Product Review: Adobe After Effects CS5
In April, Adobe released the new version of their Creative Suite: Adobe CS5, once again raising the bar on media production with their video applications. Some users, however, may need to upgrade their systems in order to fully take advantage of this new suite. In this review I will be focusing on Adobe After Effects CS5.
The most notable change is the fact that After Effects CS5 is 64-bit only (unlike Photoshop CS5, which offers both a 32 and 64-bit version). If you are into animation or media creation, and haven't upgraded your computer to a 64-bit operating system, this is a good time to do it. If you don't have a 64-bit system, Adobe provides a copy of both After Effects and Premire Pro CS4 so you can start working while you upgrade to a 64-bit OS.
After Effects can now take advantage of multiple CPUs differently than before, actually creating new processes that will run on different cores. These multiple processes can serve to help the main application render multiple frames while working, among other tasks.
To me, the most significant addition to the After Effects toolset is the Roto Brush. The Roto Brush is designed to help users in their rotoscoping needs, providing a fast and powerful way of dealing with such scenarios.
Basically, what you do is loosely paint a shape over the object (or person) you want to rotoscope. The nice part is that you don't need to closely follow the contour of the object, meaning you can paint the roto shapes very quick. The tool will analyze the frames, creating a matte with the rotoscoped shape for every frame.
Sometimes the Roto Brush will not pick the exact shape of an object. Luckily, since it's a brush-based tool, you can add and remove parts of the matte just like you would use any of the brush-based masking tools in Photoshop.
You can also use more than one instance of the Roto Brush, in case you may need different mattes for the different parts of the footage, so you can simply set a range for the first Roto Brush, and then use a different time range for the following Roto Brush, and so on. Since the result of the Roto Brush is a matte, you can refine it just like any other matte-generating tool. You can expand it, blur it and such, so you have very good control over it, something nice when you're rotoscoping a person, or any moving object.
After Effects CS5 ships with Color Finesse 3 LE, the color correction and color grading app by Synthetic Aperture. Color Finesse offers a great toolset for users wanting to do coloring on their footage. I do believe it should be included with Premiere Pro as well, since being able to color correct your footage while you're editing would be great (a CUDA-accelerated version would be even better, as it would be the perfect fit for the Mercury Playback Engine in Premiere Pro).
Previously, After Effects had included Imagineer Systems Mocha for After Effects, a rotoscoping and planar tracking software. However, for using the shapes generated by that software, you needed Mocha Shape, a plug-in for After Effects sold separately. In After Effects CS5, Mocha Shape is already included.
Another third party plug-in included in After Effects CS5 is Digieffects FreeForm. FreeForm is a tool you can use to displace and deform flat objects in 3d space.
Now you also have an effect to apply a Color LUT. You can apply the effect to any layer, and then load a LUT file in either .3dl or .cube format. These can be useful to color management or color correction tasks.
There are many other minor changes in After Effects CS5, such as the ability to choose whether you want to align your layers based on a selection or composition, new and improved import formats, and new render templates.
The switch to 64-bit alone will help users improve their workflow greatly, and other features like the Roto Brush and third party plug-ins are a great addition as well. After Effects CS5 is a solid release, although not as groundbreaking as Premiere Pro CS5 and its Mercury Engine.
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Sergio Aris Rosa [nemirc], is Sr. Staff Writer for the Renderosity Front Page News. Sergio discusses on computer graphics software, animation techniques, and technology. He also hosts interviews with professionals in the animation and cinematography fields. You can follow him on Twitter, and if you want to see what he's up to you can visit his blog.
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