The Project panel contains references to all the footage files (images, solids, and composition) that you have imported into your After Effects Project. It also displays comments for your Compositions that you have created in your current project. The media items are denoted as references because of the way the program treats imported files. When imported, your media files remain in their original location on your hard-drive; After Effects creates a link to them. If these files are modified outside After Effects, the application generates a new preview and updates your project accordingly.
This linking system is helpful because you can still manipulate imported objects in their original programs, such as editing an image in Photoshop.
While very useful, linking files in this way can also cause problems: if you move, rename, or delete your original media files, After Effects will lose the link, and it will be unable to display the content.
When working with imported media files in After Effects, you must keep the files located in the assets folder located in you project, because your project needs to be able to locate the objects you import into After Effects order to display them, and when the project files are compiled to an application.
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