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Adobe After Effects

Why After Effects?

A common question for those used to Premiere is why use After Effects? After all you can layer up to 99 video tracks in Premiere, do chromakey, lumakey etc.. Why learn a new program? 

After Effects is intended to be used for special sequences - a title sequence or DVD intro for example.  It is not an editing program - that is Premieres job.  You can use Premiere  to select the portions of clips that you want to mix in After Effects. Just make a rough cut in Premiere, then open the project in After Effects.


After Effects makes better quality effects than Premiere. The rendering of effects is simply better - titles roll smoothly up the screen no matter what the speed - the chromakey is better, does better edges, the slow motion is superior, and you have options for frame blending and motion blur.


You have much more control over your effects than with Premiere: you can set motion paths to accelerate and decelerate through each keyframe giving you much more realistic movement.  With Premiere this kind of superior quality effect is only achievable using plug-ins like Boris or the Matrox RT effects.

Keyframing is easy and it is very simple to copy keyframes between clips.  And everything can be keyframed. 

For text you can keyframe the point size so that no matter how large the words are on screen the edge is always smooth.  You can keyframe movement, rotation and transparency all very easily. With the Production pack you can even keyframe the speed of the clip making it speed up and slow down.


At first After Effects may look complicated.  In fact, after you learn some of the basics it gets easy.  You apply effects to clips and control them all in the same way. 

Real Time Previews

The main preview window shows you all the changes you make as you make them.  After Effects has a sophisticated RAM PREVIEW function.  Essentially it makes up your composition in RAM, rather than to disk and plays it straight away on screen.  If it cant cope with the complexity of the effects it drops the quality so that it will always at the right speed.  Not real time in the DV Storm or RT.X100 sense of the word but it does mean you can see ALL of the effects on offer without performing a proper render.
Normally in After Effects you do not have any output to TV - everything is on your PC screen.  Some cards, like the Matrox and Canopus range, have a WYSISYG plug in - this effectively allows you to see the contents of the preview screen on the TV attached to the card. 

Lots Of Effects

There are loads of filters and effects available and you may find that you never use some of them, or you may find so many options daunting.  It is well worth investing not just in the software but a good training guide - aDVC After Effects Introduction Course or even simply a good manual - there is a very easy to follow book available,

After Effects is used for broadcasters all over the world. It has a huge list of features including being able to motion track objects so you can pin effects to them; rotoscoping so that you can draw a matte around an object and remove it from a scene; painting and animating of painted objects; 3D cameras so you can fly around objects and logos; a huge list of effects and a lot more.

The quality of rendering is also superior. We made a tutorial DVD using Adobe Premiere and the results were good. We then opened that project in After Effects re-rendered it and the quality was a lot better.

After Effects has a lot of features - this may make it daunting for new users. So Adobe have added a lot or ways to help you achieve results easily. There are a lot of pre-made templates and scenes and features like brainstorming mean you add a few effects and let After Effects make some variations for you.
As long as you buy it as part of the Production Studio Premium you also get the Adobe Dynamic link - take footage from Premiere and copy it straight into After Effects and then put the After Effects composition on the Premiere timeline without rendering. Any updates are then automatically seen in Premiere - a great time saver.

A lot of After Effects is also very similar to Adobe Premiere - the timeline of After Effects is list like the Premiere Effects control window (since the Premiere window was designed that way). A large list of presets which you can browse and reuse easily also helps you to get into the program.

Even if all you use is the animated titles it is worth adding After Effects to your arsenal.  With older versions there were two different varieties of After Effects - Standard and Pro.  These days there is only one - equivalent to the old Pro version.

Top reasons to upgrade to Adobe After Effects

  • Searchable timelines and projects and easier nested comp navigation
    Locate any element in a comp or project with the new QuickSearch. Quickly navigate between nested comps with the new Mini-Flowchart.
  • Live Adobe Photoshop 3D layers import
    Import 3D layers into After Effects, move them, animate cameras around them, adjust lighting, and composite them with other elements.
  • Cartoon effect
    Instantly give live footage the look of cell animation. Stylize video by reducing the colour palette of a clip and by emphasizing edges.
  • Keyframe x, y, z values independently, plus 3D compositing improvements
    Composite in 3D space more easily: Keyframe x, y, and z position values separately, and use the new unified camera, which makes the After Effects camera tool work more like those in 3D modeling applications.
  • Export compositions as a layered project for Adobe Flash Professional
    Export compositions as layered, XFL format projects that can be opened and edited in Adobe Flash CS4 Professional software. Many After Effects assets such as text and Adobe Illustrator artwork are preserved as vectors.
  • Mocha for Adobe After Effects from Imagineer Systems
    Use this powerful 2.5D planar tracking application from Imagineer Systems to track the motion of elementseven in challenging shots where elements move offscreen or where there is motion blur or excessive grain.
  • Integrated workflow for mobile device authoring
    Select devices in Adobe Device Central and automatically set up an After Effects project that targets those devices, with settings that match the targeted devices and the Render Queue setup to output to the proper codecs and resolutions.
  • XMP metadata for asset intelligence
    Now retain asset metadata while you work in After Effects. Add new project-, comp-, and layer-level metadata to streamline project tracking, and automate asset auditing and many other tasks.
  • Dynamic Link between Adobe Premiere Pro, After Effects, and Soundbooth
    Using Adobe Creative Suite 4 Production Premium software, now link Adobe Premiere Pro sequences to an After Effects composition and After Effects comps to Soundbooth with Adobe Dynamic Link.
  • Numerous interface and workflow tweaks
    Work more efficiently with dozens of user-requested changes, including the new Auto Resolution setting that only renders visible pixels when zooming in and out of a comp view, streamlined memory and multicore processing preferences, and more.

