• Price When Reviewed: £873 plus VAT . upgrade £238 plus VAT

  • Pros: Native 64-bit support improves performance; features AVC-Intra (P2) and RED (R3D) support; new Roto Brush tool with Refine Matte effect; auto-keyframing; improved color handling; includes Imagineer Systems Mocha for AE v2 (with Mocha Shape); includes Digieffects Freeform; includes Synthetic Aperture's Color Finesse 3.

  • Cons: Mastering the Roto Brush takes time and practice; true 3D options are still lacking; no backward compatibility; only 64-bit plug-ins can be used; Mocha for After Effects is not the full v2 version of the application.

  • Expert Rating: We rate this 9 out of 10We rate this 9 out of 10We rate this 9 out of 10We rate this 9 out of 10We rate this 9 out of 10 Best Buy We rate this 9 out of 10

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Mocha for After Effects CS5 v2 ships as a standalone application along with Mocha Shape for creating roto-mattes. Mocha provides 2.5D planar tracking of your footage and creates tracking and corner-pin data that can easily be imported back into your After Effects project. The Mocha Shape plug-in is now included, which allows you to create roto-mattes in Mocha 2 and import the rotoscope data, with variable, per-point edge feathering.

There has been some confusion regarding Mocha for After Effects CS5 v2 and the full version of Mocha 2 from Imagineer Systems. The full version of Mocha 2 that does not ship with After Effects CS5 has a newly designed interface, motion blur mattes, an image stabilization module, and is 64-bit optimized. The Mocha for After Effects 2 is still 32-bit. There is a product comparison chart available on the Imagineer Systems website that describes the differences in detail.

Digieffects Freeform AE

Using displacement maps and meshes that you can distort and animate, the Digieffects Freeform effect (formerly known as Forge Freeform by Mettle.com) plug-in allows you to add simulated depth and distortion to flat 3D planes in After Effects CS5. You can apply either a displacement map to the 3D layer or sub-comp, or manipulate the distortion mesh to create interesting effects in 3D space. It still doesn’t create true volumetric 3D modeling or extrusions, but the distortions do react to the After Effects’ 3D lighting and shadows appropriately, and interact with other 3D layers in your composition, unlike imported Live 3D layers from Photoshop. The Digieffects Freeform effect, now included in the box, creates animated distortion warping and displacement to flat 3D layers.

Import Repoussé 3D from Photoshop CS5

Starting with After Effects CS4, you’ve been able to import 3D layers from Photoshop through the Live 3D feature. Photoshop CS5 has a new feature called Repoussé, which creates volumetric extrusions from text and any layer with an alpha channel. These 3D layers can be imported into After Effects CS5 like any other Live 3D layer.

However, as with all imported 3D objects from Photoshop, there is no real 3D interaction with After Effects lights or other 3D layers. All of the lights on the objects must be applied in Photoshop and remain static on the surface of the object, regardless of how you place this 3D layer in your After Effects scene. You can still animate the position of the 3D object in After Effects, but there will be no interaction or shadows on or from other 3D layers. This is an area in After Effects that I feel Adobe needs to focus on in future versions.

After Effects CS5 is a much-needed and critical upgrade for speed and productivity in a 64-bit workflow. The Roto Brush is handy once you get the hang of it, and the added plug-ins offer advanced capability right within the program. Make sure you keep your CS4 version installed, though, for updating your old projects and to use with all of your older 32-bit plug-ins.