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By Chris Meyer | Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Recent updates to After Effects CC (12.2)

In December, Adobe released another incremental update to its video software, including After Effects CC. As a motion graphics artist, there were a couple of major updates to After Effects features that caught my eye. As a result, I updated my lynda.com After Effects: Creative Cloud Updates course with a new chapter that covers these features. Here’s my quick take on them.

Shape layer improvements

There are now two functions in After Effects CC that blur the lines between parametric (stars, polygons, rectangles, and ellipses) and free-form Bezier shapes. One is an option in the form of a check box in the Tools panel to activate a Bezier path while you drag out a “parametric” shape. Unlike normal parametric shapes, the result can then be edited on a per-vertex level, copied and pasted into masks, paint strokes, or motion paths, and even be used in some expressions. To switch between dragging out parametric and Bezier shapes, you don’t need to keep toggling this check box; you can also press Option on Mac or Alt on Windows to temporarily get the reverse of the current status of that check box.

Also, after creating and editing a parametric shape, you can convert it into a Bezier shape by right-clicking on its path in the Timeline panel. This is where some synergies start to emerge, by starting out with a parametric shape and then converting it to Bezier for further modification. The image below shows a shape that started out as a parametric star and had its Roundness parameters increased to soften its outline and make it loop back on itself. It was then converted to a Bezier path and had some of its points tweaked to add an interesting asymmetry to it:

AE122_shapes_500

Layer Snapping improvements

Layer Snapping is a really nice usability feature introduced in the original After Effects Creative Cloud release, and covered in the After Effects: Creative Cloud Updates course. It’s even stronger in the 12.2 release. One great enhancement is that when you have a shape layer containing multiple individual shapes, another layer can snap to features such as vertices and center points of those shapes; you can even drag one layer along the curve defined by a shape layer’s path.

Another welcome addition is the ability for 3D camera and lights to snap to other layers and features. This enhancement is particularly useful when you are trying to snap the Point of Interest of a camera or light to look directly at a feature on another layer, as shown below:

AE122_snapping_500

Other tweaks

There have been many other small improvements and tweaks in this latest release, including

AE122_autosave_500

• Auto Save now defaults to On to save users from data loss when they’ve been working on a project file without saving. We prefer to take control over the Save and file versioning process by manually invoking the Increment And Save option, but the default Auto Save interval of 20 minutes at least means you won’t be interrupted too often to save your file.

• You can now migrate preferences, templates, interpretation rules, keyboard shortcuts, and many other settings from 12.0 or 12.1 to the new 12.2 update—no more starting over from scratch with your personalizations.

• After Effects can now automatically create a subfolder to save your render into—particularly nice for holding image sequences without accidentally flooding another folder or directory with files. Along with this, file-naming templates for the Output Module have been beefed up.

• Many bugs were fixed, but unfortunately one concerning audio rendering was introduced.

All the above features (as well as the bug) are covered in Chapter 6 of my After Effects: Creative Cloud Updates course on lynda.com. I hope it gets you up to speed quickly with the significant features Adobe has been adding to After Effects CC.

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