After Effects: CS6

The new features of AE CS6 were announced yesterday. Anybody keeping an eye on developments will know that the big new feature is the new 3D capabilities that include extruding text and shape layers to create fully integrated 3D objects within After Effects. Although this huge feature is very welcome, there are so many work arounds and third party tools either in development or already released it unfortunately feels like Adobe were a few years late to their own party. There is a new ray-traced 3D rendering engine that can use environment maps, reflection and refraction. One feature I am very excited about, something that has been sorely lacking in After Effects is the ability to bend 3D layers in After Effects, something that I am going to call 2½D+

Motionboutique have released some very nice looking demos of these 3D capabilities used in conjunction with Newton

motionboutique - 3D text

motionboutique - 3D newton

Here is a a quick glance at the most promising and noteworthy of the other features announced:

Variable mask feather

This is a basic but much-needed feature that comes with it's own tool, the mask feather tool. This can be used in a very visual way, by using the tool to create and move points around a mask path that controls the mask feather. I cannot believe it has taken this long for this kind of feature to become available in AE, currently it's very tricky to create this kind of effect with scripts and multiple mask layers and often more trouble than it's worth.

Final Cut Pro integration

At my studio in particular this is a welcome addition. Although the technology is taken from the Automatic Duck software, the full integration into AE is very handy. Our editors went against the internet-haters and decided to move to Final Cut Pro X and the feedback from them has been very positive, especially as the FCP team are working hard to update the features that were lost in the switch. One thing that we miss from the Adobe Premier days is the ability to take a project and import it into an AE timeline, something that can be very useful when creating graphics for an edit that is changing on the fly, or when there is still a small amount of tweaking that needs to be done. This alone will speed up the workflow in our office massively.

Conversion of illustrator vector graphics to shape layers

This is also something that I can't believe wasn't addressed earlier. At the moment it is quite easy to import paths from Illustrator into After Effects by just copying the paths into a mask on a solid, or into the path value of a shape layer but this process isn't very efficient and it is tricky to stay consistent if working with multiple paths that need to be aligned precisely. Again, another tool that speeds up your workflow instead of providing anything new. What I find promising is the focus on shape layers, a tool that has so much unexplored potential.

Persistent Disk Cache

This feature looks to be one of the biggest improvements to speed up work in After Effects. When a RAM preview is created the data is stored on the HDD cache, even after the memory is purged. This means that if a sequence hasn't been changed, future previews will be created much faster across all comps as it will be retrieving the data from the scratch disk instead of calculating animation and effects from nothing.

Removed photoshop integration

Something that has upset some users, depending on how comfortable you have become with AE/PS integration. Many of the features have been removed, such as photoshop 3D layers and importing timelines from the animation function. This seems like a step backwards, but Adobe have reassured users that it is only a temporary omission and features will be restored in later releases.


So in conclusion, each feature mentioned here is very welcome, and of course is progress. but just seems to be an integration of features or software that is already available - to the educated designer none of this is revolutionary, it just saves a few clicks in their workflow.

I feel like I am being slightly negative with my summary here, and credit does go to the team who made this update possible. In reality every new release will always be playing catch-up with the community. Instead of moaning and waiting and moaning some more for a feature to be incuded in a release, third party developers and script writers will simply create the tool they need themselves. So in fact by releasing CS6 with features that match those most popular in the community (often by buying the rights and using the code as a base for the new tools), Adobe are proving that they are in touch with the motion graphics world and delivering exactly what they need, just in a more user friendly and packaged way.

There are many more features that I haven't mentioned here, these are just the ones that are most noteworthy. Also included in the update is a 3D camera tracker, Rolling shutter repair, improved integration with mocha and upgraded colour profile capabilities on some effects. You can see a more comprehensive list here. Angie Taylor has done a quick overview video of the new features.

CS6 is scheduled for release in the second quarter of 2012, there is a time limited offer right now - if you buy a copy of CS5.5 the upgrade to CS6 is free when released.


By: Jonny
Posted: Tue 17th Apr 2012

Tags: Articles, 2012, 3D, Adobe, After Effects, Afx, Creative Suite, CS6


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