The evolution of the Web over the last decade (in terms of speed, power) has transformed it into a rich and vibrant graphics support: quality visuals, colorful Flash animations and videos are now commonplace.
Videos, movies, trailers, animations – designers who love images in motion have come to appreciate the software After Effects. This tool, for TV compositing and animation, was designed in 1993 by the small company CoSA for use on PCs and Macs. At the time, professional solutions for digital image processing involved using very expensive dedicated hardware.
Released by Adobe in the late 90s, After Effects is now in its 11th version (CS5.5).
At first glance, you recognize the Adobe touch, with the software’s vertical logic. The graphic elements and visual effects are layered like in Photoshop. Each scene is called a “composition” and one of the great strengths of the software is to allow compositions nested inside each other like Russian dolls. This allows a high degree of structural richness.
Any parameter can obviously be changed over time, offering enormous animation freedom.
Since version 5, After Effects has offered 3D tools. Certainly, we are not talking about 3D objects, but rather shapes or text in space. There is the inclusion of lights and cameras, which can also be animated. Some films are therefore easier to create with After Effects than with computer graphics software such as Maya or 3D Studio Max.
After Effects also offers a variety of plugins, which make it even more powerful and complete. For example:
However, After Effects also has a major flaw: it is extremely power-hungry.
Nested compositions come at a price. As soon as you use fairly high resolutions (HD and full HD), your computer’s processors quickly heat up. It eats up a lot of RAM especially, because AE does not allow for real-time playback. You must therefore make RAM previews of this or that part of your film, previews that gradually monopolize a huge amount of RAM.
Fortunately, since version CS5, After Effects is a 64-bit application, which allows it to take advantage of large amounts of RAM, 8 GB being the minimum to work properly.
What does the future hold for us? Will there be new tools and enhancements for After Effects CS6? We should have a response this year.