So what can you do with After Effects?

  • Combine 2D and 3D graphics, and video
    You can work in 2D or 3D, or freely combine 2D and 3D elements in the same composition without having to change modes or redo your work. There will already be default cameras and lights meaning you don't have to set up additional elements just to add a dimension to a layer. After Effects exist in a proper 3D world.  In an editing application like Premiere clips can fly in 3D but all in their own little worlds - one clip cannot fly around another.  In After Effects the clips can all interact and you can view the composition from any angle and even multiple angles at the same time.
  • Multiple, versatile 3D cameras for each composition
    Cut between multiple cameras in the same composition. Define cameras by angle of view, lens length, image area size, aperture, depth-of-field blur, and a host of other keyframeable parameters. Save presets of your favourite camera setups, and animate them using a one- or two-point model, with the ability to auto-orient along the camera's path.
  • Camera data
    Import 3D camera and null animation data in the Alias Maya (MA) format directly from Maya or from any 3D tracking software that can export MA files, such as 2d3's boujou. You can also extract camera information from an RLA/RPF sequence, while third-party tools offer solutions for other 3D packages as well, including exporting camera data from After Effects.
  • Multiple 3D lights with shadows
    Add multiple lights to a scene and animate them. Choose from different light types, set their colour, and define their shadow darkness and diffusion individually.
  • Adjustment lights
    Set a 3D light to illuminate select layers in a composition.
  • Material options for each 3D layer
    Define how each 3D layer in a scene responds to lights, including control over size and intensity of the specular highlight.
  • Projection layers and coloured shadows
    Project light through a layer to create coloured shadows, stained-glass effects, and the look of projected slides.
  • Real-time design with OpenGL acceleration
    Take advantage of advanced OpenGL capabilities including support for blending modes as well as motion blur, anti-aliasing, track mattes, high-quality shadows and transparency, and accelerated rendering of common effects. New in Adobe Creative Suite 4 software is OpenGL support for adaptive resolution, further accelerating previews when you view your work at less than 100%.
  • Parenting
    Work with parent and child layers. A child layer inherits all transformations applied to the parent, including the parent's anchor point, while maintaining its own local animation.
  • Adjustment layers
    Create adjustment layers, similar to those in Adobe Photoshop software, to apply effects to any layers that appear below them.  A good example of this comes from one of our tutorial DVDs.  We imported a Premiere project with a huge number of layers and had to apply an antiflicker and shaprness filter to all of them.  To do one at a time would have been tedious in the extreme - but ad an adjustment layer at the top and put the filters on that, and all the clips were immediately effected.
  • Stencil, Silhouette, and Preserve Transparency
    Define individual layers to cut out all the layers below. Or have layers above honour the transparency of layers underneath.
  • Subpixel positioning
    Enable the position of each object to be calculated to finer than 1/65,536th of a pixel for extremely smooth motion.
  • Adaptive motion blur
    Adjust motion blur on a layer-by-layer basis to produce more realistic animations. You control how the motion blur is calculated to customize its look and enhance its smoothness.
  • Nested compositions
    Use a complex composition as a single-layer source in another composition. Multiple comps can feed into one, or a single source comp can be used multiple times, allowing upstream changes to ripple throughout a project.
  • Collapse Transformations
    Combine the transform properties of nested compositions with higher level comps to reduce the number of times the pixels of a layer are processed, preserving their fidelity.
  • Overlay and Ripple Insert Edit; Lift, Extract, and Trim Comp to Work Area
    Using basic editing tools, easily add and extract content from the Timeline in your compositions without having to rebuild a comp from scratch.

