AE: Group Layers without Pre-Composing

New Here ,
Jan 13, 2022 Jan 13, 2022

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Dear Community,

Dear After Effects Team @Adobe

 

Why is there still no way to group layers without pre-composing within a single composition?

I imagine it to function just like groups in Photoshop, where you expand a group to reveal all layers within. This will open up entirely new workflows.

 

I came across a plugin created by Petter Bergmar called "FoldLayers": https://vimeo.com/121569449

Is it really this complicated to natively implement such a functionality into After Effects?

 

Can wait to receive aducated reponses.

Kind regards

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FAQ , How to , Performance , Preview , Scripting , User interface or workspaces

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correct answers 1 Correct answer

Explorer , Jan 25, 2022 Jan 25, 2022

I remember, a few years ago Adobe tried to make it work but appearently it's incredibly difficult to implement (probably the way layers and compositions behave is too deeply ingrained into the code), so I think they abondoned the idea quite a while ago. I heard from someone who talked to the developers some years ago and they told him that they came to the conclusion that it's impossible.

 

If you're interested, I created a script for After Effects, called Workflower, which lets you group layers a

...

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Enthusiast ,
Jan 14, 2022 Jan 14, 2022

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GM FoldLayers looks pretty neat.

 

When I've seen this discussed it's been that people effectively want to be able to 'twirl open' a precomp and see it's layers visible in the current comp. This is very different from FoldLayers (which just appears to use AE's Shy Layers system to show/hide layers) in that you'd be able to affect the group of layers by altering that main layer (i.e. the way a precomp becomes a single layer in the current comp). But there are potential  issues with this, notably that you could keyframe a Time Remap onto that comp layer to change the timings of the contents, so if you were to twirl open that precomp the keyframes in it wouldn't be at times that represented the remapping occuring on the 'group layer' which would make for some potentially unintuitive editing behaviour.

 

I can't say for sure but I perhaps the reason we haven't seen it is because there's this expectation for what it would need to be able to do that would be considerably more complex to implement. Why do it in this more basic way when third-parties are already perfectly able to implement it themselves?

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New Here ,
Jan 24, 2022 Jan 24, 2022

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Hello Paul,

 

thank you for taking the time and repyling. Much appreciated!

I see the potential issues that you are refereing to. However Adobe could make it functional in this way, that it had some limitations, when for example trying to time remap the grouped layer, this then simple wouldn't be possible. So If you tried to time remap you'd have to precomp. 

 

I am thinking of warp stabilizier in PR for example. If you are trying to change speed/duration of any clip in PR with warp stabilizier applied, Premiere simply tells you, that this isn't possible, thereby forcing you to first nest your clip and then apply the speed/duration effect...and people have found there ways to work in this sort of fashion. So why not make it similarly workable in AE.

 

Unfortunately the Plugin GM FoldLayers has been discontinued from development and won't work in the newer version of AE. So at this moment in time, there isn't really any alternative.

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Community Expert ,
Jan 14, 2022 Jan 14, 2022

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Grouping soemthing visually is not a problem, but apparently one would have to define what groups are supposed to do in terms of functionality with things how they affect render order, transform operations and a gazillion scenarios with combinations of layer switches, effects, time manipulation and so on that regular users who never have dug so deep aren't even aware of. This debate has been going on for literally as long as AE exists and will likely go on fo just as long in the future. As an oldschool guy I'm already loathe of the many things added in recent years like the pointless compositing options which only muddy up a stringent workflow, so I'm definitely pretty much opposed to any major changes and introducing layr groups in teh timeline. For me it really comes back to what I've been saying for forever: People need to learn to see pre-compositions and other stuff as valuable tools, not their enemy they need to avoid or look for ways around. That's pretty much all there is to say on the matter.

 

Mylenium

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New Here ,
Jan 24, 2022 Jan 24, 2022

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Hey Mylenium,

 

Can you explain how grouping smth visually isn't a problem?

If you have any workaround you can share, I'd love to hear it.

 

I didn't know that this topic was long debate among Adobe users, even more so it's dissapointing that there still is no good way to do so. If grouping smth visually isn't a big problem, I don't see how this would introduce major changes to AE.

 

I understand your point, but it's always situational and I believe in some cases it really wouldn't hurt to have that option.

E.g. working in a complex main comp with lots of pre-comps inside, I don't understand why diving from pre-comp to pre-comp, to finally reach the comp you'd like to adjust, but then not beeing able to see the effects of your adjustments in the overall picture... in my opinion and in some cases it's just confusing and to helping the "stringent workflow".

