After Effects 5
at a Glance

Maker: Adobe
Price: $1,499 Production Bundle/$649 standard edition
Platforms: Macintosh and Windows

Overall Impression: Adobe After Effects is an absolutely essential component in any effects and compositing workflow. After Effects 5 takes this essential suite to the next level with incredibly powerful new tools. It's a pleasure to work with, and, of course, its features make it one of the all-time great applications for video professionals, whether you're new to After Effects or thinking of upgrading from version 4.1, whether you use the standard edition or the Production Bundle.

Key Benefits: AE 5 is a dramatic improvement over AE 4.1, which wasn't at all bad to start with. The new 3D compositing, parenting and expressions features make it a truly valuable tool for the most complex work. For the Production Bundle, the new effects alone justify the $800 difference in price from the standard edition, but you get a whole host of other advanced features included in the deal: keying tools, time displacement, rendering and particle simulation tools, motion tools and, of course, 16-bit per channel color.

Disappointments: Render times can be excruciatingly long, but we hope this will be rectified with the next release of the ICE accelerator board for AE. The Advanced Renderer is still in beta. And the Render Engine (for network rendering) supports only image sequences.

Recommendation: Must Buy


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REVIEW JULY 11, 2001
Adobe After Effects 5 Production Bundle
[Page 4 of 8]

Adobe After Effects 5 Particle Playground
Particle Playground lets you map images and movies
to a particle generator for a variety of effects, from
explosions to foam to a flood of Steve Jobs heads.

Other video effects included in the Production Bundle package are Glow, Scatter, Alpha Levels and Time Displacement.

Overall, the effects included with the Production Bundle blow the standard edition away. The effects in the Production Bundle alone justify the $800 difference in price from the standard edition.

Audio in After Effects?
It's difficult for me to conceptualize After Effects as a program that supports anything more than the barest audio functions. Audio is quite important for compositing, of course, though I doubt anybody would use AE for audio editing or effects. Why? There are too many professional tools on the market that are cheap or free and that are specifically geared for audio production (Pro Tools Free, for example). And, for higher-end work, I'd be surprised to find any studio out there that would be willing to settle for AE's audio capabilities.

Adobe After Effects 5 Parametric EQ
The Parametric EQ from AE 5's Production Bundle.

Nevertheless, the Production Bundle does include six exclusive effects for working with audio. These include Flange & Chorus, High-Low Pass, Modulator, Parametric EQ, Reverb and Tone. These are all pretty self-explanatory. The only one that might throw you is tone, which renders one of any number of tone effects, such as a siren, telephone or other device that uses a simple, repeating sound. The effects have to be set manually, with no presets provided for any particular sounds.

There are some RAM preview problems with audio in After Effects 5, which I'll detail later.

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Dave Nagel is the producer of Creative Mac and Digital Media Designer; host of several World Wide User Groups, including Synthetik Studio Artist, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe InDesign, Adobe LiveMotion, Creative Mac and Digital Media Designer; and executive producer of the Digital Media Net family of publications.
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