Adobe After Effects is the class A, professional level visual effects software. Used by countless professional editors, artists and composers to bring stellar visual effects to screen.
It’s not hard to see why it’s one of the best VFX tools out there: After Effects is an intuitive, feature-rich special effects powerhouse.
When we last saw again Adobe’s video effects tool, its focus was on performance and time-saving features, which it delivered with aplomb.
Many new tools have been added over the past couple of years, and we’ll look at some of the ones that impressed us the most during this review.
Mac users will be pleased to find that just like Adobe users First ProAfter Effects 2022 (version 22.3), offers native support for Apple’s new M1 processor family.
It is extremely reassuring for those who prefer the Mac platform that their software of choice is migrating to the new architecture. With this support, users will experience faster launch times, better UI responsiveness, and faster rendering.
Perhaps one of the biggest improvements in After Effects (and Premiere Pro) is the inclusion of Frame.io. You must be logged in to your creative cloud account in order to take advantage of these features, and Frame.io includes 100 GB of storage in addition to your usual Creative Cloud allowance.
You can share up to 5 projects with 2 users and an unlimited number of reviewers. It can be accessed from a web browser or directly in After Effects.
There is an enhanced version of this service (which you can try for free for 30 days), called Frame.io Team Plan, which includes additional storage and the ability to share unlimited projects with up to 15 users.
As you can see by what’s on offer, this service allows you to share projects and get real-time, accurate timecode feedback on the work in progress. It is an ideal and extremely useful tool for discussing work with colleagues and clients, and controlling exactly what and where changes need to be made on a collaborative project.
Media replacement is another awesome new feature. The way it works is very simple: use After Effects to create a template, as you normally would. Once done, drag various elements to the Essential Graphics panel, select their editable properties, export them, and you’re pretty much done.
Note, however, that not all of an asset’s properties can be manipulated and changed from within Premiere Pro, but the list is long enough to satisfy most, if not all, needs.
Objects such as text, images and video clips can be interchanged, turning your templates into very useful and versatile tools, with as many editing options as needed. The creation of different versions (according to your needs) is also possible, further increasing your possibilities.
It’s a great way to get a designer to create a template, while giving a Premiere Pro editor the flexibility they need to make changes without having to contact said designer for each necessary change. It’s the kind of focus on efficient workflows that can only increase post-production productivity.
Work in 3D
Create 3D designs can be tricky, especially when everything is done through a 2D interface, so Adobe designers have worked to make this process easier.
One of the recent enhancements is the inclusion of an optional 3D ground plane. When enabled, you’ll get an infinitely vanishing horizontal plane that can be used as a frame of reference when creating your scene.
It’s something that can be quickly turned on or off so it never gets in the way and is only there when you need it. The more complex a creation, the easier it is to get lost in it, so it’s a welcome addition to help you get your bearings.
Another great new feature is the draft preview. Before that, you could access a “quick draft” by exploring a bunch of menus. Now it’s a button located in the toolbar. Toggle it is very useful if you have an older computer or if your project is getting very complex.
According to the prowess of your video editing computer, and the complexity of your work, when enabled, the quality will likely be reduced. But you’ll be able to manipulate objects faster and easier, saving a lot of time, and getting back to full quality is just a click away.
Improvements under the hood
But these are not all the great features of the tent pole. After Effects has undergone many subtle changes designed to improve your workflow.
For example, a lot of work has been done to optimize the visual effects software. After Effects now takes advantage of multiple cores on your computer or video editing laptop when previewing and rendering, taking over from other running processes and software.
This feature might not be enabled by default, but you can find it in After Effects preferences. You’ll also notice that you can choose how much of your computer’s processors are reserved for other applications (the default is 10%).
Plus, if you’re working with the HEVC video format, new hardware-accelerated decoding is used to improve playback and editing, especially with 10-bit files, whether you’re working on a Mac or PC.
One of the great benefits of the Adobe suite is the cross-pollination of functionality from one application to another, and this is showcased perfectly with their new universal text engine.
We praised this feature in our Premiere Pro review. It makes working with multiple languages much easier, without having to constantly scroll through the preferences to switch between them.
Multiple languages are supported, the latest addition being Cantonese, with left-to-right and right-to-left settings accessible directly from the Essential Graphics panel. You can even apply different scripts inside the same graphic element. How’s that for flexibility?
This all just scratches the surface of what’s been improved since the last time we took a look at Adobe After Effects.
The AE 22.3 version is very impressive. It builds on a solid foundation, offering a host of new features designed to make visual effects faster and easier. It’s no wonder After Effects is considered the go-to video composer.
And Adobe is far from resting on its laurels, regularly releasing new features, which makes its subscription model attractive if you’re a professional designer and editor.