Text and vector graphics creation and animation

  • Intuitive text creation and versatile text animation with per-character 3D text
    Type, edit, and format characters, words, and paragraphs. Mix and match fonts and other attributes on a layer. Smart quotes and word spacing composers make your text look more professional. Animate text along any path, transform or displace words or lines of text over time, transform and blur individual or groups of characters or words, set inter-character blending modes, randomize the order in which characters animate, wiggle your text, and more.
  • Shape Layers
    Easily create and animate vector graphics with Shape Layers. Add properties such as stroke, stroke type, fill, and gradients to shapes and animate those properties. Also apply vector effects directly. New in After Effects CS4 is support for a wider range of blending modes for intershape compositing.
  • Text conversion to shapes or masks
    Convert text into editable paths so you can animate the individual vertices of each character. New in Creative Suite 4 is the ability to convert text to shape paths or mask paths.
  • Shape path operators
    Modify and animate hand-drawn or parametric shapes by applying a series of specialized shape effects, including Merge Paths, Offset Paths, Pucker & Bloat, Repeater, Round Corners, Trim Paths, Twist, Wiggle Paths, Zig Zag, and the Repeater. New in After Effects CS4 is a Wiggle Transform operator that automatically randomizes the position, scale, rotation, and other transform properties of shapes.
  • Web-ready text animations
    Export animated text as vector-based SWF files to create innovative, web-friendly animations.
  • Solid layers
    Create simple solid shapes that can have effects applied and that can be masked and animated.
  • Continuous rasterization
    Enable Adobe Illustrator artwork, text, shapes, solid layers, and vector components of PDF and SWF files to be continuously rasterized, maintaining sharpness regardless of their scaling.  This is the opposite of a standard editing program.  In most programs the titles get steadily blockier as you they get larger,  In After Effects they do not.

What are some of the cool features of After Effects?

There is only one version of After Effects now - Professional, which means motion tracking, keyframable slow motion etc are always there. After Effects also has some significant new features:

Puppet tool

This is an amazing tool. Take a picture of a person - either a photo or a graphic, and add points at the joints. Then you can pick up part of the figure - the hand for example - and start moving the mouse around and you suddenly have an animated character! This tool is easy to use and you can quickly create interesting and downright silly animations. It can be used for just taking a picture of a real person and making his figure realistically touch a button that he did not actually touch or making a character jump around the screen. Expect the internet to be suddenly flooded with animations of George Bush and Gordon Brown dancing together!


In After Effects you can keyframe everything. Sometimes, though, you can play for ages trying to get a look you like without actually having a real result in mind. Well now you can get After Effects to play for you. Just choose the parameters you want to change and choose Brainstorm and After Effects presents you with several possible variations. Click on the ones you like the look of, saying "I want a bit of that mixed with a bit of that etc.." and click Brainstorm again. Carry on until you get something you like.

Vector painting

Photoshop paints in pixels. This means that as you zoom into an image you see bigger and bigger dots until the image is lost. Illustrator draws vectors - images that you can zoom into and they stay crisp. ALthough you could paint before in After Effects, with this version the Illustrator engine is now used and you can draw all sorts of shapes. There are also some really cool animation helpers that can take these shapes and then make abstract animations from them (and apply a Brainstorm to get the computer to make some choices for you). This is great for generating interesting animated backgrounds for titles, DVD menus etc..

Better Photoshop integration

Photoshop now does video but that's not the only thing that has changed. In Photoshop you can take a layer and add lots of "blending options", such as glow, bevel, texture, stroke etc.. The only problem was once you had a look you like you would essentially freeze it and then bring it into After Effects. Now if you open a Photoshop file if you want you can choose to bring it in with the blending modes now editable in After Effects. This means that they are now also something you can animate! Excellent for titles.

Vanishing Point

A really cool tool. Vanishing Point was added to Photoshop for still images. Say you wanted to take a logo and put it on a building so that it matched the perspective of a wall and looked like it was real - then Vanishing Point let you draw meshes over the still image which defined the shape of the building in reality. Now with After Effects CS3 you can bring these Vanishing Point files into After Effects and then start to fly around the building! As we have not yet reached the technology of Blade Runner (assuming you saw the Ridley Scott movie) when you fly to something that cannot be seen in the photograph you end up with a black space. However this tool wiAs there is now only one version of After Effects, not a Standard and Professional, at least you know all the features you have read about will be in the final you buy.
ll be great for taking, for example, a hi-res still of a building and adding a subtle movement to it for a more interesting establishing shot.

Extensive visual effects

The list of effects in After Effects is huge.  Some of them are also available in Adobe Premiere and if you apply an effect in Premiere and then transfer those clips to After Effects via the Dynamic Link the effects come as well and you can further tweak them inside After Effects.  Here is a list of some of the effects:

