Using After Effects as an Advanced Titler for Premiere Pro

Tight integration allows you to use one to extend the feature set of the other.

Footage from the Artbeats Portraits – Adults HD collection


Adobe Premiere Pro has a robust titler built in, including the ability to create title rolls and crawls. However, Adobe After Effects has even more advanced tools, including hundreds of Animation Presets for type, Shape Layers to build additional graphic elements such as lower third bars, and a combination of Layer Styles and Effects to further enhance the final look. If you have either the Production Premium or Master Collection suites, Premiere Pro and After Effects can talk to each other using Adobe Dynamic Link, which makes this process more fluid. In this article below I'll explain the general process of using After Effects to create refined lower thirds for Premiere Pro, and then on the next page is a series of short videos that walk through the actual process (including some design ideas in After Effects).Advertisement{C}

By the way, fellow PVC writer and After Effects expert Mark Christiansen has written an excellent article on using Dynamic Link to exploit After Effects tools such as the Warp Stabilizer inside a Premiere Pro project – I recommend reading it. Given that, I'm going to focus on a slightly different workflow than Mark, in the name of sharing multiple approaches with you so that you can choose which is best for your particular task.

Getting a Reference Clip Into After Effects

If you've already locked the edit in Premiere Pro, the easiest way to get a clip you want to add a title to into After Effects is to right-click it in the Premiere Pro sequence and select Replace With After Effects Composition (this is the workflow Mark covers in his article). However, this may require additional trips back into After Effects if you need to change the edit.

To create standalone title elements while still referring to the clips that will lie underneath them, select the clips of interest in the Premiere Pro Project panel, Copy, open a new project in After Effects, select the Project panel, and Paste. This will create links to those original clips without duplicating them on your drive. Then in After Effects, drag these clips to the New Composition icon at the bottom of its Project panel. If you have multiple clips selected, a dialog will open; select the Multiple Compositions choice under the Create section (as shown here). This will create a dedicated composition for each clip, fitted to the dimensions, frame rates, and full unedited duration of each clip, with the same name as the clip itself. This gives you the maximum duration to work with later in Premiere Pro.

The above approach works great if you only needed to perform straightforward trimming to the source clips in the Premiere Pro sequence. If each original clip contains multiple scenes, you may be better off selecting the already-edited clip in the Premiere Pro sequence, Copying, creating a blank composition in After Effects that has the same dimensions and frame rate as your clip and a few seconds more than the duration you expect to need for your lower third (it's always great to have extra handle), Pasting (which will keep your edit times and trim points), and then pressing Option+Home on Mac (Opt+Home on Windows) to slide the clip to the start of the After Effects comp. All of this is demonstrated in the first movie on the next page.

Creating the Lower Third in After Effects

Once you have your source clip in an After Effects composition, right-click that clip in either the Timeline or Composition panels and select Guide Layer; an icon representing trimming guide lines will appear next to this layer's name in the Timeline panel (as shown here). This means the clip will be visible only while you design your lower third inside After Effects; it will not appear when you use Dynamic Link to bring the lower third back into Premiere Pro.

Next, use Shape Layers in After Effects to create your lower third bar. Shape Layers include a powerful gradient editor so you can create a nice, subtle, refined (or gaudy, loud, outlandish) look. You can then optionally apply a combination of Effects and Layer Styles to add further polish. This procedure is demonstrated in the second and third movies on the next page, focusing on a more understated look.

After that, I prefer to add the text inside After Effects (shown in the fourth movie), as I can then also take advantage of its powerful type animation engine. We demonstrate creating custom text animations in both of our books; on the following page the fifth movie shows how to take advantage of Animation Presets, including modifying them to your needs.

Once you have a lower third bar and text design that you like, select these layers, copy, bring up the After Effects composition for the next clip that needs titling, and paste. You can then just double-click the text and change it as needed, with the animation and any additional effects applied still intact. If you like, rename each composition to better reflect the underlying clip; if nothing else, it's good to add an identifier such as “LT” (for “lower third”) to the composition name to remind you what it contains. This is demonstrated in the sixth movie.

Save your After Effects project; this project file will need to exist on your drive before Premiere Pro can link to it.

Bringing the Lower Thirds Back Into Premiere Pro

Once you've finished creating your titles, switch back to Premiere Pro. Choose File > Adobe Dynamic Link > Import After Effects Composition. In the dialog box that appears, select your After Effects project in the left pane, and then the composition(s) with your lower thirds in the right pane. Click OK, and these will be added to the Premiere Pro Project panel just like a regular footage clip.

Drag each of these After Effects “clips” into the Premiere Pro sequence above their respective clips. At this point, you can trim and transition them just as you would any other clip – especially handy if the edit points change. If it turns out your client does not like an animation you may have added to the text, use the Slip Tool in Premiere Pro (shortcut = Y) to trim out the animation. By adding the fade in and out transitions in Premiere Pro instead of in After Effects, you can slip edit the After Effects type animation without losing the fades.

If later on you find you need to edit the lower third, right-click on the After Effects “clip” in either the Premiere Pro Project or Sequence panel and select Edit Original. This will open the underlying composition back in After Effects. Make your changes, switch back to Premiere Pro, and your changes will automatically appear thanks to Dynamic Link. These steps and results are demonstrated in the final movie below.

FTC Disclosure: The creation of this article was partially subsidized by Adobe. Although they approved the general subject, they had no control over its editorial content. They didn't even know I was creating videos as well; I decided later it would be the best approach to show you how to work with Shape Layers and Layer Styles.


Chris and Trish Meyer

Chris and Trish Meyer

Chris & Trish Meyer founded Crish Design (formerly known as CyberMotion) in the very earliest days of the desktop motion graphics industry. Their design and animation work has appeared on shows and promos for CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, HBO, PBS, and TLC; in opening titles for several movies including Cold Mountain and The Talented Mr. Ripley; at trade shows and press events for corporate clients ranging from Apple to Xerox; and in special venues encompassing IMAX, CircleVision, the NBC AstroVision sign in Times Square, and the four-block-long Fremont Street Experience in Las Vegas. They were among the original users of CoSA (now Adobe) After Effects, and have written the numerous books including “Creating Motion Graphics with After Effects” and “After Effects Apprentice” both published by Focal Press. Both Chris and Trish have backgrounds as musicians, and are currently fascinated with exploring fine art and mixed media in addition to their normal commercial design work. They have recently relocated from Los Angeles to the mountains near Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico.