>Opening After Effects Projects in an Earlier Version

So you want to open a project saved in After Effects CS3 in an earlier version like After Effects 7.0? Wish there was a way to avoid redoing your entire project just because a client hasn’t upgraded yet? Wish that Adobe would let you do a Save to XML just like in Final Cut Pro?

Sorry about the rant, but currently your only hope of opening a project saved in a newer version of After Effects is a manual process that involves a lot of copying and pasting.

  1. Firstly, you’ll need both versions installed on the same computer. This usually doesn’t cause any problems, I always have at least 2-3 versions of After Effects installed at the same time.
  2. Next step is to manually recreate your project in the earlier version. This involves importing all the sources, creating all the comps and changing all the settings to match the original project. It’s a pain, I know…
  3. Open the original project in the newer version and highlight the top layer in your composition and hit UU on the keyboard to reveal all properties that has have non-default values. Great shortcut, huh? Here’s a bonus tip: just hitting U will show just the properties with keyframes!
  4. Select all keyframes on the layer by click-dragging the mouse over the names of the properties.
  5. Copy and paste into a text editor (not a word processor, instead use something like Notepad++ for Windows or Smultron for OS X) and changing the first line that says:
    Adobe After Effects 8.0 Keyframe Data
    … into …
    Adobe After Effects 7.0 Keyframe Data
    If you are converting the animation into even older versions of After Effects, you’ll have to change the number to match the version you are using (only use the whole increments such as 6.0 even if you are using version 6.5.)
  6. Select all text in the text editor, copy and then paste onto the corresponding layer in the older version of After Effects.

Not exactly great, but just a tad bit better than redoing every keyframe. I haven’t tested this on earlier versions than 6.5, but if you really need to down-convert to a five year old software, you’re in trouble anyway… :)

- Jonas

20 Responses to >Opening After Effects Projects in an Earlier Version

  1. Anonymous

    >I love your tips. They are all awesome.
    HEy..I’ve got AFX CS3 and I’m doing a 3 minute project but my rendering times are terribly slow like 7 hours or plus. Now I get things like “Run Time Errors”.
    I need this project done soon and so it’s driving me crazy.”
    Also sometimes during renders, the caching eats up like 30 gigabytes of hard disk space and can’t finish, “cuz out of disk space”.
    Any advice would be great!

  2. Jonas Hummelstrand

    >Hmm, you haven’t given much info to go on. Step 1 might be to turn off multi-processing.

    Also, enable “Show rendering information in Info panel” inside the Preferences, and make sure you see the Info panel, which will tell you what layers/effects are taking long time to render.

    Make sure all source footage is on a local disk and not on the network.

    Filling up the disk sounds weird, is it “Disk cache” which you set in the Preferences, or is it the rendered file that is filling up your disk? What codec are you rendering to?

  3. Anonymous

    >It happens if I do, or even if I don’t compress it. It is the caching and in the caching folders I’ve set I watched the containing files building up to more than 20 gigabytes while rendering. Anyways the codec I was using was WMV maxed out to it’s highest settings cuz I really like the quality of the file.

    I just picked up a new 500 gig harddisk today to see if that helps and also I’m trying to prerender somethings since my final comp has several smaller comps inside. I’ll see how it goes tonight. I’m in Korea where I have no “support group” other than the net. So thanks a million for your expert advice!!

  4. Jonas Hummelstrand

    >The Disk Cache that you set in AE’s Preferences is just a temporary storage that AE only uses to off-load frames/layers from memory instead of throwing them away, and AE only reads the frames/layers from the Disk cache when it is faster than re-rendering them.

    On the other hand, if it is the Conformed Media Cache that is filling up, that’s where AE CS3 stores frames that are used in in- and output to temporally compressed formats such as WMV/H.264/MPEG 1, 2 & 4.

    Rendering to these formats via the Render Queue isn’t really optimal, since the Render Queue can only do single-pass compression, so you want to use either Export… from AE or render to a lossless format from AE (QT Animation @100%) and then use something like Compressor, QT Player Pro, Microsoft Media Encoder or something similar that can do two-pass compression.
    The Media Encoder (Win only) is free and QT Player Pro costs $29.

    Pre-rendering elements won’t really help, since it is the compression part of the process that is filling up your disk. A bigger disk (remember to move the Conformed Media Cache to the new disk) would help.

    A good tip is to ask questions in the AE forum at http://adobeforums.com/ where I frequently contribute.

  5. Anonymous


    I searched the adobe forum site, and several others, and can’t seem to find the solution to this problem.

    Two of my students upgraded their PC laptops to After Effects CS3. During RAM preview, their files sync perfectly to sound, however, when they render them out, animation is off by about a one second delay. (animation not syncing to sound on time).

    This doesn’t seem to be a problem with the CS3 upgrade to Mac (which I am more familiar with.)

    Any insight would be most helpful… thanks!

  6. Jonas Hummelstrand

    >Please post your questions at Adobe’s User to User forums:

    I would however start by looking at the waveform for the audio, and see if that seems to match in the comp. Holding down Ctrl / Cmd while scrubbing will also let you hear the audio.

    When rendering, to what codec and sound settings are you rendering, and is the audio sample rate in the output the same as the input audio? Is the delay constant, or does it get worse over time?

