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Adobe After Effects 5 Production Bundle

2D/3D compositing and effects suite By Dave Nagel
We were the first to bring you coverage of Adobe After Effects 5, with QuickTime demonstrations of the new software on the very first day of its announcement—even prior to its release. Since that time, we've given a lot of coverage to After Effects and related plugins, and now we'll take a look at the After Effects 5 Production Bundle.

No matter what platform you're on or which editing systems you use, it's difficult to dispute the fact that After Effects has become the standard in compositing. There are legitimate competitors to After Effects in its price range—viz. Discreet Combustion and Pinnacle Commotion—and there are much higher-end systems on the market for those who have a couple hundred thousand dollars in their equipment budget. But no matter the studio, no matter how expansive the studio's budget, chances are that After Effects is somewhere in the mix.

This said, After Effects 5 is really a whole new compositing suite. Sure, it's just like 4.1 in terms of how it looks and, for the most part, how it works. But there are just so many new features (not to mention a few critical workflow improvements) that it's really the first application I've seen in a long time worthy of a full version number upgrade. There is simply no question that those using AE 4.1 should upgrade to 5.0. The real question is which upgrade to get—the standard edition or the Production Bundle (now dongle-free).

In the end, the answer will depend on just which new features you really need, which we hope to help you determine presently.

New features in 5
In both versions, Adobe has brought a host of new features that make this a worthy upgrade. Unless you've been living in a deep crevice on Mars in an alternate dimension, you're probably aware of some of them. Of course, 3D compositing tops most people's lists of drool-inducing features. New motion controls, such as parenting, also make the list. There's also better integration with Photoshop, Illustrator and Premiere. And, of course, there's the ability to output Flash sequences for the Web. Let's take a look at some of the new features and how they compare between the standard edition and the Production Bundle.

Speed and workflow
Both the standard and Production versions offer some critical improvements to the way you work, in terms of both speed and ease of use. The first thing you'll notice and love is AE's new ability to resolve the comp window on the fly for faster scrubbing and manipulation of individual elements. In many cases, this means you get to manipulate in real time, even if you have a number of effects working on the layer you're moving. Essentially, After Effects dumbs down the comp window's resolution while you're working, then brings back the resolution to your desired setting when you've completed your transformations. So no more waiting for a full window render just to move a layer around.

AE 5's dynamic preview automatically "dumbs down" the
resolution of the Comp window to speed up calculations
as you work. On mouseup, resolution returns to normal.

Another major workflow improvement available in both versions is the ability to drag a value setting with your mouse directly in the timeline, without having to call up a pop-up window. I know this doesn't sound very major, but once you've done it a couple times, you'll dread ever having to do it the old way. It's just a simple improvement that saves time and makes life easier for the compositor.

In AE 5, values can be adjusted in the timeline
by dragging the mouse left or right.

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