s a little guy peering over a wall and you can see it’s on right now because it’s blue. If I turn it off you’ll see a bunch of layers appear. So this is all that other animation going on. You can see that their “shy” switch is turned on because the little guy's hiding behind the wall. I can turn it off by clicking it and you can see him pop up. Now if I turn on the shy button those layers won’t be hidden. Shy layers are often used to help keep timelines clean and prevent users from changing something by mistake. 

Getting back to the task at hand, I need to figure out which layers are the ones I want to turn off. I’m gonna do this by solo-ing the layers. Near the left edge of the timeline is the toggle for solo-ing, it’s the white circle. Solo-ing turns off all layers except the ones you solo. This makes it easy to see which layer is which or to isolate a few elements at a time when you’re working in slower projects. Okay so I’ve determined which layers I want to get rid of. Now rather than delete them, I’m gonna turn them off. That way, I can easily add them back in if I change my mind. I can toggle their visibility on and off with the eyeball on the far left of the timeline. Perfect! If you're ever having trouble with a layer not showing up in your composition it’s a good idea to make sure the layer's turned on. 

There was a lot of clicking through to get to this pre comp and I definitely don’t want to do that again if I decide I do want to turn those layers back on. The good news is I don’t have to. If I know where this composition is in my project panel I can just open it from there rather than navigating through all these compositions. By right clicking in some open space in my timeline I can go to “reveal composition in project”. This shows me exactly where the composition is located in my project panel. So here it is highlighted and it's located in a folder called “Other”. In the future I can just find it here rather than clicking through all those compositions or trying to find it amongst a bunch of tabs. I could even drag it into another folder if it’ll be easier for me to find. 
Now that my edits are made I want to go back out to my final comp. I can see the tab for it all the way on the far left of my timeline but for the sake of this tutorial I’d like to show you another way. At the top of the timeline there's a button for the composition flow chart. If I click it, I get a visual representation of how my compositions are connected. You can see there are a bunch of compositions that make up this Title 03 comp. I can also use this to navigate by clicking the arrows. So I’ll use this to go back to my final comp. The composition flow chart can also be accessed with TAB on your keyboard.

We hope you found this video helpful.  If you did, we’ve got lots of other tutorials for Premiere ProAfter Effects, and filmmaking in general!

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