    Try to pinpoint when it happens, and post your questions in the AE forum, and I’ll try to answer!

  7. zee7

    >your trick awesoOOm but i am beginner in after effect.
    So sir can you tell me about the sites from where i can learn more and more knowledge about after effects.

    I will be thankful to you!.

  8. Jonas Hummelstrand


    …would be good places to start.

  9. ellz

    >Great info. The company that I work for uses CS3 but I’m currently running 7.0 on my intel laptop. This tutorial works well but when I get to more complicated effects/3rd party plug-ins, I an error message:
    about a code-command in line 23 or something like that not being reable. I’m going to have to check on exactly what it says.

  10. Jonas Hummelstrand


    Some third-party plugins may have added or removed certain properties so that they don’t match. In that case, try to copy part of the properties at a time.

  11. Anonymous

    >Thanks for the tip. I took it one step further.
    For going from 8.0 to 6.5 you need to delete all of the Words “Transition” from the text. Then move the words such as anchor point, position, scale, ect to the beginning of the line.
    This might work for earlier versions as well but I only own 6.5 and up. The thing to do is check out both versions you are using with the word processor and look for any difference between the two. Match your 8.0 text file to look like your earlier version. Then copy and paste.

    Steve Q
    Bent Penny Productions

  12. Anonymous

    >Sorry folks, it should have been “Transform not “Transition”

    My Bad

    Steve Q
    Bent Penny Productions

  13. Jonas Hummelstrand

    >Thanks for sharing, Steve!

  14. VJ Woody


    You need to access the "secret preferences" panel in After Effects.

    Hold down the shift key as you open the After Effects preferences (the "General" preferences will do), Once you see the dialog, access the drop-down menu, and a new menu named "secret" appears. The menu used to be called “schecret” in previous versions of After Effects.

    Disable the layer cache. This fixed rendering errors on at least two machines I have worked on.

  15. Okay, I’m sure that nobody is ever going to read this, but sometimes you just need to rant…

    The OPPOSITE problem is so much worse. At least when it comes to trying to open newer versions of files with an older version of AE, it’s possible to do it in some way, no matter how tedious. Trying to open OLDER files in NEW AE version is absolutely, completely impossible. It can’t be done. You must somehow find an older AE and then reconvert. HELLO???? Does Adobe honestly think that NO-ONE has old files and wants to convert them??

    I can’t think of any other program that does this to its users. I have never seen another program, of ANY kind, that didn’t open old files in a new version. EVER!!! I don’t care what program it is or what it’s for. They all do it. It’s the most basic feature that it’s humanly possible to think of.

    /rant :)

    • Jonas Hummelstrand

      You can open older AE files in newer versions, up to a point. Software development is always a tradeoff between supporting old features and developing new ones. I’d rather have Adobe give me a faster AE than extending support for older versions.

      From Adobe’s help file http://help.adobe.com/en_US/aftereffects/cs/using/WS3878526689cb91655866c1103906c6dea-7fa0a.html#WSCD25C89E-5598-4a89-AFBD-37495C795185
      “After Effects CS6 can open After Effects 7.0 projects or newer. After Effects 6.5 projects and older will not open in After Effects CS6. After Effects CS5 can open and import After Effects projects created by After Effects 6.0 and later.”

      After Effects 7.0 was released in January of 2006, that’s 6.5 years ago. If you are concerned about being able to open old files, make sure that you re-save them every time you upgrade to a new major version of AE. Odds are that plugins will be your biggest problem.

  16. I see your point, I really do. But I just don’t like the decision that was made on Adobe’s part. Not everyone is able to upgrade to each new version as it comes along, and then you end up with a situation like the one I’m in. There needs to be some kind of option, somehow, somewhere, to convert very old files with new versions of AE. Why isn’t there a plugin? Why isn’t there some kind of roundabout method involving lots of extra time and trouble that is at least *possible*?

    I’ve certainly been able to open Photoshop files from 2004 with the version I have now; in fact, I just opened one now so that I could check what I’d remembered doing. So I KNOW that Adobe has sometimes chosen to enable backwards compatibility with very old files. I honestly think that these things could have been done with AE, and I just feel it’s disappointing that they weren’t.

  17. ETA: Sorry; I don’t think I can edit the last post…

    I just tried it in Flash CS5.5. A 2004 file opened perfectly. Then I moved to Illustrator CS5. A file from 2002 (!!!) opened with no problem at all. So I DO NOT understand why Adobe chose to not include this feature in AE *only.* There must be a reason, but when it’s possible to open even ten-year-old files in other Adobe programs, I really wish I could know what that reason is.

  18. Jonas Hummelstrand

    Please understand that the file formats of both PSD and AI are not as complex as AEP files.
    Also understand that all these programs come from different design principles and backgrounds, so that Fl can open a 7-year-old file but AE cannot is just a reflection of the fact that different teams have prioritized this differently.
    For every older version that has to be supported, the team has to use precious time testing that this really works.
    Like I suggested, you can use an older version of to open and re-save to a more current format.
    If you need to open AE project files in CS6 that are older than AE 7.0, you’ll need to ask someone with an older version installed.

  19. Jonas Hummelstrand

    I’m sure that if ask nicely in the Adobe forums, someone will offer to help you open and re-save your project: