how to split a clip in after effects

How to Trim or Split a Clip in After Effects

Splitting a clip in After Effects is one of those quick tasks that you feel should be easy and intuitive.

For video editors learning After Effects it is quite frustrating that there isn’t just a tool for it.

BUT! In this article I’ll show you how to do it just as easily as if you were adding an edit point in Premiere Pro.

How do I know what I’m talking about? Head to the DigiProTips Experience and Background page to find out how I’ve built up my knowledge over a career spanning feature film, broadcast TV and digital content production.

The Quick Way to Split a Clip in After Effects

For those who want the quick answer, there are two main ways:

Split a clip using CTRL/CMD + SHFT + D


Trim a clip using ALT/OPT + [ or ]

Why Do You Need or Why Would You Want, to Split a Clip in After Effects?

As I briefly hinted towards at the beginning, After Effects is not a video editing platform and nor is it meant to be either.

After Effects is for creating complex motion graphics and visual effects elements or compositing on a shot. This means the toolset that you need to be able to perform those tasks has to be different to the tools that you would use when video editing.

However, that doesn’t mean to say that there aren’t instances when having the ability to splice a layer isn’t handy. I’ve needed, and used, the ability many times before.

The most relevant use case for me has always been when I need a certain effect or keyframe animation to start, stop or work in parallel on the same clip but with the existing layer still being used. 

For example, if I have a pre-comp or piece of media that I want to use certain parts of at different speeds/durations then I could keyframe that or I could simply split and duplicate the layer/comp to add a timing change to just one section of it.

Another would be when you want to use the same portion of layer multiple times to create a fuller effect across the frame but you only want the layer to be used for a portion of your comp. The easiest thing to do then, is to duplicate and trim your layers.

There are many, many more reasons why you would need to split or trim a clip in After Effects and there a few ways to go about doing it too.

A More Detailed Look at Splitting a Clip in After Effects

For newcomers to After Effects and well, pretty much anyone who needs it, let’s look at how you split a clip using the examples I set above.

File-> Import-> File

Bring a clip into After Effects through the Import menu under File or by pressing CTRL/CMD + I.

Create new composition from media

Now drag that clip to the ‘New Composition’ icon at the bottom of the Projects panel. This will create a new composition based on the media properties of the clip.

Now you have a new composition with your clip as the only layer and is also set to your clips duration too.

how to split a clip in after effects - playhead move
Move the playhead to the exact frame

Drag your playhead to the point at which you would like to split/trim your clip. Alternatively, to get to the exact frame, you can always nudge the playhead forwards or backwards by using Page Up/Down or by using CTRL/CMD + left or right.

Now that you have the exact frame where you want to split or trim it you have a couple of options available. 

You can split the layer and After Effects will automatically put the two split pieces on two separate layers at that point. You can manually duplicate the layer and trim the new layer or, the final option, you can trim the existing layer to your playhead without duplicating.

how to split a clip in after effects - keyboard shortcut
How to split a clip in After Effects using the keyboard shortcut

To split the clip automatically, make sure your layer is selected in the timeline and then either go to Edit->Split Layer or press Control/Command + Shift + D.

how to split a clip in after effects - duplicate layer
Duplicate the layer

To duplicate the layer and trim, have your layer selected and go to Edit->Duplicate or press Control/Command + D. Then trim your new layer to start at that frame by pressing Alt/Option + [ or trim it to finish at that frame by pressing Alt/Option + ].

how to split a clip in after effects - trim clip
Trim a clip with the keyboard shorcut

You can use the trim function to trim any layer you want.

And That’s All There Really is to it!

If you want more After Effects knowledge then check out my article on Underrated Keyboard Shortcuts:

Underrated After Effects Shortcuts

Or find out How to Center the Anchor Point In After Effects:

after effects center anchor point title

If you found this article useful and want to know more then let us know in the comments below what you’d like us to cover. 

Now, go forth and use your new knowledge to work smarter and not harder, it’s what DigiProTips is all about.


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