How To Cut A Clip In After Effects - 1 Min Tutorial!

Use the 'split layer' button in the Adobe After Effects 'Edit' menu to split clips in your composition timeline once they have been pre-selected. You can also use CTRL + Shift + D on windows to do this faster.

February 11, 2024
How To Cut A Clip In After Effects - 1 Min Tutorial!
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Editing is the stage where your creative vision truly comes together. It's the phase where every clip, every effect, and every transition you've envisioned begins to find its rightful place. In Adobe After Effects, cutting clips is a fundamental skill, and once you master it, you'll have the power to craft your story just the way you imagined.

Cut Clips In After Effects - Tutorial

Cutting up video, image and audio layers is an essential skill to learn if you're a beginner After Effects user. That's because regardless of what videos you decide to make with the software, you'll definitely find the need to remove and/or individually edit certain clips here and there.

Splitting Your Layer: The Traditional Approach

This image showcases the After Effects workspace with a timeline indicator (often referred to as the playhead) accurately positioned at the 5-second mark of a 10-second video layer.

Whenever you're working in After Effects, layers are your bread and butter. Think of them as individual sheets of paper stacked on top of each other, each containing a part of your overall composition. To cut a clip, you need to split these layers at a specific point.

  1. Positioning the Playhead: First, move your timeline indicator (known as the playhead) to the exact point where you want to make your cut. Imagine I have a 10-second video clip, and I want to cut it right at the 5-second mark. I would move my playhead to this exact point.
  2. Selecting Your Layer: On your timeline, click on the layer that contains the clip you want to cut. This highlights the layer, indicating that it's ready for editing.
  3. Using the Edit Menu: At the top of your After Effects window, find the "Edit" tab. Within this menu, search for the option titled "Split Layer." Alternatively, you can use the shortcut Ctrl+Shift+D (PC) or Command+Shift+D (Mac).
  4. Observing the Result: After clicking "Split Layer," you'll notice that your original layer is now divided into two distinct layers. While the video plays continuously, these two layers are independent of each other. This is the essence of cutting in After Effects; instead of slicing a clip within a single layer, you're creating two separate layers.
This illustration depicts a video layer in the process of being duplicated within the After Effects timeline, resulting in two identical layers. The cursor is currently hovering over the 'Duplicate' option.

When you cut media in Adobe After Effects, the second half of the split image, audio or video will take up a new layer in your composition timeline. This is helpful because it gives you the ability to individually edit and apply effects to cut and pre-cut layers without affecting the other.

Duplicating Layers: A Streamlined Method

Here's an illustration displaying the After Effects interface. Notice the highlighted video layer on the timeline. You can also observe the 'Edit' tab opened at the top, with the 'Split Layer' option being selected.

Another approach to cutting clips in After Effects involves duplicating layers. This method can be particularly useful when you want more control over the start and end points of your clips.

  1. Duplicating Your Layer: With your desired layer selected, press Ctrl + D (PC) or Command + D (Mac). This action creates an exact copy of your original layer.
  2. Trimming the Duplicate: Now, drag one end of your duplicated layer to trim the clip to your desired frame. For instance, if I want the duplicated clip to start 3 seconds in and end at the 7-second mark, I would adjust both ends of the layer accordingly.
  3. Using the Playhead for Precision: If you want pinpoint accuracy, position your playhead where you want to trim. Holding down the shift key, drag the ends of your duplicated layer. This action will make the layer snap to the playhead's position, ensuring frame-perfect accuracy.

Quick Cuts: Mastering Keyboard Shortcuts

This photo illustrates the After Effects timeline after executing the 'Split Layer' action. There are now two distinct video layers, yet the video plays continuously in the preview window.

For those who love efficiency, keyboard shortcuts are the way to go. These shortcuts not only speed up your editing process but also bring a level of precision that's hard to achieve with mouse-based edits.

  1. Position Your Playhead: Decide where you want your cut, and position the playhead accordingly. If I'm looking to make a cut 4 seconds into a clip, I'll ensure my playhead is right at that mark.
  2. Trimming from the Beginning: To trim a clip from its start, use the shortcut Alt + [ (PC) or Option + [ (Mac). This action trims everything before the playhead's current position.
  3. Trimming from the End: If you want to trim the clip from its end, use the shortcut Alt + ] (PC) or Option + ] (Mac). This trims everything after the playhead's position.

Remember, these shortcuts aren't just limited to video layers. Whether you're working with shape layers, solids, or adjustment layers, these shortcuts come in handy. Incorporating them into your workflow is bound to increase your editing speed and precision, allowing you to focus more on the creative aspects of your project.

How to cut audio in After Effects?

The same steps listed above can be used to split and delete audio layers too. Here's a more detailed video: