Working with layers

Working with layers

Composite shots consist of stacked layers. Each layer contains a single item (for example, a video, an image, or a camera). Some layers can contain additional items such as effects and masks.

In the case of media layers, the layer is a reference to the original media asset. Changing a layer in a composite shot timeline will not change the original media asset in the Media panel. In the case of media files the source file will also be unaffected.

The only exception is with the contents of a composite shot. In this case, any changes you make inside the composite shot will also affect the composite shot in the Media panel, and any other places where the composite shot has been embedded.

Layer controls

Every layer has the same set of controls for controlling its general behaviour.

Moving and reordering

Once you've created more than one layer you can reorder them be dragging them up and down in the layer list (on the left side of the timeline).

To move a layer backwards or forwards in time drag its colored duration bar in the work area.

Further control over layers is provided by the Layer tools.


track toggle

Any layer can be made visible or invisible at any time.

Turning a layer invisible will not lose any of its properties, so you can turn layers on and off without losing anything.

Invisible layers will not appear in the viewer and will not be included in any exports.

Make sure you turn on layers you want to see before starting an export!

You can still make adjustments to layers when they are invisible.


The duration of each layer is represented on the timeline by the grey bars (blue when selected).

You can move and trim layers using the duration bar. See the Select tool for more information.



Text layers and media layers such as planes, video, audio and images all start out as 2D layers. These layers can be switched between 2D and 3D at any time using the icon next to the layer name.

Click here for more information on working in 2D and 3D.

3D layers have additional properties for changing the layer's depth position (the Z-axis). If you switch a 3D layer back to a 2D layer any properties you have set for the third dimension are lost, even if you then revert back to 3D.

Don't forget, you can easily use the Undo functionality if you need to restore 3D properties that you have lost by switching back to 2D.

3D unrolled

3D unrolled

Composite shot layers have an additional option called 3D Unrolled.

If you set a composite shot to be a 3D layer it can be transformed in 3D dimensions, appearing as a flat rectangle. The contents of the composite shot are then displayed on that rectangle, in a similar way to videos, images and planes. Even if the composite shot contains 3D layers, they will still be displayed onto the flat plane of the composite shot layer once it is embedded.

3D unrolled works differently, retaining the full depth of the composite shot and not limiting it to a flat plane. The dimensions of the embedded composite shot are also ignored, with its contents displaying in full 3D.

3D unrolled is useful if you want to retain the full 3D depth of a composite shot, without having all of its layers cluttering up your timeline.


The menu at the right of the layer list is for parenting layers together. The menu shows a list of all the layers in the current composite shot and you can choose one to be the parent of the selected layer.

When a layer is parented, it takes its transform source from the 'parent' layer. If you move the parent layer, the 'child' layer also moves.

You can still transform the child layer on top of the transformation already applied from the parent layer.

This is extremely useful if you want to link the movement of layers together. As well as providing an extra level of control, it can also be a useful shortcut if you want several layers to behave in the same way, without having to animate them all individually.

Context menu

Additional options are available from the layer menu, which can be accessed by right clicking on any layer or on an empty area of the timeline.

New layer - behaves identically to the New Layer menu on the timeline.
Blend - choose from a list of blending methods.
Options - turn motion blur on and off and make the layer visible or invisible.
Dimension - switch between 2D, 3D and 3D unrolled.
Parent - choose a layer to use as a parent for the selected layer.
New effect - add an effect to the selected layer, without using the Effects panel.
Cut, copy, paste - provides standard copy & paste features for layers, effects and masks.
Duplicate - creates a separate copy of the layer. This is a useful shortcut alternative to copy and pasting the layer.
Make composite shot - creates a new composite shot from the selected layer. More details here.
Move layer(s) to playhead - moves the layer so that it starts at the current playhead position.
Reset - returns the layer to its default properties.
Delete - removes the layer from the composite shot. You can always undo this if you change your mind.
Rename - renames the selected layer. For layer types that are also listed in the Media panel, renaming here does not affect the source. Similarly, renaming the source in the Media panel will not rename any existing layers.
Properties - opens the properties window for the selected layer. This option is only available for special layers and composite shots.

Additional options are available if your layer has effects or masks. See the Effects and Masking chapters for more information.

RECAP You have fine control over the behaviour and appearance of your layers.