  • Support for Adobe Pixel Bender
    Easily apply custom filters and effects at runtime for real-time creative expression. Use Adobe Pixel Bender to create unique filters, blends, and fills now portable to multiple applications to produce compelling, on-demand visual effects for the Adobe Flash Player runtime environment. Write a filter once, and then share it or apply it multiple times using ActionScript 3.0.
  • Cartoon effect
    Instantly give live footage the look of cel animation. Stylize video by reducing the colour palette of a clip and by emphasizing edges.
  • Blur and Sharpen effects
    Create numerous blur effects ranging from the utilitarian to the highly specialized and creative, including compound, lens simulation, and edge-preserving "smart" blurs. Effects also include Sharpen and Unsharp Mask.
  • Channel effects
    Manipulate the individual colour and alpha channel information of your images, including borrowing channels from other layers and performing advanced operations to combine channels or create grayscale images.
  • Colour-correction effects
    Manipulate colour information with a wide variety of effects, including Colour Finesse, Auto Colour, Auto Contrast, and Auto Levels; simple and advanced tinting effects; broadcast colours and gamma/pedestal/gain; and the ability to target specific colours to discard or change.
  • Distortion effects
    Warp and distort the full frame of your footage as well as selected areas in specific, realistic ways with effects like Bezier Warp, Wave Warp, Corner Pin, Reshape, and Displacement Map. Paint distortions directly onto imagery with Liquify. Precisely simulate the fish-eye lens distortion of images taken with a real camera using a wide-angle lens.
  • Stylize effects
    Enhance existing imagery, ranging from subtle textures and hot-looking glows to stylized edges, brush strokes, and other effects.
  • Generation effects
    Generate imagery from simple fills and gradients to realistic lightning bolts and electricity, as well as lens flares, strokes, grids, circles, scribbled lines, and animated graphics based on audio.
  • Noise and grain management effects
    Specify the characteristics of grain on all three individual colour channels for a perfect match, or remove it from a shot. Eliminate dust and scratches, or create natural phenomena such as clouds, lava, glowing water, and gas using the animated Fractal Noise effect.
  • Perspective effects
    Add shadows, bevel the outline of a layer, and even create a single 3D image by combining a left and right 3D view.
  • Simulation effects
    Use advanced plug-ins to generate realistic wave reflection and caustic effects as well as to break up 2D layers into 3D pieces, which can then be exploded or controlled.
  • Text effects
    Easily generate numbers and timecode with text effects that supplement the powerful text engine already built into After Effects.
  • Time effects
    Process footage based on other layers or adjacent frames using Time Difference and Displacement effects as well as Echo. The Timewarp effect is a user-controllable extension of the Pixel Motion frame-blending technology built into After Effects.
  • Utility effects
    Hand-tweak the Cineon file format conversion process, alter the colour profiles assigned to a source, manage how high dynamic range (HDR) images are treated by other effects, and artificially grow images so you can process them beyond their normal boundaries.
  • 3D channel effects
    Perform detailed post-processing without rerendering the original 3D file with effects that can extract 3D channels such as Object or ID Matte, normals, and other information from RLA and RPF files, plus Depth Matte, Depth of Field, and Fog 3D effects that work with RLA, RPF, ZPIC, and EIZ files.
  • Cycore effects
    With this extensive package of over 60 bundled effects from Cycore, add smoke and sparks using Particle World, create blazing ray-of-light transitions using Light Burst and Light Sweep, and bend layers in unimagined ways.
  • Transition effects
    Create classic video-style transitions and update them with the power, animation, and flexibility of After Effects.
  • Effects & Presets palette
    Quickly sort, search for, and apply effects and animation presets. Save and share your own presets with the effects, settings, and animated properties you choose.
  • Placeholders for missing effects
    Preserve information about the settings used by each missing effect.
  • A large selection of third-party plug-ins and effects
    There are also a lot of third-party developers who make extra plug-ins for After Effects.

Pristine colour

  • 32-bit floating-point pipeline
    Freely push values above full white and recover detail at any stage of the pipeline so you can access the full range of colour visible with the naked eye and conform it to your chosen output device or customize it for a given scene.
  • Flexible 8-, 16-, and 32-bit colour modes
    Start a composition in 8-bit colour mode, and then finalize and output it to 16-bit or 32-bit colour for optimal quality. Produce work that is film and HDTV ready using the broader range of colours available in 16- and 32-bit colour modes.
  • Support for HDR image formats
    Import and export HDR colour images in OpenEXR, ProEXR, Camera Raw, Digital Negative, and TIFF formats.
  • Colour Finesse
    Perform your most demanding digital intermediate work within After Effects with Colour Finesse from Synthetic Aperture, a full-featured colour-correction environment that contains high-end telecine-style correction tools.
  • Colour profiles on input
    Assign a colour profile to each source item so After Effects knows how to properly interpret its colour, and combine it correctly with other sources. With Adobe Media Core and embedded profiles, many profiles are detected automatically.
  • Project working space
    Choose a colour space for your compositing to take place. Limit it to your planned output media, or open it to a wide universal space. Optionally employ floating-point colour and linear blending modes for more realistic HDR compositing.
  • Output profiles
    Convert your compositions to a new colour space that matches your target media, be it video, film, or the web. Render to multiple formats and profiles simultaneously to save time.
  • Monitor compensation
    Adjust the display of After Effects for your specific monitor. Also simulate the output of several formats you may not have at hand, such as film projection.

