After Effects 5
at a Glance

Maker: Adobe
Price: $1,499 Production Bundle/$649 standard edition
Platforms: Macintosh and Windows
URL: http://www.adobe.com

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 8 of 8]

Parenting
In After Effects 5, there's a new feature called parenting, which should be familiar to 3D animators. The concept in AE is that you can link layers to one another in parent-child relationships so that transformations on one layer can affect another in a manner similar to an IK chain.

Parent-child relationships aren't limited to footage layers. You can also define relationships between light and camera layers in 3D compositions. This allows a camera to track individual elements in a composition and lights to keep objects illuminated regardless of their movement.

Establishing parent-child relationships is just a matter of dragging a target icon from the source layer to another layer's parenting column in the timeline—or you can use scripting (called "Expressions"), which we'll address below.

Expressions
Another major new feature in After Effects 5 is a scripting function called Expressions. Expressions are JavaScripts that allow you to create arbitrary relationships between parameters for things like procedural-type animations without using keyframes. With expressions, you can create a live relationship between the behavior of one property in a composition and the behavior of almost any other property on any other layer.

For example, you can link the opacity of one layer to the scale of another, while the tracking of path-based text can be linked to the rotation of another layer.

To create these types of expressions, you drag the expression picker from the property that is to be animated to the property that the animation will be based on. After Effects automatically creates the expression for you. You can also drag the picker between the Timeline and Effect Controls windows.

For those familiar with JavaScript, you can also write your own scripts by defining variables and using other basic JavaScript programming concepts. There's also a popup list of common After Effects functions to speed the process and to eliminate errors.

The bottom line
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. After Effects 5 is only the second application we've reviewed that receives our "Must Buy" recommendation. Actually, it's the second and third, since we're giving this recommendation to both the standard edition and the Production Bundle. The question is simply what your studio needs more: the standard edition, with all of the compositing power and most of the effects, or the Production Bundle, with its more varied effects, its keying capabilities, its audio tools, its expanded 3D functions, its 16-bit per channel color and its network rendering.

After Effects is 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. It belongs at the core of every video professional's suite of tools.

Adobe After Effects 5 is available for $1,499 for the Production Bundle and $649 for the standard version. Upgrades from the 3.x/4.x Production Bundle to the 5.0 Production Bundle Cost $299. Upgrades from the 3.x/4.x standard version to the 5.0 standard version cost $199.

For more information, visit http://www.adobe.com.

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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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