I had the good fortune to join the AE team in the Fall of 1996. The first project I worked on was Dancing Monkey which was the first Windows version of After Effects. It didn’t take long to realize how special the AE team was. My experience with development teams prior to AE was that engineers spent minimal time interacting with customers and ignored marketing. The AE team was the antithesis to this. Everyone was focused on the needs of the customer and went out of their way to connect with users whether it was via online forums, “Friends of CoSA” meetings at tradeshows, or the periodic ship trips where the entire team would descend on a city and camp out with users who would be willing to let us work on their projects and feel their pain firsthand. I was in product manager heaven.
Prior to working on After Effects, I defined my success solely based on meeting/exceeding revenue and unit growth business objectives. AE changed my perspective on success dramatically. While the team was very much motivated by seeing our business grow (our mantra in the early years was to be the Photoshop of the new millennium), what blew me away was hearing customers regularly say things like “AE changed my life”, “this is the house that AE build”, “My wife calls AE a widowmaker” – it was hard to imagine that somehow, in some small way, a product that I was part of had impacted so many users lives in such a powerful way. And instilled an almost fanatical devotion among its users. It was like the AE team was the Grateful Dead (me being Ram Rod, the head roadie and equipment manager) and we had the privilege to be part of a community of thousands of Deadheads. One of the crowning moments that captured that feeling had to be sponsoring our first user conference AE West hosted by Lynda.com where several hundred of the most insanely passionate (and talented) AE users hung out and shared their tips, tricks, and secrets with each other. It was an incredible AE LoveFest.
AE created the desktop motion graphics and visual effects market. And with success came (and went) competition. I am an extremely competitive person and I relished in helping to keep AE relevant and continue to delight users at the expense of products like Combustion, Commotion, Effeto/Pronto, Shake, Motion, and a few others whose names escape me.
While working with an extremely talented customer-focused team and having such dedicated users were critical to After Effects being as popular as it is today; we couldn’t have succeeded without nurturing and supporting a vibrant ecosystem of 3rd party plug-in developers, training providers, and online communities. There isn’t enough room in this post for me to list all of the individuals who were not Adobe employees who contributed to the success of AE, but I am grateful they believed in the product as much as we did and thank them for their support.
After 11 years, I hung up my AE shoes with the release of Clamchop (AE8/CS3). I am honored to have played a small part in the first 20 years of the product’s history and appreciative the lifelong friendships both inside and outside of Adobe I made as a result of being touched by AE. While my role was not large, the impact on my life was beyond anything I could have imagined or wished for.
Happy Anniversary AE.
Former After Effects Product Manager