 

Julio

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Explorer ,
Jan 25, 2022 Jan 25, 2022

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I remember, a few years ago Adobe tried to make it work but appearently it's incredibly difficult to implement (probably the way layers and compositions behave is too deeply ingrained into the code), so I think they abondoned the idea quite a while ago. I heard from someone who talked to the developers some years ago and they told him that they came to the conclusion that it's impossible.

 

If you're interested, I created a script for After Effects, called Workflower, which lets you group layers and offers a lot of other workflow-enhancing tools: https://aescripts.com/workflower/

 

So, yeah, obviously I have to disagree with Mylenium. 😉 In my opinion, groups are very essential to a complex workflow. Precomposing has its uses but I try to avoid it whenever possible. First of all, you loose all your layers from your main comp and the further your precomp-structure goes, the more you have dig through various precomps to even get to the layer you want. Also, since you don't see what's inside a precomp, it can get quite confusing to understand the structure of your comp (for you but also for other people if you work in a studio-environment). On top of that, once you precompose, you break all of your parents, layers that are referenced by effects, your 3D space, etc. There are ways to get around that (like copying these dependent layers with linked expressions into your precomp) but it makes for a very messy workflow and is not very adaptable once you want to makes changes afterwards.

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New Here ,
Jan 25, 2022 Jan 25, 2022

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Hey there Constantin,

 

Thank you so much for your contribution to this thread!!

I see that you totally understand where I was pointing at.

 

Like you are saying, precomping has it's benefits, but at times also just not so much

and heck yeah the pre-comping madness can get overwhelming.

 

I just checked out your script. Good job on the promo video! So well made and amusing - lol -

and the best part, your script seems to be exactly what I was looking for! THANKS!

 

PS: Good to have a fellow german developer on the back-end of "WORKFLOWER".

Can't wait to start working with it and if needed know where to adress my questions.

Please keep up the good work and never stop working on this insanely awesome script.

 

Cheers

Julio

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Explorer ,
Jan 25, 2022 Jan 25, 2022

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Hi Julio,

 

haha, thanks so much! 🙂

 

It might take a bit to get used to the script and its shortcuts but if any questions come up during the learning process, don't hesitate and send me a support ticket via aescripts! 🙂 This, of course, also goes for when you might have a feature request or you encountered a bug.

 

And sure, I'm continuing my work on Workflower. For the past months I worked hard on version 1.1 which will hopefully be out next month (maybe it'll be the month after, though) and which adds a lot of new features: https://workflower.constantin-maier.com/coming-soon

 

Also, I have quite some ideas for version 2 but I'm not sure when I'll be able to start working on it since I have to do some other stuff first after the release of v1.1. But yeah, for sure I'll keep developing Workflower in the future. 🙂

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New Here ,
Mar 21, 2022 Mar 21, 2022

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I feel your pain.  I come from Apple Motion, where this is easily done by selecting the layers, and grouping them together.  You can easily see any changes you make in the group in context of the entire image, not just solo-ed (unless you want to!).    I feel like I'm stepping backwards adapting to AE from Motion.

 

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Community Expert ,
Mar 21, 2022 Mar 21, 2022

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If third parties (probably amateur) devs can do it certainly Adobe could if they wanted to.  They could even call up one of the thrid party plug in devs and offer them a job replacing the person who said it was impossible.     

~Gutterfish

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Explorer ,
Mar 22, 2022 Mar 22, 2022

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Haha, well, I'm still waiting for their phone call. 😉

 

But, yeah, to be real, what GM FoldLayers and my script are doing is quite some hacky workaround and it would feel too unprofessional to implement it like this into AE natively. That being said, I think there could be some way AE could implement groups in a more simple way - it would already be a great help for a lot of people if there were just visual groups (without any other functionality). And from then on, it might even be possible to automate certain existing functions for groups - for example, some type of automatic parenting once you move layers inside a group - similar to how my script does it.

 

But what do I know? I have to say, after working on my script for two years now, I can understand why it's really difficult to change something fundamental about your code when so much is already built on it. Certain parts of my old code I want to touch as little as possible - even though it's not optimal code by any stretch of the imagination. And this, of course, makes the implementation of certain new features sometimes difficult. But so many things depend on this old code now which has been tested extensively and which is working. And this is just with two-year-old code. I can't even imagine what this looks like with 30-year old code that hundreds of people have contributed to.

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