Product Review: Page (1) of 2 - 02/27/09 Email this story to a friend. email article Print this page (Article printing at page facebook

Adobe After Effects CS4

The world standard for motion graphics By Kevin McAuliffe

I'm really going to be dating myself by saying this, but I have been an After Effects user for a long time, since version 3.1.  At the time, the coolest feature anyone had ever seen was the RAM Preview, which we all now take for granted.  With the advancement of After Effects over the years, we have seen many amazing new features like 3D space, 32-bit float, Open GL support and expressions to name a very, very few.  We're almost at the point where users are saying "What else could they possibly add?"  Well, let's see what they have added and updated in the new Adobe After Effects CS4.

My first suggestion with installation is to make sure that you have completely removed After Effects CS3 or below before you start your install of CS4.  Depending on the package you purchased, your installation screen will look something like this.

Now, keep in mind that I am reviewing the OS X version of After Effects CS4, so I will be mentioning things relevant to Mac users only.  Something very important for Mac users to know is that all of the CS4 products for Mac are only supported on Intel based CPU's.  All you Power PC users out there are unfortunately out of luck and will need to upgrade your hardware to take advantage of everything CS4 has to offer.  Depending on which version of the Creative Suite you purchased, installation times will vary, but you should be up and running with After Effects in about 20 minutes (assuming you have installed just AE). I also want to mention that you can download a free 30 day demo of After Effects CS4, so you can try before you buy!

What you get and how it works
Now, I mentioned before that there were different versions of the Creative Suite 4 that After Effects is included in, and what I meant by that is that you can have it bundled with the Master Collection, the Production Premium or just After Effects on its own.  The version of CS4 that you choose is not relevant to your After Effects experience, as there is no "Production" and "Regular" version any more, there's just After Effects.  Here's a breakdown of what's new.

Cartoon Effect
Just as it says, you now don't have to buy a third party effect to add that cartoon look to your footage.  Simply navigate to EFFECT>STYLIZE>CARTOON.

In about three seconds flat, you will be able to create a pretty cool looking cartoon effect.


Until now, when working in 3D space, you had to apply one keyframe that represented your X,Y and Z values.  Well, that has now all changed.  Once you promote your clip to 3D, you can select the "Position" attribute (select your clip and then press "P" on your keyboard), and then navigate to  ANIMATION>SEPARATE DIMENSIONS, and as soon as you select it, you will notice that you now have individual control over your X, Y and Z locations for even more realistic animations.

Also, for all you users who use a three button mouse, Adobe has included a "Unified Camera" tool to allow you to work with your three button mouse, as if you were working in a 3D animation program.

Export rich media to Flash
Now, not only can you import FLV files into After Effects to include in your projects, but you can also now export your compositions as layered projects to Flash CS4 with no transcoding required. 

Better support for mobile devices

More and more these days, editors and motion graphic designers are being called upon to create animations for customers on the go.  The process is actually very easy, and (for all you beginners out there) requires no knowledge of After Effects.  Simply open Device Central CS4, and select "Create a New Mobile Adobe After Effects File."

Now, find the device you want to create the composition for, and double click on it, and you will now see that it has appeared in your "Local Library."

Now simply select "Create," and (if you already have After Effects CS4 open), a new folder will appear with your new mobile device preset. This whole process took about two minutes to do, and I didn't even read a manual on how to do it.  That's how easy it is!

Import Photoshop 3D layers
Here's one that everyone is really going to jump for.  Here's a 3D object that I created in Photoshop.

Now, I'm just going to save it out as a regular Photoshop file, and then go into After Effects, and select FILE>IMPORT.  Once I have selected the clip, and pressed "OK", a new window appears.

Now, I'm going to import it as a composition, but I want to make sure that I select "Live Photoshop 3D," before I import the PSD file.  Now, once I click "OK," a new composition is imported with a camera and a new type of layer called "Layer Controller."

This layer will control your 3D element from Photoshop.  Use it to change position, rotation, etc.  Nice!


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Related Keywords:after effects training, motion graphics, special effects, compositing, graphics


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