Ok, we all know how to 'save' a project. File-> Save. Some people even know a tricky little keyboard shortcut that impresses clients and girl/boyfriends: Ctrl+'S' on the PC, or Apple+'S' on the Mac. But every now and again someone posts an urgent request on a mailing list or a forum- usually using a lot of capital leters- asking for "HELP! CAN'T OPEN MY AFTER EFFECTS PROJECT!! DEADLINE!!! URGENT!!!!"
Now I love After Effects. It's my number one tool, I use it every day, all day, it puts food in my family's stomach and it's paying the bank that owns my house. But it's also not perfect. Every now and again, weird things happen and if you've drawn the short karma stick that particular day, you might end up with a corrupted project. And a corrupted AE project often means that it can't be opened. At all. Ugh time.
There are a few little tricks you can try. First off, quit AE and re-start. If that doesn't work, shut down your entire computer and re-start. If that doesn't work, shut down your computer and your network/router and re-start. At this point, if it's not opening, re-start After Effects again, and instead of opening the project, 'Import' it into a blank AE project, which oddly often works wonders. If that doesn't work, shut down AE and try removing the Open GL plugin from your 'plugins' folder: this is (sadly) often the purveyor of much woe. Then try removing ALL of the (non-standard) plugins from your plugin folder. Moving on, if you were using an older version of After Effects (say, v.7), then try opening it in v.CS3 if you have access. Don't have the most recent version? Download the trial from Adobe.com: it works for 30 days. But note that you can't open AE projects in EARLIER versions of the software at all. At this point, if things are still not opening, try gnashing your teeth, waving wands over your monitors and burning incense. Then come back to this point, re-read the following words and follow this advice on your NEXT project...
Increment And Save.
Say it again. Then do it.
Look closely under your 'File' menu and you'll see a little item called, oddly, 'Increment and Save'. Never selected it? Try it and see what happens. If you have a project named, say, "Opening.aep", it'll save it without opening a 'save-as dialog box', and automatically append a number to it, in this case, "Opening 1.aep". Select it again and it'll become 'Opening 2.aep'. And on and on. You'll never save over a previous version of a project. Now, the question is, why? Let me tell you a little story...
I was called in to work in a shop to modify a project that one of their freelancers had originally produced. I sat down, asked where the project was and they showed me the directory. And there it was: something called "Network Package.aep". One project. I opened it up and discovered that it had comps for many show openings, backgrounds, lower 3rds, intersticials, segment spots, promos transitions... and on and on and on. There was ONE After Effects project, containing EVERYTHING for the look for an entire network. And no backup. Well, I admit that I shuddered. If this project were to get corrupted, or accidentally deleted, or saved over after it got 'reduced', or... or... well, you get the idea.
First thing I did was type Ctrl+Alt+Shift+"S". And there was "Network Package 2.aep". I breathed a little easier then. Now I certainly would NOT recommend putting so many elements together in a single AE project, and certainly not having a single version of the project file. That's a disaster waiting- nay, Begging!- to happen.
So, that's the AE keyboard shortcut. You'll find it in the "File" menu too. I use it on every project I'm working on. When? Well, that depends. Usually 'when I remember', and always when I realize that if a project were to get lost/deleted/corrupted then I'd cry like a baby. I often do the keyboard shortcut when I know a client is watching me so they can see how cool it is: so many fingers, pushing so many things at once... it's like that teensy blue power light on really expensive speakers: very impressive and professional looking, but in a confident and understated way.
Yes, you'll end up with a lot of versions, but think of it as "a lot of insurance" instead. Almost free insurance. Yes, it'll take up space on your drive, but you can always buy a new drive. Getting back hours/ days/ weeks of your life is a little more expensive.
Now if you're using AE7 or later, you'll see that there is an option in Preferences to "Auto-Save" (turned off by default). I personally never use it, mostly because "you never know". Like if you do 'reduce' a project, then you may lose the rest of the project next time you open it. I like to control when, where and what I save.
That should control any damage if you should ever find your project corrupted, plus it's just smart production practice. After all, you just never know. If need be, you can go back to the earlier version, and lose minutes or hours of your life at most.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Posted by Alan Shisko at 5/16/2007 03:44:00 PM