Creative building blocks

  • Built-in creative tools
    Produce cool animations from scratch right in After Effects by creating layers, adding masks, and applying effects.
  • Template compositions
    Use included project templates to get started on creating DVD motion menus, show openings, animated backgrounds, and more.
  • Animation presets
    Jump-start projects quickly with hundreds of fully customizable animation presets for transitions, colour treatments, picture-in-picture effects, backgrounds, and numerous other animations all of which can be easily previewed and added to your project.
  • Text animation presets
    Use Adobe Bridge to quickly preview and apply more than 250 professionally designed, fully editable text animation presets, or create and save your own.
  • Shape presets
    Browse and apply dozens of Shape Layer sprites and animations, with hundreds more available on Adobe Exchange.
  • Automated animation
    Take advantage of special "behaviour" presets that create simple to complex animations without keyframes just set a few parameters and watch the results.
  • Brainstorm
    Energize animations with Brainstorm a user interface within After Effects that offers variations on selected design and animation parameters. Choose which properties and effects you want to animate, and After Effects will brainstorm a selection of animated variations.

Unmatched Adobe integration

One of the killer features of the Adobe programs is the integration between different applications.  Adobe own a lot of the industry standard programs - Photoshop, Flash, Illustrator etc..  So they have developed ways of transferring information between them.

  • Adobe Photoshop CS4 Extended 3D workflow and video layer support
    Define the planes of an image in Adobe Photoshop CS4 Extended software, export as a Vanishing Point file, and animate in 3D in After Effects, adding cameras and lights. After Effects CS4 also imports and renders Photoshop Extended 3D layers, allowing you to add animation to these objects.
  • Adobe Flash integration
    Export After Effects compositions as layered rich media projects for Adobe Flash software. Import FLV files directly into After Effects, and work more efficiently to create and edit animations for playback in Adobe Flash Player. You can also preserve vectors from animations created in After Effects for lean and clean delivery, and encode FLV files more easily.
  • Adobe Device Central integration
    With Adobe Device Central, browse, search, and sort mobile device profiles; directly compare multiple devices along several dimensions; and create custom sets of devices for quick project access. Easily preview and test the appearance, performance, and behavior of mobile content right on the desktop.
  • Adobe Photoshop CS4 HDR image and text support
    Save 32-bit HDR and 16-bit colour values in PSD files. Text remains editable, and layers, layer styles, blending modes, masks, and transparency are all preserved when PSD files are imported as compositions. Use Photoshop paths as masks or animation paths. Photoshop text can also be converted into masks or Shape Layers.
  • Photoshop layer style support
    After Effects supports all layer styles available in PSD files as a separate layer property, yielding greatly enhanced shadows, bevels, shading, and other treatments, which may also be animated.
  • Adobe Illustrator CS4 integration
    Copy vectors from Illustrator to use as After Effects masks, shape layer paths, and motion paths. Illustrator layers and blend modes are preserved, and vector shapes can be continuously rasterized (and output as compact SWF files), preserving smooth edge detail. Copy and paste paths and shapes between Illustrator and After Effects masks or shapes.
  • Adobe Premiere Pro CS4 integration
    Preserve bins, edits, markers, keyframed effects, nested sequences, transitions, and more from Adobe Premiere Pro CS4 software. Drag and drop or copy and paste clips from one application to another. Export an After Effects project as an Adobe Premiere Pro project.
  • Enhanced Adobe Premiere Pro integration with Dynamic Link (Production Premium only)
    From within Adobe Creative Suite 4 Production Premium, edit an After Effects composition and have your changes appear automatically in Adobe Premiere Pro without rendering thanks to Adobe Dynamic Link. New in Creative Suite 4 is the ability to edit a timeline in Adobe Premiere Pro and have After Effects update without rendering.
  • Adobe Encore CS4 integration
    Create elements such as motion menus and interactive buttons for your DVDs. Export AVI and MPEG-2 movies from After Effects with markers that Adobe Encore CS4 software reads as chapters. From within Creative Suite 4 Production Premium, Adobe Dynamic Link lets you edit compositions in After Effects and have your changes appear immediately in Encore without rendering.
  • Adobe Bridge CS4
    Organize, preview, and employ your assets across the range of Adobe applications using Adobe Bridge CS4, a centralized media management utility. Bridge Home offers one location for easy access to product information such as training videos, the latest news, and community links to help you get more out of Encore.
  • Adobe Clip Notes
    Render your work into a PDF file that enables anyone with Adobe Reader software to make timecode-specific comments; when you import the comments into After Effects, they appear as markers on the Timeline.
  • Familiar Adobe look and feel
    Leverage your knowledge of other Adobe products. After Effects uses standard Adobe tools, palettes, menus, and keyboard shortcuts, so you can get up to speed quickly.
  • Adobe Community Help
    Get answers fast online. The Adobe Community Help service offers powerful search features that work across multiple Adobe products.
  • Online LiveDocs
    Use web search tools to find the answers you need on Adobe's website and others. The Help files for all Adobe products are available online, where they are constantly updated by Adobe and its large user base.

