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By Chris Meyer |

After Effects Technology Preview: Part 4

Better blurring, snapping, scaling, and more

In this final blog about some of the new features Adobe has revealed for an upcoming version of After Effects, I turn my attention to some small enhancements that fans have long been waiting for and that promise to save users a lot of time.

Layer snapping

Some of the best new features in After Effects don’t necessarily affect the images you see on screen, but make life easier while you’re working with those images. One such feature is the new snapping behavior in After Effects. It lets you easily align an edge, corner, center point, or even mask vertex of one layer with a similar (or dissimilar) feature of another layer. It even works in 3D, including finding the center of an extruded 3D shape, and snapping to individual letters in a per-character 3D text animation. This will make building virtual worlds and objects much easier in After Effects.

Snapping in After Effects

Muybridge sequence courtesy Dover

When After Effects was introduced 20 years ago, it was considered revolutionary for its high quality. But the Bilinear Scaling algorithm it uses to scale up layers has always been its Achilles’ heel: Once you get past about 115 percent, the layers noticeably soften and deteriorate in quality. This became particularly apparent as users tried to scale up standard definition video sources to use in high-definition projects. Fortunately, the next version of After Effects is slated to offer an optional Bicubic Scaling algorithm. In my experiments, I’ve found that it helps sharpen many types of content as they are scaled over 100 percent; be careful when using it on noisy sources, though, as noise rarely looks good sharpened.

Find missing fonts and effects

It’s frustrating as an After Effects user to open a project and be informed that fonts and/or effects are missing—but not where they’re used in the project. The QuickSearch bars in the Project and Timeline panels have now been updated to help you search for those missing effects and fonts, revealing the exact layer in each comp that has an offending item.

Pixel Motion Blur

Quite often, prosumer video (and even some professional video) is shot with an automatic shutter speed, which can be too fast under bright conditions. This reduces the motion blur trails visible in the captured footage, resulting in a strobe-light look when the frames are played back at speed. A similar problem occurs with 3D renders that do not have motion blur calculated for them.

In the past, there have been third-party effects to help cure this, and a way to set up the After Effects Timewarp effect to add motion blur back into a clip. The next version of After Effects will have a dedicated, simple Pixel Motion Blur effect that will be easier to apply and set up.


All of the above (and more) are demonstrated in my new course After Effects Technology Preview, created to get you up to speed quickly when the new version is finally released. I hope you have as much fun with these new features as I’ve had during testing!

Adobe and After Effects are registered trademarks of Adobe Systems Incorporated.

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