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Support Knowledgebase
Document 322898

After Effects

Macintosh, Windows

Last Edited

141b2.htm   Using Avid Systems with After Effects
What's Covered

Exporting Footage from Avid
Importing Avid Footage into After Effects
Working with Avid Footage in After Effects
Rendering Projects in After Effects for Avid Import
Creating Movies with an Alpha Channel in After Effects

This document provides a recommended workflow for using Adobe After Effects 4.1 and earlier with the following Avid systems: Xpress 2.5 or Media Composer 8.x on Mac OS; Xpress 2.x or 3.x, Symphony 1.x or 2.x, or Media Composer 8.x or 9.x on Windows NT.

While much of the information in this document may apply to earlier versions of Avid, Adobe recommends that you refer to the Avid User Guide before beginning projects in After Effects. The Avid User Guide for you specific system provides specifications on export options, alpha support, pixel aspect ratio, frame size and field order.

The typical workflow is as follows:
1. Export footage from Avid.
2. Import the footage into After Effects.
3. Make edits (composite with other footage, apply effects, etc.).
4. Render in After Effects using the software-based Avid Codec.
5. Import the edited footage back to the Avid.
6. Output the final movies to video tape from the Avid.

Exporting Footage from Avid

For the highest quality output, capture your clips at the best quality your Avid system can achieve and maintain that quality setting whenever you render to avoid degradation of your images.

To use Avid source footage in After Effects, Adobe recommends exporting Avid clips in a movie format because QuickTime and AVI formats allow you to maintain the Avid compression. After Effects for Mac OS supports QuickTime format; After Effects for Windows supports both QuickTime and Video For Windows (*.avi) formats. For more information about exporting source files from you Avid system, see Avid's documentation.

Note: When exporting clips, keep in mind that QuickTime (version 4.x and earlier) and Video For Windows files are limited to 2 GB If your clips exported clips will be greater than 2 GB we recommend segmenting your clips into shorter clips with a file size less than 2 GB See your Avid User Guide for more information.

While Avid systems let you export clips as BMP or PICT sequence files, this option is significantly slower. If you choose this option and export PICT sequences, use a three letter file extension of, "pct". (The "pic" extension is reserved in After Effects for importing SoftImage format.)

Frame Resolution & Pixel Aspect Ratio
To maintain the quality of your Avid footage and prevent pixelization and artifacting, you must export the movie at the correct frame resolution and compression level. Avid video editing systems (e.g., Xpress, MCXpress, Media Composer) generally use CCIR-601 or D1 aspect ratio, which uses rectangular pixels and frame sizes of 720 x 486 (NTSC) or 720 x 576 (PAL).

Importing Avid Footage into After Effects

To import Avid footage into After Effects, you must use a supported combination of hardware and software (i.e., codecs) for the platform on which you use After Effects, the Avid Source Footage system, and the video format (QuickTime or AVI) you import. The following table summarizes the supported combinations:

After importing Avid footage into After Effects, you must separate the interlaced fields to prevent field artifacts from appearing in your final rendered movie. To separate fields, use the Interpret Footage command and separate the footage according to its field order. Field order information is detailed in the next section, "Separating Fields."

Separating Fields
Each frame of interlaced video (e.g., Avid footage) is split into two fields of alternating horizontal lines that play back slightly staggered in time for a total frame rate of 59.94 fields per second (i.e., 29.97 frames per second). Depending on which field is displayed first, the video is interpreted in After Effects as either Upper or Lower field first. After importing an Avid source clip into After Effects, you must separate fields for every imported clip, so the footage is interpolated without field artifacts. You do this by specifying the field order in the Interpret Footage dialog box. In After Effects 4.1 you can edit the InterpretationRules.txt file to automate this process. For more information on how to do this, see After Effects 4.1 Online Help.

1. In the Project window, select the imported Avid clip and choose File > Interpret footage > Main.
2. In the Fields and Pulldown section, choose the appropriate field order from the Separate Fields pop-up menu. The appropriate field order for each Avid system appears in the table below. Make sure to note the correct order for both your Avid system and platform.

