Restoring Order: A Guide to Resetting Your Timeline in After Effects

The timeline in After Effects is the heart of your composition. It's where you arrange layers, set keyframes, and control the flow of your animation. However, during editing, you might accidentally adjust settings or encounter glitches that throw your timeline out of whack. This article will equip you with various methods to reset your timeline in After Effects, depending on the specific issue you're facing.

Understanding the Timeline:

Before diving into reset techniques, let's clarify the aspects of the timeline you might want to reset:

  • Start/End Time: This defines the overall duration of your composition in seconds or frames.
  • Work Area: This designates a specific portion of your timeline for previewing or exporting, independent of the composition's total duration.
  • Zoom Level and Scrolling: These control how much of the timeline you see at once and your current position within it.
  • Layer Properties: These encompass individual layer settings within the timeline, such as in/out points, opacity curves, and animation keyframes.

Resetting the Start/End Time:

If your composition duration has been inadvertently altered, here's how to restore it to zero:

  1. Go to the Composition menu at the top of the interface.
  2. Select Composition Settings.
  3. In the Composition Settings dialog box, locate the Start Timecode field.
  4. Enter 00:00:00:00 (for timecode format) or 0 (for frames format) in the field.
  5. Click OK to apply the changes.

Resetting the Work Area:

The work area can become deselected or encompass an unintended portion of your timeline. Here's how to reset it:

  • Double-click anywhere in the highlighted yellow area representing the work area on your timeline. This instantly resets the work area to encompass the entire composition duration.

Resetting Zoom Level and Scrolling:

If you've zoomed in too far or lost track of your position on the timeline, here are two options:

  • Fit to Comp: Click the Fit to Comp button (magnifying glass icon with a rectangle frame) in the timeline ruler. This displays the entire composition within the timeline view.
  • Home Key: Press the Home key on your keyboard. This jumps the Current Time Indicator (CTI) to the beginning of the timeline.

Resetting Layer Properties:

If you want to reset specific properties of a layer within the timeline, such as animation keyframes or in/out points, here are two approaches:

  • Layer Menu: Right-click on the layer in the timeline and select Clear > [Property Name]. For example, select "Clear > Keyframes" to remove all animation keyframes from the layer.
  • Property Panel: Open the layer's properties panel (usually by double-clicking the layer name in the timeline). Locate the specific property you want to reset (e.g., opacity curve) and click the Reset button next to the property value.

Advanced Techniques:

  • Timeline Panel Reset: While less common, some After Effects plugins or scripts might offer a "Reset Timeline" function within their own panels. Consult the plugin's documentation for specific instructions.
  • Project Relaunch: In rare cases, a persistent timeline issue might be resolved by simply closing and relaunching your After Effects project.

Remember: Resetting actions can't always be undone, especially when dealing with clearing keyframes or animation data. It's advisable to back up your project before making significant changes.


By understanding these reset methods, you can regain control over your timeline in After Effects and ensure your animations unfold as intended. Remember, customization is key for efficient editing, but knowing how to reset your timeline empowers you to troubleshoot issues and maintain a well-organized workflow.

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