How To Quickly Substitute One Clip For Another In After Effects

An After Effects project can be incredibly complex, filled with dozens of individual layers organized into pre-compositions, and those compositions nested within other compositions. Each layer may contain several different effects, keyframes, and expressions. So, what happens when your client sees the render and asks that one specific clip in the video be replaced? How can you make a substituion and keep all applied effects, keyframes, and the clip length intact? It's actually very simple.

Here's one way you could do it:

  • Select the clip in the composition that needs to be replaced. 
  • Go to the effects panel and select all the effects that were applied. 
  • Drop the new clip down into the composition. 
  • Paste all the effects to the new clip. 
  • Go back to the original clip and copy all of the keyframes. 
  • Select the new clip within the composition and paste all of the keyframes. 

Daunting, yes? And that doesn't even cover the neccessary steps of trimming the new clip to the appropriate length (to match the old one) and trying to re-create any masks that were applied to the old clip. So, rather than go through all of that time, hoping that you pasted everything on to the new clip in the right place, try this method instead: 

  • Highlight the clip in the composition that needs to be replaced (This is very important. You must do this before dropping in your new clip). 
  • Select the clip in your Project Panel that you plan on using as the substitute. 
  • Hold the ALT (or OPTION) key as you drag the new clip into the composition.
  • Drag the new clip down and cover the existing clip. 
  • When you release the mouse, the new clip will now take the place of the old one, with all of the effects and keyframes intact. 

If you have any shortcuts or tips to help improve workflow and productivity, please leave them in the Comments section.