This is the ninth part of a series of reviews that will cover what is contained in the Adobe Creative Suite 3 (CS3) Master Collection. When Adobe released CS3 in 2007, they not only released single version products, but also six separate suites of products. They are Design Premium, Design Standard, Web Premium, Standard, Production Premium, and Master Collection. You can go online to compare what is contained in each version. The goal of this series it to define what each product does and provide information of what the new version brings to the table.
Adobe After Effects is a digital motion graphics and compositing software that is published by Adobe Systems. It can be used for both film and video post-production. It uses a system of layers organized on a timeline to create composites from still images and motion footage such as from video files.
What do you need to run Adobe After Effects CS3? On Windows you need an Intel® Pentium® 4 1.4 GHz of DV, 3.8GHz for HDV, Intel Centrino®, Intel Xeon® dual 2.6GHz for HD, or Intel Core™ Duo (or compatible) processor, Windows XP SP2 or Vista, on Mac, PowerPC® G4 or G5 or multicore Intel processor, Mac OS X v10.4.8 – 10.5 (Leopard), 1GB RAM for DV, 2GB for HDV or HD, 1,024×768 monitor resolution with 16-bit video card, 500 MB hard drive space plus 2GB for extra optional content and DVD-ROM Drive.
• Shape Layers – bring to Adobe After Effects, a vector based drawing tool that allows you to create vectors from within After Effects itself. Prior to CS3, if you needed vector graphics, you would have to own and use a product like Illustrator to create the shapes and then import them in. Now, with Shape Layers, you can do this from within After Effects.
• Puppet Tool – allows you to add life to any shape or layer. Virtually any layer is a candidate for Puppet tool animation. This gives new possibilities to text animation as individual letters and words can take on the life of an animated character. Shape Layers can be manipulated to create organic motions with just a few drags of the mouse. In the image below, the one on the left is the original image and the one on the right is after using some of the puppet pins to change the guy in the image.
• Photoshop Integration – will allow you to reach new heights in creativity by utilizing some of the powerful features from Photoshop such as Layer Styles, Video Layers, and Vanishing Point.
• Integration with Adobe Flash CS3 Professional – by using some of the new support for Flash designers. You can now create and export cue points in Flash video files, enhancing the interactive potential of the animations that you create. It also allows you to enable continuous rasterization of vector shapes and to preserve alpha channels from Flash as you would from Illustrator or Photoshop.
• Per Character 3D Text animation – lets you create interesting visual images by allowing individual letters and words to be independently manipulated in 3D space. This will greatly enhance the types of text animations that you can create. No longer will you have to fake movement in 3D space.
• Brainstorm – changes the way that you can experiment with different motion graphics and effects. It allows you to now interactively create a wide range of possibilities quickly and preview them instantly. The forward and backward buttons allow you to go back to prior versions with out loosing your ideas.
• Complete Color Management Workflow – can be enabled in any Adobe After Effects project simply by selecting a project working space, and with a properly calibrated monitor, the color accuracy of imported files is ensured as they are displayed and rendered.
• Adobe Clip Notes – give you the ability to collaborate with artists, directors, clients, or other persons involved with your project. They can review what has been done and make notes via an Adobe PDF file with an embedded or streamed movie of your Adobe After Effects composition. As the movie plays, the reviewer can pause the action and insert a comment. These can be password protected as well. When you get it back and it is imported into Adobe After Effects each comment is attached to a marker and displayed at the specific point in the timeline.
• Performance – has now been increased to take advantage of multi-processors and multi-core machines. Display previews have been optimized as well.
• Video for Mobile Devices – will allow you to preview and test the appearance, performance, and behavior on the smallest of screens; not just mobile phones and PDA's, but also products like the Sony PSP and Apple iPod as well.
As with most of the Adobe products, After Effect CS3 has received the interface makeover to make interactions between the products easier to use. Some of the new features such as the Puppet tool, Brainstorm, and Clip Notes are really cool to use. Puppet tool allows you to animate almost anything. All you have to do is add joints and you can make it move any way you want. If you are not careful, you can waste a lot of time playing with this feature alone. It is almost addictive. It then provides fluid, realistic movement with very little effort.
With Brainstorm, you can see a large amount of variations on layers. It will give your creativity many more choices. Clip Notes gives you the ability to actually make notes at points in your film. Probably the only downside is that you do need a considerable computer to run it on. But that would be expected with a product of this kind.
After Effect CS3 while not a revolutionary release compared to version 7, is a more refined release that has quite a number of pretty cool features to make it worth looking into if you are considering an upgrade. If you are unsure, you can take a test run on their demo as well. If you are looking into digital motion graphics software I would have to highly recommend After Effect CS3.