Price When Reviewed: 565 . 915 . 69 . 915
Pros: More new features than most point-zero upgrades. Advanced Clone tool saves much time on boring jobs. Disk caching also speeds things up.
Cons: Cycore effects are only 8-bit. Unchangeable background colour. Grid computing plug-in essentially a demo.
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Of the three updates to Adobe’s Video Collection, After Effects has got the most out of the point-five upgrade. Plus, it costs £70 plus VAT whether you’re upgrading the Standard Edition or the Professional Edition, which is very reasonable.
AE 6.5 claims more than 60 new effects, most of which have been bought from Cycore – the creators of the popular Final Effects plug-in set. Most of these are solid, one-shot effects, though effects such as the Particle World particle system are impressive. Professional Edition owners may be disappointed that the Cycore effects are 8-bit only – to get 16-bit versions you’ll have to pay an as-yet undetermined amount extra for Cycore FX HD 1.0, which is due out soon. Adobe has upgraded more than 30 other effects to 16-bit colour.
There is a new ability to darken the interface – making After Effects look as grown-up as Combustion. However, you can’t change the background shade, so you can’t darken the interface to focus on the video you’re working on.
More impressive are the Photoshop-pilfered Shadows/Highlights, Auto Color, Auto Contrast, and Auto Levels filters, as seen in Premiere Pro (reviewed opposite). Professional Edition owners will be happy with the bundling of Synthetic Aperture’s Color Finesse plug-in, which offers the most detailed colour-correction system around, though its one failing is its inability to show all layers of a comp. This can be pain when correcting keyed media because you can’t see the background. Adobe has bundled the Add Grain, Match Grain, and Remove Grain tools from the excellent Visual Infinity’s Grain Surgery plug-in set.
Attack of the clones
The Advanced Clone tool adds a visual overlay function, allowing you to see source and target simultaneously. It has five user-set presets that sit in the paint palette, which speed up repetitive tasks. It’s not as automated as specific-process plug-ins, such as expensive wire-removal tools, but it’s the best you’ll get without paying a large premium.
Disk caching fills in after the RAM preview has been filled, and keeps your real-time preview looking good. Much has been made of GridIron’s X-Factor grid computing system, which uses spare processing power on other workstations to speed up previews. However, it’s not integrated with AE’s preview systems and with the two node licences you get for free, it’s slower than using AE’s RAM preview. For larger facilities, we expect the full versions with many more nodes to have a greater impact.
Other new features include FireWire monitor preview, better Encore DVD integration (see review on page 100), and better scripting and OpenGL support. There’s support for AAF and OMF, Photoshop files with text and 16-bit colour data intact, and you can cut-&-paste between After Effects and Premiere Pro. The tracker has been improved by adding axis restraints, feature magnification up to 400 per cent, and rotation and scale tracking support.
Overall After Effects 6.5 still provides the best mix between Combustion’s visual-effects toolset and Boris Red’s motion-graphics abilities. Some users will be disappointed with certain features – such as the 8-bit Cycore effects – but for £70, there’s little here to complain about.
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