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Viewing Footage

When you open an item in the Project panel, it appears either in an After Effects Footage panel or in the player native to its file type, depending on the file type and your preference.

Still images always open in an After Effects Footage panel. Motion footage and audio items, in contrast, open in the appropriate media player by default. For example, .mov files open in a QuickTime footage window; .avi files open in an Video for Windows footage window. However, you can opt to open them in an After Effects Footage panel instead.

Whereas a media player lets you play back motion and audio footage right away and at the full frame rate, the Footage panel relies on After Effects' frame rendering mechanism (explained fully in Chapter 8, "Playback, Previews, and RAM"). Therefore, the Footage panel won't necessarily play a movie at the full frame rate and won't play audio without rendering a preview. The Footage panel does offer a number of other viewing options (covered in the section "The Footage Panel," later in this chapter) and editing features (covered in Chapter 4, "Compositions").

To view a footage item:

  • In the Project panel, double-click a footage item.

    Still images open in a Footage panel (Figure 3.43); movie files open in the appropriate movie player (Figures 3.44 and 3.45).

Figure 3.43

Figure 3.43 Still images always open in an After Effects Footage panel.

Figure 3.44

Figure 3.44 By default, motion footage opens in a window according to the file type.

Figure 3.45

Figure 3.45 Audio files are also easier to preview in their own Footage panel.

To open a movie file in an After Effects Footage panel:

  • In the Project panel, Option-double-click (Mac) or Alt-double-click (Windows) a movie footage item.

    The movie file opens in an After Effects Footage panel (Figure 3.46).

Figure 3.46

Figure 3.46 However, Alt-clicking motion footage opens it in an After Effects Footage panel.

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