Following hot on the heels of Adobe Premiere 6.0 comes Adobe’s announcement of a new version of its popular visual-effects tool After Effects. Promising hundreds of new features and enhancements, After Effects 5.0 is designed to cater for a broader range of users than previously, says the company. Pointing to the growing interest and use of DV technology along with the need to create and repurpose content for Web delivery, Adobe aims to make After Effects an essential tool for Web designers and prosumer users as well as high-end video and film professionals. Scheduled to ship in early summer, the new release will be available in two flavours: a Standard version priced at £450 and a Production Bundle (£999). Upgrades will be available for £130 and £189 respectively. (All prices plus VAT.) A new dimension Top of the features list for the new version is support for 3D compositing – a move that has been warmly welcomed by beta users who spoke exclusively to Digit. After Effects users can now mix 2D and 3D layers in a single composition, create and animate lights that cast true shadows, as well as define and animate multiple camera viewpoints and properties – such as position, rotation and orientation – to produce a wide range of effects. Other new features include Parenting, which will allow users to define parent-child relationships between layers so that child layers automatically inherit all of the transformations applied to the parent, and Expressions for creating procedural-type animations without using resorting to keyframes. Vector in on digital video For the first time, After Effects users (Production Bundle only) can enjoy vector paint tools directly within the package. These non-destructive vector tools can be used in a number of ways to enhance compositions. For example, you can use painted strokes as a track matte to reveal underlying text over time, clean up hard-to-key footage by painting in the alpha channel, or paint precise animation from frame to frame with the Onion Skin mode. Version 5.0 features several new effects including Shatter, which explodes a layer into puzzle pieces, glass shards and other patterns; Radio Waves, which creates radio waves, pond ripples and other effects that use a repeating shape emitted from a single point; and Vegas for funky object outlines of casino-style running lights or flashing pulses. One beta user – who declined to be identified – said the new masking capabilities were especially powerful. You can now create masks on the fly by drawing them directly in the Comp window, assign colours to masks to make them easier to identify, apply Motion Blur for more realistic mask animations as well as adjust the inner and outer edges for finer control. The Production Bundle also offers improved controls for creating accurate keys for removing an object from its background. Output to Web Recognizing the fact that many more creative professionals are creating content to be viewed online, Adobe has added several new features that optimize output for Web delivery. Users can now export animations in Macromedia Flash files, embed URLs into Flash, AVI and QuickTime files by using a layer marker, and use QuickTime and MP3 audio compression codecs for faster download speeds. This versatility extends to the addition of 16-bit compositing, with users of the Production Bundle able to chose between 8-bit or 16-bit per channel mode as required. This will allow for higher colour fidelity for uses such as digital film and HDTV. A better workflow Adobe has also made a number of enhancements to streamline After Effects workflow. These include dynamic previews in the Comp window, extended control over RAM previews, such as the ability to define an area of interest in a composition so you can view it quickly as well as new playback options, and intelligent caching that sees only frames affected by an edit re-rendered. The latest release of After Effects also offers tighter integration with other Adobe tools. It now supports 16-bit colour images from Photoshop along with vector masks applied to imported images. Layers and transparency within Illustrator files are preserved, and collaboration between After Effects and Premiere projects has now been made simpler. Digit will bring you the worldwide exclusive review as soon as it ships.