After Effects CS6: The Creative Pro's Guide
After Effects gets a huge performance boost and some excellent new compositing tools…
If there's one thing that really matters in After Effects, it's speed. And Adobe has addressed this in After Effects CS6 with the 'Global Performance Cache' – a set of technologies that aims to make After Effects faster and more powerful by leveraging the power of your hardware. The Global Performance Cache comprises of: a global RAM cache, a persistent disk cache and a new graphics pipeline.
The Global RAM cache is interesting. Essentially, it's speeds up caching, meaning you can quickly try new ideas and effects without (to an extent) waiting around. What's happening under the hood is that—within the limits of available memory—any frame of a composition or layer inside an After Effects project that is the same as a previously rendered and cached frame doesn't need to be re-rendered. Reusable frames are recognised anywhere on the timeline, including when using loop expressions, time remapping, and copying then pasting keyframes—not just on adjacent frames. Reusable frames are also recognised on duplicated layers or duplicated compositions. Cached frames are restored after an undo/redo; cached frames are also restored when a composition or layer is returned to a previous state, such as toggling a layer’s visibility off and then back on. All of this works in the background.
The Persistent disk cache also gives you a big speed boost. You can now open a project you were working one earlier and your previously rendered cache is still intact, ready for preview playback. If you want to know how it works, Adobe explains the following: 'After Effects calculates if a frame cached to RAM would take less time to retrieve from disk than to render again, and if so, it is also copied to a special user-defined disk cache. Upon opening a project, the disk cache is scanned, looking for frames matching those in the project, and makes them available again for immediate use without the need for re-rendering.' You can specify which disk is used for caching, as well as how much space is used in After Effects' Preferences.
The new graphics pipeline essentially means AE better harnesses OpenGL and your GPU when drawing images to screen. Again, it results in faster interactivity and a more responsive experience.
So what about the creative stuff? Well, there's plenty here. The new 3D Camera Tracker effect automatically analyses the motion present in 2D footage; then computes the position, orientation, and field of view of the real camera that shot the scene; and creates a new 3D camera in After Effects to match. In addition, it overlays 3D track points onto the 2D footage – with the aim of making it easy to attach new 3D After Effects layers onto the original footage. The 3D layers have the same movement and perspective changes as the original footage – meaning you can insert new 3D objects into the existing scene much more easily. The 3D Camera Tracker effect also enables you to cast shadows from 3D layers onto flat surfaces. The 3D Camera Tracker effect can run in the background whilst you continue working, or you can enter data about the shot for more precise results.
After Effects CS6 also introduces a new ray-traced 3D engine, enabling you to quickly create fully ray-traced 3D text and shape layers and Variable Mask Feathering – meaning you can define a virtually infinite number of points along a closed mask, and define the width of the feather at each of these points. Tighter integration with Illustrator CS6 is a given, and now you can tweak fills and strokes or edit points directly in AE. In addition, you can also apply shape operators inside After Effects, including the self-animating Wiggle Paths and Wiggle Transform operators.
Other enhancements include Rolling Shutter Repair – for correcting DSLR footage; over 80 new and updated effects including the CycoreFX HD Suite; Pro Import After Effects – which enables you to work with Avid media Composer and Symphony AAF/OMF files (as well as XML files from Final Cut Pro 7 or earlier). Finally, there's an improved Mocha AE tracking workflow and a number of small tweaks to make workflow faster.