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Avoid "stair step" layers?

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Fred Hickler
Avoid "stair step" layers?
on Jul 17, 2013 at 1:57:06 pm

Whenever I create a composition consisting of a sequence of items, I end up with a series of layers in the layer panel that look like stair steps. Each new piece that I add goes in the next layer up and forward in time. That ends up taking up a lot of vertical space in the layer panel, which is an inefficient use of screen real estate. There is no way I know of to have more than one item in a single layer like you can in, say, FInal Cut where a single track can have many items in sequence. I realize their are ways to mitigate this (nesting or hiding layers). But I was wondering if anyone had any tips on minimizing the "stair step" layers in the layer panel.


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Joseph W. Bourke
Re: Avoid "stair step" layers?
on Jul 17, 2013 at 3:48:56 pm

Hi Fred -

Don't confuse the FCP workflow with AEs - AE is a compositing tool, not an NLE. That said, you should have no problem at all dragging and dropping layers into a Comp and having them all line up at frame zero. As a matter of fact, I can't remember it ever happening any other way. By "Sequence of Items", do you mean that you're importing stills as a Sequence? In that case, you'd be getting just what you told AE to do, and each new layer will show up at the end of the last layer - the "stair step" look you spoke of. Try just importing all of your files - or dragging and dropping from Bridge, then selecting all of them in AE and dragging to the New Comp icon in the bottom of the upper left panel. They should create a new Sequence with no staggering.

Joe Bourke
Owner/Creative Director
Bourke Media
http://www.bourkemedia.com


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Erik Waluska
Re: Avoid "stair step" layers?
on Jul 17, 2013 at 5:02:15 pm

Pre-comping the layers is the way I usually work and for me it's a pretty good workflow. Since the CTI (current time indicator) syncs with the pre-comp time, if you want to make an edit to the layers in the pre-comp you can just hit the Enter key on the number pad to jump into the pre-comp, make your edit and then Ctrl/Cmd+W to close the pre-comp and you're back in the main comp. I also use layer markers a lot to mark edit points in the pre-comp (Shift + 0-9). If you want to "un-preCompose" the layers at some point so they're back in main comp there's a script for that called, not surprisingly, Un-PreCompose. There's also a script I really like called re: Pre-compose that lets you pre-compose with the option of trimming the pre-comp to the layer's duration.

BUT, there's a plugin called GM_FoldLayers that is being developed by GoodMotion that will let you put your layers into folders or groups similar to photoshop. There was a Beta release last year but it has disappeared and links to the download now point to a page on the apparently newly remodeled GoodMotion site with a note "A new version of GM FoldLayers will be released soon. This will be announced in our blog." Check out VinhSon Nguyen's review to see how it works. Looks promising!

Erik Waluska
EAWmedia.com


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Tero Ahlfors
Re: Avoid "stair step" layers?
on Jul 18, 2013 at 4:34:55 am

[Erik Waluska] "Since the CTI (current time indicator) syncs with the pre-comp time, if you want to make an edit to the layers in the pre-comp you can just hit the Enter key on the number pad to jump into the pre-comp, make your edit and then Ctrl/Cmd+W to close the pre-comp and you're back in the main comp."

Or you can Edit This Look At That: https://www.video2brain.com/en/lessons/etlat-edit-this-look-at-that-improve...


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Erik Waluska
Re: Avoid "stair step" layers?
on Jul 18, 2013 at 5:11:26 pm

I didn't know about the new "Edit This, Look At That" features. That does seem a little easier than in past versions of AE.

Erik Waluska
EAWmedia


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Fred Hickler
Re: Avoid "stair step" layers?
on Jul 18, 2013 at 2:17:36 pm

Thanks for all the suggestions.

I've often thought that it wouldn't be too difficult for Adobe to develop a feature into AE that would make it a little more NLE-ish, where a single layer could have multiple items in it across time, so the the layer name would be dependent on where the playhead was. The items themselves in the timeline could have their names on them so you you could see what they were, sort of like this:

[----somevideo.mov----][---------someimage.png---------] etc.

It would probably be difficult to make the items overlap in time and be able to add transitions, like an NLE. It'll probably never happen, but I just wanted to throw that idea out there.

My sequences always end up looking like:

----
-----------
-------
-----

which seems inefficient. But I will try all your suggestions and I'm sure it will help.


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Walter Soyka
Re: Avoid "stair step" layers?
on Jul 19, 2013 at 12:05:39 pm

You can accomplish quite a bit with some organization and built-in Ae tools: use labels [link] to color-code and group-select layers, and use the shy switch [link] to hide them from view in the timeline (but not hide them from rendering in the comp itself -- kind of the opposite of the visibility eyeball which hides the layer in the comp but not in the timeline).

You might also look into Zorro the Layer Tagger [link] for ever more flexibility for managing groups of layers.

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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