Thursday, September 16, 2004
Posted by Philip Colmer in "SOFTWARE" @ 10:00 AM
What's New In Version 6.0
Having reached here, you've either used After Effects before or, hopefully, you've now got a reasonable idea of what the software's capabilities.
Here is a quick look at some of what is new and improved in this version:
- Improved integration with Photoshop, Illustrator and Premiere Pro.
AE retains the order of layers in PSD files, preserves formatting on imported text, sets a layer's bounding box to fit each layer when you import Illustrator documents and you can apply effects and masks directly to Illustrator files. AE can import nested Premiere Pro sequences as nested compositions. Files with keyframed transparency, cross-dissolves and motion values are converted to appropriate keyframes in AE.
- Create and animate text in the Composition window.
You can now type, edit and format text within the Composition window and AE allows you to animate a text layer by characters, words, or lines within a single layer. Animation of the text is done without any loss of quality. AE uses a feature called "selectors" to allow you to specify just what gets changed over time. An example of this can be seen by clicking on Figure 11. Believe it or not, this was achieved with just two keyframes - one at the beginning and one at the end of the sequence. Two animators were used - one to bulge the text and set the colour, and the second to gradually reveal the text.
Figure 11: Text animation example. Click on the image to play the Quicktime movie (656KB)
- Paint layers.
AE now has vector paint tools that are based on the same brush engine and tools as in Photoshop. You can use them to retouch footage, perform frame-by-frame touch-ups or even direct painting within the composition. The cloning tools are particularly powerful, working on sequential frames from one layer to another.
- New and enhanced effects.
Liquify tools allow you to distort footage just like the tools in Photoshop, e.g. turbulence, clone, twirl, shift, reflection and reconstruction.
The new warp effect has fifteen pre-set styles allowing you to transform layers into geometric shapes like arches, waves and flags, or simulate the look of objects viewed through a fisheye lens.
The scribble effect allows you to animate a fill or stroke with lines that look like hand-drawn scribbles.
The dust and scratches effect cleans up footage by making dust, scratches and other artefacts less noticeable.
AE is an extremely sophisticated product and there is no getting away from the fact that it has a huge learning curve. If you read the Adobe & Creative Cow forums, you'll find a lot of people asking for advice on how to recreate a particular effect they've got in mind. Some of the respondents say that they've been using AE for years and they are still learning new tricks.
That said, the user interface is easy to navigate and, above all else, consistent. If you've used Premiere Pro and Photoshop, you've got a good start on finding your way around AE. Parameters are set using "twiddles", keyframes, pick whips - all user interface features that are found in other Adobe products.
This release of AE continues to build on the solid functionality of previous versions by enhancing the integration with other Adobe applications, adding more effects to the stable, taking functionality from Illustrator like the text engine and from Photoshop like the paint engine, and adding easier ways to do things like searching for effects that match what you've typed.
Using AE is a bit like learning to program. You can't expect to come up with a Hollywood blockbuster in a week any more than you could expect to write a web service in C# if you've never programmed before. The trick to AE is to start small and gradually learn how different effects can be combined to create unusual, powerful and effective results. This is not a simple product and it isn't intended to be. It is sophisticated and you've got to have a clear idea of what you are trying to achieve in order to be able to figure out what combination of effects will get you there.
It doesn't matter that AE isn't a realtime product. Sure, it would be nice and Adobe, by adding support for OpenGL, has made steps in the direction of speeding up the creative process. But there are plenty of ways that you can help yourself, as explained earlier. The render queue, and the ability to farm out the rendering across multiple machines, means that when you need to get the final rendering done, you can set the queue up and leave it running overnight ... or longer if it is really complicated 8O.
My thanks to Total Training for letting me use some of the projects from their "Total Training for After Effects" product as examples of what can be done with AE. There will be more examples of what you can do with AE in my review of "Total Training for After Effects" ... coming soon to Digital Media Thoughts :).
If you have any problems playing the clips, try it with one at a time (if you try to play too many, IE has a per-site limit and it may time out waiting for the previous downloads to finish) and try saving it to disc first. You will, of course, need QuickTime in order to play them :wink:.
I simply couldn't cover everything that After Effects is capable of, but hopefully, if you've never used it before, you've got a better idea :wink:. AE 6 is a significant product and one that is genuinely by broadcasters and movie makers to help them create their material.
If you want to animate moving text, insert flying spaceships into a video of a field with grazing cows or create sophisticated DVD menus with motion video and animated buttons, AE is your tool. The results will only be limited by your imagination.