Magazine article Metro Magazine

Adobe after Effects 6.0

Magazine article Metro Magazine

Adobe after Effects 6.0

Article excerpt

By virtue of the number resting after a software title, you can get an immediate perspective on the longevity, popularity and market share of a software application. Pretty much anything that is in a version beyond three has paid its dues in the cut throat environment of creative software development, Adobe's After Effects, now in version six, is a dead-set grandmother of the post-production world, cantankerously sitting on the porch waving her cane at all the young whipper-snappers who want to usurp her place as the compositing family matriarch.

But is After Effects as robust and full of energy as she was, with the added advantage of wisdom and years of experience? Or is the sun setting on a long and gracious career at the top, with the newer generation beginning to outwit her?

In the past few months Adobe has been on a rampage of new releases, headlines, and corporate directions; Encore DVD, Audition, Premiere Pro, Creative Suite bundles, Photoshop CS (instead of a version eight), not to mention the very interesting backlash against Apple with no Mac versions at all for three of Adobe's new products. It has been a noteworthy year for the software giant.

So what's new?

In feeling your way for the first few times around AE6, you will find enough new features and substantial improvements to undoubtedly make you think 'age hath not wearied'. One of the most notable new improvements that has received a lot of attention and praise from users is the suite of options and flexibility available for working with text.

Text layers can now remain as vector elements pretty much right through the production process until final output. This means that if you are an atrocious speller, as am I, you can always go back and edit the text.

Of course the power of maintaining vectors in a composition goes far beyond those with grammatical disabilities. All vector elements, including paths, masks, and free-form vector shapes, are created by the Pen tool; all remain flexible and able to be edited. Moreover--the real step forward in this regard--these vector elements can be animated and keyframed whilst remaining vectors. This may seem like a fairly simple idea but the flexibility it provides should not be underestimated.

The use of vectors in AE has been improved across the board and version six provides comprehensive tools for vector painting. Employing much the same brush options as other Adobe applications such as Photoshop and Illustrator, AE6 allows for rotoscoping directly into the composition and onto individual layers, with flexible control of colour, opacity, width, edge hardness, spacing and angle; there is even the ability to paint directly to the Alpha channel. This alone will mean a few less times you have to move outside AE to Photoshop to create free-form masks and paths.

As with text, the rotoscoping paint elements remain vectors and don't need to be rasterised into the layer to take effect or continue working on other parts of the composition.

The suite of effects and filters available in After Effects has always been substantial, to say the least, but version six expands this package yet again. Many of the new effects have been brought over from Photoshop, so we now see Liquefy and Warp effects with much the same controls and properties as they do in the 2D, static world of Photoshop; only now they also have full keyframe animation ability.

More subtle than warping, but probably more useful, are effects such as Dust and Scratches simulation, which provide for a very effective emulation of old and timeworn film. Keying controls for both Luma and Chroma keys have also been updated, with finer controls and a range of options for pulling clean mattes and masks.

But of course effects and plugins are only useful if the processing engine running the show is good gear. AE6 goes in the same direction that a great many compositing applications (and NLEs for that matter) have moved of late, in implementing OpenGL protocols for more effective use of system resources for drawing and rendering images in 3D space. …

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