When I'm not out filming or meeting with clients, it is a safe bet that I'm in my office editing. That means I'm switching back and forth between Adobe After Effects and Premiere Pro. (Not to mention some related Photoshop and Illustrator files as well as the odd Google Doc.) For someone who spends so much time working with files in After Effects and Premiere Pro, a way to make the two work together is a highly valuable tool. Enter Adobe Dynamic Link. Adobe Dynamic Link is a system that Adobe introduced with the release of Adobe Creative Suite 3 back in 2007 to allow sequences from Premiere Pro and compositions from After Effects to live in each others software without having to render out a video file and import it. It is meant to be a major time saver and a way to increase efficiency. (Adobe Dynamic Link also has other functions in Adobe Encore and Adobe Audition.)

When I first began learning about Dynamic Link, I was blown away by what it offered, and years later, I still am. BUT... while Adobe Dynamic Link looks great in a product demo, it comes with its share of problems that make using it still worthwhile, however, very frustrating.

I use Dynamic Link for two main purposes. Firstly, bringing soundtracks edited in Premiere Pro into After Effects, and secondly, brining After Effects comps into Premiere Pro.

Much of the work I do at my production company, Imagination Creations, are animated explainers. Cute animated videos, often between 2 and 3 minutes, that explain a product or a service. I create all the animation within After Effects, but I edit all the audio in Premiere Pro. I'll record voiceover, add music and then add sound effects. With my workflow, I'll be constantly making adjustments to the Premiere Pro audio track while I progress in my After Effects animation. Dynamic Link is a very powerful tool to allow me to quickly add a sound effect, or adjust the volume of the music, or fix the pacing of my voiceover... when it works. Quite often, changes I make in Premiere Pro don't get reflected in the linked sequence in After Effects. Reloading the clip doesn't help, nor does re-saving the Premiere project. Even relinking the sequence doesn't work. One solution I found, is to ensure that the linked layer in After Effects is collapsed, and the audio waveform of that layer is hidden. This is the best trick I've found so far, despite doing a fair amount of research. This trick however, only works about 75% of the time, and when it does, it is quite annoying to have to remember to collapse that layer each time you make an audio adjustment in Premiere Pro. The other solution is to shut down both applications, and relaunch them. This will work, but it is far from ideal.

My second and equally important use for Adobe Dynamic Link, is probably the more common use. Importing After Effects comps into a Premiere Pro sequence. For those familiar with my work, you've seen that I've done a number of videos using the parallax photo technique, where I break apart 2-dimensional photos in Photoshop and edit them in After Effects to give them a 3-dimensional effect. I might have 20 of these comps that import into Premiere Pro and lay out on my timeline. So far so good. The trouble occurs during playback. Because these are After Effects comps using large high resolution photos, Premiere Pro can't play these back smoothly, and therefor rendering is required on the Premiere timeline. That is understandable, but what I have trouble understanding is the render times. Doing a RAM preview in After Effects might take 60 seconds for a particular comp, but rendering that same comp in Premiere Pro often takes upwards of 5 minutes. It makes playback very time consuming, and comes close to negating the benefits of dynamically linking the After Effects comps all together. There is still value in doing it, in that while the render times might end up being longer, you do save the headache of having to deal with a series of rendered versions of your AE comps, as well as having to reimport and replace each time you need to tweak your comps.

I've been using Adobe Dynamic Link in my workflow for the better part of three years now, and it has become the feature that I've come to love to hate. It offers great workflow improvements, and despite the caveats that I outlined above, I'll continue to use it and in turn, continue to complain about it.