Locating missing files in After Effects

What you’ll learn in this After Effects Tutorial:

  • Locating missing files in After Effects
  • Importing image sequences
  • Importing After Effects compositions

This tutorial provides you with a foundation for working with Adobe After Effects media management. It is the third lesson in the Adobe After Effects CS6 Digital Classroom book. For more Adobe After Effects training options, visit AGI’s After Effects Classes.

Locating missing files in After Effects

When you import a file, After Effects creates a link to the original media file on your hard drive. This link is what you see in the Project panel. These files are linked and not actually a part of the project itself. If anything happens to the original file, i.e., it is deleted, moved, or renamed, this will cause a problem. When you attempt to open a project, After Effects checks the media links to ensure that they are all still intact, and if it encounters a problem will display a warning dialog telling you how many files are currently missing.

The number of missing files will vary depending on the project you are attempting to open.

To fix this problem you must relink the missing footage by replacing the original linked footage with itself. To find your missing files:

1 Click OK to close the initial warning dialog.

2 Locate one of the missing footage items in the Project panel. They will be easy to identify by the Color Bar icon () to the left of the footage name.

3 Right-click on any missing footage item and from the menu that appears, choose Replace Footage > File.

4 When the Replace Footage File dialog box appears, navigate to the folder that contains the missing file that corresponds to this footage item. The name of the file should be visible in the dialog box’s title bar.

5 Highlight the missing file and click Open. After a brief pause while your computer analyzes the folder’s content and relinks the missing files it finds here, a confirmation dialog will appear informing you that previously missing files have be found.

The number of recovered files will vary depending on the number of
missing items After Effects was able to locate.

Click OK to close this dialog box.

If all your files still have the same names and are in the same relative folder locations as when they were imported, this one replace operation should locate all your missing footage items. If not, you will have to repeat this process several times to locate all missing files. In general, it is far easier to locate your missing media files when they are simply moved and not renamed. If your footage items have been deleted, there is nothing After Effects can do to assist you. Your only course of action will be to recreate or restore the items from a backup copy of your hard-drive or media files.


Using the Interpret Footage dialog box

When you import a piece of footage, After Effects analyzes the file and uses a set of built-in rules to determine attributes such as pixel aspect ratio, alpha channel type, frame rate, and color profile, and it uses this information to determine how the file should be displayed. It uses these built-in rules to make a best guess, which is often correct, and you can happily go about the rest of your work. However, when the program interprets this information incorrectly, issues can occur with the appearance of your footage. The Interpret Footage dialog box allows you to set these footage attributes manually. The settings you have access to in the dialog box vary depending on the type of file and the information it contains. For example, one setting for audio files is how many times they loop, which wouldn’t be an issue with still images.

Looping an audio or video file

The house beat.aif file that you imported earlier in this lesson is only 30 seconds long, which is actually not uncommon for audio that is intended for use as a loop. By default, all imported audio and video files are set to loop only once, but you can change that in the Interpret Footage dialog box.

1 If necessary, click the reveal triangle located to the left of the Audio folder to reveal its contents, click the house beat.aif file, and look at the file properties displayed at the top of the Project panel. The duration of the file reads 0;00;30;00, indicating that it is 30 seconds long.

2 Right-click (Windows) or Ctrl+click (Mac OS) on the house beat.aif file, and from the context menu that appears, choose Interpret Footage > Main. This opens the Interpret Footage dialog box.


The keyboard shortcut for the Interpret Footage dialog box is Command+Option+G (Mac OS) or Ctrl+Alt+G (Windows). Remember to highlight the file in the Project panel before using the keyboard command.

3 Locate the Loop property at the bottom of the dialog box. Type 2 as the new Loop property.

Set the Loop property to 2.

4 Click OK to close the Interpret Footage dialog box with your new settings. With the file still highlighted, look at the file properties at the top of the Project panel. The duration of the file now reads 0;01;00;00, double its former length.

5 Save your file by choosing File > Save or by pressing Ctrl+S (Windows) or Command+S (Mac OS) on the keyboard.

Do not close this file, you will need it in the next part of the lesson.


Using Remember Interpretation

At some point, you will want to apply the exact same type of interpretation to multiple files. This is easily accomplished by using the Remember Interpretation and Apply Interpretation commands.

1 Right-click on the house beat.aif file in your Project panel. Choose Interpret Footage > Remember Interpretation from the context menu that appears. This command stores the footage interpretation settings of the current file in memory.

2 Right-click on the Subliminal.mp3 file and choose Interpret Footage > Apply Interpretation. This command applies the currently stored footage interpretation settings to a new footage item.

3 Save your file by choosing File > Save or by pressing Ctrl+S (Windows) or Command+S (Mac OS) on the keyboard.

Do not close this file, you will need it in the next part of the lesson.

Changing Alpha Channel type

If you use only Photoshop to create your images, then you will probably never have a problem with the way After Effects reads your alpha channels. However, if you use other programs or rely on stock or royalty-free artwork, then you may run into a problem where the programs pick the wrong alpha channel type. This incorrect interpretation usually results in black or white halos around the transparent edges of your imagery, but you can use the Interpret Footage dialog box to fix this problem.

Because Photoshop was used exclusively to prepare the pixel-based artwork in the project files for this lesson, none of the imported images here require you to change the alpha channel type. However, the instructions below will help you if you ever run into this problem.

1 Right-click on the file for which you want to change the alpha channel type, and choose Interpret Footage > Main.

2 In the Interpret Footage dialog box, click the radio button next to the type you want After Effects to use.

Note that when switching to the Premultiplied – Matted With Color option, the two most common colors to matte with are black and white. Click on the color swatch to the right and use the Color Picker that appears to select the matte color.

Using the Collect Files command to consolidate files

Throughout this lesson, you have imported footage from different locations. Because of the nature of the lesson and how files are organized on the DVD that comes with this book, all your media has come from the same root folder, but this isn’t always the case. Many times you may find yourself importing from different folders and even different hard drives. You may also run into the problem of wanting to transfer an entire project and all the footage needed to recreate it to another designer or to back it up for archival purposes. This is a situation where you can use the Collect Files command.

1 Choose File > Collect Files to open the Collect Files dialog box.

The Collect Files dialog box.

2 Confirm that the Collect Source Files menu at the top of the dialog box says All, and click the Collect button to open the Collect files into the folder dialog box that allows you to choose the location in which to save your collected project folder.

3 In the Collect files into folder dialog box, the default folder name should be Lesson3-Working folder. Choose your desktop as the destination and click Save. As the Collect Files operation runs, you see a status bar on-screen.

4 When the Collect Files operation completes, minimize or hide After Effects to view your desktop, and double-click the Lesson3-Working folder you saved there. Notice that the Collect Files operation created a copy of your After Effects project, a folder that stores copies of all the footage that was in the project, and a text file that stores information about the Collect operation, such as what footage and compositions were collected.

5 Double-click on the (Footage) folder and notice that the structure of your Project panel was used to set the order of files in this folder. If you double-click on the Images folder, you see that this organization carries through to the subfolders as well.

6 Close the folders and return to After Effects. Choose File > Save, then File > Close.