After Effects Script of the Week: pt ExpressEdit

Expressions are among the most powerful additions you can make to your After Effects game. They are also fragile; set up 4 dozen staggered dependency layers to create a pattern form and then somehow delete the layer they point to, even for a moment, and all of the expressions are reset. And making a fix that applies to each of those layers can be the very definition of tedious.

There’s the magic word – tedious. If it’s an After Effects fask to which that description fits, it’s an obvious candidate for a script, and pt ExpressEdit is the right tool for anyone who works with expressions a lot, or even a lot of expressions once in a while.

At the most basic level, ExpressEdit can find all the comps in a project, or all the layers in the current comp or selection that contain expressions, and present them in a list view where they are easy to scan and edit. There are filters to select only layers that are on (or off), only expressions that are off (or on), and you can specify a keyword.

Not only can you edit and update a set of expressions all at once without digging around in layers, you can enable a set of expressions that have inadvertently become disabled, or freely disable and enable expressions as you work.

There is even an action to test expressions for errors, and any expression you edit and apply is tested automatically. The error text appears in a field which really needs a scroll bar, as error messages are sometimes longer than 2 lines.

Keep this one in mind the next time you inadvertently find a whole set of expressions broken or disabled; it will help you troubleshoot and fix a large dataset, and it makes expressions much more robust.

Note: pt ExpressEdit is one of three scripts included in the pt SearchAndEditBundlept EffectSearch, covered as a previous script of the week is also included, as is pt TextEdit, which we’ll look at next week.

Mark Christiansen

Mark Christiansen

Author of After Effects Compositing series at; founder of New Scribbler LLC, developer of Cinefex for iPad; Adobe Press author, VFX artist on major motion pictures including Avatar and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End