After Effects is still the most popular compositing application for video and animation professionals, though it has strong competition from Apple’s Motion and Boris Red for motion-graphics work, and Eyeon’s Fusion and The Foundry’s Nuke for VFX work.
AE’s combination of toolsets for both disciplines gives it this wide appeal, and the new release adds functions that will appeal to both types of user. AE CS4 features the same interface design as the rest of the suite, though it’s a purely aesthetic change, with a lot of curves squared off.
A lot of effort has clearly gone into making complex projects easier to navigate. The timeline can easily get cluttered when you’re working with large numbers of layers with multiple effects on each, and opening and closing layer triangles can be time-consuming. AE CS4 adds a search facility (below) where you can type all or part of a parameter, effect or layer name and only the matching elements are displayed.
This could be a huge timesaver, not only for navigation complex projects, but also for modifying parameters across different layers (for example, finding all of the Position parameters so you can move them 20 pixels to the right). The search facility has also been added to the Project and Effects & Presets panels, which again is useful if you’ve forgotten which folder your asset is in, or which category the effect you want comes under.
Alongside this is the ability to see a flowchart (below) of how compositions are nested inside others. It makes using nested compositions easier, and this does a great job of encouraging you to build ‘comps of comps’ to see more easily how your project is organized.