Timesaving tools and interface

  • Searchable timelines and projects and easier nested comp navigation
    Get to the parts of a project you want to refine more quickly with new tools. Use QuickSearch to instantly locate any element or even all used or missing footage in a comp or project; navigate quickly between nested comps.
  • Custom workspaces
    Arrange workspace panels and frames to suit a particular task or your own style.
  • Grids, guides, and safe areas
    Define a variety of grid patterns or hand-position guides, which can be used to more accurately place layers. Safe areas have programmable safe zone margins. New in After Effects CS4 is the display of 4:3 centre cut safe areas inset in widescreen compositions.
  • User-modifiable interface
    Easily rearrange the panels in the workspace to the layout that makes the most sense to you. User interface brightness may be adjusted and label colours may be changed to suit your taste.
  • Multiple views
    Create multiple views for the same composition to see how layers interact in space, and manipulate them with confidence. Lock views so you can edit a nested composition while seeing the results downstream.
  • Quick arrangement of multiple layers
    Quickly arrange multiple layers in time with handy keyboard shortcuts plus the Sequence Layers keyframe assistant, and arrange layers in space using the built-in Align tools.
  • Targetable Layer panel
    View individual sources in context or on their own with View and Render switches, which allow you to see a layer before or after masks or at any point in the effect chain.
  • Guide Layers
    Specify layers, which render only in a local composition without being rendered downstream. Perfect for scratch audio tracks, guide overlays, temporary graphics, and so on.
  • Project management tools
    Resolve duplicate sources, delete unused sources, and collect your project and sources into a new folder for easy backup or transport using simple menu commands.
  • Interpretation rules
    Define a set of rules that allows specific media types to be given predetermined default frame rates, aspect ratios, alpha channel types, and colour profiles.
  • Ease of use
    Convenient, now-searchable Tool Tips; context-sensitive menus; the Adobe website; numerous third-party books and training videos; and an active user community all help make you an expert.

Outstanding performance

  • Multiprocessor and multicore support
    In addition to taking advantage of multiple processors to calculate complex effects, After Effects can manage multiple instances of itself so that frames are rendered in parallel simultaneously.
  • Network rendering
    Install render-only versions (free with the normal package) on multiple computers and harness them to render frames in large projects using a centralized "Watch" folder.
  • Real-time, high-fidelity OpenGL support
    Take advantage of advanced OpenGL capabilities including support for blending modes as well as motion blur, anti-aliasing, track mattes, high-quality shadows and transparency, and accelerated rendering of common effects. New in After Effects CS4 is OpenGL support for adaptive resolution, further accelerating previews when you view your work at less than 100%.
  • RAM previews
    Preview compositions in real time and benefit from intelligent caching, dynamic previews, and the ability to define a region of interest for faster and longer RAM previews.
  • Disk caching
    Dramatically enhance previewing and interactivity on large projects with highly efficient disk caching.
  • Layer and Composition proxies
    Pre-render time-consuming compositions and assign them as proxies without changing the structure of your project. Temporarily replace large sources with lower resolution versions to speed up work.

Powerful keying and masking tools for fluid compositing

  • Keylight
    Keylight is one of the best keyers available.  Adobe call it "the Academy Awardwinning Keylight from The Foundry", which wil give you an idea of its pedegree.  Keylight can create subtle, elegant mattes of reflections; semitransparent areas; and hair. Spill suppression, colour correction, and edge refinement tools help perfect the result.
  • Unlimited masks
    Control which parts of a 2D or 3D layer are visible by adding and animating an unlimited number of masks on any layer. Individually control their feather and transparency.  This is known as Rotoscoping.  It is time-consuming but in our experience After Effects has been one of the easiest to use.
  • Imported masks
    Copy paths in Photoshop and Illustrator and paste them as masks in After Effects.
  • Mask animations
    Animate the shape of masks over time as well as their parameters, such as feather and opacity.
  • Combined masks
    Combine masks using Add, Subtract, Intersect, and Difference modes.
  • Auto-trace
    Automatically produce animated vector masks from any layer's pixel data, including alpha channels.
  • RotoBezier masks
    Create RotoBezier masks from scratch or convert them from Bezier masks.
  • Mask interpolation
    Take control of mask transitions when mask points don't transition properly to replicate natural motion.
  • Track mattes
    Use any layer's pixel data (alpha channel or luminance) to determine the visibility of an adjacent layer.
  • Colour Difference Key
    Replicate the method used to key colour footage on many landmark films. The Colour Difference Key weights the dominant colour being keyed against the other two primary colours.
  • Numerous other specialized keying effects
    Employ Difference, Colour Range, Colour Key, Linear Colour Key, Extract, and Luma Key effects as needed by a specific job.
  • Inner/Outer Key
    Derive the key from border pixels that you select by creating a rough mask around the edges of the object.
  • Spill Suppressor
    Remove unwanted colour spill from any footage quickly and easily.
  • Matte Choker and Simple Choker
    Spread or choke the selection area of any alpha channel with a subpixel level of control.

