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CS3 Production Premium for Motion Graphics and Interactive Enthusiasts, Part 2

Rounding third and heading for home with After Effects, Encore, Photoshop, and the rest By Kevin Schmitt

Like the weekly serials of old, we left off last time with a cliffhanger. What treats were there to be found in the rest of the CS3 Production Premium bundle? Which goodies in After Effects, Encore, Photoshop Extended, and even OnLocation and Ultra would appeal to motion graphics and interactive folk? Well, you didn't have to wait too long to find out, so let's get this sucka done.

Note for those who actually care: Part one of this two-part series can be found by following this link.

After Effects

I know I'm really going out on a limb by saying that AE will, in fact, be of interest to motion graphics pros. Yes, I'm full of these types of daring, radical pronouncements and controversial views. Anyway, it's no secret what AECS3 will feature; after all, you can grab the public beta right now and see for yourself. So in the spirit of self-discovery, and with full knowledge that you can get plenty of in-depth information on what AECS3 brings to the table from numerous other sources, allow me to simply disseminate a few perhaps not-so-obvious tidbits about some peripheral items of note.

First, let's talk about a seemingly innocuous switch buried in AE's preferences panel (fig. 1). By checking the "Render Multiple Frames Simultaneously" box, AE will actually spawn copies of itself and pass off rendering chores to the clone instances. Now, how many times it does this depends on available processors/cores and memory, but provided you have enough of both, previews and renders will be dramatically sped up. The one other caveat is that individual plug-ins have to be updated to take advantage of the multiprocessing advances, so beware add-ons that may drag you down. But overall, you finally have a reason to justify picking up an OctoMac, right? I'm sure you can dig up a few quarters in the couch to take care of that particular purchase.

Figure 1

Moving on, I know I promised in the last installment that I'd mention AE being much more agile when working with SWF files, and as I take great pride in following through on nearly half of the promises I make, chalk this one up in the "kept" column. The bottom line is that if you work with SWF files, you're going to have a much easier time of it this go-round. AECS3 will now continuously rasterize SWF files the way it has historically done with Illustrator files, which not only opens up the possibility of very sharp scaling, but also means that alpha channels will now be respected (fig. 2). Any filters you have placed on your objects in Flash will also make the journey, though blend modes don't seem to be supported (you can always apply one in AE if you need to). The big caveat is that you can't use any of that fancy-schmancy ActionScript 3-based motion; only good, old-fashioned keyframing need apply if you're counting on using an animated SWF file. All in all, though, the situation is much better than in previous versions.

Figure 2: Here's a simple SWF file imported into AECS3 with continuous rasterization turned on and the size bumped up to 782%. The drop shadow filter applied in Flash is reflected in AE's rendering, and the alpha channel allows the purple background color (set in AE) to show through.

Lastly, I'll briefly reiterate what I mentioned in the Flash portion of Part 1: I'm a tad disappointed that there wasn't more crossover between AECS3 and Flash CS3 Professional. Flash would benefit greatly from an After Effects-like timeline mode (there should even be some old LiveMotion code floating around Adobe that could probably work here), and at the very least there should be some level of Dynamic Link-esque back-and-forth between the two programs. Live updates of SWF files. Copy and paste motion between the two programs. Stuff like that. While what we got is pretty good, I'm expecting stuff like this for the CS4 versions of both programs. End of rant; onward and upward.

Photoshop Extended

Photoshop CS3 is already out in final release, and one of the big additions to the new Photoshop Extended product is the ability to manipulate video files and image sequences. While I'm going to focus my energies here on just a couple of features as they relate to how Photoshop specifically plays with some of the other products in the Production Premium bundle, here is a quick rundown of video-related features:

  • You can do the full range of Photoshop-related magic to video files: blend modes, masks, painting, filters, you name it
  • The Animation palette lets you perform rudimentary animation via After Effects-style keyframing (fig. 3)
  • You can create multiple new layers around imported video clips
  • Anything you create is non-destructive to the original video or image sequence
  • Video is actually stored as a PSD file, but (of course) you can render out a QuickTime or image sequence when you're ready (strangely, FLV export is not natively supported for some reason, though you can open and manipulate FLV files)
  • While not technically video-related, Photoshop makes its first foray into 3D with the ability to import 3D models and apply image-based textures which can be updated in real-time

Figure 3


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