Avid System and Format
Field Order
MCXpress, NTSC
Upper field first (odd)
Media Composer (Meridien), NTSC
Lower field first (even)
Symphony, NTSC
Lower field first (even)
All PAL systems
Upper field first (odd)
Windows NT
Xpress, NTSC
Lower field first (even)
Xpress 2.2 and earlier, NTSC
Upper field first (odd)
Xpress 2.5 and later, NTSC
Lower field first (even)
Media Composer 6.x and 7.x (ABVB), NTSC
Upper field first (odd)
Media Composer 8.x (Meridien), NTSC
Lower field first (even)
Mac OS

All PAL systems
Upper field first (even)

Note: If the footage was transferred from film or telecined using 3:2 pulldown, select the correct phase from the Remove Pulldown pop-up menu after separating fields or choose Guess 3:2 Pulldown to have After Effects calculate the phase. For more information on 3:2 pulldown, refer to the Adobe After Effects User Guide.

To verify that you selected the correct field order for your video clip, press Option (Mac OS) or Alt (Windows) while double-clicking on the video clip in the Project window. Advance through the movie frame by frame by pressing the right arrow key. If motion in the movie moves back and forth, rather than just advancing, the field order is set incorrectly. Select the other field order in the Interpret Footage dialog box and retest the field order.

Working with Avid Footage in After Effects

To ensure your finished movies are of the highest quality, you must set up your After Effects composition correctly. Choose Composition > New Composition and choose the NTSC D1, 720 x 486 or PAL D1/DV, 720 x 576 preset from the Frame Size pop-up menu. Or, if you've already begun a composition, choose Composition > Composition settings and select the following settings according to your video format:

For more information about working with non-square pixel aspect ratios (D1 and DV), see Related Records.

Composition Setting
Frame Size
720x486 pixels
720x576 pixels
Lock Aspect Ratio to
Enabled (i.e. checked)
Enabled (i.e., checked)
Pixel Aspect Ratio
Frame Rate
29.97 frames per second
25 frames per second

Note: If you work in non-drop frame timecode in Avid, change the default from Drop Frame to Non-Drop Frame timecode in the Time Preferences (File > Preferences) in After Effects.

When you render a Composition in After Effects, the frame resolution, pixel aspect ratio and frame rate you chose in the Composition settings dialog are maintained by default, unless you specify changes in the Render Queue.

Adobe recommends using the Avid codec for rendering movies that will be reimported into the Avid system. Uncompressed or software-compressed movies (e.g., animation) are compressed by the Avid codec upon importing them, a process that is quite time-consuming. The MCXpress can import AVI movies only if they are compressed with the Targa codec. (See Related Records for more information.)

You need to specify the Avid codec in the Output Module settings after selecting the output format (QuickTime or AVI). When choosing a compression quality setting, remember that it's important to maintain the same codec configuration throughout the workflow process to ensure smooth playback. While the least amount of compression (highest quality) gives you the best image quality, you should keep the quality at the same level at which the clips were captured.

Avid systems for Mac OS (e.g., Xpress, Media Composer, or Film Composer) use Avid's proprietary Motion JPEG (MJPEG) codec. Depending on the version of this codec, it appears as Avid QuickTime in the After Effects Render Queue and as Avid Media Composer AVR in the Compressor menu under Format Options for Video Output in the Output Module Settings dialog.

Avid systems for Windows (Xpress) also use a proprietary MJPEG codec listed above, which has been adapted for both AVI and QuickTime output. The codec appears as Avid AVI codec or Avid QuickTime depending on the output format selected.

Avid MCXpress systems on Windows NT use Truevision's Targa codec for AVI file format only. This codec appears in the compressor menu as Truevision DVR AVI MJPG (LSI).

When you update the Avid software codec, any custom Output module templates already created in After Effects that refer to the Avid codec must also be updated, as the compression quality slider settings may be different from version to version. For example, Avid codec version 8.0 and earlier has a maximum quality setting of AVR 77 which appears as High on the quality slider; version 8.0.2 includes 1:1 compression settings for Meridien card users, which causes the AVR 77 quality setting to appear as Medium quality on the quality slider. The Medium quality setting for AVR 77 is somewhat erroneous and does not indicate a reduction of quality when using Avid codec version 8.0.2.x.

