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In Plugins

By Tony LaTorre

After Effects Plugin Review: Un-Precompose

On 30, Apr 2014 | No Comments | In Plugins, Reviews | By Tony LaTorre

We all know about pre­com­pos­ing, it’s one of the most use­ful tools in After Effects. But have you ever had the need to do the reverse, to un-precompose a com­po­si­tion in your time­line, bring­ing the lay­ers it con­tains into your cur­rent comp?

First, some def­i­n­i­tions going for­ward. For this post “com­po­si­tion” or “comp” refers to the cur­rent time­line you’re in. “Pre-comp” refers to a com­po­si­tion in that time­line, the one you will be un-precomposing.

OK, there are a cou­ple main rea­sons you would want to un-precompose:

  • You want lay­ers in your pre-comp to inter­act indi­vid­u­ally with lay­ers in the comp. For exam­ple, you have 3D lay­ers in both but want them to be affected by the same cam­era, have the proper depth rela­tion­ship to each other, etc.
  • The orig­i­nal rea­son you had for pre-composing in the first place no longer holds, so the pre-comp is no longer needed. For exam­ple, you’re in the design phase and make a pre-comp con­tain­ing two or more lay­ers, but the design changes and now you’ve got just one layer in your pre-comp that might as well be in the par­ent com­po­si­tion. Hav­ing need­less pre-comps in your project will take longer to ren­der but also makes your project more con­fus­ing, espe­cially if you have to come back to the project after being away from it for a few weeks or months. If you don’t need a pre-comp any­more it’s a good idea to clean things up and get rid of it.

Un-precompose by Batch­frame does essen­tially this.

Un-precompose is a plug-in, not a script, which means you won’t find it in the File Menu’s Script sub­menu or at the bot­tom of the Win­dow menu. Instead you’ll find it in the Layer menu right under the pre-comp menu option under the name De-compose, which is the old name for the plu­gin. A dia­log win­dow comes up with a few options:


  • De-composed Layer Prefix

What­ever you type in this box will show up at the begin­ning of each layer name for all lay­ers that get brought in from the pre-comp. Use­ful if you need to keep track of what you brought in sep­a­rately from the lay­ers that were already there.

  • Copy pre-comp attrib­utes to layers

If you applied any effects or trans­forms to the pre-comp your comp won’t look the same unless you also apply those same changes to your incom­ing lay­ers. For scale and posi­tion it does this by cre­at­ing a null and par­ent­ing the objects you just brought in to the null. For other prop­er­ties it copies and pastes the property/effect. Keep in mind that It does its best but there are lim­i­ta­tions so your comp may look some­what dif­fer­ent depend­ing on what’s being copied.

  • Dis­card pre-comp attributes

Does the oppo­site. It does not copy over any set­tings from the pre-comp to your incom­ing layers.

  • Delete Source after pre-compose

If you feel par­tic­u­larly con­fi­dent that the un-precompose will work you have the option of delet­ing the com­po­si­tion from your project. That’s right, it not only deletes the layer from this comp, it deletes the pre-comp from your project. I’m never con­fi­dent until I see the result so I leave this off until I see what un-precompose does.

    • Note: If your comp is being used some­where else in your project, you will not get this mes­sage, instead you’ll get  “Can­not delete this pre­comp, it is being used elsewhere.”
  • Keep pre­comp in composition

Keeps your pre-comp in the comp but turns it off. That way if you’re not sat­is­fied with what Un-precompose did you can eas­ily go back to exactly what you had before. By the way, if Delete Source is checked this option has no effect, whether it’s selected or not.

You can buy Un-Precompose off the web site but I rec­om­mend get­ting it from Batchframe’s web site directly for free. No need to login or name a price, just click and download.

Un-precompose is a great way to keep your project as sim­ple and eas­ily under­stand­able as pos­si­ble, and to reduce ren­der times.

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