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Adding Footage to a Composition

When you add an item to a composition, you create a layer. A layer can be created from a footage item in the project, a synthetic layer generated in After Effects (such as solids, shapes, and text), or another composition.

You can add an item to a composition more than once to create multiple layers, or you can duplicate existing layers (using the Copy, Paste, and Duplicate commands). In this section, you’ll learn to create layers in a composition. Later chapters will show you how to rearrange and modify layers. (Eventually, you’ll also learn about specialized layers such as adjustment layers, guide layers, null objects, and layers used in 3D compositing: 3D layers, lights, and cameras. But first things first.)

The method you use to add layers depends on how you want to set their initial position, starting point, and layer order in your composition. You can simply drag a layer to the timeline to position it at any time or level in the stacking order.

To add footage to a composition by dragging:

  1. Set the current time of the composition using one of the methods described earlier in this chapter.
  2. Drag one or more items from the Project panel to any of the following (Figure 4.21):

    • Composition panel—Dragging here places the layers in the desired position, at the current time, and layered in the order in which the files were selected in the Project panel.
    • Timeline panel—Dragging here places the layers where you want in time and in the stacking order, and centered in the visible frame of the composition.
    • A composition in the Project panel—Dragging here places the layers at the current time, centered in the visible frame of the composition, and layered in the order in which you selected the items in the Project panel.
    Figure 4.21

    Figure 4.21 You can drag one or more items from the Project panel to the Composition panel (1), the Timeline panel (2), or the Comp’s icon in the Project panel (3).

    Items become layers in the composition, and their position, starting time, and layer order all depend on the method you employed to add them to the composition. Layers created from still-image footage use the default duration for stills (see Chapter 2, “Importing Footage Into a Project”). The duration of other layers is determined by the In and Out points you set in their Footage panel (see “To set source footage edit points” later in this chapter).

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