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Software Review: Adobe Master Collection – After Effects CS4 from Adobe Systems

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This is the tenth in a series of reviews that will cover what is contained in the Adobe Creative Suite 4 (CS4) Master Collection. When Adobe released CS4 this past fall, they not only released single version products, but also six separate suites of products. They are Design Premium, Design Standard, Web Premium, Web 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.

What do you need to run Adobe After Effects CS4?

  • Windows XP SP3 or Vista, Mac OS X v10.4.11 – 10.5 (Leopard)
  • 1.5 GHz or faster processor, PowerPC® G4 or G5 or multicore Intel processor
  • 2GB RAM
  • OpenGL 2.0 Compatable graphics card capable of 1280 x 900 display
  • 1.3GB hard drive space plus 2GB for extra optional content and DVD-ROM drive

After Effects CS4Adobe After Effects is a digital motion graphics and compositing software program that is published by Adobe Systems. It can be used in 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.

It has become the industry standard for visual effects and motion graphics software. You can find imagery created in After Effects in everything from motion pictures, to cell phones, to Web sites. Now After Effects CS4 is packed with even more features aimed to make you more productive.

So what is new with After Effects CS4?

• Searchable timelines and projects, plus easier nested composition navigations, will help you speed up production as projects become deeper and more complex. Now, with live search functions directly inside the timeline and project panel you can quickly find project elements, keyframeable properties, effects, and more. You can also search timelines by layer names, properties, comments, or expressions.

• Photoshop 3D layers import now lets you place 3D objects on layers, paint and render them along with the rest of your imagery, and then import and animate the Photoshop 3D layers in your composition where they can be viewed as 3D objects using cameras in After Effects. You can also apply effects to change the layers' appearance over time, composite 3D layers with other objects, and render the results as you would any other project element.

• Cartoon effect gives you the ability to create new looks for your video or other animated imagery, instantly applying the appearance of cel animation or watercolor painting to live action or to computer generated 3D imagery. You can even use the cartoon effect to rescue low-resolution or poor-quality footage by smoothing or abstracting it.

• Independent keyframing of X, Y, and Z position plus other 3D compositing enhancements will make your working with 3D more fluid. Now, X, Y, and Z positioning can be keyframed separately, easing the crafting of complex animation moves like having a camera smoothly change elevations and then hold while maintaining a constant forward or sideways velocity, or creating bounce style actions. The new Unified Camera tool takes advantage of a three-button mouse, allowing you to quickly switch between the three tracks and allowing you to work more intuitively.

• Rich media composition export from After Effects to Adobe Flash CS4 Professional takes you from the broadcast world to the online world without having to transcode your video. Animated transformations, such as scale and rotation, are preserved, and can be edited in Flash Professional. Other footage types and layers with effects are automatically converted to Flash compatible graphics.

• Enhanced Dynamic Link in Adobe Creative Suite 4 Production Premium will give you cross-component integration. Dynamic Link is the ability for select Adobe Production Premium components to render the results of another Production Premium component on the fly. Changes inside the project of one component are immediately reflected inside the other. This streamlines the entire creative process by eliminating intermediate rendering between applications, enabling you to work faster and stay in your creative flow.

• Imagineer Systems' Mocha is now included in Adobe After Effects CS4. Mocha for Adobe After Effects is a standalone application with advanced 2.5D planar motion tracking. Mocha for Adobe After Effects provides advanced motion tracking and makes it easier to tackle difficult motion-tracking challenges, such as tracking footage with objects moving out of the frame, lack of detail in the underlying footage, motion blur, and heavy grain or noise. Now you can avoid the guesswork and inaccuracies that result from hand-tracking challenging shots. Mocha also speeds up the process of generating solid four-point tracks, yielding position, scale, rotation, and shear information, resulting in perspective-matched tracks.

• Integrated workflow for mobile device authoring allows you to author content for mobile devices much more quickly than ever before. Through the use of Adobe Device Central CS4 you will be able to test your content on a variety of devices without having to actually upload them until they are ready to be live tested.

• Project intelligence through XMP metadata will let you easily identify the job number or work ticket associated with any asset, make better informed decisions about the assets you use, and streamline the rights-auditing process by efficiently viewing copyright information. Not only is asset metadata retained while in After Effects, but you can add new project and layer-level metadata during the render stage to streamline project tracking and automate asset auditing.

• Interface and workflow improvements include auto-resolution to optimize interaction speed by rendering only the pixels you need for your current zoom level, Longer names for layers, comps, folders, and other items, 32-bit-per-channel color for shape layers, Depth Of Field Blur effect, and Reduce Interlace Flicker effect, Wiggle position, scale, rotation, and opacity for shape layers, and much, much more.

 After Effects CS4This is a major upgrade to the flagship product for visual effects and motion graphics software from Adobe. It is apparent that they intend to remain on top of this market for years to come.

Adobe After Effects CS4 contains many needed production features such as searchable timelines, the importation on 3D layers, workflow improvements, better integration with Flash CS4 Professional, the Mocha for After Effects, and not to mention the new effects.

Add to that the better integration within the CS4 suite, and I find Adobe After Effects CS4 to be a very significant upgrade. In fact this may be the most significant upgrade in a number of years and for that reason I feel that this is a must-have addition and one I very highly recommend.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.
  • http://help.adobe.com/en_US/AfterEffects/9.0/ Todd Kopriva

    You list PowerPC as a supported processor type for After Effects CS4. That’s incorrect. The only Macintosh computers on which After Effects CS4 will run are those with Intel-architecture processors.

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