Adobe After Effects is to hit version 5.5 when it ships in Q1 2002. After Effects 5.5 is available in two versions – Standard and the Production Bundle. Both add more functionality to the 3D workspace, a range of new effects, a new effects palette, access to more import and export formats, and post-render actions. It supports both Mac OS X and Windows XP, with optimization added for computers with Pentium 4 chips. Although the 3D workspace was introduced in version 5.0, the advanced 3D renderer for creating intersecting layers was only available as a beta from Adobe’s Web site. After Effects 5.5 includes the final version, complete with anti-aliasing and motion blur. To make working in the 3D space easier, Adobe has added a multiple-view feature, so users can add as many views from as many positions as they like, with default layouts for two and four views included. The other major 3D additions are projection layers and coloured shadows. Using the light transmission material property, users can make 3D layers cast coloured shadows or allow light to pass through to create an effect similar to stained glass. The new Metal material option can be used to control the colour of specular highlights. Lights can now be applied through adjustment layers. Palette of effects A new effects palette means effects on a layer can be seen, with tabs allowing users to quickly switch between layers. Post-render actions are also designed to speed up workflow, giving users new options for proxies and defining output chains. AE’s expressions have been added to, and now include functions such as access to interface elements such as slider bars, simple looping and random values not based on time. Adding Z-depth The supported import formats list has been increased to include Mac-created MPEG-1, Flash (SWF), and 16-bit formats including Maya IFF, QuickTime, RLA and SGI. After Effects 5.5 can also import Discreet’s RPF format with the Z-depth, alpha channel and coverage data intact. AE 5.5 can also export RealMedia files directly from the Render Queue with keywords, descriptions and other information. Version 5.0 came under fire for its small number of new features for the Production Bundle option. The upgrade adds more to the Production Bundle, including two effects – Advanced Lightning and Colour Stabilizer – plus the Smart Mask Interpolation Keyframe Assistant for better rotoscoping, the ability to import 3D camera information from Maya (directly from projects) and 3DS Max (from RLA and RPF files), and a free copy of the Zaxwerks 3D Invigorator Classic plug-in. The Smart Mask Interpolation Keyframe Assistant is designed to help with the creation of animated masks, which Adobe claims works even on detailed mask shapes. The assistant can duplicate masks and apply motion blur. 3D camera animation Importing of 3D camera information allows animated elements to be precisely composited with live footage, and provides information for mattes and colour correction. Zakwerks 3D Invigorator Classic, which Adobe cites as being worth around £350, allows users to turn 2D artwork into 3D objects. It includes anti-aliasing, material editing tools, and works with AE’s Favourites system for easy replication of results – it can also ‘paint’ movies onto objects and import FreeHand and Illustrator files. Pricing for the full version of After Effects 5.5 will be £499 plus VAT for the Standard edition and £1,200 plus VAT for the Production Bundle. Upgrades from version 5.0 will cost £75 plus VAT. Full details including exclusive shots are in the new issue of Digit (43), on sale Thursday!