After Effects CC 2014 is officially version 13 of Adobe’s motion graphics stalwart, and subscribers to the software giant’s Creative Cloud service have already got access to the updated version as part of their subscription. Alongside this new iteration of After Effects, subscribers can install new versions of Photoshop CC 2014, Illustrator CC 2014 and InDesign 2014 amongst others.
In a curious departure from the rolling update schedule promised as part of the Creative Cloud subscription (which, it has to be said, has been happening as advertised), Adobe have made quite a big deal about this 2014 release of After Effects.
Quite why they’ve felt the need to give it a specific name rather than simply rolling out the update as a standard CC update is up for debate. We suspect it may be due to the need to continually remind subscribers that they’re getting new and updated tools on an ongoing basis. For whatever reason, there are a few handy new features and productivity improvements in this version.
Despite the all-new suffix for this version of After Effects, the primary focus certainly isn’t on a slew of new headline features. There are some nice new bits and pieces, but more importantly Adobe have concentrated on improving the performance of the app alongside the interoperability with other apps.
If you regularly have to key low quality footage, you’ll enjoy two new keying filter effects that help to deal with scenarios where you’re trying to key against heavily compressed H.264 video.
Elsewhere, support for Web Fonts, direct Kuler integration and the ability to make text edits inside Premiere on After Effects projects is a major boon. You’ll also find a new external monitor playback system, portable masks from Premiere, and a better media browser.
It’s also worth reiterating that Adobe have been rolling out updates to the CC versions of its products throughout the lifecycle, so that some additional features have already appeared since the original launch of After Effects CC, which we might now call After Effects CC 2013. You can find a full list of the new features since then here.
Since the move to the Creative Cloud, it’s been well documented that Adobe is moving towards a more integrated approach to its toolset of creative applications.
This acknowledgement that tools need to work happily alongside each other has continued to be developed and honed. Adobe knows that a particular creative brief might require several different tools within the creative space, so they’ve worked hard to ensure that everything integrates nicely. This includes connecting with the likes of tablet-based apps and web-based tools such as Kuler and TypeKit.
The Creative Cloud website provides a central hub to allow you to install apps, share files and access resources including tutorials. Adobe have just updated this to reflect the shift towards greater integration, and After Effects is obviously engineered to be a connected app that provides a starting point for many different potential projects targeted at a variety of usage scenarios beyond simply connecting to Premiere.
Although originally touted for the move to Creative Cloud, Adobe have finally got TypeKit desktop font sync sorted so that it’s now possible to include a full range of TypeKit fonts in your After Effects projects. Simply use the Creative Cloud application to sync fonts to your machine, and they become instantly available for use within After Effects without the need to quit and reopen the app.
Live Text Templates (for Premiere)
A real time-saving enhancement is the ability to create Live Text Templates for Adobe Premiere Pro. In essence, this allows the After Effects designer to create a lower third, motion background or plate with directly editable text within Premiere - allowing these to be passed off to editors using the NLE tool without having to switch back to After Effects for simple text edits.
Keying controls have been enhanced in this version of After Effects, including a new Advanced Spill Suppressor that reduces the amount o green spill left in keyed green-screen footage. This, combined with the new key cleaner effect, is particularly useful for bad footage that suffers from blocky compression noise in a key.
Adobe have focussed on providing faster performance in the Warp Stabilizer VFX effect, replaced the external video preview system to use a Mercury Transmit-based system for vastly improved support and performance, as well new support for Sony RAW footage from F5, F55, and F65 cameras. As with many of the other updates, these aren’t super-exciting enhancements but they’re enough to improve the day-to-day workflow significantly.
Direct effects masking
New to CC 2014 is the ability to mask effects when you bring them in from Premiere using the Replace with After Effects Composition option. Masks originating from Premiere Pro are preserved during the migration, and converted to standard After Effects masks that support shape, feather, opacity, expansion and inversion properties. This effectively removes the need to create track mattes or adjustment layers for simple masked effects - a great time saver!
Is it worth the upgrade?
Unlike traditional software releases, the decision over whether to upgrade to the latest version of After Effects is largely going to depend upon whether you have an existing Creative Cloud membership. The 2014 and previous CC versions can exist side-by-side (and you can even access CS6 if necessary), so there’s nothing to stop you grabbing the latest version right now.
If you’re still using an older boxed version, and are wondering whether CC 2014 is enough to persuade you to jump to the subscription model, there’s plenty here to get excited about. After Effects is perhaps the single tool that has come on the most significantly since CS6, introducing support for real 3D directly within the app, alongside a slew of other enhancements. Additionally, it’s also worth pointing out that Creative Cloud comes with various fringe benefits including a Prosite via Behance, a Typekit subscription and the ability to legitimately install all the tools on both a laptop and a desktop machine.
Words: Sam Hampton-Smith
Have you installed the latest version of After Effects? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.