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After Effects CS5 > interpreting photoshop alpha

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Vin Alsace
After Effects CS5 > interpreting photoshop alpha
on Apr 13, 2011 at 10:52:23 pm


I'm trying to import some photoshop files into After Effects and the alpha channel isn't reading correctly.

The .psd files were created in Photoshop CS5. They are RGB mode, 8bits per channel. They have multiple layers and some layers have masks. They have one alpha channel that's saved as the 4th channel, under the RGB channels.

When I import them into After Effects CS5, I import as footage with merged layers.

The alpha channel does not work. The image appears in After Effects flattened but with no apparent alpha channel.

So far there are two ways to get the photoshop files to appear correctly in AE:

1. If, in Photoshop I use the alpha to cut all the unwanted image file (the area outside the alpha), then the imported file appears correct in AE.

2. If I flatten the image and then import into AE, it appears correctly in AE.

I prefer to avoid these two alternatives because I don't want to have to save a whole new folder of flattened images just so AE will display them correctly. And I don't want to have to take the extra step of manually cutting cutting the image with the alpha. I have hundreds of images in my animation and that would add a lot of extra production time.

I simply want the alpha channel to display the image correctly in AE the way it's supposed to. Note: in a previous version of AE (Pre CS1), I never had this problem. I've only noticed it in CS5.

I've read through several forums and tutorials and haven't found the answer to this yet.

Thanks for any suggestions!

System: Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
Intel Core i7 870 2.93 GHz

Photoshop CS5 64bit
After Effects CS5 64bit

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Brian Charles
Re: After Effects CS5 > interpreting photoshop alpha
on Apr 14, 2011 at 1:35:47 am

Not sure why you're having this issue. I routinely work with multi-layered PSD files in AE CS5 and the alpha is preserved throughout the workflow.

Have you tried the Interpret Footage command and specified the alpha?

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Jon Bagge
Re: After Effects CS5 > interpreting photoshop alpha
on Apr 14, 2011 at 7:20:24 pm

You are importing your PSD as a composition right?

Jon Bagge - Editor - London, UK
Avid - FCP - After Effects

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Paul Sampson
Re: After Effects CS5 > interpreting photoshop alpha
on Jun 2, 2011 at 12:11:15 am

I wonder if this issue has been resolved? I have 6 machines running after effects which will not read an alpha channel in a photoshop document which contains layers. 6! Photoshop 5 12.0.3 64 bit and After Effects 5

Many thanks


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Vin Alsace
Re: After Effects CS5 > interpreting photoshop alpha
on Jun 2, 2011 at 1:24:24 am


My apologies, I got super busy with a deadline and failed to follow up on this post. Thank you everyone for your responses. I've been trying different solutions but still haven't found an answer.

I did try the interpret footage command and chose "merged layers". Under the Alpha section, I chose "Straight--unmatted". This has worked for me in the past (before having this problem), but this this time around it still ignored the alpha channel.

Importing the PSDs as compositions also ignored the alpha.

The only option that worked so far is, in Photoshop, opening the alpha channel as a selection and creating a layer mask from that. But in order to do this, I have to flatten my image/merge all the layers so the mask is affecting only one "master" layer.

The above approach involves a couple extra steps. Of course it would save time if AE would just read the alpha. I'll post a follow up if I can find a better solution.


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