Moving Footage From Final Cut Pro to After Effects

Learn how to seamlessly move footage without wasting time or disk space.
Richard Harrington
By Richard Harrington 10.03.09


Getting your footage from Final Cut Pro to After Effects is a very common workflow. In fact, so many people choose to work this way that there are several free and for sale workflow tools on the market. While the task may seem as easy as a batch export, there is often precious metadata and organizational work that you'll want to take from Final Cut Pro into After Effects.

These techniques are excerpted from my new book - Video Made on a Mac: Production and Postproduction Using Apple Final Cut Studio and Adobe Creative Suite. In it, Robbie Carman and I explore several workflows and techniques for getting more done with software from Apple and Adobe. Let's take a look at a few workflows you might employ.

The Power of QuickTime and XML

What makes all of these exchange options are two shared technologies - QuickTime and XML. The first one is easy, Final Cut Pro captures QuickTime natively, After Effects can also read pretty much any file type using the QuickTime architecture. Just be sure to install any special codecs on the After Effects machine if using proprietary codecs like ProRes.

You can also export an XML file from Final Cut Pro, which can then be used in other applications to bring in clips and data. This allows you to easily import a sequence and its media into Premiere Pro or After Effects. This workflow avoids any duplication of media while preserving edits, footage handles, and sequence organization.

Creating an XML File

The first step in moving from a Final Cut Pro timeline to an After Effects composition is XML. This process is very straight-forward (but differs slightly depending upon which version of Final Cut Pro you are using). While making an XML file involves a couple of steps, it's pretty straightforward.

  1. Edit your clips into a sequence or select an existing sequence in Final Cut Pro.

  2. Mark an In and Out point for the range you'd like to export in a sequence. You can only send one sequence at a time.

  3. Choose File > Export > XML. In the dialog that opens, choose Apple XML Interchange Format, version 4 and click OK. Do not use the default version 5 that is in Final Cut Pro 7).

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  5. Specify a location for the XML file (such as your media drive) and click OK to write the file. The XML file is very small and references the original media on your drive.

That's it (and the process is so quick that you might think you missed it). Let's put that XML file to good use.

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