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By Chris Meyer | Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Previewing the next release of After Effects CC

Previewing the next release of After Effects CC

In preparation for the 2014 NAB Show, Adobe has begun previewing new features slated for the next release of their video applications. I’ve had a chance to work with the upcoming version of After Effects CC, and I’m working on a new chapter for our After Effects: Creative Cloud Updates course to demonstrate them. In the meantime, I wanted to tell you about some of the goodies planned for this release.

Adobe Premiere Pro integration A main focus of Adobe’s upcoming releases is to strengthen the integration between After Effects and Premiere Pro, making it easier for a Premiere editor to tap into AE’s power. To that end, Adobe is introducing Live Text Templates, allowing you to create a composition (or chain of compositions) that includes text layers; lock the layers you don’t want the editor touching (e.g., the title of a show); and leave the layers you do want them to edit unlocked (such as a name in a lower third). You can then designate the project and this comp as a Template in Composition Settings.

Template Comp Settings

After saving that AE project, you can then import its enabled template compositions into Premiere Pro as assets. Once you add a template comp to a sequence in Premiere—for example, one that allows editing text—a new entry in the Effect Controls gives you access to the unlocked text without touching the font, styling, or animation. This asset can be duplicated in the Premiere Pro Project panel, and these duplicates can also be edited separately. This is a far better workflow for lower thirds, as opposed to creating a unique After Effects composition for each lower third in your project.

Additionally, the new version of Premiere Pro lets you create simple rectangular and elliptical masks—for layers as part of its default Opacity effect, and for each effect you add to a clip. These masks have Feather, Opacity, and Expansion parameters familiar to AE users, as well as the recently added Rigid Mask Tracker. These masks will also remain intact when the clip is moved from Premiere Pro into AE.

Masking in Premiere Pro

This leads us to one of the nicer new features in the upcoming version of AE: Each of its effects can also be applied within a particular mask shape.

Effect improvements In After Effects’ next release, every effect will get a Compositing Options section in the Timeline panel. This will allow you to select a mask shape that constrains the area of the image to which effects are applied, as well as sets an Effect Opacity (akin to the Blend With Original parameter some effects have). This is going to save you a lot of extra layers in compositions where you previously had to duplicate a layer and separately mask an affected version of the source over an untouched version, or perform similar workarounds with adjustment layers and the like. Feathering and other edge properties of the selected mask will apply to the affected area; you may also assign multiple mask shapes to an effect. True, Boris FX has offered a similar option for a long time in their Continuum Complete plugins; the nice thing is that this new feature applies to every effect applied in AE, including third-party effects.

Mask Properties

Mask Properties

Some of the new effects added in the upcoming AE release include Key Cleaner and Advanced Spill Suppressor plugins for improved rotoscoping workflows. Additionally, there’s a new Effect Preset that applies Keylight, Key Cleaner, and Advanced Spill Suppressor all together in one go with its spill color set to follow the key color in Keylight. The Key Cleaner is extremely helpful when working with visibly compressed footage, and features an Alpha Contrast parameter to help fine-tune semitransparent edges. The Advanced Spill Suppressor also picks up a new Ultra method based on the Ultra Key effect in Premiere Pro; and the old Spill Suppressor has now been moved into the Obsolete effect category in AE.

Key Cleaner

Key Cleaner - Result

AE’s Curves effect is also receiving a long-awaited overhaul in this release. The user interface has been cleaned up, and includes a resizable curve graph and direct access to the individual color channels of your footage. There’s also an Auto button that performs adjustments based on a database of curve adjustments performed by color and photography experts on a broad range of input images, using the colors in the image. In my limited experience with this feature so far, it provides a very nice starting point for your corrections, unless you have a specific, nonstandard adjustment in mind.

Updates to AE's Curves

Type & color A couple of broader integration features are also coming to the next version of After Effects. Adobe Typekit—which allows you to install and access fonts online (particularly useful when someone hands you a project that uses fonts you don’t have installed)—will be integrated into AE. As a result, After Effects will install fewer fonts on its own. I’m personally a little leery of online connectivity requirements, as often production houses quarantine their workstations from the network to protect from viruses and to keep secret projects secret.

The upcoming release of After Effects will let you extend the app’s functionality by creating new panels using HTML5 and the CEP (Common Extensibility Platform, formerly known as CSXS) format, opening the doors for other products (such as training and stock footage) to be accessible from directly inside AE. One of the first uses of this extensibility layer Adobe has taken on is a version of their popular tool Kuler, which helps you choose colors and color themes.

And there’s always more Those are the big new features I look forward to; but of course, every AE release sees a slew of features updates and improvements. Enhancements slated for this new release of AE will let you use Premiere Pro’s Mercury Transmit functionality inside AE to preview your work on a second monitor, replacing the old QuickTime-based preview system. This should see a very significant improvement in performance, including supporting greater bit depths and higher frame rates for larger frame sizes.

I’ll know more about these new features as we get closer to Adobe’s yet-unannounced release date. Until then, keep an eye out for an impending update to my After Effects: Creative Cloud Updates course, where I’ll demonstrate these new features in action, and offer suggestions on how to get the most out of them in production.

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