Nesting Compositions

After Effects: Nesting Compositions

This guide will give you step-by-step instructions on nesting compositions in After Effects.

A nested composition is simply a composition that has been added as a layer to another composition. It is a common technique to nest compositions to build up complex animations out of simple parts.

Nesting A Composition

  1. To nest a composition, drag it from the Project window to another composition (note: you cannot nest a composition into itself)
  2. The composition appears as a layer which has the composition icon:
  3. You can animate the nested composition in the same ways you normally animate a layer
  4. If you double-click on the nested composition it will open the composition in it's own timeline and comp window, where you can make changes. These changes instantly appear in other compositions that this comp has been nested into.

Pre-composing Layers

Sometimes you get so far with an animation and realise it would be better if a number of layers were in their own composition, and that composition was nested into the one you are working on. In this case you can pre-compose the layers:

  1. Select the layers you want to pre-compose
  2. Choose Layer > Pre-compose
  3. Name the pre-comp, choose the options below and click OK:
  4. The layers are placed in a separate composition and that composition is nested into the one you were working on

Pre-rendering A Composition

If you have a composition that is slow to playback or create a RAM Preview, you may want to pre-render it so it is quicker to work with. This process creates a Quicktime movie of the comp and replaces the comp with the Quicktime movie in any other comps that it has been nested into.

If you need to make changes to the comp, you can do another pre-render and save the new Quicktime movie with the same name as the previous one.

  1. Select the composition and choose Composition > Pre-render
  2. The Render Queue opens with the composition added to it. It uses Output Module settings that will render the composition with an alpha channel (transparent background) and will automatically import it into the project and replace instances of the composition with the rendered movie.
  3. Click the Output To to add text to name the movie and choose where to save it:
  4. Click Render to output the movie


  • You can continue to nest compositions so you have a composition that is nested into a second comp, and that second comp is nested into a third comp, and so on.
  • If you have many layers of nested compositions, After Effects may run slowly. To speed things up, try pre-rendering one or more compositions.


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