Adobe's After Effects CS5.5 in Review

Product Review: Adobe's After Effects CS5.5

Recently, Adobe released a new version of their well known Creative Suites: Adobe CS5.5. By looking at it, you can take this release as an "incremental update" (due to the point-five version formatting), but that doesn't mean it's lacking significant features. On top of that, Adobe has introduced a new subscription model, making it easier for everybody to use legal software.

If you are familiar with my column, you'll know I am into Media Production, and I usually focus on the video side of Adobe products. In this article, I will be focusing on the new After Effects CS 5.5.

If you're like me when it comes to shooting video, you've probably had the trouble of getting shaky footage because the person shooting it didn't use a steady-cam, or just had problems keeping the camera from moving too much. This is where you face the painful process of cleaning up, stabilizing and softening the shots to make them useable. That's why the new Warp Stabilizer in After Effects CS5.5 is going to be one of my favorite tools from now on.

The Warp Stabilizer is, as the name implies, a stabilizer that removes the unwanted shake of any shot very easily. You just need to select the track you want to stabilize, drop the effect, and After Effects will automatically stabilize it. The stabilization performs two steps: first, it will analyze the entire clip, and then it will use the result to find a way to stabilize it, as well as perform any scaling needed to avoid showing any cropping in the video.


An example of shot stabilization using the new Warp Stabilizer

I've used other stabilizing tools before, but the main difference here is that you don't need to set markers on specific points that may be present in the video at all times (like buildings, a rock, or anything the stabilizer can use as reference). The Warp Stabilizer uses the entire frame to perform stabilization, yielding amazing results with a lot less work.

Those using After Effects 3D capabilities and 3D layers can now take advantage of Camera Lens Blur to create soft focus effects. If you use the 3D layers, you can use it to simulate the depth and focus effects created by real cameras. However, you can also generate a "depth map" that can be used to apply DOF to a 2D layer, which is something similar to one of the applications for Buena Depth Cue for After Effects (you can read my review of Buena Depth Cue here).

Still in the 3D arena, you can now adjust the the light intensity falloff of your 3D lights. Now, lights in After Effects can simulate real lights, so you'll get better results when working with 3D compositing.

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After Effects adds support for more high definition footage formats, like R3D support, XDCAM EX. Version CS5.5 is backwards compatible with CS5 (while After Effects CS5 files cannot be opened in CS4), so you can still work with people who haven't upgraded to the latest release. This is a good thing, since you'll definitely find yourself sharing projects with users who are not using CS5.5.

This release also offers improvements in stereoscopic workflow. You can create a tested composition with the available left and right footages, and then you can preview the project using different previsualization methods (interlaced, stereo pair and different anaglyph modes). Personally, I think After Effects could greatly benefit from Quad stereo buffer view, since some 3D devices use that specific mode (for example, 3D screens with shutter glasses). Besides, After Effects already supports OpenGL.

This version also allows a higher cache limit, so you can store more frames on the disk cache, improving performance.

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As I said before, Adobe has introduced a new subscription model for CS5.5. Instead of paying for the full application, you pay a one-year subscription, or a monthly fee, based on how long you will need it. This is meant to offer users a more affordable way to obtain the software packages based on their needs, rather than paying for the entire suite upfront. You get the same software, and you will also get the updates as long as your subscription is active.

Adobe After Effects CS5.5 offers nice 3D features, an outstanding footage stabilizer, performance improvements, as well as better tools for improving your productivity. For those still using older versions of the software, upgrading can prove easier thanks to the new subscription model.


Editor's Note: Be sure to check out the following related links:


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.

May 30, 2011

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