Creating Movies with Alpha Channels in After Effects

You can create an alpha channel in After Effects that contains transparency information; Avid can use this information to create composite images. There are two different methods for creating alpha channels from After Effects. The method you use depends on the movie format and the version of the Avid codec:
- If you use QuickTime format in the Avid system, you can render movies with alpha channels using the latest version of the Avid codec, version 8.0.2. See Method 1 below for specific steps. If you use an older version of the Avid codec, which doesn't support 32-bit Avid-compressed movies, see Method 2 below to create movies with alpha channels.
- If you use AVI format in your Avid system, use Method 2 below. The Avid AVI codec does not support alpha channels.

Note: The Add Output Module feature in After Effects does not work correctly with the Avid codec when rendering movies with alpha channels (i.e., movies with a color depth of 32-bit).

Method 1: Rendering a Single Movie File with the RGB+Alpha Setting
Use this method if the Avid codec supports the 32-bit movie format (i.e., Avid QuickTime 8.0.2).

To render a single movie file:
1. Choose Composition > Add to Render Queue.
2. Choose Custom from the Output Module pop-up menu to open the Output Module Settings Dialog box.
3. Choose QuickTime Movie (Mac OS or Windows) or Video For Windows (Windows only) from the Format pop-up menu.
4. Choose RGB+Alpha from the Channels pop-up menu, Millions of Colors+ from the Depth pop-up menu and Straight (Unmatted) from the Color pop-up menu.
5. Click Format Options, then select the Avid codec as the compressor with Millions of Colors+. Select Color to Straight (Unmatted), then click OK to close the Compression Settings dialog box.
6. Click OK to close the Output Module Settings dialog box.
7. In the Render Queue, choose Custom from the Render Settings pop-up menu.
8. Choose the appropriate field order* from the Field Render pop-up menu and click OK.
9. Click the underlined phrase, "Not Yet Specified" next to "Output To," to choose the location and name of the output file.
10. In the Render Queue, click Render to make the movie.

*See the section on Separating Fields above.

If the alpha channel is not recognized or appears opaque when imported into the Avid, select Invert Existing Alpha in the Import Settings dialog box.

Method 2: Rendering Two Movie Files, One with RGB Information and One with Alpha Information
Use this method if you are using an MCXpress, Xpress 2.x NT, or Symphony 1.x, which don't support AVI with embedded alpha or have or a version of the Avid codec (7.x and earlier) that doesn't support QuickTime with embedded alpha.

To render two movie files:
1. Choose Composition > Add to Render Queue.
2. Choose Custom from the Output Module pop-up menu to open the Output Module Settings Dialog box.
3. Choose QuickTime Movie (Mac OS) or AVI (Windows) from the Format pop-up menu.
4. Choose RGB from the Channels pop-up menu and Millions of Colors from the Depth pop-up menu. Leave other settings unchanged.
5. Click Format Options and select the Avid codec from the list of compressors, then adjust quality as necessary, choosing the appropriate level of compression (e.g., AVR 77 NTSC). Click OK to close the Compression Settings dialog box.
6. Click OK to close the Output Module Settings dialog box.
7. In the Render Queue, choose Custom from the Render Settings pop-up menu.
8. Choose the appropriate field order from the Field Render pop-up menu and click OK.
9. In the render queue, click the underlined work next to Output To to save and specify a location for the file, then click OK.
10. Choose Composition > Add Output Module from the main menu. A new output module will appear in your Render Queue below the queued project.
11. Choose Custom from the Output Module pop-up menu to open the Output Module Settings Dialog box. Choose Alpha from the Channels pop-up menu. Set format to QuickTime (Mac OS) or Video for Windows (Windows) and the codec to Avid. Leave other settings unchanged.
12. In the Render Queue, click the underlined work next to Output To to display the Save Movie As dialog box, type in a name for the movie file and specify a location to save the file then click OK.
13. Click Render.

To import rendered movies into the Avid:
1. Import the RGB only and Alpha only movies into Avid.
2. Apply the Matte Key effect (for instructions, refer to your Avid user guides). The Alpha only movie will be used as the Foreground matte.
3. Select Reverse in the Matte Key effect to translate the transparency information correctly of the Alpha only layer.
4. Adjust matte contrast as necessary.


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