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Proxies and Placeholders

Sometimes it's necessary to use stand-in files to take the place of actual footage. For example, you may need to start working even though all your source footage isn't ready. (Your client forgot to send the disk, or another production artist is behind schedule—sound familiar?) For the present, you may have to settle for a temporary placeholder. On the other hand, maybe a high-quality image is slowing down previews. A low-quality version of the footage might work just as well for draft versions and speed up your workflow. In such cases, you may choose to use a proxy instead of the actual footage. When you and your footage are ready, you can easily replace placeholders and proxies with the actual footage.


A placeholder is a generic still image that takes the place of missing footage. As pointed out in Chapter 2, After Effects automatically creates placeholders for missing footage. This section shows you how to use After Effects to create your own placeholder. In the Project window, the name of the placeholder appears in italic type. Placeholder footage appears in the thumbnail image and in the Composition window as television color bars ( Figures 3.39 and 3.40 ). (Depending on your background, you'll either recognize color bars as one of the standard test patterns used to calibrate video equipment for color and brightness, or as the weird show TV stations broadcast after 2 a.m.) Naturally, the image size and duration of the placeholder should match those of the foot age it's temporarily replacing. If you're familiar with nonlinear editing programs, you might equate placeholders with offline files.


Figure 3.39 Placeholder footage appears in the Project window…


Figure 3.40 …and the Composition window as standard color bars.


A proxy is a low-resolution version of the actual footage ( Figure 3.41 ). If you're familiar with nonlinear editing applications, you might compare using proxies to using low-quality clips for offline editing (offline quality means relatively low quality; offline clip refers to a clip that's unavailable for use). Low-quality files take less time to process, allowing you to work more quickly. Proxies may also be necessary if you have to work on a less powerful workstation—one with less RAM, for example—than you'll finish on. When you're ready, you can replace the low-quality stand-ins with the high-quality original footage.


Figure 3.41 Low-quality proxies (top) don't look as good as the actual footage (bottom), but they also have smaller file sizes and can be processed faster.

Proxies aren't effective for every circumstance, however. Although they can save time when you're animating motion, other effects—such as keying—can only be properly adjusted when using the footage at output quality.

To create a placeholder

  1. Choose File > Import > Placeholder ( Figure 3.42 ).

    Figure 3.42 Choose File > Import > Placeholder.

    The New Placeholder dialog box appears.

  2. In the New Placeholder dialog box, enter information that matches the missing footage ( Figure 3.43 ):
    • For Name, enter the filename for the missing footage.
    • For Size, enter the pixel dimensions of the missing footage.
    • For Duration, enter the duration of the missing footage.

    Figure 3.43 In the New Placeholder dialog box, enter information that matches the missing footage.

  3. Click OK to close the New Placeholder dialog box.

    The Placeholder footage item appears in the Project window in italics.

To replace a placeholder with source footage

  1. In the Project window, double-click the placeholder you want to replace with source footage ( Figure 3.44 ).

    Figure 3.44 Double-click the name or icon of missing footage to open the Replace Footage dialog box.

    A Replace Footage dialog box appears.

  2. In the Replace Footage dialog box, locate the source file and click Open ( Figure 3.45 ).

    Figure 3.45 In the Replace Footage dialog box, locate the missing footage.

    The footage replaces every instance of the placeholder in the project ( Figure 3.46 ).


    Figure 3.46 The actual footage replaces the placeholder footage wherever it appears in the project.

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