Best Buy
  • Price: 565 . 915 . 169 . 915

  • Company: Adobe

  • Pros: Redesigned interface speeds up workflow. Graph editor offers more control over effects. 32-bit boosts output quality. OpenGL 2.0 implementation makes 3D compositing faster. New timewarp effect.

  • Cons: OpenGL system occasionally crashes and doesn’t work under 32-bit mode. Animation Presets weakly implemented.

  • Our Rating: We rate this 9 out of 10 We rate this 9 out of 10

After Effects is the workhorse of compositors, motion graphics artists, and animators. It doesn’t have the kudos of flashier, VFX-focused tools such as Combustion and Shake – but it’s still the best all-round tool for creatives working with motion media.

Adobe hasn’t taken its foot off the pedal for AE’s seventh major release. High-end users working on digital intermediate (DI) and digital film projects will love the expanded colour space, with support for HDR 32-bit media. There’s a hugely expanded set of presets that are bound to appeal to creatives who work to tight deadlines in the corporate video market. And every user will appreciate the much-improved interface.

After Effects has always suffered from an interface that can easily get very messy, with up to 20 palettes overlapping and blocking each other (with the long, thin Effects and Effect Control palettes always being the worst offenders).

The new interface (above right) takes inspiration from compositing heavyweights Shake and Eyeon Fusion – though Apple’s Motion also comes to mind. Palettes now always snap to each other, so they can’t slip out of sight or block others, and they can be collected into grouped sets. Combined with the darker interface shade enabled in AE 6.5, this makes AE look like a much more grown-up compositor – and it acts like one too.

This responsive layout is replicated across the rest of the new Production Studio: Premiere Pro 2.0 and Encore DVD 2.0.

It’s not just an organizational user interface (UI) upgrade though. AE 7.0 has gained a graph editor (below) – something that Shake and Digital Fusion have long held over After Effects. This enables you to modify effect and transform parameters over time using bézier curves, giving you more control over how values change between keyframes, compared to traditional linear or ease in/out types.

 border=0 /><BR></div>
</p>
<p>
For practical reasons, you’re only going to want to work on a few parameters at once, but as the graph editor is an integral part of AE’s timeline, any keyframable parameter from any effect can be adjusted using the graph editor – including third-party effects.
</p>
<p>
The editor may be a high-end feature, but its simplicity and power will have users at every level using it regularly.
</p>
<p>
<img src=

Unfortunately, not all of AE’s effects work in 32-bit space. Most of the blurs and colour correction tools do, as do the bundled Keylight and Color Finesse plug-ins – but Ramp is the only generator that’s 32-bit. You also lose the OpenGL preview mode when working in 32-bit space. Most motion graphics artists will therefore want to work in 16-bit (or even 8-bit) mode, only switching the project over to 32-bit before rendering.

Playback of 3D workspaces and effects has been improved through support for OpenGL 2.0 – though this relies on your graphics card supporting the newer version of the 3D standard. We compared performance of a 3D scene built from rotating, keyed HD image sequences (stored on a Huge Systems MediaVault U320R SCSI drive – reviewed on page 110) in After Effects 6.5 and 7.0, running on a HP xw9300 workstation (reviewed on page 93).

We saw on obvious improvement in real-time 3D performance and preview times in version 7.0. The same is true for the claimed boost in mask rendering time.

However, the OpenGL preview system did crash a few times under the load (below), requiring a restart of AE.

 border=0 /><BR></div>
</p>
<p>
This update is light on new effects. There are only three new additions: two blurs (Lens and Smart) and Timewarp. Lens Blur, as the name suggests, mimics the blur effects of real-world lenses. There’s a wide level of control, but no presets.
</p>
<p>
Smart Blur is designed to smudge uniform areas while leaving edges crisp. In practice, its results are more artistic than realistic, but when combined subtly with another blur, it’s great for cleaning up overly-compressed footage.
</p>
<p>
Timewarp is based on the F_Kronos retiming plug-in from The Foundry’s Furnace set. After Effects already features the company’s Keylight keying plug-in, and this is just as good. The Timewarp plug-in produces cleaner slow motion than AE’s out-of-the-box tools were capable of before, with smooth control offered by the graph editor.
</p>
<p>
Timewarp isn’t just a plug-in though. You can use the underlying technology directly on clips on the timeline by selecting Pixel Motion instead of the Frame Blending, which is useful if you want a clip to be extended to fit a fixed time rather than based on its content.
</p>
<p>
<div class=floatedimage><img src=
Characters remaining: 335

Comments