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Adobe hits a home run with After Effects CC

Jeff Foster | Aug. 19, 2013
New features in After Effects CC such as a live 3D workflow with Cinema 4D Lite, now included with Creative Cloud, give motion-graphics artists and compositors much-needed integration with true 3D object animation.

Simply use the Roto Brush to select the general area you want to track, just as in After Effects CS6, and then select the Refine Edge Tool to paint over the edges that need more detailed refinement, such as the trees against the sky. This arrangement allows me to either give a different effect or color-grading treatment to the sky than to the foreground, or replace it altogether.

Also added in the Refine Edge settings are Refine Hard Matte, which smooths the often aliased edges of a mask, and Refine Soft Matte to allow a soft feather in an alpha channel without pixelation.

Enhanced tools and features
Adobe updated many other tools and effects, such as the 3D Camera Tracker, which now allows you to define a ground plane or reference plane. Now, repetitive track points are deleted along the track path when you delete the first selection, which optimizes the tracking data where objects in motion aren't needed to track in the scene.

The Warp Stabilizer VFX effect replaces the previous Warp Stabilizer and provides better control. Some key features added to the effect are Preserve Scale, Objective, and Auto-delete Points Across Time. Reverse Stabilization and Apply Motion to Target are helpful for stabilizing shaky footage.

The new Pixel Motion Blur effect is one I've been expecting for a long time, and is particularly useful when I'm trying to match animations, motion graphics, and high-frame-rate video to slow-shutter film-look footage shot at 24 fps. In the past, the only motion-blur control you had in After Effects was if an object or layer was physically moving on the Timeline. Otherwise, you could apply motion blur to video footage or rendered animations only by using masked areas of Directional Blur or by employing a third-party effect such as RE:Vision FX Reel Smart Motion Blur (RSMB).

In the side-by-side example below, the original footage (on the right) was shot at 60p and has an annoying high-frame-rate look to it, with no motion blur from the camera movement or the movement of the horse. However, with the Pixel Motion Blur effect applied, only the pixels in the highest degree of motion are blurred, giving a much softer effect similar to that of film shot with a slower shutter.

Some other great new features include bicubic sampling of layers, similar to scaling in Photoshop, plus footage clip reloading and a function to find missing files, effects, and fonts. Also, Adobe added improved import/export modes and encoding options, along with other enhanced usability features.

New 3D capabilities with Cinema 4D Lite
Since Adobe's introduction of Ray-Traced 3D in After Effects CS6, users have been wanting more 3D integration. The big announcement for After Effects CC is the inclusion of the Cineware effect plug-in that allows you to use Cinema 4D files in your composition--with Cinema 4D as a renderer. A streamlined version of Maxon Cinema 4D (Cinema 4D Lite) is included with Creative Cloud, and you can upgrade it to the full version at a discount.


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