Powerful motion and keyframing controls

  • Mocha for Adobe After Effects from Imagineer Systems for 2.5D planar motion tracking
    Use this powerful 2.5D planar tracking application from Imagineer Systems to track the motion of elements even in challenging shots where elements move offscreen or where there is motion blur or excessive grain.
  • Ability to keyframe x, y, and z values independently, plus other 3D compositing improvements
    Composite in 3D space more easily: Keyframe x, y, and z values separately for finer control of layer positions, and use the new unified camera, which makes the After Effects camera tool work more like those standard in 3D modelling applications.
  • Puppet tool
    Use the Puppet tool to animate still images and objects such as text without setting up time-consuming linked structures between multiple layers, yielding an organic rather than a mechanical result.
  • Multiple keyframe interpolation types
    Quickly adjust your motion or parameter changes to move in sudden steps, linear paths, or in a smooth and elegant "eased" fashion. You can hand-enter the initial velocity and amount of ease per keyframe.
  • Roving keyframes
    Separate the Position path from the time it takes to move from one point to another.
  • Frame blending modes
    Choose between traditional Frame Mix and intelligent Pixel Motion modes to create new intermediate frames in speed-shifted footage.
  • Timewarp
    Slow down and speed up footage with smooth, crisp results and minimal artifacts. Timewarp analyzes pixel motion to create more accurate in-between frames with user-adjustable parameters.
  • Time remapping
    Keyframe time itself produce effects such as variable slow motion, freeze frames, and backward playback.
  • Motion Sketch and Smoother
    Quickly draw an animation path for any layer and set its velocity with Motion Sketch. Then fine-tune the shape and speed of the path with the Smoother. These functions are also built into the Puppet tool.
  • Motion Tracker
    Use as many points as you like or standard one-, two-, and four-point settings to track x and y value, rotation, and scale.
  • Motion Stabilizer
    Eliminate unwanted motion using the Motion Stabilizer.
  • Wiggler
    Apply smooth or jagged changes to colour, motion, or other effects over time with the Wiggler.
  • Exponential Scale
    Create natural-looking zoom effects by making linear changes of scale exponential.
  • Auto-orientation
    Specify an auto-orientation option for each layer. Layers and cameras can easily auto-orient along 2D or 3D motion paths. 3D layers can also auto-orient toward the camera.
  • Audio-to-keyframe conversion
    Convert audio in a composition into a stream of keyframes that can be used directly or by expressions.
  • Time Displacement
    Use the luminance of one layer to control the timing of individual pixels in another layer.
  • Expressions
    Tie together individual parameters, effects, and layers in a wide variety of ways (even across compositions). Use the simple Pick Whip tool, or script more complex animations using a standard JavaScript command with a built-in Expression Language menu.

Graph editor for precise keyframing

  • Value and Speed graphs
    Edit Value and Speed graphs in the Graph Editor, or let After Effects choose the one most appropriate for the animated property.
  • Value graphs for spatial properties
    See spatial properties such as Position represented with value graphs on individual channels, each with a unique colour.
  • Selected properties display
    Choose one or all of three display modes for comparing animation curves all selected properties, all animated properties of a selected layer, or a Graph Editor Set containing marked properties only.
  • One-button eases
    Add ease in and out of curves with a single click.
  • Free transform
    Scale and offset keyframes in the Graph Editor with free-transform features, just as you would scale or offset vertices on a mask.
  • Snapping keyframes
    Snap keyframes to interesting points as you drag them horizontally or vertically around the Graph Editor.
  • Scalable view
    Freely zoom and pan around the Graph Editor with the Zoom tool, Hand tool, or your mouse scroll wheel, using modifier keys for additional controls. Automatically fit all graphs to the current view with a single click.
  • Integrated Expression editor
    Edit expressions applied to individual properties without leaving the Graph Editor. See graphs before and after the expressions have been applied.

Nondestructive vector painting

You can paint on video, draw shapes an animated them. "Vector painting" means you paint with shapes that do not degrade as they are scaled. And of course everything is keyframable.

Why not draw a shape and then choose some of the parameters (size, position of points colour etc...) and then "brainstorm" them - let after effects generate several variations which you mix and match. With a few clicks you suddenly have a complicated animation with minimum work...

  • Customizable brushes
    Customize brushes to control size, spacing, and angle, and save them for ongoing use.
  • Advanced Clone tool
    Remove unwanted distractions like dust and scratches, or replicate elements for a desired effect, such as filling a stadium with people. The Clone tool offers multiple presets and onion skinning of the source frame.
  • Animated paint strokes
    Animate individual paint strokes over time to change their size, position, or shape and to create write-on and write-off effects.
  • Eraser tool
    Control whether the Eraser tool removes paint strokes only, the last stroke only, or paint strokes plus the underlying background footage.
  • Wacom tablet support
    Use Wacom tablets for more precise control when painting in After Effects.

