Dynamic Linking and Project Communication in Adobe Creative Suite

You have a project that required just Adobe Premiere Pro and Adobe Encore to make a DVD. It’s all set up with menus and buttons that match up with the Premiere Pro chapter markers, etc. and it works fine. But the client wants some changes… more sophisticated color grading, and motion graphics for the lower thirds. So, you open up this Premiere Pro project in After Effects and go to work. So far, so good.

Basically have two projects now instead of one. You should be able to use Dynamic Link to import the After Effects changes to Premiere Pro. But how, exactly, do you accomplish this? When you pull up File > Adobe Dynamic Link > Import After Effects Composition and navigate to the *.aep file, the pop-up window gives you the option to import all the bits and pieces, or just individual bits. Do you want to import everything? How do you get the AE changes into your PPro timeline?

“I created a project in Premiere Pro. Then I start After Effects and import the Premiere Pro project. I can see all of the edits from PPro, etc. But when I go back to Premiere Pro, I don’t see the motion graphics that I added in AE. If I make a change in PPro, I see it immediately in AE, just not the other way around. Is Dynamic Link is a one-way street?”

It is one way; Dynamic Link won’t allow circular references, including sequences and compositions that are nested inside other ones. Either an After Effects comp is treated as a clip in Premiere Pro, or a PPro sequence is treated as an asset in AE. If they simultaneously referred to each other, it would create an endless loop.

But, you can use any number of AE comps in a PPro project and multiple instances of a given AE comp throughout a PPro project, as well as vice versa. And you can make distinct copies of a sequence or comp with different names and use them to effectively have a two-way flow, as long as you’re using a duplicate source so there isn’t a circular data path. The new file name doesn’t matter, although if you do a “Save as…” then the link stays with the original file, not the new one.

On a middle-of the road business laptop (4GB RAM, one HDD, and no GPU acceleration), with fairly simple projects the Dynamic Link between AE and PPro happens in real time. No hiccups. Of course that wouldn’t be true with really big projects, but it does say that the DL technology itself isn’t a roadblock.

Just for testing purposes, fire up After Effects and make a composition. Open an existing Premiere Pro project and import that composition. Go back to After Effects and make some changes to the composition and then go back to Premiere Pro and you will see this updated instantly. Now if you have another clip in Premiere Pro that you want to change in After Effects, then right-click and choose Replace with AE composition. This clip will appear in the After Effects composition already opened.

Make some changes to this clip and you will see it is updated instantly in Premiere Pro. That is two-way Dynamic Link. You cannot do this in previous versions of Creative Suite as it would reply with “DL already busy” or something like that.

Dynamic Link goes one way for a given instance. But if you are using unique assets to make sure no sequences, comps, or clips — even if nested — are trying to make a round trip that would result in an endless loop (in which case the Dynamic Link with the circular reference is error-trapped and simply won’t work), then Dynamic Link has functionality in both directions. Several versions back, it was only one way. An After Effects composition could be put into Premiere Pro, but not the other direction way back when. That’s changed now though.

Use File > Dynamic Link… to get the following capabilities:

  • a Sequence from PPro becomes a Comp within an AE project
  • a clip from the PPro project panel becomes an asset in an AE project
  • an AE Comp becomes a Sequence within a By two way

You can open a new Premiere Pro project and insert an AE composition with another PPro project inside of it with Dynamic Link. Here are the benefits:

  • you save disk space by not rendering the PPro project
  • you don’t have to rebuild your edit (cross-fades, etc) in AE
  • you can still make changes to your edit

You can also use Dynamic Linking the other way around, to embed AE compositions. This way I can determine much faster whether or not the composition works in the edit. It really depends on whether you make a lot of changes (where you don’t need to export anything) before replacing it with the output render. In that case you still have the benefit of Dynamic Linking, but you choose for “speed” once the After Effects part is done.

This article is condensed from an online discussion in our Adobe Creative Suite forum. The entire unabridged thread may be read at this link:


— special thanks to Pete Bauer, Walter Brokx, Ann Bens and Bruce Watson, the chief contributors in that discussion.


About The Author

Discuss this article in our forum.