Collaborate Using the Baton Panel in After Effects

On a given project, there’s usually more than one motion designer working on multiple After Effects files. If you’re working on the same AE file at the same time as a fellow designer, there’s a good chance you’ll overwrite each other’s changes.

You.i Platform provides a tool called Baton Panel to address this problem. Using this panel, you can mark an After Effects file as locked while working on it, and unlocked when the work is done. The status of a file is displayed in the Panel to everyone who has the file open in After Effects. If you open a file that is already locked, a message appears letting you know that the file is locked and by whom.

The Baton Panel doesn’t manage versioning of your AE files. If version control is important for your project, you can use any repository or version control method in conjunction with the Baton Panel.

Your project needs to be configured to use the Baton Server before the Panel can be used. This task is done by a developer on the project team, and is slightly different if you’re using a repository for your project. As an optional feature, the Baton Server can be configured to send file status updates to a Slack channel.

Once the Baton Server is successfully set up, the AE file status is automatically tracked in the Baton Panel.

Install and Configure the Baton Panel

In your You.i Platform package, the Baton Panel plugin is combined with the main AE plugin, so executing the steps to install the AE plugin will also install the Baton Panel. See Design Software Installation Instructions for installation steps.

To access the Panel from within After Effects, select You.i Baton from the Window menu. The Baton Panel opens, and you can arrange it in your workspace like any other AE panel.

If the Baton Panel fails to connect to the Server, it displays this message:

Screen capture of the Baton Panel with a server error

Try clicking the Refresh button, to the left of the Settings gear icon, to refresh the server.

If the problem persists, it may be an issue with the Baton Server’s configuration that requires your project developer’s help to resolve.

Set Your Username

By default, the Baton Panel chooses your machine’s login name as the username. This username is displayed alongside the Locked By field under the Baton Panel to indicate who has the file locked.

You can change your username to be more identifiable to your colleagues. Click the Baton Panel gear icon to open the Settings menu and click the Username text box. Enter your new username and click Submit. Your new username appears on any files you have locked.

Screen capture of the change username screen for Baton Panel

Under Settings, you’ll also find a list of all the AE files in the project you’re working on, displayed with their current status and the name of the person who has them locked.

Screen capture of the Baton Panel with files and their states

Using the Baton Panel

Open a File and Check Its Status

Whenever you open an AE file, make sure to check its status in the Baton Panel. The file status of locked or unlocked displays at the top left of the Baton Panel along with details like locked by whom, project name, and file name.

Another way to check file status is by selecting the Settings menu in the top right hand corner of the Baton Panel, and checking under the Files section at the bottom.

If you attempt to open a file that is already locked by another designer, you’ll see a message like this:

Screen capture of the Baton Panel warning that the file is locked by another user

Refresh the Panel

The Refresh option to the left of the settings icon in the Baton Panel refreshes both the AE file that you’re currently working in, as well as the status of all AE files listed under Settings.

If you are using a repository, it’s good practice to refresh the panel whenever you fetch the latest changes from the project repository. This updates the status changes to that file, if any.

Lock a File

Open an AE file and click the lock icon in the Baton Panel to lock the file you’ve chosen. If your project is in a repository, make sure to fetch the latest updates from the repository before you lock the file and start making changes.

Make sure to lock the AE file before you start working on it, to avoid any fellow designer overwriting your changes.

Screen capture of the Baton Panel showing that a file has been locked

Unlock a File

Use the unlock button (open padlock) on the Panel to unlock your file after you‘ve made your changes, so it can be picked up by another designer.

If you’re using a repository, it’s good practice to commit the file with your changes before you unlock it for someone else to work on. This way you ensure that your changes don’t get overwritten or lost in any merge conflicts.

Screen capture of the Baton Panel showing that a file has been unlocked

Force Unlock a File

In the event that a file has been left locked by a user who isn’t available to unlock it, you can force unlock the file by clicking the unlock icon. This prompts a pop up message to confirm the unlock operation.

Screen capture of the Baton Panel screen asking you if you want to force a file unlock