Command-line automation with scripting

  • Menu of preset commands
    Reduce keystrokes and eliminate the need to memorize code with an extensive library of functions and commands that reside in a contextual menu, ready for use.
  • Text-editing palettes
    Organize and edit scripts using numbered lines, user-defined text formatting, and coloured text.
  • Debug menu
    Clearly isolate specific functions and statements in complex scripts by interactively managing breakpoints.
  • Profile
    Profile individual functions or lines within scripts for individual timing and hit count information to understand how and when individual parts of the script are called.
  • Integrated palette-based interface
    Instantly access all scripts in the Scripts menu, which also includes a JavaScript Console and Call Stack, Breakpoints, and Data Browser palettes.
  • XML project file format
    Export a project to an XML file, making it easier to write external scripts that modify the project file.

32-bit audio tools

  • Multiformat support
    Write compressed audio format such as AAC and MP3 for Flash and H.264 video using Adobe Media Encoder. After Effects reads and writes multiple audio formats at multiple sample rates and bit depths (up to 32-bit).
  • Automatic sample rate conversion
    After Effects automatically resamples audio using sampling rates from 8kHz to 96kHz.
  • Advanced audio effects
    Mix, equalize, echo, reverberate, modulate, and otherwise process your audio for sweetening and sound effect applications with 32-bit effects. Includes a flexible Tone generator.
  • Audio controls per layer
    Every audio layer has a Levels control, which employs a power-based decibel system for balancing tracks, and a Stereo Mixer effect. The Stereo Mixer effect allows you to use one control to animate volume changes (such as fades) and another for overall adjustments.
  • Audio-driven visual effects
    Generate full-colour visuals based on audio elements that animate dynamically along a frequency spectrum or that behave like an audio waveform.
  • Audio-to-keyframe conversion
    Convert audio in a composition into a stream of keyframes that can be used directly or by expressions.

Great output options

  • Batch rendering
    A single project may contain multiple compositions. Use the powerful Render Queue to queue these compositions to render in sequence without user intervention. Have one render create a proxy or source to be used by a later composition. Also create templates to apply common render and output settings.
  • Flexible render settings and output modules
    Change the resolution or frame rate at render time, scale and crop their composition on output, set bit depth, and choose whether to save RGB, alpha, or all channels (as well as audio) to a wide variety of formats. You can also control interlacing; pull-down; and whether effects, motion blur, and other tools are employed at the render stage.
  • Easy delivery of multiple formats
    Assign multiple output modules, each using a different size and output format, to a single item in the Render Queue.
  • Extensive support for industry-standard formats
    Import and output files in QuickTime, FLV and SWF, AVI, MPEG-2, Windows Media (Windows only), native Photoshop (PSD), Camera Raw, OpenEXR, ProEXR, Cineon, Radiance, SGI, TIFF, TGA, Maya IFF, JPEG, ElectricImage, PDF, MP3, WAV, AIFF, and many other formats, including Panasonic P2 and Sony XDCAM EX and HD.
  • Adobe Media Encoder
    Adobe Media Encoder allows rendering to H.264, H.264 Blu-ray, MPEG-2, MPEG-2 Blu-ray, MPEG-2 DVD, and FLV formats with additional options to optimize the output for video, mobile devices, and the web. You can even automatically upload the result to an FTP server.
  • Exportable markers
    Markers handy tools that help animators annotate and align objects within their project now have duration. Export information embedded as chapter markers or Flash metadata. Scripts can transfer keyframe information into markers, allowing you to transfer motion tracking and other information into Adobe Flash.

Minimum system specs


  • 1.5GHz or faster processor
  • Microsoft Windows XP with Service Pack 2 (Service Pack 3 recommended) or Windows Vista Home Premium, Business, Ultimate, or Enterprise with Service Pack 1 (certified for 32-bit Windows XP and 32-bit and 64-bit Windows Vista)
  • 2GB of RAM
  • 1.3GB of available hard-disk space for installation, plus 2GB of space for optional content; additional free space required during installation (cannot install on flash-based storage devices)
  • 1,280x900 display with OpenGL 2.0compatible graphics card
  • DVD-ROM drive
  • QuickTime 7.4.5 software required to use QuickTime features
  • Broadband Internet connection required for online services

Mac OS

  • Multicore Intel processor
  • Mac OS X v10.4.1110.5.4
  • 2GB of RAM
  • 2.9GB of available hard-disk space for installation, plus 2GB of space for optional content; additional free space required during installation (cannot install on a volume that uses a case-sensitive file system or on flash-based storage devices)
  • 1,280x900 display with OpenGL 2.0compatible graphics card
  • DVD-ROM drive
  • QuickTime 7.4.5 software required to use QuickTime features
  • Broadband Internet connection required for online services

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