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Exporting Tip: Creating Multi-Aspect Compositions in After Effects

Noam Kroll

While After Effects may be an extremely powerful VFX and motion graphics tool, it can be just as useful for workflow tasks — including creating multiple deliverables of the same project.

It’s extremely common today for clients to request multiple deliverables of the same project, often requiring different aspect ratios and formats. For instance, television broadcasters in some markets may still request a 4:3 center cropped version of your 16:9 television project.

By the same token, other broadcasters may be fine with a 16:9 version of your project — but your master file may exist in a wider (2.39:1) aspect, which means that you’ll need to deliver several variations of your final project.

Personally speaking, it’s quite common for the projects I work on today to require at least three or four different deliverables. There’s typically one high-quality ProRes master, an h264 web master, and a reframed 16:9 broadcast deliverable at the very least.

In order to streamline the process when delivering three or more files to my clients, I’ll often use pre-created compositions in Adobe After Effects to save time. Specifically, my compositions/deliverables have been set up using the following two steps:

Step 1: Create Master Composition

Create a master After Effects composition (in full 4K resolution) that will house the high-quality master file of the project.

Multi-Aspect Compositions in After Effects Cover: Create Master Composition

Step 2: Create Secondary Compositions

Create secondary After Effects compositions with various aspect ratios and resolutions that all contain a scaled version of the master composition in the timeline.

Multi-Aspect Compositions in After Effects Cover: Create Secondary Composition

I have a project template that’s been set up in this way, so whenever I need to create deliverables, I can simply drop my master file into the master composition (step one), and it’ll automatically populate in the secondary compositions (step two).

That way, since my project template was already set up before hand, all I need to do is drop the master file into the right comp, and the rest of the work is automated for me. The only final step involves adding each comp to the render queue and sending the files off to the client.

Every project is different and not all of my projects require the exact same deliverables, which is the case with most filmmakers. That said, I try to include as many possible variations of frame sizes and aspect ratios as possible in my template (4:3, 16:9. 720p, 1080p, etc.) and then I’ll only add the comps that I need to the render queue for any given project.

This is just one of countless ways that Adobe After Effects can be used to enhance and streamline your workflow — and it works like a charm every time.

How do you work with mutli-aspect deliverables in After Effects? Give us your tips and techniques in the comments below!